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"Heaven Street": "Fake-over" kills business
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13:36, June 18, 2009

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She has fond memories of walking the shabby old avenue twice a day for school.

"It was verging on dilapidated then," said Zhao Yiming, 24, "It really was a state."

"My parents used to wander along Qianmen Dajie with me pointing out this building or that place and telling me little stories.

"There was a story in every corner of this avenue."

More recently Zhao was guiding an out-of-town friend around the old neighborhood.

A man walks down Qianmen Dajie on June 17, 2008. The once-historical street that belongs to Beijing's oldest neighborhoods has now been turned into the city's newest tourist attraction. Shang Hong, a folk custom expert said the new Qianmen "counted as a failure. The aim should be to protect traditional customs."(Xinhua/AFP Photo)

"The half-empty, windswept new avenue horrified and disappointed my friend," she said.

"It's obviously a total failure any which way you look at it," said Hu Xinyu, an advisor at the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center.

He dismissed the new concrete Qianmen as "fake antique", resulting from "no respect for the original historical environment of the area and no respect for the residents who lived their whole lives there."

Zhao agreed.

"Even if the old shops were allowed back, it's still an open question whether or not they could survive," she said.
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