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Posts tagged ‘胡同 hutong’


On the Problem of Transplantation
Julie Ren (julie.ren@hu-berlin.de) visited HomeShop in 2012 and spoke with Elaine W. Ho and Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga about the various issues around initiating and sustaining art/project spaces in Beijing and Berlin for her Humboldt University dissertation research. While gentrification is not her area of research, it is something she is trying to approach critically, especially as a dominant framing of urban change. In preparation for an upcoming publication on the topic, she continued the discussion with Michael Eddy.

Julie: I’m still doubtful about applying the gentrification lens to Beijing, and I plan to focus my contribution to the book on the problems of transplanting urban concepts. To me, it’s a hermeneutic lens and it reflects the need to interpret urban change in terms of dominant academic canons—whether it’s global/mega cities, cosmopolitanism, network societies, mobility paradigms… or gentrification.

My doubt is two-fold. First, I’m skeptical about its being an accurate means to interpret the socio-economic and demographic changes in Beijing neighborhoods. Sure, many neighborhoods are visibly changed, there is high turnover of residents and prices are increasing. But is this the result of an urban gentry moving in to displace residents with a lower average income? With a view to neighborhoods such as Gulou and Wudaoying within the 2nd ring, this seems more a top-down business development scheme rather than a residential real estate-driven change. Especially in the Hutongs, I wonder about the issue of demographic change – to what extent is it income and to what extent is it elder residents being replaced with younger residents? To what extent are they being displaced, and to what extent are Hutong residents moving out to become new landlords? 

Secondly, I’m concerned about the embedded normative question of: Should we interpret urban change in Beijing in terms of gentrification? As I stated above, I think it’s a hermeneutic instrument that reflects the academic background and experiences of those seeking to understand urban change in Beijing. Moreover, there are assumed notions of urban inequality and social justice accompanying the term that allude to the realities of a neoliberal city in which mobility and privilege often function in tandem. Yet mobility in Chinese cities is a fraught issue, often a result of broad macroeconomic changes driving rural poor to find work in cities, exacerbated by remittance obligations and a lack of legal status. (A much more pressing issue of urban inequality might be Hukou reform rather than neighborhood-level change.) 
It just seems to me there are fundamental assumptions about gentrification that fail to account for the realities of the urban context in Beijing. I can understand why especially the growing international community in Beijing might be thinking in these terms, but I wonder if it doesn’t have more to do with them, than the city in which they live?
Michael: As for your first doubt, it is well-founded. However, I wonder where you can draw the line between the good-intentioned BoBos and top-down gentrification, even in Beijing. If you think of the Richard Florida school of thought and the thousand waterfront loft conversions and creative districtings it inspired toward the “creative cities” obsession, I would still need to consider the relation of that to possible forms of gentrification.

Perhaps I misunderstand the technicalities of the terms. But it is on the one hand often a rebranding and intensification of the gentrification already at work somewhere, as well as not totally predictable as to its effects. Some go with it and profit from it—but maybe now I am thinking of the experience of being in China. Mai Dian (a friend from Wuhan) has been involved in projects about development around East Lake, notably the privatization of once publicly accessible lands, including “Our East Lake.” For his contribution to the recently-released Wear journal 3, published by HomeShop, he discussed one of the problems in the activists’ resistance to the developments: that many of the farmers and other landowners who they would have hoped to share some solidarity with, had been more disarmed by the imagoes of “contemporary living” presented by the developments and ideas of progress than gathering together a concerted resistance.

Because of its action of government-aided corporate appropriation of large tracts of land, maybe it is not realistic to call this gentrification; my only curiosity is in this imaginary relation to development and contemporaneity. Maybe it would be absurd to humor the idea of a kind of “self-gentrification” though. This imaginary to aim for is brilliantly embodied in the fetishization and commodification of culture—with contemporary art sitting near the top. In many places, including China, art is braided within this tension; it is hard as an artist not to fall on the conspirators’ side at least sometimes.

