Bruce Lee's ancestral home evades bulldozers to reopen
It is the persistence of a decade-long struggle to keep the family memory of a certain well-known kung fu master alive.
With its old exterior and furniture, the old residence of Bruce Lee's family in the city of Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, has been turned into a museum of the legendary martial artist after a demolition plan was triumphed by calls for conservation.
The 207-square-meter house, which was obsolete for years on the old street of Yongqing Fang, has recently opened to public for free after a facelift that began in December.
"The renovation aims to restore the ancestral home to the greatest extent and reproduce its original layout," said Yu Minfeng, vice general manager of the Guangzhou branch of Chinese property developer Vanke.
The company in charge of the project said most iconic structures of the brick-and-wooden house, including carved girders and colorful glass screens, had been retained, while Lee's family stories, his kung fu learning experience and posters of his movies, were also displayed.
The house, built in the early 20th century, was owned by Lee's father Li Haiquan, a famous Cantonese opera performer.
Old neighborhood reborn
The residence is the main attraction on Yongqing Fang, whose arcade-style buildings are standing monument to Guangzhou's interaction with the West during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Over the past decade, the area has withheld bulldozers and emerged as a new cultural hub popular among the young people.
Now bustling with cafes and boutiques, the street has represented a new, more subtle approach to renovating rundown urban areas, instead of the often-employed demolition and reconstruction.
"It is the first time Guangzhou has avoided a surgery-like renovation that 'rips apart the street's belly' in old urban areas," said Deng Kanqiang, deputy director of the city's planning and natural resources bureau.
In 2006, the Guangzhou city government put Enning Road, where Yongqing Fang is located, on its list of city overhaul. The initial demolition plan, despite being more viable economically, was dropped due to resistence from local residents.
After Enning Road was named a historical and cultural street in 2013, a new strategy of "renovating while restoring the original look" was adopted for Yongqing Fang despite the higher costs.
"Renovating costs 10,000 yuan (US$1,450) for one square meter in Yongqing Fang, which is three times the cost of reconstruction," Yu said. To make ends meet, Yongqing Fang leased out management of its commercial space.
According to Vanke, over 95 percent of the street's shop space has been rented out. With 10,000 visitors a day, the project largely recouped its costs in 2018.
Lin Yanxia, 69, who has lived in Yongqing Fang for over 30 years, is glad that the renovation project has rejuvenated the neighborhood and drawn back young people, who once left for more modern parts of the city.
"In the past, only the elderly lived here, and the whole street smelled of herbal medicine," Lin said. "Now it is much more lively with more young people. I hope my grandson will also enjoy Guangzhou's traditional culture here."