|Author Michael Meyer next to the word "chai" which means "destroy"|
|Little Liu and her father who keeps racing pigeons|
He explains that once people agree to move out of their homes, the money is transferred into their bank accounts and they must get out immediately because it will be demolished that day before anyone can have any regrets. Interestingly Meyer notes one of his colleagues who lived in the hutong since her childhood didn't have fond memories of the home itself, but of the trees just outside where she and her grandmother used to collect the leaves and seeds.
The end result is Qianmen -- or the tourist version of it, complete with stores like H&M, Zara and Starbucks. It looks like, as Meyer says, a Disneyland version of the place, devoid of much character, and people just pass through the place because they can't afford what's in the shops.
And so Meyer also talks to Zhang Xin, head of SOHO China, a developer about how she feel about demolishing a neighbourhood and then creating a pathetic fake version of it.
|Yanshou Jie, the street outside where Meyer lived|
Today where Meyer used to live is still an empty lot to the left of Qianmen, while to the right it's filled with fast-food places like KFC.
He still comes back periodically to update his book that came out in 2008, and now there will be a Chinese version of the book that will be published in the mainland -- there is already a version available in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However the mainland Chinese one has a few edits thanks to censors, but only six paragraphs were cut, much to the relief of Meyer.
He's not nostalgic about the hutongs per se, but wants to raise awareness of their history and culture, and why they cannot be easily preserved, as they are made of straw, wood, mud and pig's blood.
It's a constantly evolving story which has applications elsewhere, as these hutongs can also be a model for communities elsewhere in the world; which is why Meyer's book has interested city planners particularly in San Francisco, as they are keen on creating the convenience and communal aspects of hutongs that are found in Beijing.