Residents may soon be relocated from one of Beijing’s oldest hutongs because district authorities have said that overcrowding has made the aging buildings unsafe to live in. Many residents who have spent most of their lives in the hutong neighborhood, however, are reluctant to relocate.
Beijing is known for its historic hutongs, and the streets and alleys making up the communities are often an attraction for tourists looking to experience ‘real’ local city life.
More importantly, the centuries-old hutongs are home to residents who grew up and have built a lifetime of memories in the close-knit communities, CCTV reports.
“I’ve lived here since I was small, for 60 years,” one resident said of his home in Dashilar hutong. “I played shuttlecock in the street with other families’ children. Nothing has changed on this street.”
Pending signed agreements with the government, the Dashilar hutong may soon be torn down. Residents are likely to be given new apartments on the outer-skirts of the city, but for many, the convenience of living in the city is not worth trading.
“I live very near to my store. If I had to move, I’d probably have to close it down,” a resident said in the report.
For others, the hutong life has gotten old.
“Culture? I’m old now. I’d rather be warm. The wind is freezing. We don’t have enough heating. I’m waiting to be moved.”
In March 2013, authorities in Beijing began the demolition of two historic hutongs surrounding the Bell and Drum towers. Many people fear that along with its rapid urbanization, the city is losing its cultural authenticity.
Zhang Qian for People’s Daily writes:
Beijing has by now changed beyond recognition. Changes began accelerating in the early1990s, and for many years, the city looked exactly like an immeasurably large construction site. Beijing became increasingly modern as new business, office and residential buildings kept springing up on what used to be hutongs and buildings of cultural interest. Looking down from atop the Jingshan Hill, the commanding height ofold Beijing that faces the north gate of the Forbidden City, one will find today’s Beijing avast expanse of high-rise, ultra-modern buildings.