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Shantytown renovation in central Beijing: Dongcheng

August 10, 2017

konjaku: the urban-rural reunification project of transforming the outlying fifty villages around Beijing began in 2008 in the spirit of “tackling the hardest problems first.” Perhaps that is why the city government waited several years before starting to renovate the shantytown districts within the city proper. Residents of these districts are not like villagers who remember an intact community in which families have lived for many generations, and who were making an income renting rooms in their household complexes. (Yet, even in West Zhongshili, this pattern is established –see below.) Although each site is different, in the city there is more likely to be abundant funds available through developers to compensate those who have to move, as the center city is a highly desirable area to redevelop. The government can expect less resistance and a smoother process overall. However, there are some different, and difficult, issues: finding or building replacement housing for residents of shantytowns who will not be able to move back to the same location, and dealing sensitively with sites close to the Temple of Heaven or with historic hutong neighborhoods.
In this post and the next, I will concentrate on Dongcheng and Xicheng, the two districts at the very center of Beijing, to look at similarities and differences with the 50 villages project.

Beijing 2016 Shantytown renovation gets approval–will involve at least 35,000 households

The bulk of the renovation projects will be in central Beijing: 4500 households in Dongcheng, 5000 in Xicheng, 6000 in Chaoyang, 6000 in Haidian, 4500 in Fengtai, 4000 in Shijingshan. The suburbs are less represented in the plan. 5000 households are to be transformed in Huairou, but the other districts will have to wait.

As of 2016-01, the number of Beijing city residents in the plan who have already signed contracts to move out of their shantytowns is 2893, or 8.27% of the total (35,000). The amount of money to be invested is 100 billion yuan ($15 billion–14,857,737,166). In Dongcheng 1458 residents have signed contracts –the most in all districts up to now.

The common peoples’ enthusiasm for these projects is very high. In the spare and economical buildings near the Temple of Heaven, the rate of residents who have signed contracts is 85%, and the same for West Zhongshili [konjaku:see below for details on these projects].


Beijing published its plan to demolish and relocate certain places at the beginning of the year –the latest developments — is your home a worry?

(The point of view expressed in this article is the author’s, and does not represent the view of Sohu net.)

At the beginning of the year Beijing published “ 2016 work schedule of the transformation of shantytown areas and fixing environmental problem areas.” We’ll take a quick look at the progress of demolition projects in six Beijing districts.

Dongsheng District:

1. Spare and economical buildings near the Temple of Heaven
Cluster of spare and economical buildings to the west and south of the Temple of Heaven. This comprises 57 economical buildings, 2589 registered permanent residences, 8134 people, 2414 real estate properties. These spare and economical buildings were built in the 1960s and 1970s. They have not been repaired for many years, have aged beyond their usefulness, and are full of safety issues (hidden dangers ). Residents of these buildings can opt to buy designated residences in the east fourth ring, but because these housing resources are limited, it will be first come, first served, until they are all gone.
Temple of Heaven 天坛
Spare and economic buildings 简易楼


2. Beijing Dongcheng district West Zhongshili shantytown area
Zhongshili shantytown district will be demolished and transformed into Binhe (riverside) Park

Prospects are finally looking up for the shantytown dwelling residents of Wesrt Zhongshili. West Zhongshili is squeezed between the train tracks and the Tonghui river. The area will be cleared and made into a riverside park, while the residents’ designated housing will be in the Qingheli nanshanyuan multi-story complex in Chaoyang district Dougezhuang village.

West Zhongshili shantytown area 西忠实里棚户区
Binhe park 滨河公园
Tonghui river 通惠河
Qingheli nanshanyuan 青荷里南山园
Dougezhuang 豆各庄

This year (2016) in Beijing city, 118 shantytowns will be renovated, involving 57 thousand households


This reporter spent 24 hours in Dongcheng district Zhongshili shantytown. eating with residents and living under the same roof

Reporter Geng Nuo, photos Sun Yue

Photos: Xiao Jin and Xiao Liao live at Number 2 in west Zhongshili. The kitchen is two square meters, and a large tree trunk takes up a considerable amount of the space. Xiao Liao is in the process of cooking a meal.


In West Zhongshili, this type of building, a safety hazard, with an insecure story added over the original building, is seen everywhere. These spaces are rented cheaply to migrant workers.


