China restores Chiang Kai-shek's house

China restores Chiang Kai-shek's house

NANJING - Chinese authorities have reverently restored an 80-year-old house once used by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Political differences were plastered over as Nanjing city -- once China's capital under the Nationalist party, also known as the Kuomintang -- spent US$4.9 million (S$6.15 million) to renovate the three-storey house at the base of a hill.

It was one of several used by Chiang and his wife Soong May-ling before they fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of China's civil war, which killed millions of people on both sides.

Chiang led Taiwan as president until his death 26 years later, still proclaiming himself the rightful ruler of the whole of China.

For decades, the building was kept as a state guesthouse and closed to the public but the doors were thrown open after a year-long renovation completed in October.

"This renovation has a very important use for cross-strait cultural exchanges, so we considered that," said Liao Jinhan, deputy head of the government agency that administers the surrounding scenic area.

"Our feeling is that the house is a very important cultural heritage landmark."

The chance discovery of an original architectural plan in a closet in the house let workers faithfully restore the building, down to the basement coal room and Chiang's Buick car parked out front.

"We completely followed the blueprint from that time. You can see from photos of the time, it is exactly the same," said Zhou Zhongxing, who manages the property.

The election of Ma Ying-jeou, also of the Kuomintang, as Taiwan's president in 2008 has improved relations with Beijing, which were strained in the mid-1990s.

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