smashed up

February 24th, 2008

So the Guozijian archway collided with a truck last night. As one would expect, the archway, being mere wood, came off second best. Click the link to see photos of workmen taking down the broken pieces.

The Beijing News/新京报’s Yang Siqi reports:


 Imperial College Archway smashed


At about 5 yesterday morning, in Guozijian Street, Dongcheng District, a beam was broken off an archway on the west side of the Imperial College by a construction excavator trying to drive past. Afterwards the Dongcheng District Traffic Brigade sealed off the two ends of the street, the Dongcheng District Police Station investigated the driver responsible, and the related cultural relics protection unit is researching a repair plan.


Police: The driver responsible violated regulation forbidding traffic


Ms Zhang, boss of a food store on Guozijian Street, said: “This morning, I wasn’t sleeping too well, I heard a police car siren, and a loudspeaker calling a car up ahead to pull over and stop.” Then she went outside and saw that the Guozijian archway had unexpectedly been broken, a yellow excavator was stopped on the side of the road, and the driver was taken away by police. Soon after municipal construction workers hurried to the scene and made some simple repairs to the archway.


At about 10 yesterday morning, inside a work site at the west end of Guozijian Street, an approximately 6 metre high excavator was parked inside the courtyard. Friction marks could be seen on the high shovel. The police were investigating workers from the site. The police stated the driver responsible had violated a regulation banning large transport vehicles from passing, and especially from damaging cultural relics, and he would be punished.


At about 10, experts from the China Construction Science Research Institute came to the scene to repair the archway. Cultural relics experts climbed scaffolding that had been erected, surveyed data on the damaged section of the beam, and deliberated a plan for its restoration.


The board with the three characters “Guozijian” was leaning to the point of imminent collapse and part of the wooden frame was split. The beam was heavily damaged, the pieces hanging diagonally down, the pillar was showing several large cracks, but the stone base did not show any sign of damage.


Cultural Relics Bureau: This incident of heavy damage to a city-level cultural relic is regrettable


At 12:30, the traffic police lifted roadblocks at both ends of the street.


At about 4 yesterday afternoon, construction workers cautiously removd the damaged beam. At 5:50, traffic was returned to that section of the street.


At 8 yesterday evening, the person from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics in charge of restoration of the archway, Mr Wang, said the Imperial College archway was erected during the Republic of China period, had been renovated in 2002, and was an extremely valuable cultural relic. This incident causing serious damage was very regrettable.


He stated: “From every aspect of investigation and discussion, restoration funds of over 100,000 yuan will be needed. We will work into the night to erect a barrier around the archway. We will work hard to quickly and cautiously restore this cultural relic protected at the municipal level.”


The Dongcheng District Police Station stated the driver responsible was still under investigation, but the specifics of the situation were not divulged.

Note: Guozijian/国子监 is the Imperial College, the highest educational institution in imperial days. and the Geiss Foundation both say it was established in the Yuan Dynasty, but Baidu Baike traces its history further back to 278, when the emperor Wu of the Western Jin established the Guozixue. But it seems that Baidu Baike is talking more about the history of imperial colleges, and not the Imperial College. Anyway sticking with and the Geiss Foundation, because they largely agree, and my internet accound is running too low to go running around chasing ephemeral links trying to figure out the complete history of imperial colleges, it was the place where the emperor would expound on the Classics with his officials attentively listening and was also a top research institute for researchers and scholars. After 1949 it was completely renovated and housed the Capital Library. The Geiss Foundation article ends with this fascinating little tidbit:

Of the more than 50,000 people during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, who successfully took examinations and became jingshi, the basic grade of a successful candidate in imperial examinations, all have their names, their origins and positions inscribed on 198 steles on either side of Dacheng Gate.  Some famous historical figures whose names are carved on these steles include:

Lin Zexu an imperial envoy in the late Qing pivotal in the Opium Wars against England

Yu Qian, a famous Ming general

Yuan Chonghuan, another Ming general who fought against the Manchu invasions.

It could be interesting to wander through and see the names of famous, infamous and notorious people who have passed through those hallowed halls. Or maybe not. Either way, it’s a part of Beijing I really should get back to one of these days.


4 Responses to “smashed up”

  1. Brendan Says:

    Oh, wow — I live right next to Guozijian. Hadn’t heard about this, but I noticed that the street was blocked off last night. How utterly shit.

    …though in a way, I’m surprised it hadn’t happened earlier. The street isn’t heavily trafficked, but it really shouldn’t be trafficked at all.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Yeah, and with construction sites all around, that archway has been screaming out for ages now for some idiot construction worker to drive into it.

  3. Matthew Stinson Says:

    Considering what happened to Namdaemun in Korea, 2008 seems to be the “in year” for idiots destroying ancient wooden structures in Asia.

  4. wangbo Says:

    Yeah, I’m just hoping these are two freak incidents and not the beginnings of a trend.