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Beijing to build more 798-like culture, art zones

China's capital plans to build nine more culture and art districts similar to the 798 Art Zone, a warren of galleries in old workshops in northeastern Beijing, in the coming two years, city planners said Friday.


A shortlist of candidates is not immediately available, as the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform is still waiting for recommendations from all Beijing's 16 districts and two outlying counties, the commission said on its website.


By the end of 2010, the city will have 30 art and culture zones to encourage artistic creation and showcase Beijing's traditional and modern culture, it said.


Beijing currently has 21 art zones in 13 districts and counties, including the Panjiayuan curio market in southeastern Beijing, an artists' town in Songzhuang on the city's eastern outskirts, and an ancient cultural zone at Peking Man Museum in the south-western suburbs of Zhoukoudian, where a fossilized human skull dating back at least 200,000 years was found in 1926.


Most of these places are popular among international tourists. During the Olympic Games in August, the 798 Art Zone received more than 330,000 visitors from China and abroad, the commission said.


In the meantime, the Panjiayuan curio market received 658,000 visitors, including 185,000 foreign athletes and officials, it said.


Beijing's 10,000 culture promotion businesses employ more than 1 million people, "a pillar service industry in the Chinese capital, next only to the financial sector", a spokesman with the commission said.


By 2010, the culture industry is expected to account for at least 12 percent of Beijing's GDP, he said.


(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2008)