Richard Florida’s insistence that the economic category of cities could be assessed and enhanced by the number of “creatives” (and homosexuals) is not totally inapplicable if you look at urban change in Beijing, which is not to say that his theories are correct (look at Martha Rosler’s text for an overview of the problems relating art to real estate).
To take a tasteless example, the 798 art district taking over the factory spaces near Jiuxianqiao Road was “authentically” started by artists, and only much later became an art district by edict. Art-inspired rebranding of a place with actual roots in artists first settling there is also taking place in Tongzhou, Caochangdi (which has so far miraculously managed to avoid being razed for at least 2 years since I heard the threat) and other far-out places. In these places, complex cooperation and co-existence between migrant workers, landlord and the art world takes place, though it surely totally disfigures their original states. I guess you could say these also launched a thousand top-down developed gated communities themed on art as well.

In our experience at HomeShop, it is a slightly different story inside the 2nd Ring Road. To some degree, there are the local administrative plans—and in some areas, like Dashilan, I should also mention there are at least nominal attempts to retain local character and occupants at least for the foreseeable future as an architecture firm (sorry can’t recall name at present) develops the area—but the aspect of cultural tourism predates that. (For instance, Nanluoguxiang, which is now the pinnacle of hutong tourism, may have been initiated by some locals, though at present I can’t substantiate this beyond hearsay and less than rigorous journalism.) You also see local hutong-dwellers making adjustments to benefit from the potential returns of tradition (Elaine mentions this in one of her posts on the HomeShop blog, though the residents she mentions aren’t well-to-do by most measures).
HomeShop also adds to the ingredients of the area, of course—I am not sure whether I mentioned an architect friend took over the space across the hutong that used to be an old Shouyi shop? I feel that is a pretty textbook gentrification move, assisted by our presence there to some degree, even if things like this only happen in pockets—but that’s how it happens, if I understand correctly.

So I agree that it is different in China, for instance these several levels co-existing sometimes precisely because they are so different (in the cases of migrant workers living next to fancy condo complexes… at least temporarily), and because of government involvement awkwardly fitting, but I do not think it is a normatively inappropriate to use the term in selected circumstances, especially those relating to culture.
“Artlife,” an upscale mixed use residential development under construction on a stretch of highway near Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
Julie: I’ll pick up with the idea you suggest at the end, of a selective application of gentrification to culture. The example of the architect displacing the Shouyi shop could certainly be a part of gentrification, but is it culturally-led gentrification? Or is it more simply economic? Gentrification and culture are connected in a multitude of ways, but I think most commonly, culture is seen as a driver of gentrification. And it’s this conceptualization of culturally-led or culturally-driven gentrification (in its pioneering activity) that most directly, most explicitly implicates artists and creative industry workers. It is rare, let’s say, for an artist or graphic designer or architect to push out a low-income shop in London. More common would be for them to inhabit available spaces in unkempt neighborhoods, rendering them attractive for the middle classes, the urban gentry, who in turn do the heavy-lifting in terms of displacement. This is at least the “common” example, but perhaps this is how Beijing differentiates itself – artists/creatives can directly displace lower income people. Whether the Shouyi shop pushed out or they moved due to the cost of rent, I’m assuming from the example that the architect was able to pay more rent than the Shouyi shop, implying the rising cost of the area, and ensuing displacement. What I find dangerous is simply attaching “gentrifier” to anyone who lives in/moves to a city and works in a creative field.

The Hutong neighborhood changes definitely deserve more attention. But I wonder if the changes in areas like Nanluoguxiang and Wudaoying (which you described as Hutong tourism) should really be understood in terms of gentrification. Why don’t we interpret it in terms of commercialization? I also don’t think enough attention is brought to the longer view – the issue of preservation in the context Hutong evisceration. In German there is the term “Aufwertung” which means “revaluation, giving something additional value,” and I wonder if those changes can’t also be interpreted in terms of simply urban regeneration. This is what I mean by the “gentrification hermeneutic” – that it is a way that people interpret changes, because that is how urban change happens in the cities we are most familiar with. (I mean, it’s its own canon of urban theory!) Of course, the commercialization comes at a cost to the neighborhood, to what it looks like, to what people do there, to the transformation of a residential area into a leisure destination. But, like the case above, I don’t want to label all architects moving in as gentrifiers, and I don’t want to label any street with a cafe as a gentrified area, unless they are really participating in an active process of displacing low-income residents with a higher income group of residents. But, like Elaine said, it’s often the residents themselves participating in these new commercial ventures, so I wonder about actual displacement…