These brick houses built right against the railway embankment have been there for decades. When a train goes by, these old buidings shake, in danger of falling down.


“I do not know how many more nights I will need to sleep here,” Lightly tucking her five year old under the quilt, 35 year old Xiao Liao (Young Liao) heaved a sigh, raising her eyes to the cracked and peeling ceiling, seemingly without the strength to continue to pit herself against the darkness and oppressive dampness of this house. The next morning she had to get up at 6, to take her child to attend a government run kindergarden 10 kilometers away.

From the narrow gable window at the top of her house, one can glimpse the area around Jianguomen ablaze with lights. But in this .49 square kilometer shanty town with the Tonghui River to the south and the railroad track to the north, it is absolutely pitch black. Inside the alley there are no lights, on the roadside there are no lights, the whole area seems swallowed up in darkness.

This year the city plans to renovate 118 shantytown areas. to improve the housing conditions of 57000 households. The residents of this shantytown fervently look forward to the renovation.

A large tree trunk occupies part of one wall of Xiao Liao’s 2 meter square kitchen. She has hammered nails into the wood, from which she hangs cutting boards and other kitchen implements. On rainy days, although Xiao Liao sprinkles quite a lot of salt, slugs crawl up the wood. Because of the tree’s tenacious growth, every year the kitchen roof and the floor must be repaired.

“This place is called ‘the first stop for those coming to the capital,’ but the reality of it is difficult to put into words.” A young fellow from the neighborhood committee took this reporter to the most impoverished sections.

To the south are the tracks coming out of Beijing Station, to the north is the south bank of the Tonghui River, to the west is the bridge leading to the east second ring along Tonghui Rover North Road, to the east is where Dongcheng meets Chaoyang district. On the map, west Zhongshili is called the Huangjin (gold) area, but this is misleading, Those who drive along the Tonghui Rover North Road are hardly likely to notice the ashen, dilapidated buildings which are scattered in the greenbelt between traffic arteries.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 12.15.06 PM


Xiao Liao does not go out to work, but stays home to look after her family. All during the day and while awake, she plays music to drown out the sound of passing cars, just some 10 meters away. At 3:15 in the afternoon, she pushes out her bicycle to get ready to go pick up her child at the kindergarden 10 kilometers away. The next three hours are busy for her. But at the same time, she gets respite from the incessant noise: the sound of trains passing, and the long, shrill squeal of car brakes.

At 6 in the morning they are awakened by the din next door. Several houses have been rented by a goods distribution company, and employees are going in and out. Xiao Liao gets up and begins cleaning the rooms, trying to maintain the semblance of being in a normal house.

“I have been tidying up these several years, but the more I clean the more disordered things become,” Xiao Liao said, sweeping the corners while swatting a mosquito.

She has been living here with Xiao Jin (Young Jin) since 2011. That same year Jin’s uncle moved to Tongzhou to be near the kindergarden his grandson was going to, managing to get out of the shantytown. However, Jin’s family has lived here six generations, they are the “original inhabitants” of the village. Next door is another Jin uncle, 96 years old, who set aside the bowl of congee from his daughter-in-law to relate the history of the neighborhood.

When this Mr Jin was born, this area was farmland, under the Nanmofang production brigade. There were just six households here. People from outside started to arrive to be employed as construction workers when work started on the Beijing Railroad Station and the train lines along the river (1959). The companies involved in the construction built up temporary shacks to house the workers, and warehouses. The buildings which were meant to be temporary, gradually changed into dormitories. After that, as migrants arrived they settled in the vicinity of the railway. A complicated array of buildings grew up: state-owned houses, houses managed by work units, private houses, peasants’ homesteads with gardens, houses built by work units, houses self-built by residents. It is a diverse cross-section of all the types of real estate found in Beijing, legal and illegal –every type except for standard, market priced housing.

In all the years she has lived here Xiao has never gone to the “west side.” The Jin family have exhorted her that over there it is chaotic, that she should not rashly venture there.

“You are thinking of going there? I want to come along with you” she said to this reporter. It seemed as though she was curious about that area.

