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New Money 11/07/31 Beijing's most famous street

07-31-2011 13:27 BJT



Our story today is about a famous stretch in Beijing---Qianmen Street. Take a look at the screen, and you may find the two photos look similar. On the left is a picture of Qianmen Street taken six decades ago. The right side is another photo of Qianmen Street, which reopened in 2008 after being refurbished. If I asked you about the differences between the pictures, you may be unable to find any. But that question can be easily answered by Tian Yun. No one can identify the differences more clearly than him.

His name is Tian Yun. He goes to Qianmen Street regularly but neither for shopping nor sightseeing. His biggest interest is to collect people’s assessments on the street because his company was responsible for the refurbishment project and the invitation for bidding on the street. He is board chairman of Tianjie Realty Development Company Limited.

In fact, Tian Yun has another identity. He is the boss of the biggest furniture and building materials company in Beijing. He not only ran his company successfully, but also made the street where his company is based into a famous street specialized in the selling of building materials. In 2006, the government of Beijing’s Chongwen District offered him the board chairman seat of Tianjie Realty Development Company Limited, which is a state-owned company. Why did the Chongwen District government ask a businessman from the private sector to run a state-owned company? Tianjie Realty Development Company Limited was established for the refurbishment of Qianmen Street, and the district government appreciated his management competence.

In addition to excellent management skills, Tian Yun, who used to be a teacher, has quite an understanding of Qianmen’s commercial culture.

Street history

On these merits, the government of Chongwen District asked Tian Yun to be board chairman of Tianjie Realty Development Company. Although Tian Yun knew the history and culture of Qianmen very well, he hesitated and pondered over whether to take the job. Qianmen Street has such an extraordinary history that even Tian Yun didn't have the confidence to take the challenge.

The flagging in the middle of Qianmen Street rises above the pavement by 1.5 centimeters, which expresses the higher rank of Qianmen compared with other commercial streets. This is because Qianmen Street was the only path for the emperors to go to the Temple of Heaven to worship.

The prosperity of the Qianmen area is largely because it sits in an unrivalled place, both in terms of geography and politics. In ancient times, when people came to Beijing, no matter they were scholars or local officials, they would choose to live in Qianmen area because it’s close to the Forbidden City. Shops, restaurants and recreation venues were established as a result, and the Qianmen area gradually livened up.

After the Qing dynasty was overthrown, Qianmen Street became a pure commercial street at its peak. On this street, the tramcar and automobile replaced the cart and sedan chair. Photo studios, book stores and post offices emerged on the street, while the traditional business of catering and clothing also thrived. Modern and traditional shops operated side by side. Qianmen Street became the favorite place for old Beijingers to relax. Several decades passed. Though not a stranger to renovation, Qianmen Street looked outdated compared with the newly-built commercial streets and refurbished old ones. In the running up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China, the government of Chongwen District decided to make a thorough refurbishment of Qianmen Street.

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