Amid its frenzied citywide makeover for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing unveiled two centuries-old temples that were salvaged from decades of neglect and saved from the current construction boom.
The two modest temples _ one to a fertility goddess, the other to a dragon deity who controls rain and rivers _ sit on either end of the Olympic Green, a 400-hectare (1,000-acre) expanse that will be the center of the Games and is now abuzz with construction.
Their rescue is part of a promise China's leaders made in bidding for the Games _ that the Olympics would foster historic preservation in an ancient capital that has often neglected the past as it hurtles toward the future.
"Beijing is a city very rich in cultural relics so the construction of venues had to be connected to the protection of relics," Kong Fanzhi, director of the Beijing Cultural Relics Protection Bureau, told reporters Friday, as he stood in a courtyard of the partly restored Niang Niang Temple. "Our slogan is to have a 'Cultural Olympics.'"
The slate-gray roof and unpainted wood walls of the Niang Niang Temple, named for a Taoist goddess and built 500 years ago in the Ming Dynasty, seem incongruous next to the ultramodern venues nearby _ the giant steel-latticed National Stadium, nicknamed the "Bird's Nest," and the National Aquatics Center, or "Water Cube," covered in futuristic bubble wrap.
The planned building site for the aquatics center had to be moved 100 meters (yards) north after surveyors found the temple, its buildings run down and hidden by one-story houses and its grounds used to store a steel factory's trucks, Kong and other officials said.
To the north, the 350-year-old Dragon King's Temple, which served in recent decades as a storehouse for farm equipment, stands unfinished bounded by piles of dirt for artificial hills for a sprawling wooded area. Across a broad street, what will be the athletes' village lies covered in scaffolding and green canvas.
Mostly, a frenetic energy rules Beijing. A US$38 billion (