The further you go west, the more dilapidated it gets. Although this reporter had already gone to interview in some very well-known Beijing shantytowns, he had the same sense of shock as before when he saw brick houses that had been there for at least several decades, inside the railway bed, leaning on the embankment. These houses use the top of the slope as the edge of their roof. They used boards for support, and steel plates to add a second story. To plug the chinks in the pitched roof, the owner used irregular sizes and twisted pieces of brick, placed under the rafters. The rafters had changed color, showing they were already rotten to the core.

People who have come to Beijing to be manual laborers live in this particular area. A Ms Zhang from Henan province has been here for over a year. Her rent is 450 yuan a month, which allows here to have a room in a shack to call her own inside the east 2nd Ring.

“Don’t look, don’t look, everything’s a mess, ” Turning a corner on the second floor, unexpectedly three rooms and a kitchen appear. This reporter met Ms Zhang, who had received a long and narrow stool from a good hearted person. As she was dragging it along the road, the stool became stuck, and this reporter helped her pull it out and carry it in. However on the second floor Ms Zhang became embarrassed. In her small room there was a bed and a table, but no room for a second person to go in and even have a place to stand.

As this reporter was leaving Ms Zhang’s, at that moment a train went by. The were faint tremors in the ground, which must be increasing the danger that these old houses will eventually fall down. The railroad line separates the newer Zhongsili, in which houses have sprouted up like spring bamboo shoots in the last ten years, from West Zhongsili, which is older and more dilapidated.

Donghuashi residential district Deputy Director Yan Tao remembers clearly that when he started in his position in 2000, there were only a few buildings over two stories in this area. 95 percent of the land was occupied by shantytowns, just like Zhongshili is today. Starting in 2001, they began relocating people, and now 95 percent of the area is made up of modern, tall buildings.

The remaining 5 percent is West Zhongshili, and this area has almost entirely become an “ungoverned zone.” Cable tv service stopped five years ago. Houses do not have meters, but they still sponge electricity off of the city. All one story houses with courtyards have water faucets, but the water pressure is insufficient. There are newly built public bathrooms, but because there is no water pressure the toilets are pit latrines.

“Don’t go there, not in a million years! If you go in the public bathroom, when you come out you have a strong urge to wash yourself all over.” Xiao Liao pulled this reporter’s arm in the other direction.

According to a comprehensive survey, the following conditions are universal for the area: “building in danger of collapse, ” “ buildings that have not been repaired for years,” “disorderly buildings slapped together by occupants.”

In 2014, good news arrived. West Zhongsili would be one of the eleven shantytowns areas that would be completely transformed. West Zhongsili involves 445 households, which will move to new designated housing, and the emptied land will be turned into a green zone.

At the end of last year, an investigation commenced to determine the real situation of the area. More than one hundred people spent over a month here, finally sorting the intricate and complicated real estate arrangements and the distribution of the population. At present, except for two families they have lost contact with, data on the rest of the families in the area has been completely assembled.

“If matters continue at this pace, this year we will be able to post the announcement, and if we work hard, by the end of the year the first batch of families will have moved into new homes.” This was said by a person at the project command center. The necessary project funds, liaison with housing resources, and work assignments have all been fixed in advance.

This reporter has found out that the designated housing for West Zhongsili residents is government constructed public housing in Dougezhuang (Chaoyang district). The relevant government department has been considering the school issue at the new location. They have settled the residents’ permanent residence status before they relocate, and will be able to give them clear direction on how to enter their children in school.

“Although it is not yet fixed, perhaps we can begin to look forward to moving to new homes.” Xiao Liao looked happy.

Photos of the designated housing for W. Zhongshili, Qingheli Nanshanyuan:





West Zhongshili non-conforming buildings demolished, “using skylight to go in and out”



A structure partitioned into eight adjoining shacks, each twelve meters long, 2.5 meters wide, in which eight families live, migrant workers who have come to Beijing for construction jobs. They pay 300 yuan a month to live here, and do all their living in a space five meters square. All their refuse is scattered outside, creating a strong odor. There are no doors and windows –the only entrance is through the roof, the “skylight.”

Legal Daily reporter Hong Xue said, “I have seen many non-conforming buildings, but never before ones without doors, in which the only way to enter is from above.” Yesterday a city management team discovered this strange building in the process of demolishing structures in the same area. Wondering how the tenants got in and out, a member of the team discovered the “skylight,” a torn canvas flap on the roof, with a ladder set up just below the opening. The other wall was the embankment of the train tracks. Inside, a corridor one meter wide led to the only egress from the structure, the skylight.

