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Beijing 2006 - Wash day in the modern hutong by Marjolein Katsma

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Beijing 2006 - Wash day in the modern hutong by 

Share this page Photo © 2006 Marjolein Katsma | Text © 2012 Marjolein Katsma

Tags for this photograph:
hutong, modern hutong, beijing, china, plaster, fan, window, metal window frames, grille, burglar bars, guard, laundry, wash, washing, wash day, 1950s, wàn míng lù, wan ming lu, wanming road, yŏng ān lù, yong an lu, yong’an road, yongan road

Part of the Beijing 2006 – The hutong series; see my same-named journal post for a bit of background.

See the location on a satellite map (Google’s street map doesn’t register with the satellite view!)

Wait – modern hutong?
If you look closely, you’ll find some areas in Beijing where an earlier renovation wave has swept away the old hutong, replacing it with new flats. But these are not the modern high rise buildings replacing the hutong being torn down now (2006): they’re building blocks of 3-4 stories high, walk-ups: no elevators here. And – unlike the modern tower blocks – in several ways they retain at least some of the properties of the old hutong: for instance, blocks may be built around a courtyard or a little square, away from street traffic: only pedestrians and cyclists come here. And sometimes they seem to seamlessly blend into older hutong next to or surrounding them. People still sit outside, to have a chat, or play a game. There is much of the same atmosphere and intimacy here as on the old hutong. So – I call these ‘modern hutong’.

I wish I knew when this earlier apparent ‘wave’ of renovation took place but I haven’t found out yet. (Any hints will be welcome!) Some of the buildings in these areas look ready for renovation themselves! They could be as old as the 1950s or 1960s (built during the cultural revolution, maybe?).
[UPDATE] My source confirms this block does indeed date back to the 1950s.

The building sits on the North East corner of the crossing between Wanming Road (wàn míng lù) and Yong’an Road (yŏng ān lù). Although there’s only a glimpse of the building itself in this shot, it shows some typical properties (not necessarily always seen together): plastered walls, metal window frames (already rusting, no double glazing), a fan in the wall (no air conditioning), and a grille (burglar bars) around the window as protection against break-ins.

That grille is of course handy when it’s wash day!

Camera: Fuji Finepix F30

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I have two passions: travel and photography – and these are often combined. Though even in my own city I often have a camera with me!

When I am not actually taking photographs or working on photographs, you may find me busy programming or otherwise working on my websites.

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  • LouJay
    LouJayabout 3 years ago

    oH! All sorts of questions arise on the logistics of hanging out the washing like this! Is this hung from below? Great and very interesting shot Marjolein!

  • LOL, you hit the nail on the head. It may be a long time ago but I distinctly remember wondering about that when I took the shot (and it was part of the reason I stopped and took it in the first place). From the perspective you can see I had to point the camera up to take the shot: I may be short, but that washing was out of reach for even a tall Chinese. But putting it there (and getting it back in) from the window seems rather dangerous to me.
    Thanks for mentioning it though – a possible solution just dawned on me: in clothing stores they sometimes have things hanging way up the wall, too high for anyone to reach – what they do is use a stick with a hook to lift the clothes hanger from whatever it is hanging from and then bring it down. I reckon something like this may have been used. (I actually have a shot of a shop like that lined up for later in this series so I’m sure they must be using such a contraption in China, too!)
    Thanks for your great comment, LouJay!

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • Ethna Gillespie
    Ethna Gillespieabout 3 years ago

    Again, a favorite. Possibly the laundry furthest from the window is put out and taken using a pole with a hook?
    I’ll ask my husband Fu if he knows when the buildings might have been built and get back to you on it.

  • I was thinking of putting the laundry up from below with a pole-hook thingy, but you’re right, if you do have such a thing it might be just as easy to do it from inside (except if you drop one, of course!)
    The more I look at these shots now, the more I am becoming aware of different ages of the buildings in them – but without being able to put it down to an exact period. I’d love to know more… But wait – for most of these shots I still know exactly where they were taken: I’ll see if I can find them on Google Maps and pinpoint the position. If I get anything, I’ll add a link to the description and BMail you! (So tonight, I will be getting lost on the map of Beijing once again. ;) )

    – Marjolein Katsma

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