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Original image

Patrick Regan, MA Student, Center for Chinese Studies
Hutong series #1
Small hutong section off Xueyuan Nan Lu, Haidian district, Beijing, China, 2006
There is great controversy today surrounding the destruction of the small hutongs, or neighborhoods, that dot the districts of Beijing. Many people feel that it is a destruction of history and unique culture, others see it as a necessary loss in the face of progress. Also, voices have been raised about the relocation and compensation of those people displaced. However, I have not heard much concern about the psychological effect that living in these slowly collapsing communities has on its residents. Contrary to what we might imagine, it is not very common to see an entire hutong emptied and razed overnight. Rather, homes are first painted with a symbol signifying that it is to be torn down, then, for a variety of reasons, it may take years of periodic and selective “teardowns” before a whole area is cleared. Meanwhile, families live and children are raised in “marked” homes for years surrounded by the rubble of their neighbors. The family of the child in this picture had lived in just such a home for over a year. As I spoke to her mother, men with sledgehammers and picks were recovering bricks from the house behind me.

Camera make: OLYMPUS OPTICAL CO.,LTD | Camera model: C3100Z,C3020Z | Exposure time: 1/125s
Aperture: 2.8 | Metering mode: Multi-segment |Focal length: 6.6mm

JAlbum 6.5