Originally the train tracks were sealed off with wire mesh, but they had made an opening in the wire and filled in the space along the embankment with rocks, up to the level of the skylight. If there had ever been a fire, it would have been hard to get out.

The inhabitants have already moved out, and the city management law-enforcement team demolished the structure.


3. Baohuali, Xiheyan
Summary: “stranded houses” in Baohuali and houses in danger of collapse in Xiheiyan are being demolished to make way for a large scale residential complex. Residents will be able to acquire units in the new complex that correspond to the area of their demolished houses, and can purchase extra space for 5000 yuan per square meter. Or they can choose to move to other housing outside of the area.

Xiheyan 西河沿


(Above, 3 photos of Baohuali)

4.Qianmen dongqu
Forty-six hutong (traditional neighborhood alleys) will be renovated

The development angle of Qianmen is “old hutongs, new life, ” a new vitality for those remaining buildings and neighborhoods which we look at with nostalgia and which are a foundation of traditional culture. Taking West Damochang street as a starting point, Beijing is accelerating the pace to renovate the hutongs, clean up the environment, and bring in new commercial opportunities into the area. The comparatively well preserved Linfen Association Hall will be renovated and turned into the Beijing Association Hall Museum. Along with extending the Sanlihe green zone to the southeast, 46 hutongs will be renovated and upgraded with new infrastructure.

Qianmen dongqu 前门东区
West Damochang street 西打磨厂街
(see for photos of this classic street)
Linfen Association Hall 临汾会馆
Beijing Association Hall Museum 北京会馆文化陈列馆
Sanlihe green zone三里河绿化

5 photos of Qianmen dongqu, the last a model of what renovation might look like






4 photos of West Damochang Street:





The Linfen Association Hall after renovation


5. Dongcheng district Dongsi subdistrict and Nanluoguxiang hutongs will be renovated within this year.

Dongcheng district is taking a comprehensive approach to fixing and renovating its historical and cultural neighborhoods, with a “historical essence” zone encompassing Dongsi Third to Eight Alleys, and four alleys of Nanluoguxiang.

Yesterday, the Dongcheng district party secretary Yang Liuyin revealed that four hutong east of the Yuhe river (Tonghui canal) will be completely renovated over the next four years. They are Yuer hutong, Maoer hutong, Suoyi hutong, and Fuxiang hutong. This renovation will involve some 1000 households. It will improve housing conditions and relieve population congestion. Previously Yang Liuyin reported that at present the population of Dongcheng district is 1 million, with 280,000 migrants. On average, that is 20,000 people per square kilometer, but in some places there are 40,000 per square kilometer. Therefore, the Dongcheng plan, from 2011 to 2030, is to move out 10,000 people each year, with the eventual goal of having 200,000 people transferred out of the District.

Dongcheng belongs to an adminsitrative effort that this year will relocate or destroy buildings within the cultural preservation area which are not in the old capital style. [details of areas affected omitted]. It will continue the project of “Qianmen new [style] closed courtyards.”

Dongsi 东四
Nanluoguxiang (Southern Drum and Gong Lane) 南锣鼓巷
Yuer hutong, 雨儿胡同
Maoer 帽儿胡同
Fuxiang 福祥胡同

Nanluoguxiang (Southern Drum and Gong Lane) and four other allies (hutong) renovation project has been completed

By next year, Dongcheng District will have finished its projects to renovate shantytown areas. This includes the spare and economical buildings near the Temple of Heaven, Nanzhongzhou Road, etc. Construction of 6837 residences for replacement housing in Dougezhuang in Chaoyang [see “W. Zhongshili, Qingheli Nanshanyuan” photos above] and the “Liangzhanyijie” (Two subway stations one town)  development  in Tongzhou has started, 3728 units have been completed. Next year renovation will also begin on a number of culture sites, including Yonghe Temple and the Guozijian (Imperial Academy).

konjaku: some Dongsi and Nanluoguxiang hutongs have already been renovated and have become active tourist destinations. An example is Dazhalan (Dashilanr) street.
Dashilanr commercial street 大栅栏

The “Two subway stations one town” project in Tongzhou is quite large. It looks like quite a different living environment from the shantytown in central Beijing.

