Luo Zhewen, Renowned Chinese Architect, Planner, and Preservationist Dies
Luo Zhewen (born in 1924), lauded architect, conservationist, and Great Wall scholar, died on May 14, 2012. Most recently, Luo was leading a group of heritage experts at the National Bureau of Cultural Affairs.
In 1940, at the age of 16, Luo began his apprenticeship at the Yingzaoxueshe (营造学社), an Architecture Firm and academic institute. He became the favorite student of Liang Sicheng, one of the forefathers of heritage protection in China. Originally named Zifu, the name “Zhewen” (zhe: philosophy, wen: literature) was bestowed upon him by Liang, his teacher and mentor.
In June 1949, Liang Sicheng wrote an inventory of China’s architectural heritage with the help of a team which included Luo Zhewen as one of its main members. The inventory was given to the army afterwards to avoid unnecessary destruction during the civil war. In 1950, Luo Zhewen joined the National Bureau of Cultural Affairs and became the youngest member ever. During the demolition of the wall and gates of Beijing, he strongly supported Liang Sicheng’s position against the destruction. Most pictures of the city’s walls and gates prior to their demolition available today can be attributed to Luo Zhewen.
In 1952, the National Bureau of Cultural Affairs entrusted him with a prestigious mission to the Great Wall, at the site of Badaling. This trip in fact ignited in him a fierce interest and passion for the Wall, to which he would later devote a significant part of his life to studying. A famous anecdote relates how he rode a donkey every day to carry out his research. After the opening of Badaling to the public, he participated in the restoration of the Shanhaiguan and Jiayuguan sites, and discovered the eastern end of the Great Wall in Liaoning Province.
The focus of his expertise took into account both the protection of old neighborhoods and the need to improve the living conditions of residents within these areas. The last years of his life were devoted to the preparation of an application for the Grand Canal to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.