Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 31st 2014 Contents Asia s younger generation in particular seems unin-
terested in preservation.
In tropical Thailand, only palaces and religious
structures were constructed of substantial materials
and deemed worth of preserving, while domestic
architecture, mostly of wood, deteriorated rapidly
and is rarely renovated.
"The idea that you preserve the old wooden house
of your grandfather or grand-grandfather is not in
the Thai psyche," said Euayporn Kerdchouay of the
Scholars note that a basic Buddhist tenet views
the world as a place of constant change, and thus
the faithful tend to downgrade the notion of per-
manence. Many Buddhists believe donating to build
a new pagoda or shrine will earn them greater merit
than renovating old ones.
In Bangkok s Chinatown, 40 old shop houses have
been torn down to make room for a subway station
intended to ease traffic. Structures up to 12 stories
high will rise in their place.
Sirinee Urunanont, a third-generation
Chinatown resident and community
leader, says Chinese media have come
to film and report on traditions and
lifestyles that don t exist in their country
anymore. Her quarter, Charoen Chai,
is famed for handcrafted joss paper
products used in festivals and funerals.
These include replicas of gold bars,
limousines and other creature comforts
to accompany the dead into the next
"The culture, traditions, you don t
see them anymore. They have been
lost. So the Chinese media comes here
to see them," said Sirinee.
Impacts of tourism
Some excellent examples of preser-
vation do exist, often driven by tourism.
These include the 17th century
"machiya" townhouses in Japan s
ancient capital of Kyoto, Beijing s The
Temple Hotel, an award-winning, four-
year restoration effort, and the cam-
paign to save the British colonial build-
ings of Yangon, Myanmar.
But even some success stories have
downsides. Malaysia s George Town
was named a Unesco World Heritage
Site in 2008 for its blend of Asian and
colonial architecture, and tourists
flocked in and probably saved it from
demolition. But longtime tenants were
replaced by boutique hotels, cafes and
restaurants, and the population dropped
from 50,000 to less than 10,000.
"People don t understand that the
inner-city residents have kept our tra-
ditions alive," says Khoo Salma, a lead-
ing Malaysian conservationist. "This
has happened to many world heritage
sites, where they have become a play-
ground for others and no longer the
people s city. We don t want the soul
of (our) city to die." (AP)
August 31, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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and one of the world s finest examples of a traditional
Islamic city, began in 2009 and is all but complete.
City authorities said the clearance was necessary
because earthquakes could topple the old houses.
A 2011 survey revealed that 44,000---or a fifth---
of some 225,000 important cultural sites in China
have fallen victim to construction. And a broader
definition of cultural heritage that includes ordinary
communities is new for many Asians.
"In China, they will preserve a temple but raze
everything around it," Stent says.
"You don t want little islands of culture, you need
to protect larger areas and the whole fabric within
them but make them vibrant so people can make a
In Beijing, modern structures and roads have
replaced some 60 per cent of the city s inner core,
with its narrow alleyways and traditional courtyard
residences, says Matthew Hu, a leading Chinese con-
servationist who heads The Prince s Charity Foun-
"Modernity is really defined by modern Western
culture, so when people consider modernity they
want to get rid of things from the past," says Hu.
Mirroring the West's process
Although the scale and speed of this destruction
appears greater than in Western countries, in many
respects Asians are "simply mirroring similar dynamics
from the West," that took place long ago, says Erica
Avrami, director of research and education at the
New York-based World Monuments Fund.
In New York, elegant homes and public buildings
in midtown Manhattan were razed in the early 20th
century. And in Europe, where many historic buildings
were destroyed by bombs during World War II,
researchers found that even more of them were
levelled by bulldozers in the three decades that fol-
Youth uninterested in preservation
From Page B8
Younger generation not
keen on preservation
A seven-storey Chinatown Hotel building, left, stands at Yaowarat road in Bangkok 's Chinatown, Thailand. Century-old shop houses,
twisting alleyways and temples scented with incense still pulsate with the pursuit of old trades and time-honoured rituals of families who
have lived in Bangkok's Chinatown for generations. But probably not for much longer. (AP PHOTO)
A partially demolished bar with a replica of a terracotta warrior is seen in an old
district undergoing redevelopment in Beijing. AP PHOTO
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