Bright Moon on the Lake Museum in Bengbu, Anhui province, has put more than 450 historic buildings under protection. [Photo/Xinhua]
Whether motivated by sentimentality, a love of history or a culture of ancestor worship, one man in his late 60s has worked hard to shield his childhood home from the wrecking ball.
The redbrick building featuring ornate carvings sits in sharp contrast to the surrounding gray-white buildings in Anhui province, as do several hundred other structures that have been relocated here.
In the outdoor Bright Moon on the Lake Museum in Bengbu, more than 450 dilapidated but picturesque buildings have been given a new lease on life.
The redbrick building was laboriously transported piece by piece from Shishi, Fujian province, and then reconstructed.
Named after the oceangoing vessel Jinji owned by the ancestors of the Cai family, the house witnessed ups and downs over the generations. In 2013, the Shishi government began an urban renewal program, and the house was targeted for demolition.
Cai Qingquan came back from abroad to bid farewell to the childhood home.
"I could understand why the younger family members wanted to move into modern homes, but I felt it was a pity to pull it down," Cai said. "I thought it was a shame that we couldn't preserve the property of our ancestors."
Cheng Jiyue, an architect, said that as many old buildings are yet to be listed as cultural relics, many of those with distinct local characteristics and history have already vanished.
According to the third national cultural relics survey, more than half of the 40,000 structural cultural relics that disappeared over the past 30 years were destroyed due to construction work. The wave of urbanization leaves such buildings in peril, with no alternative but to relocate them.
Bright Moon on the Lake Museum covers 53 hectares. The buildings are rebuilt and categorized based on their place of origin. The Jinji house has been restored to its previous glory in the outdoor museum.
Feng Jicai, a member of China's national experts committee for intangible cultural heritage protection, said in countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland, historic buildings that cannot be protected where they stand are often relocated to outdoor museums.
Local governments in China are now exploring other ways to preserve buildings.
In Pingyao, Shanxi province, authorities have been issuing maintenance subsidies to residents since 2012. By October, over 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) had been spent on the repair of 76 historic buildings.
An ancestral hall in Yixian county, Anhui province, has been turned into an antique furniture museum at a cost of 30 million yuan, funded by the local government and the private sector.
The situation of these residences is improving, Cheng said.
Not long ago, the outdoor museum sent Cai a photo, reassuring him that his ancestral home is being protected and encouraging him to visit when reconstruction is complete.