The wifi has not been working here for some time, and as a result many things have not gotten posted. It’s alright, though, as I read back and realize that they weren’t quite up to par. This post is nothing to rave about, but I wanted to update everyone on the past few days. Here is where we stand-
I found myself wandering the streets in southern Beijing, taking a trip down the single most tourist pushed section I have seen to date. This was not just a street, but a full blow avenue, closed to traffic and rebuilt to look like the old Beijing, the world that every tourist imagines. Rows of shops, both western and Chinese, lined the sides of this fresh looking thoroughfare, a selection of places that I have no interest in entering.
(The pictures above and below are made out of some kind of sugar which is heated and blown into shape)
I was feeling at a lack of ideas to write about when I got up this morning. I found myself (even now) trying too hard to come up with something specific. As past experience has shown, the best thing to do is to wander until an idea shows up. There is too much in this city for one person to ever run out of material, but it can be troublesome to try and look for an idea, as you so often end up writing something that sounds contrived. Try as I did, I could not come up with anything.
And so I showed up at Qianmen old street and decided to head west until I found something that caught my attention. The trouble is that nothing did! I walked nearly two miles trough the alleys and found nothing of great interest. The problem, as I found it, was that everything around me was contrived, a brand new place made to look old, made to look as it had before it was knocked down and rebuilt. What kind of strange perversion is this? It is as if I were to cut off my hand simply for the sake of getting a prosthetic variant. I took a few pictures of things here and there, but I couldn’t handle it. I was surrounded by a culture vacuum, a void in the community that once stood on this spot. When the man comes and knocks down the old in order to bring in the new, all of the former community gets pushed out. Gentrification, Beijing style. The people are transplanted, but the community is lost forever.
I was feeling adrift, and got back on the subway with little direction. I wanted to see how far out the subways actually went, and so I hopped on the 13, which, though not the furthest reaching, goes quite a ways out. Because it is an above ground train, I was able to watch the landscape change around me. As we moved away from the heart of Beijing, the buildings got larger and larger, until we reached the top of the line. And there, though the buildings had reached a zenith in height, the population seemed to be nil. Massive streets appeared all but empty, as though waiting for crowds that had yet to appear. This alien world looks sterile, a framework for a time that has yet to come. It is a world on the edge of the world, and I have every desire to explore it. Many of the residents who have been pushed out of condemned hutong come to rest in one of these massive external sky rises, but I see no way that such a rich and deep culture could maintain in one of these far out districts, a place so divorced from the central city. And so I plan on venturing further out on one of these subway lines, simply to find out what lies at the end.