History vs. history: Plan to bulldoze courtyard homes for 18th-century-style square in Beijing

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In a corner of old Beijing, the government may soon be both destroying history and remaking it.

District officials want to re-create a piece of China's glorious dynastic past by rebuilding a square near the Drum and Bell towers in 18th-century Qing Dynasty fashion. To do it, they will demolish dozens of scuffed courtyard homes that preservationists say have themselves become a part of a cultural history that is fast disappearing as construction transforms the capital.

Because of renovation, few of the homes can claim to be particularly old. But they are in crooked alleyways known as "hutongs," which formed around courtyard houses and date back centuries.

The plan to redo the neighborhood angers those who see it as swapping real, living Beijing history with something static and fake.