Saturday, December 06, 2008

What We're Reading: The Last Days of Old Beijing

The Last Days of Old Beijing offers a glimpse into the end of an era. Michael Meyer takes us to pre-2008 Olympics as the government of Beijing gears up to beautify its city for the throng of tourists. Meanwhile, in the old city center, close communities live amidst dilapidated housing. Many wish for renovation, but what they face is an uncertain future. The thing that they fear arrives seemingly in the night. Some awake to find a symbol painted upon their houses and stores, created by the Hand - which identifies those areas set for demolition. Residents and business owners have little choice but to move from their homes into new high-rise apartments on the outskirts of the city. The author talks to his neighbors, to the teachers and parents at the school where he volunteers his time, to architects and to those attempting to preserve something of the culture of Beijing. This is a fascinating read and a cautionary tale.

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