Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How Cities Vanish

Another man, dressed in a white t-shirt and shorts, waving a fan to cool himself, added heatedly, “Look over there. Those tall buildings? That’s what the city wants to build here.”

I looked into everyone’s eyes. “But there’s nothing beautiful or great about those boxes,” I said. “Moreover, those types of buildings have nothing whatsoever to do with Chinese traditions. Or Peking traditions.”

One of the residents was a tall goofy-looking guy who wore horn-rimed glasses, a button-down shirt, shorts, black socks and black plastic “penny leather” shoes. He patted me on the shoulder and gave me a lop-sided grin. “Exactly right! To make money, the government wants us to give up our homes so they can make Western type skyscrapers. Peking will have nothing distinctively Chinese about it anymore.”

The residents could not even look forward to preserving their community. Each family was assigned to different apartment blocks far away in north Peking. Instead of spending summer evenings gossiping with old friends on the street corners, they will be locked away in tiny cubicles of Western invention, not knowing their neighbors and having to ride elevators simply to go out to fetch a bottle of beer or yogurt.
from Michael A. Aldrich The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China's Capital Through the Ages p.166