Beijing 2006 - The (semi-)restaurant by Marjolein Katsma

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

Tags for this photograph:
beijing, china, hutong, nan heng dong jie, nanheng east street, demolition, urban renewal, restaurant, half, pragmatic, pragmatism

This is part of the second series of Beijing 2006 – The hutong photos; see my journal posts Beijing 2006 – The hutong and Beijing 2006: Out with the old, in with the new for the background of this series.

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

Here we have possibly the most pragmatic Beijinger: even though half of his restaurant on Nan Heng Dong Jie (Nanheng East Street) has already been demolished, as long as part of it is still standing he continues to prepare meals for his customers. Given it was nearly half past ten in the morning, he must have been preparing lunch.

The satellite view of this location shows that by now – as expected – absolutely nothing of this is left: in its place is now a complex of high-rise apartment buildings. Scroll a bit to the north and you can see some of that complex still in the process of being built (at the time the satellite view was shot), with green netting-clad scaffolding and big yellow building cranes visible.

The combination of this shot and the satellite view is maybe the best illustration I have of urbanization in progress: the new high-rise buildings – built around wide courtyards to let in plenty of light and air (and possibly also intended to adhere to some of the hutong way of life?) – will provide living space for far more people than used to live in the hutong area it replaces. Whether those people can actually afford to live there is a question I have no answer for…

Camera: Fuji Finepix F30

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Beijing 2006 - The fashion store

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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!

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  • phil decocco
    phil decoccoalmost 3 years ago

    the spirit of the Chinese can be daunting at time, but then again, they really can’t easily calibrate what they have with what the rest of the world has……nice story in the image!

  • Thank you very much, Phil! This was one of those ‘double-take’ scenes. He never noticed me either…

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • mmargot
    mmargotalmost 3 years ago

    Sam Wo restaurant in San Francisco has been “family” and open for 100 years. Apparently the entry is through the kitchen, the space is actually an alley, and this photo reminds me of it very much! Every so often the Health Department shuts them down but this time the public hearing had so many supporters they will get a pass if some conditions (better refrigeration, solving “the rodent problem,” and a crazy fire escape) are resolved. No one has complained of or died of food poisoning. All very reminiscent of Adventures in Chinatown with The Sensei.
    Yes, I doubt if the hutong residents will be able to afford or would want to live in whatever housing is put in. What is poverty? It is relative and sometimes new and expensive is just another ghetto.
    Thanks again for this series!

  • Thank you for your great comment, Margot! Sam Wo’s restaurant totally makes sense to me! :) It reminds me of an Indonesian ‘toko’ (shop) in Arnhem a lot of students went to to ‘eat out’ (when I was a student there, too): the shop actually sold food and food stuffs, but at the back was a staircase and if you went upstairs you’d find a room with little formica tables and rickety chairs – where truly wonderful home-cooked Indonesian food was served at a price us students could actually afford. The only disadvantage was you had to be early, because the restaurant closed when the shop closed at legal shop closing time: 6 PM. Not so many years ago I was in Arnhem again, and found the toko was still there, much spruced up, and extra floor added to the restaurant facilities. :)
    What is poverty? It is relative and sometimes new and expensive is just another ghetto.
    Very true. But, that said: 1) people from the torn-down hutong have to live somewhere; and 2) ‘hutong’ is not synonymous with poverty: some very old courtyard houses actually belong to old, wealthy families (and a few of those have been turned into fashionable hotels) – although those tend to be in areas that are not torn down but instead renovated. Unfortunately I do not have any images of hutong in the process of being renovated (though I saw that, too), but this looks like it’s one of those areas, one already renovated (and I saw more). I’d say ‘hutong’ is more a way of life and ‘community’ than ‘old decrepit houses’!
    During my one-week stay in Beijing in 2006 I certainly wasn’t aiming to document this process of urban renewal, and I only started taking pictures of it – half-consciously shifting into ‘journalistic mode’ – after I’d encountered my first scene of destruction. By now, I’m amazed at how much I still caught that actually illustrates the process… especially when compared to what can be seen on the satellite images today.

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • Joseph  Tillman
    Joseph Tillmanalmost 3 years ago

  • Thank you very much, Joseph! Very happy with the feature!

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • Hans Bax
    Hans Baxalmost 3 years ago

    IJzersterke prent en titel!
    Van harte met je feature!
    Groeten en goed weekend – ondanks de regen… :-((

  • IJzersterk pragmatisme, ook! “Only in China!” Dank voor je geweldige commentaar en de fave, Hans! Ook een fijn weekend! (Ik heb het druk met programmeren, dus de regen deert me niet :))

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • wonk71
    wonk71almost 3 years ago

    Well done your work is part of the Snaptacular group Features collection for the week ending 27/04/2012

  • That’s a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a stormy Sunday morning – thanks a lot, Paul!

    – Marjolein Katsma

  • Dominika Aniola
    Dominika Aniolaover 2 years ago

    it’s amazing, that people leave in places like this.

  • I agree, it’s mind-boggling what little people can hold onto – I imagine he must have been there preparing daily meals till the last wall dropped behind him! It’s all gone now, and replaced by high-rise apartment buildings.
    Thanks for the great comment and the fave, Dominika!

    – Marjolein Katsma

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