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October 23, 2017

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Architect gives old houses a new future

South African architect Ian Hamlinton, 47, moved to the south Chinese village of Jiuxian in 2009, having become fascinated by its centuries-old houses.

When he first arrived at the village in Yangshuo County of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the houses were in a dire state, but Hamlinton saw potential in structures he described as “amazing.”

Jiuxian, dating back about 1,400 years, is one of the poorest villages in Yangshuo and the houses were in a bad state of repair because of a lack of funds. They were also not old enough to be eligible for government-funded protection.

Hamlinton rented two rundown houses, built more than 150 years ago, on a 20-year lease for 120,000 yuan (US$18,000) from a local villager. Now they have opened as a village inn after a year of renovation work to preserve the main structure and many of the original features.

Hamlinton said more and more people were now realizing the value of these old houses.

A renovation wave has resulted in a boom for tourism in Jiuxian with many visitors coming to local homestays to experience the culture.

The increasing number of visitors has led to higher incomes for local residents who rent out their houses, offer bicycle or e-bike hires and work in the increasing number of inns, Hamlinton said.

The old houses should be preserved, he said.

Since 2010, no historic houses have been demolished in Jiuxian.


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