CBS News checks out controversial villa on top of Beijing building

A residential building with a rocky style villa on its roof
A residential building with a rocky style villa on its roof, in Haidian District of Beijing, China, Aug. 12, 2013. Luo Xiaoguang,AP Photo/Xinhua

(CBS News) BEIJING - Why battle Beijing traffic to get to the mountains if you could just take the elevator?

There's no obvious explanation why a wealthy, well-connected Chinese man spent six years building this rooftop villa and "mountain-scape" -- all without proper permits.

From a neighboring skyscraper, the ladders, terrace and foliage come into view. But perched above the 26th story, it appeared more precarious than peaceful.

Many of the neighbors were not impressed and, in fact, were annoyed. Mr. Li remembered drilling sounds.

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"We've always heard noises from upstairs. It was loud, indeed," said Li.

This Aug. 12, 2013 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency shows a residential building with a rocky style villa on its roof, in Haidian District of Beijing, China. Beijing authorities are planning to demolish the bizarre rooftop villa embedded in rocks, trees and bushes that allegedly was built illegally atop a 26-story apartment block in the capital. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Luo Xiaoguang) NO SALES Luo Xiaoguang/Xinhua/AP

Chinese regulations state that the structure and layout of buildings cannot be changed without government approval.

We tried to reach the villa's owner at home, and found a letter pasted to his door dated August 12.

It read that he must tear down the 800 square meter -- 86-hundred-square foot -- illegal construction within 15 days.

That could not come soon enough for neighbor Mr. Liu, whom we met on the 23rd floor.

"He shouldn't be able to do that. Sometimes you'd see construction materials in the elevator," said Liu.

We've climbed up the stairs from the 26th floor -- right below this "mountain-scape" -- and this is what we've found, trees, tree-stumps, and fake branches.

Zhang Biqing
Zhang Biqing CBS News

The man behind this mountain is Zhang Biqing. He is known as successful practitioner of Chinese medicine and was a member of a political body that advised the ruling communist party.

Neighbors told us they felt powerless to stop this villa as it took shape -- one foam rock at a time.

Now, the government says it will force demolition -- if the owner does not tear it down first.

Until then, it would remain a monumental example of ignoring the law.