Even the scribes of the Chinese state media were moved to a chorus of wistful regret last week at the news that the home of Beijing Opera is to be razed as the city’s redevelopment for the 2008 Olympics reaches a climax.
The demolition of the Guanghe theatre, where opera has been performed since the last years of the Ming emperors four centuries ago, is the latest assault on the ancient fabric of the city.
The theatre stands in the Qian-men district, once a fabulous warren of temples, apothecaries and aristocratic courtyard mansions huddled in the shadow of the Forbidden City.
There is no place for such untidiness in mayor Wang Qis-han’s £19 billion plan to fulfil the slogan “New Beijing, Great Olympics”. The Games have sealed the fate of an old Beijing that had survived the wars and revolutions of modern Chinese history.
What’s the point of making the city ready for visitors? Why would anyone go to China if China’s gone?