A Trip Down Beijing’s Half-fake Memory Lane

For the Los Angeles Times, Megan K. Stack writes about life in the Beijing hutongs as they are being destroyed and transformed into tourist sites around her:

All around us, workers are tearing down the neighborhood and rebuilding it from scratch. My husband and I wake up to the whine of chainsaws, the roar of stonecutters whittling out statues identical to the ones flanking our doors, the groan of bulldozers moving great piles of dirt and rock.

There’s a surreal, surprising beauty to the process. We go around a bend in the road and find a lone kitchen sink standing guard over the wreckage of a home; a facade sheared off, red Chinese New Year posters still clinging to the exposed walls with yellowed tape; a building where before there had been a pile of rubble.

In a way, we are the lucky ones. On the other side of a nearby lake, one of Beijing’s most beloved neighborhoods is getting ripped down, to be replaced with something called the Beijing Time Cultural City.

Preservationists, of course, are outraged. But few ordinary people seem to care.

As reported yesterday, plans for the Beijing Time Cultural City have been put on hold and the historic Drum and bell Tower neighborhood will be preserved for the time being.


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