November 23, 2009

Beijing: Architecture

After the blanket-thick smog, the second most striking thing about Beijing is the contrast between old and new. Construction sites are everywhere, and most of the city's old courtyard buildings, or hutongs, have been torn down to make way for mammoth, gleaming buildings that hardly even qualify as skyscrapers, since they're often as wide as they are tall. Many, if not most, of these structures house shopping malls, which provide an air-conditioned respite from the grimy air outside.

The remaining hutongs radiate out from the Forbidden City, and while some have been remodeled and gone upscale, in most of them life looks much as it has for ages: laundry hung out to dry, songbirds singing in their cages, old men playing games on folding tables, deliverymen on bicycles hawking handmade brooms and coal for fireplaces.
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