THREATS TO NORMAL VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE OF HISTORICAL CITIES IN CHINA: A CASE STUDY OF HISTORICAL CITIES AND TOWNS IN LIAONING PROVINCE
Located in the northeastern part of China, the stretch of land named Liaoning is a region historically characterised by the convergence of multiple ethnicities and cultures. It used to be the northeastern boundary of central China with an array of military cities and fortresses intensively built for military defence. Unlike palaces and gentry residences, vernacular residences and urban tissue existing widely in historical towns are excluded in the national protection schedule and have thus experienced different levels of damages. They feature a paradox that the general city form is well preserved whilst architectural forms are changed to a large extent. Most vernacular buildings have endured centennial baptisms, as evidenced by their architectural layouts, structures, roofing, walls, decorations etc. As most historical Chinese cities are not renowned tourist destinations, they are faced with various threats and are on the verge of extinction. The threats include the departure of young residents, decay of historical architecture, insufficient financial and technical support for architectural renovation, improper modifications by residents and demolition of entire historical neighbourhoods. Such threats are widespread in Chinese historical cities which are struggling to survive. Prior to the implementation of professional interventions, the urban forms and vernacular architecture of such historical cities should be studied. Through on-site investigation and query of historical data, especially the historical satellite city maps of U.S. Geological Survey, this study analyses the current life conditions in the context of traditional architecture, reveals problems in the use of historical architecture, identifies potential threats and summarises the underlying reasons. Suggestions benefitting local architectural conservation are then put forward.