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Beijing 2006 - Wash day in the modern hutong

Marjolein Katsma

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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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


Artwork Comments

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