The Two stations one town development in Tonzhou is starting! The Beijing Zhuzong Group has already bought up 58 land parcels and consolidated them into one, and prepared a capital investment of 55 billion yuan (8 billion dollars) to create a high-end commercial town. This will be a “micro- center” of the Beijing-Tianjan cooperative development zone.

“Two stations one town” refers to a new commercial area built along the last two stations on the Yizhuang subway line, Yizhunaghuoche and Ciqi stations. [Ciqi station opened 12- 2010, Yizhunaghuoche station, last on the line, is not open yet.]

The best point of this development is the balance of commercial and residential sites. We hard-working long-distance commuters into the city will now be able to work and live at the same place. What a pleasant turn of events! Instead of having to jostle each other in the morning rush-hour crowd to get ahead, we can live a more human life. We can relax, knowing that education and medical facilities will all be close by when we need them. Won’t this be what living in the city center should be?

This year 2017, construction will start on roads and other infrastructure.

Two stations one town 两站一街
Yizhuang line 亦庄线
Yizhuang huoche station亦庄火车站
Ciqu station 次渠站



6. Wangtan
Wangtan is the largest shantytown area in Beijing. At long last the opportunity has come for the cocoon to be smashed and the butterfly to emerge. 20,000 long-time neighbors will walk from a shantytown into a transformed green thoroughfare. Dongcheng inked a contract with a large construction company. The Wangtan area residents and businesses have packed up everything and moved out, leaving the whole site to the construction firm. The work has already started, the timetable is being followed, and this year the job is due to be completed. “At long last the dawn is coming. We have waited through many setbacks, 24 years, for this.”

Contract signing starts in Wangtan shack clearance project

2017-04-11 Evening Legal Daily

At 8 o clock in the morning, contract signing officially began.

The project to renovate Wangtan, the largest shantytown in the center of Beijing, occupying 46 hectares, officially began with contract signing at 8 o clock in the morning. Those who sign s contract within the stipulated time period, will receive an award of 420,000 yuan. ($62,000)


Once the contract signing process got underway, this reporter discovered it only took ten minutes. 62 year old Chen Wanping was the second one to complete the process. She told this reporter that her son-in-law had been in line for two days to get the Number 2, so that they could be one of the earliest to select their new residence. They were able to get a two room suite of 68 to 78 square meters.

One of the directors of the project, Chang Zhangbo said, there are 4555 residents ready to sign contracts, 80% of the total. He calculates they will be able to get 600 contracts signed today, and all of them within one week. There is a period of 100 days to sign contracts. If at that time (by the deadline) the rate of signing has reached 75%, the process of requisitioning properties and paying the compensation specified in the agreement will go into effect. 5700 households will move into new homes.

konjaku: another website shows that the goal of 75% was reached on 04-18, seven days later.

In addition to the 420,000 yuan, signers will receive a number of smaller awards or subsidies.Once families move out, they will receive a subsidy for rent and expenses of 150 yuan per square meter of their old house, if this amounts to less than 4000 yuan, they will get 4000 yuan.

Before seleting a new residence, families will get a pamphlet details all of the options. They can choose to live in the new residences being built on the Wangtan site, or they can choose to move out to one of two residential complexes in Daxing district. There are seven possible combinations of compensation money, subsidies, and choice of residence for them to select from.

Wangtan 望坛

View of Wangtan


Wangtan street


The Wangtan renovation project model


Wangtan residents examining the noticeboard detailing compensation amounts


Wangtan’s “Retirement”

Wangtan means to “gaze at the Temple of Heaven.” (Wang 望 to gaze at from a distance, tan 坛 from Tiantan 天坛, Temple of Heaven). Most of the buildings in this area were constructed in the 1950s. After all this time, the area is rife with hidden dangers. 2017 -05-10 was the last day to receive a financial award for agreeing to sign a contract for the renovation project. At 4 PM, the number of contracts signed was 5095, or 90%.

In the near future, the residences in the area will be demolished. The next step will be to gradually get rid of the businesses which are operating illegally, without a license.

“Welcome!” An old resident, Zhang Hongxiang, waving, greeted this photographer. Inside their house, the whole family arranged themselves to photographed, chattering the whole time. This was the house in which they had lived for sixty years. “Now out in the courtyard!” This time, some neighbors joined in the picture (see photo).


