The Drum And Bell Tower Neighborhood Is Undergoing Changes As We Speak

Drum and Bell Tower 1

Photographer Thomas Arne Strand alerted us last week to a collection of pictures he took of the Drum and Bell neighborhood, which he posted last Sunday. As he writes:

These photographs were taken at the beginning of January (been traveling and unable to upload before), after I learnt that the wrecking ball would soon come to the neighborhoods surrounding the historic Drum and Bell Towers (Gulou and Zhonglou). There has been (to my knowledge) a single mention in the state run media.

There is much controversy surrounding the clearance of these communities. I don’t have much to add to the debate, living with no plumbing or heating can’t be fun, but it is sad to see another slice of old Beijing life vanish.

Duly inspired, I went down to Gulou — which, as authorities promised, is changing — and snapped a few pics myself, including the one up top. A couple more:

Drum and Bell Tower 2
Drum and Bell Tower 3

For more professional photos, check out Strand’s blog. The rest are from him:

Drum and Bell Towers 1 Drum and Bell Towers 2 Drum and Bell Towers 3 Drum and Bell Towers 4

Zhonglou and Gulou Hutongs (Thomas Arne Strand)

    11 Responses to “The Drum And Bell Tower Neighborhood Is Undergoing Changes As We Speak”

    1. John

      Any word on which areas exactly are slated for demolition/reconstruction? Recently, on the hutong directly across from the south entrance of Baochao Hutong, they cleared a few homes so that the alley can run uninterrupted down to Doujiao Hutong (parallel to NLGX), with the rumor being that they will turn it into a very NLGX like street.

    2. Fred

      Lol, so this is where all the useless hipster faggot expats cry about how people should be forced to live in housing that lacks basic amenities. There are a handful of those upset about it, but the vast majority wants to get the hell out of there and into new homes… finally cashing out on their stupidly valuable land.

    3. Jive madra

      “But I enjoyed looking at people’s hutong existence and patronisigly appreciating their hutong living from a distance of 1.5H” (1H = the distance that a hipster would NEVER find him/herself near to Sanlitun).

      Nah, but seriously, bar Fred’s homophobic rant, his point is valid. Provided that the native dwellers are actually rehoused in the same area with better facilities.

      A big fuck-off crane don’t exactly imply that though, do it

    4. Michele

      No, that’s bullshit. For my work I had to make interviews and i did an extended research on Hutong’s living conditions, there is (was) room to improve life quality without demolishing, and no, most of the people don’t want to move into new homes. I personally live in a building that once was a hutong, and people here are mostly the old residents of the hutong, they didn’t change life style, and their habits can’t mach the functions of the new buildings criteria.

    5. Anthony Tao

      It’s a very interesting question, one which much more knowledgeable scholars and journalists have tried to answer: what’s the best way to give the maximum number of people a better standard of living? Here’s what we know though: it’s easier to demolish than renovate, and while most residents would prefer renovation over relocation, it takes a truly dedicated, one might say exceptional neighborhood committee/district government to commit to that harder process.


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