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Private rental of temples sparks rumours of commercial use

CRI, December 17, 2014 Adjust font size:

Ancient temples located next to the Forbidden City have been reportedly transformed into fine-dining restaurants and luxurious hotels that are not open to the general public.

The two temples are only 500 meters away from the very northeast corner of the Forbidden City, and each has a history of over 600 years.

Though named Songzhu and Zhizhu temples, the pair are no longer used for religious purposes, but have been leased by a private company.

They are also listed as cultural relics by the municipal authority of antiquities.

Reports from several Beijing-based newspapers, including Beijing Youth Daily and Beijing News, say these places are not open to general diners.

So what are like inside these fancy places?

Reservation is essential if one wants to dine in, with a minimum expense of 800 yuan (130 U.S. dollars) per person.

Reports have revealed the interior layout of the Zhizhu temple.

One of its yards functions as the dining area.

A hall is decorated with a throne (as pictured on the left) and a stage for performances, as staff in the temple explain that some honored guests like plays.

Guests can take photos sitting on the throne and watch performances on the stage.

Another yard is used as a luxurious hotel, costing 2,000 yuan (323 U.S. dollars) per night per room.

Other parts of the temple offer leasing services for other companies and parties.

What does the resident say?

According to these reports, residents living around these temples say they often see luxurious cars drive in and out of these places.

Some complain about loud noises made by late night activities inside.

Staff members of the temples deny that they are open for business but say the two temples are workplaces for their company.

This is not the first time these two temples have been in the spotlight.

There were two reports last year from the Beijing News revealing that these ancient temples had been used as restaurants and clubs. But they are still operating now.

The reason may be that authorities in Beijing have conflicting responses on the matter.

Municipal religious authorities have responded to reports saying both temples are listed as religious property; therefore, cannot be used commercially. They will however investigate further.

On the other hand, the cultural relics authority says their responsibilities are limited to renovation and maintenance of antiquity.

The company has leased the temples and is responsible for renovation and maintenance of the two places.

The authority has not found any violations to the law of cultural relics so far.

What have Beijing's fine-dining restaurants become of amid the anti-graft campaign?

But facing with China's ongoing anti-graft campaign, several fancy clubs and restaurants have been shut down.

Some have launched cheaper dinner or lunch sets to attract general diners.

The central government has limited the standards and costs for governmental receptions since 2012, which led to a substantial drop in revenues for the high-end hospitality industry.

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