Elaborate temple is China's newest bizarre rooftop structure

Shenzhen homeowner builds temple on rooftop of apartment building

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 5:51pm

In the latest case of illegal rooftop constructions making the news in China, a Shenzhen homeowner has built an elaborate temple on top of a high-rise apartment building.

The temple, located on the roof of the Meijia Square housing complex in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, first came to national attention after a Sina Weibo microblogger posted a description of it  After travelling to the Meijia Square, reporters from Chinese news agencies, including Yangcheng Evening News and Shenzhen News, confirmed the structure’s existence and temple-like appearance.

According to reports, the temple was surrounded by shrubbery and had ornate dragon and phoenix sculptures carved in its exterior. It was blocked off from general access by a door with a fingerprint combination lock.

Neighbours were unsure who the owner of the property was, but said that the temple was often occupied and used for traditional Chinese religious practices. Whether those practices included the worship of deities or deceased family members was unknown - although neighbours did say that golden sheets of joss paper, which is burned to honour ancestors and sometimes called “ghost money”, occasionally floated down from the temple’s perch.

“There’s often falling ash and a burning smell [coming from the temple],” one neighbour said. “We’ve never been up there, but it’s a private space. Its been there for several years."

Interviews with Meijia Square security confirmed the structure had been on the building’s roof at least since 2010, and a real estate agent interviewed by Yangcheng Evening News ventured that the temple was probably illegal.

“Erecting a simple structure usually isn’t a problem,” the unnamed agent said. “But one certainly cannot build an entire temple on a rooftop. It’s an illegal construction, and the homeowner probably has some connections.”

One of Nanshan district’s property owners, referred to only as Chen, told Shenzhen News reporters that the temple had possibly been constructed by the director of Nanshan district’s Residential Property Management Office – a man surnamed Xiong.

“We once had a meeting [regarding the temple] and required it to be demolished,” Chen reportedly said. “We put up notifications. But [Xiong] installed a security door and refused to let demolition people near [the structure]. The [problem] has still yet to be resolved.”

Chen’s claims have not been confirmed, and phone calls to Nanshan’s Residential Property Management Office went unanswered. Local authorities were also unable to confirm the identity of the temple’s owner.

Liu Min Xing, head of a team set up to investigate the property, told Yangcheng Evening News that joint investigations with public security and fire fighting officers were underway.

“Once we can [confirm] that the temple was illegally built, then the [owner] will be strictly punished,” Liu said.   

The Meijia Square housing complex is an expensive property where every square metre is valued at about 30,000 yuan (HK$38,000). The total price of the complex’s rooftop is worth more than 15 million yuan (HK$19 million).

China’s other most recent rooftop structure, a “hanging garden” constructed by traditional Chinese medicine doctor Zhang Biqing, also had an estimated worth of 15 million yuan. Demolition of Zhang’s “hanging garden” is still ongoing.