Beijing glitter: Underneath it all is a separate story


John Vause,CNN
Aug 17, 2008 at 02:16am IST

Beijing: China has spared no expense for its moment in the sun. Yet, despite the modern structures sprouting up around Beijing, parts of the ancient city still look decrepit.

Hu Jianjun lives in a 200-year-old house with his wife and son in an old shabby rundown in the shadow of a modern high rise. Almost everything around him has been demolished to make way for new expensive apartments but Hu delayed construction by holding out for a better offer from the developer.

And so last month, a wall, mysteriously went up.

"It's simple — they want to hide things. He told me, ‘they (government) want people to see nice pretty things. If something isn't pretty then they try to obscure it,” Hu says.

Entire buildings altogether are being concealed using various means. One store — undergoing renovation — is hidden beneath a painting of a department store on plastic sheeting.

Even apartment blocks slated for demolition have been painted.

For the past few years Michael Meyer — a writer — has lived in an old Beijing neighborhood, known as a Hutong, which is slated for destruction.

"You're definitely seeing 21st century China. The thing about Beijing is that it’s a capital with 800 years of history. It would be nice to showcase some of the last 799 years as well as 2008,” Meyer, who’s written The Last Days of Old Beijing, said.

This ancient capital seems to be getting younger by the day even as the old flaws — which some would call character — are still there, hidden away for the entire world.

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