In relation to the attempt to preserve “local character” I want to put in question the idea of an “authentic” art area. From the interviews I did last year, there is broad consensus about the development of 798—from its initiation to its Disney-fication through to the current state. The grassroots nature of its initiation is legendary, especially in the broader scheme of centralized urban planning in China, and served as the inspiration for starting my dissertation. Beyond the consensus about the history, however, the views of artists and curators I interviewed about the nature of artistic space are widely divergent, often contradictory. What is authentically creative seems to at times contradict the very nature of having a stable, long-term, protected, sustainable space. By that I mean, many artists seem to fear stagnation, and I wonder if the very idea of an “authentic” art area is not temporal? Maybe an art space can only be authentic for a moment? Is it maybe in the nature of artistic practice to also be pioneering in terms of occupying or selecting new space (BEYOND the cheap rent argument)?

Michael: Indeed, I use the word “authentic” with great reluctance, and only in the face of the top-down approach, whether that is government or Florida-inspired regeneration. I agree with your assessment of the term otherwise, and how artists are not really looking for it, or expressing or embodying it.

I also realized I had skipped over the point of commercial vs. residential change, which I think is harder to say. Unless we very narrowly define them, figuring out the precise dynamic of the distinction between commercialization and gentrification in that sense would be quite difficult though! It suggests misuse of the terms by many commentators.

Oh, and though this would not represent a very general trend, the issue of how foreigners interact in local economies is something else, both influential (defining standards, prices) and powerless (subject to higher prices at times) at the same time. Really quite marginal though, unless on symbolic level.

Okay, that’s just a quick reply, gotta run! Cappuccinos 加油!

The neighboring Shouyi shop, photographed July 13th, 2012.

换一下招牌 a change of signs:

We do it every year

祝大家春节快乐!Wishing everyone a happy Spring Festival (get warmer, get warmer, get warmer)!

Thursday, 23 December 2010
from 10 am until press time, hurrah to follow

为 了庆祝家作坊成功移师交道口北二条, 我们诚邀您加入我们为期一天的报纸制作工作坊,与我们分享您生活中大大小小的新鲜事儿。作为初来乍到的新人,我们对于自己所 处的环境——北新桥这一带也不太熟悉,希望您能与我们一起来认识认识这附近的街坊四邻。

12月23日,星期四,新的家作坊将变成一个集讨论,编辑与印刷于一处的热闹场所。我们将出版一张具有我们独特作坊风格的大 幅双面报纸,其中了包含了我们所处的胡同中最新,最劲爆的新闻。


重大新 闻与北二条泄密、社论、艺术评论与社评、金融、体育、家居与烹饪、八卦、星象学、天气

编辑室将从早上10点开始开放,我们将在晚上免费发放丝网印刷报纸。您可以全天参与我们的活动或只是稍作逗 留。您可以加入到我们的各项活 动来,包括报道、翻译、平面设计与印刷。间休时间编辑室备有饮料和小吃。


In celebration of the big news that HomeShop has relocated to Jiaodaokou Beiertiao, we’d like to invite you to come by and share your big or small news story with us for a one-day newspaper production workshop. As the newcomers on the block, we are just beginning to learn the latest comings and goings of the Beixinqiao crowd, and we’d like you to visit and get to know the neighbours with us.

On Thursday, the 23rd of December, the new HomeShop will become a site for the discussion, editing and printing of a broadsheet to reveal the latest local news with the flair of our own homegrown media production.

Your presence and input are requested for the following columns:

breaking news and Beiertiao leaks, editorial, art and society reviews, finance, sports, home and cooking, gossip, astrology, classifieds, weather

The editorial room will be open from 10 a.m. until late, and by the end of the evening we will hand out silkscreen copies of the edition for free distribution and posting. Come by for a short visit or stay all day —— join the press room in any of our departments: reportage, translation, graphic design and printing. Drinks and snacks will be available for break time.

Organic vegetables for break time provided by Little Donkey Farm.

Seed bombing has been used for alternative urban gardening techniques here and there. Idea is originated “Nendo Dango” of Masanobu Fukuoka who propose natural farming since the late 40’s, and also Green Guerrillas activist-gardeners in NYC are playing important role to spread the techniques around. Mud balls made with clay, organic fertilizer and mixed seed of flower and vegetables are tossed around the hutongs in Gulou area of Beijing. This time, we bombed !!! seeds carefully into some people’s flower pots (including flower sales guy) and crack of concrete with soil. Hope to sprouting some greens, but we’ll see… next time we will combine the hutong tour and seed bombing together. Peace out.