Early summer, a light breeze. A man passing under a locust tree shook a branch, and blossoms fell on the roof of his old house. “When I first came here I was eight years old, in 1952, and the trunk of this tree was the diameter of a ricebowl. ”Thus courtyard was shared by six families, and we were given six saplings to plant.”

All the neighbors know the food market on Taoyang Road, the oldest state-run store in Wangtan. In the afternoon they gather outside the store, and set up a chessboard to play chess. A Mr Li, waiting his turn to play, pointed a finger down the road and said, “You can’t imagine how busy it once was here. Many Liberation-brand trucks drove west along this road. There were lots of young children here then, who liked watching them go by.” Mr Li sighed. ”The years have gone by quickly.”


photo above Liberation-brand truck, now in a museum

Ms Wang, who is now the manager of the food market, recollected that when she was 20 years old, her starting salary was 17.08 yuan a month. Since it was the only shop in the area, there were seventeen shop assistants, and they could barely keep up. Because of changes to the railway line the road going north was closed off, but this road going west is just as it was before.


inside the food market in Wangtan

Now half of the store interior is closed off. When the area is redone, Ms Wang plans to retire and live with her grandson.

After sixty years here, Ms Wang sits under the locust tree, unwilling to brush the falling tree blossoms out of her hair. “The summers were the best. To eat a bowl of noodles, right here, with one whole cucumber in the bowl, squatting on the ground. This kind of thing doesn’t happen any more.”

“The truth is, we won’t fondly remember our old houses, what we will cherish in our memories is our old neighborhood, the living here together day to day.” Zhang Hongxiang expressed the sentiments of all the old residents.


“It didn’t used to be like this. Two Liberation-brand trucks used to able to pass each other on the road. ”said Ms Liu of Liulijingnan Road. “If you look at what it is now, not even small vans can come in.”
In the Wangtan of today, there are many small streets that can’t handle automobile traffic, even pedicabs cannot go in and out. On nights and weekends, cars squeeze by without an inch to spare. Many are people visiting the Temple of Heaven, who park here and later go back home. [Parked cars block the lanes, forming a hidden danger.]

Others recall that what Ms Liu is talking about began in the 1960s. As new generations increased the number of family members living in a house, they added on to their houses, swelling them to the point of being over-stuffed.

Mr Li said he remembers vividly one night when there was a fire. That night he was resting inside his home when suddenly outside he heard a person yelling, “Fire!” Losing no time, he ran outside, and found the lane filled with rollong black smoke. Residents contacted the police, but when the fire engine hurried there, on the street which was not very wide to begin with, a stiff barrier blocked up the lane, made up of piles of odds-and-ends. Besides, Mr Li’s car was parked there, and three other cars.
After this, Mr Li realized that this old city district, which he knows so intimately, should be “retired.”

To accelerate the process of renovating Wangtan, Beijing’s largest shantytown, the Dongcheng district government, between 2016-12-24 and 2017-01-16, has taken 20,000 Wangtan residents in batches to tour one of the designated replacement housing complexes, Shouchangmeilanwan.


Shouchangmeilanwan is in the south Fifth Ring in Daxing. The Shouchang Group [Beijing Capital Group, a large state-owned enterprise] has done its utmost to produce high quality replacement housing, offering 3214 residential units to Wangtan residents. The complex will be finished in stages, starting 2018-12, going up to 2019-06. It has been reported that the Beijing Capital group has a plan to build more housing on 500,000 square meters of land adjacent to the west side of Shouchangmeilan. They anticipate being able to offer Dongcheng another 5000 residential units. Construction is slated to start sometime in 2017.

photos: residents arriving for the tourU398P4T8D8104633F107DT20161226094105.jpg

breaking ground ceremony


what Shouchangmeilanwan will look like


7. Jingshan

Adopting the “sponge city concept” (refashion urban areas to be able to hold, clean and drain water in an ecological way, rather than be damaged by floods) Dongcheng is pushing forward to rebuild low-lying households with courtyards. Starting in the Jingshan sub-district, it has a pilot project to raise up these buildings and redo the sewer lines, and to repave the courtyards with anti-skid, permeable bricks [permeable because these allow stormwater to seep through]. By the end of 2015, Jingshan had already finished renovating 64 low-lying homes. This year, the goal is to redo 80 to 100 homes.

