The beautiful three-story French Baroque-style house at Chaonei No. 81 is a well-known anomaly of Beijing. Small courtyard properties in this area of China’s capital city sell for millions of dollars, and yet this once lavish mansion lies in a state of decay. The reason no one will go near it? Fear of ghosts and death.
Local legend has it this amazing mansion was built by the Qing imperial family as a church for British residents of Beijing. In 1949, when the Communists had just defeated the Nationalists and were making their way into the city, the high-ranking Kuomintang official living in the house at the time abandoned his wife, leaving her to face the Communists all by her safe. Devastated, she allegedly hung herself from the rafters of their impressive home. Many believe her troubled spirit has been haunting the place ever since, and few dare venture inside by themselves, especially during the night.
The once luxurious mansion is now a dilapidated shadow of its former self, covered with graffiti warning daredevils to stay away and full of empty alcohol bottles and cigarette buts. Despite its location in the center of Beijing, where prices for small properties are in the millions, there are currently no plans to do anything with this particular building. Ghost stories keep potential tenants away, and the building is now on a historic preservation list so it can’t be torn down, just renovated. So everyone seems to be waiting for it crumble on its own.
“Even in the 1970s, people thought the house was haunted,” a Beijing resident who grew up behind the mansion at Chaonei No. 81 told the New York Times. “As children, we would play hide-and-seek in the house, but we didn’t dare come in by ourselves. Even the Red Guards who lived in the house during the Cultural Revolution got scared and left.” Most people believe these ghost stories, and even that the Chinese Government wanted to raise the place a few years back, but reconsidered after a number of construction workers mysteriously disappeared, but not everyone.
Shi Hongxi, secretary general of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing, to which the property belongs to, says their is no record of a Kuomintang official ever living there and that the building was constructed in 1910 as a language training center for foreign missionaries called the North China Union Language School. He claims all ghost stories are pure nonsense. Of course, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing has every interest of attracting investors willing to put money into the building’s renovation, and there are those who claim it’s Shi’s historical records that are inaccurate.
The costs of renovation have been estimated at about $1.5 million, which may seem like a lot, but compared to property prices in the area, it’s pretty acceptable. However, investors seem more willing to splash millions on new buildings than put their money into this beautiful piece of architecture. It’s a mystifying fact that is closely tied to Chinese superstition and their tendency to avoid all things related to death. Believe it or not, their belief in he supernatural is so strong that telephone numbers and properties with addresses that contain the number 4 are cheaper because the word for “four” in Chinese sounds like the word for “death”.
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