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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors
Hutongs, page 1 of 6
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大栅栏: Walk

On an early summer evening, late June and just before I leave Beijing for good I go for a walk in the night hutongs of 大栅栏 (dashilan) the area just south of Tian'anmen Square. These are old hutongs that are the former entertainment districts of Old Beijing. Now they are a bustling maze of streetlife, neon, restaurants, tourist traps, markets, life-long residents, and any number of other things, some seedy, some not.

The area was captured in flux in the years before the Olympics in Michael Meyer's Last Days of Old Beijing. Much was destroyed to make the garish faux-old building replica monstrosity of the new Qianmen street. Underpopulated and closed off after 10pm, it has closed off the traditional life of this area and replaced with with a simulacra. Yet, still the neighborhood survives in the fringes and in the in-between.

The past was captured by Madeline Yue Dong's Republican Beijing. A book that tells of the old shops, the opium dens, the bathhouses, the acrobats, the prostitutes. 

The food signs advertise cuisine from different areas of China: Sichuan, Shanxi noodles, Dongbei, Hunan. Culinary migrants to the capital. 

Contested growth. Failed development plans. Forced evictions. The rest of the city passed it by. It rests in the center of immensely valuable property, meters away from Tian'anmen and all that history. Meters away from the governmental monuments and Mao himself. 

Yet it is one of the hippest places in the city in recent times, as sites of pop-up shops for Beijing Design Week, walking tours bringing in foreign tourists and fashions. 

Take a walk through these streets with me. Feel the life of the Hutong's, living in the afterlife after their last days. 
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