Erasing Old Beijing

The hutongs are being bull-dozed!” “The hutongs are being bull-dozed!” Why the hue and cry? What is a hutong? And why are these “whatevers” being plowed under? For more than six centuries, the hutongs—the thousands of small lanes and narrow passages lined with courtyard houses and commercial establishments winding their way through Old Beijing—were the silken threads that composed the architectural fabric of the ancient Chinese capital. Now, on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, the city is awash in a sea of construction cranes, and Old Beijing, it seems, is being razed. Arguably, here is the single most tragic loss of urban architectural culture in the 100 years—the denudement of the largest imperial capital in the history of civilization

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