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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Beijing to raze ancient theatre
Ancient buildings are being replaced with modern structures in Beijing
City planners in the Chinese capital, Beijing, have decided to bulldoze one of the oldest opera houses in the country, according to state media.

The Guanghe Theatre, in Beijing's historic Qianmen district, will be replaced with a more modern venue.

The theatre, constructed in the final years of the Ming Dynasty, continued to stage opera until the 1970s.

Culture officials say the new opera house will be comparable to "those on Broadway in the United States."

'Remorseless' advance

The Guanghe Theatre was home to opera master Mei Lanfang, whose story was immortalised in the film, "Farewell My Concubine."

Xinhua news agency lamented the "remorseless" advance of the modern in Beijing.

"It appears that yet another of the country's cultural heirlooms is doomed," the state-run news agency said.

Originally built as a theatre and after a spell as the villa of a wealthy salt merchant, the building opened as an opera house during the final years of Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong (1711 - 1799).

The city was once home to some 40 opera houses.

However, recently many areas of the city's traditional "hutong" districts with their courtyard homes have been destroyed to make way for offices and high-rise buildings.

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