より大きな地図で 種団子 seed bomb を表示。Here is the link to our seed bombing route map.

If you want to see what we did, these are useful sources….Video can be fun!
– Seed Bombing wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_bombing
– Guerrilla Gardening wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_gardening
– how-to-make video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2008/apr/25/seedbombing

behind: Obey Public Virtue, Share Civilised Life
front: Construct the “Firewall”, Peace for You Me He

吴以楠(右边)和植村絵美(左边)在家作坊门口制作“种子炸弹”,老二(中间)过来帮忙做质量控制。WU Yinan (at right) and Emi UEMURA (left) make seed bombs in front of HomeShop, Brother ZHENG (center) drops by to do quality control.



The following text is written by friend and neighbour of HomeShop WU Yinan. She was born and raised at Xiaojingchang Hutong number 6, then went away for a period to Ju’er Hutong before finally joining the great number of old Beijingers to move out of the hutongs and into a multi-story flat. After graduating from university in Huaibei she moved back to Beijing, and at the beginning of this year she renovated the old family home and came back to live there with her boyfriend. We recently found out that she maintains a blog, from which we will co-feature some of her thoughts and writings here.

In light of all the recent gossip, foreign media and NGO hype about pending demolition of parts of the Gulou area to make way for subway lines, a time museum and shopping centres galore, perhaps what we should remember is that a lot of this area is already relatively new making way for the even newer. This is of course not a form of tacit consent, but these makeovers have been happening all along. Yinan’s post is titled “First make a ruin of Houhai and then of Nanluoguxiang, Let me see what else you all will make a ruin of next”, and expresses a lot of her anger about the reek of ‘xiaozi‘ (kind of like a youthful, big-spending hipster type) that has blown into Beijing since the days of her childhood spent around Gulou and Houhai.


我出生在鼓楼东大街的一个小院儿里,童年的记忆离不开后海的轻风,地安门的繁华,钟鼓楼的端庄,锣鼓巷的素朴,后来搬到了簋街旁边,眼睁睁的看着这个地方 从一个狭窄拥挤的大排档一条街变成了一个更为拥挤油腻的饭馆街。可以说,我从小就围绕着这些现在被炒作的一塌糊涂的地方生活,深知其中变化无穷。

小时候的后海很安静,微风轻抚着柳树带来阵阵凉爽,微波粼粼的湖面让人心旷神怡,早上有老人在湖边练太极,舞剑,一群老头老太太在湖里游泳,春夏秋冬,四 季从不中断。我夏天的记忆悠闲地漂浮在后海的鸭子船里,冬天的记忆则穿着冰鞋徜徉在厚厚的什刹海冰面上,最后一个记忆的碎片就是和我最好的知心朋友坐在湖 边的石头上,一边吹着风欣赏湖面上美丽的景色,一边在柳条声的伴奏下吃着后面超市里买的凉面,那惬意劲就别提了……在外地上了四年大学回来后竟然发现后海 再也不是我儿时的那个天堂了,伴随着叮咣震耳的音乐,四射至天空的霓虹和激光束,后海貌似忽然化作一个黄头发蓝眼睛白皮肤的顽皮小孩对我说“骨德儿白”。 虽然曾经和住在这里的朋友一起寻觅过童年的印记,但是无论如何我似乎已不再认识你了……

行至今日,我搬回了鼓楼的老房子居住,很少有去逛后海的冲动,后海已经变成了城市人,外地人,外国人的后花园,可以任意的放肆,交友,娱乐,我不反对清静 之地变得喧闹不堪,只是经常可怜住在附近院子里的老头老太太们,他们再也没有清静自在的日子过了,真怕他们因此而折寿;也怕那些无耻的商人窥视着这些在此 过了一辈子的老头老太太们毕生守护的房子,想用来投机投资而让他们离开他们钟爱了一辈子的老地方。

