Thursday, 23 October 2008

Jeremy Webb - Tiananmen’s newest square

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Chinese people call it a two-level hutong house while Americans seem to insist on using the word Duplex. The English people I know might describe my new home as a small two-storey semi-detached house with a shared garden.

Mine is the door on the right. While a semi-detached house might be an over-the-top and somewhat misleading boast, this house couldn't be more different to my previous Beijing abodes. Unlike the towering tenements of my Peking past, surrounding buildings are just two storeys high, each with a small amount of outdoor space. However, just like Beijing's modern apartments and unlike authentic hutong housing, my place has decent plumbing, thick walls and a bathroom of its own.



Through the very-Chinese wooden doors is an open courtyard onto which face seven separate dwellings. Usually the elderly lady that lives opposite will be carefully tending to the central greenery while Liu and Leah - the two dogs that belong to a French couple in the courtyard - tear around the paved patio. On my way out I frequently bump into another neighbour, a friendly Chinese artist who is either taking his daughter Aidi to school or nipping back and forth from his nearby studio. The place next door remains vacant and I am yet to meet the occupants of the two other houses.

Above is a picture of the courtyard’s entrance. This is typical of the alleyways that make up the confusing criss-crossed chaos that occupies space between the Forbidden City and Wangfujing – Beijing’s main shopping area. I am somewhat disappointed to say that most of the houses in the area - described by a friend as a “Chinese Brookside” – were built within the last decade. Expensive housing for many Beijingers, these modern buildings took the place of some of Beijing's ancient hutongs which were torn down in what could be described as gentrification, Chinese style. And, it pains me slightly to say, I am part of it – albeit a very happy one.

11 comments:

Yang said...

If you finally got yourself a bird or some fish as pets (instead of dogs, like the french couple), that will makes you the extreme version of laowise who live in hutongs...

Stine said...

And the inside? No? And also, please with the puns will you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's crazy man. They should really try to do something to fix that.

Anonymous said...

Do you even speak English? Seriously, wall of text crits me for 99999k.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's crazy man. They should really try to do something to fix that.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, kind of drawn out though. Really good subject matter though.

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