LANZHOU, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Sipping coffee in an ancient courtyard and basking under the shade of age-old trees -- residents of Tianshui City in northwest China's Gansu Province are enjoying more tranquility and comfort as their ancient dwellings undergo renovation.
With a history of more than 2,700 years, Tianshui is home to a range of residential houses built in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Zhao Changrong, 74, is among the many locals who have fond memories of these ancient dwellings.
"The residences here feature a combination of north and south Chinese architecture, known for their intricately carved flowers," said Zhao, former deputy head of Tianshui Yuquanguan cultural relic protection institute, who has devoted himself to the protection of ancient buildings for more than 30 years.
"The wooden buildings and the floral-pendant gates, which separate the first and second courtyards in traditional Chinese residences, are my favorites among all the unique architecture," Zhao said.
However, due to the erosion of wind and rain for hundreds of years, the ancient dwellings, which are mainly civil engineering structures, have gradually become dilapidated with collapsed walls and rotten columns, failing to meet the needs of modern life.
To carry out systematic protection and restoration work, Zhao and six other experts formed an investigation team in 2003 with help from local authorities. They launched three censuses of citywide ancient dwellings and identified 143 residences of Ming and Qing dynasties within the city proper, explained Fu Jianhong, head of the municipal historical and cultural city protection center.
In 2018, Tianshui City launched a comprehensive renovation project of ancient residences in Qinzhou, a district with one of the highest numbers of ancient dwellings in the city. The project was aimed at building the Tianshui ancient town, a block with historical buildings, to better preserve history and the city's cultural heritage. Zhao was re-employed as an advisor of the project after retirement.
The project has adopted a principle of minimal intervention, striving to restore the original states of the houses with the least changes. "Only by maintaining the original features can the ancient residence retain its lasting charm," Zhao said.
"The first phase of the project has been completed now, and a total of 29 courtyards have been renovated. Leisure activities such as performances have also been introduced into the town," said Chen Miao, deputy head of the tourist service department of Tianshui ancient town.
Chen noted that the ancient town has received two million visitors since its inauguration last June.
Zhao Li, who works at Zhao's Old House in the town, has been quite busy lately, serving customers pizza, pasta and other Western delicacies.
"Opening a western restaurant in this ancient courtyard was a successful attempt. This fusion of Chinese and Western elements has become extremely popular, especially among the young people," Luo said. ■