从后海出来一定要走烟袋斜街,烟袋斜街在我小时候的印象里就是个澡堂子,里面有个华清池,每次去都很喜欢那里休息的小房间,用木板隔断,有两个床位,中间 有个桌子,桌子上还有茶杯和袋泡茶。晚上的时候澡堂会出租给住宿的人,我见过很多人涌进来搭床铺的场面,可能是挺便宜吧,住宿的人那么多……







南锣鼓巷乃是北京城平常的不能再平常,普通的不能再普通的一条胡同,只因为他串起来周边许多纵向的胡同,而这些纵向的胡同里有个把官宦和名人的府邸,就突 然这么炒热起来了……北京东西城的胡同名人官宦的府邸多了去了,这对我这个从小长在北京的人已经是稀松平常的事,那会北京城就到二环路,而且东富西贵,除 去紫禁城不能住,可不都住东西城的胡同里么!我常常怀疑,是不是这些什刹海后花园的人发现光逛个后花园不过瘾,才在旁边又弄出个南锣鼓巷来消遣。

我不反对南锣鼓巷作为一个文化和历史遗迹的标的而得以繁荣,恶心就恶心在,压根南锣鼓巷的繁华就和老北京的文化不搭界!你到酒吧里说来瓶小二,人家说我们 这里只有科罗娜,你说来碗炸酱面,人家说我们这只有三明治……等等等,还有新疆烤串,四川风味,意大利披萨,水果沙拉,青海酸奶,印度首饰,总而言之就是 没老北京味儿!文化没看到,光看到酒吧了。三五成群的老外混搭着满嘴洋文的中国小资,喝着啤酒调侃着人生。问老外你敢不敢跟我来个二窝头,老外就“no no”,就算不知道要入乡随俗,也不能让乡随了老外,临了走到尽头还建了个“贞节牌坊”上书“南锣鼓巷”,形状与“国子监”一般,一看就是个新玩意儿,什 么时候南锣鼓巷需要牌坊了,搞笑!

想起前两年去云南旅游的时候丽江古城的杯具,在北京小资心里那是个神圣的去处,如此忧愁多情之流,到了才发现城的建筑很美,但是说白了就是个酒吧纪念品饭 馆之城,同行的假小资们煞有介事的在酒吧里忧郁的品尝着美酒咖啡,表情既享受又有几分沉醉,有的还付费点一段唱走掉的音乐来彰显自己的品味,全部都是繁华 的浮躁,几乎淹没了丽江古城原始的素朴,就快要找不到曾经痕迹了,而如今的南锣鼓巷,后海,颇有步丽江后尘的意味,逐步走向小资心目中的忧愁多情交友品味 之地,外国人心目中的第二个“故乡”。




— 转载自《人生就像绕口令》,转载于2010年6月1日 / First published 1 June 2010 by WU Yinan at Life is Like a Tongue Twister.

The Fensiting Community bulletin board announces some very important news for local residents: the Number Five United Meat Factory will be arriving to Xiaojingchang Hutong today, July 5th, from 7:00-11:00 am. If you need meat, you can come buy.

Dousing one’s patio with water helps to beat the summer heat. Brother Zheng (老二) redefines our local radius by improving upon our meagre efforts.

After a prolonged research and analysis period highly implicated by HomeShop’s recent search for a new space, our newfound expertise has led to the temporary return of the current space at Xiaojingchang hutong to its former status as real estate agency (pre-2007 era). We are pleased to inform you that we are taking up a new role as an offshoot office of the well-known chain 我爱我家 Wo Ai Wo Jia (“I Love My Home”), henceforth named 我爱你家 Wo Ai Ni Jia (“I Love Your Home”). If you are looking for a new house or office within Beijing’s old city centre or are merely interested to learn more about the real estate market and private life in the capital, our multilingual agents can offer free advice and direction regarding a selection of some of Beijing’s hottest properties. We do not take commission, and while our services may be limited, our knowledge is vast. Please stop by HomeShop or telephone to make an appointment. You may reach us at any time by mobile phone at 137 1855 6089.

Thank you! We are here waiting for your trust!

“我爱你家 I Love Your Home” is a project of 何颖雅 Elaine W. HO and Fotini LAZARIDOU-HATZIGOGA for HomeShop. On view from 24 May 2010.



“我爱你家 I Love Your Home” 是由何颖雅 Elaine W. HO 及 Fotini LAZARIDOU-HATZIGOGA为家作坊做的一个项目。从2010年5月24日开始。