Jingshan 景山地区

Houses in low-lying areas renovated, freeing residents from fast-moving rainwater

In the summer torrential rains, in Jingshan 170 homes built in low-lying areas or on depressions are vulnerable to rain-water flow, “if it’s a small rain it just comes in the house, if it’s a hard rain it reaches the roof.” This phenomenon produces anxiety: “the common peoples’ worry accumulates as the water accumulates.” Now 84 houses have undergone a trial to end this problem, with great success.

photo: 2015 low lying area renovated so that the water drains away: conventional pavement changed to permeable pavement



The difficulties faced were quite complex. If houses had drainpipes they were old and not functioning well. .Some houses did not have drainpipes at all, but still used the method from Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911), a seepage pit to hold excess water. This method does not align well in the modern city. Besides the houses, some municipal systems were in disrepair. Street surfaces were old, and the gaps between streets and houses where one or the other was sinking had grown larger, as much as 1.5 meters. The houses to fix were many, and the repair fund was not large. Confronting these problems, the thought was to be imaginative, and explore new methods and solutions that would get the most out of the limited capital available. An individualized plan was made for each house that would unfold in stages. Next the project workers explained the project fully to the residents, for without the support and participation of the residents, the project would fail.

photo Beijing city Deputy Mayor Li Jixiang investigating the flood conditions with members of his staff and the district committee secretary



photo: before and after


魏家社区南吉祥13号改造前              魏家社区南吉祥13号改造后

8.Chongwai #6
Dongcheng district is implementing demolition of the “stagnant areas” of Chongwai #6. For replacement housing the residents can choose to go to Dafangju in Tongzhou, outside the fifth ring. This is difficult to accept for those older residents who have lived for decades inside the second ring. When this plan was announced in 2006, a number of older residents did not agree to it. In 2007 it was proposed that residents would receive not one but two residences in the new residential complex, and a compensation award of 300,000 yuan. This overcame the resistance and most were prepared to move out, but then there was no further communication on the project.

photo: Chongwai#6 narrow alleyway, just enough for one person to go through


This project involves 7965 registered households, houses and buildings with a total area of 156, 000 square meters. Relocation of residents started in 2007. Up to now, 1000 housholds have been moved, while more than 6000 remain.

If all had gone smoothly, this shantytown district would have disappeared in 2008. But because Chongwai#6 borders on the Temple of Heaven, it involves cultural protection issues, and the approval process is longer than usual. Since the Temple of Heaven is a historical and cultural heritage site, it is not under the jurisdiction of Beijing city. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site also added to the delay.

Now (2016) the residents are full of resentment at the real estate company (New World Real Estate) in charge of the project. “They buried us alive. They said they would demolish, but did not go ahead with demolition, and we lost the chance to buy the new residences. All we can do is wait. Who knows when we will escape from this predicament.”

photo: old house that has not been repaired for many years

Walking through the alleys of Chongwai #6, this reporter noticed that every ten meters there is an electrical box, with a placard on which is written the name of the resident served, and a meter. Resident Miao said, last year in this neighborhood the plan, “From coal to electricity” was completed. Before that, residents of this shantytown neighborhood relied on honeycomb coal briquettes to warm themsselves, polluting the environment, creating a hidden danger to lives and safety. “Since electrification, it has been much cleaner and tidier, and living conditions are much improved” Mr Miao heaved a satisfied sigh.

coal briquettes for heating


But another resident. Mr Xiaoli, had a different perspective. He had originally hoped that use of coal would end under Beijing city’s Twelfth Five Year Plan, and that Chongwai#6 would be demolished by the end of 2015. But now that the “coal to electricity” project has been done, Mr Xiaoli worries that they will be forgotten, and that the government has given up doing more in this area. “New World Reality is not pushing forward and doing anything. There is more and more delay, and there is no one to ask what is going on.” Mr Xiaoli has no idea where to lodge an appeal. The only thing he can do is post messages to the district head at the Dongcheng district website, which he does unceasingly.

The temporary district head in 2014, Zhang Jiaming, at that time issued a statement, stating that the government had been consulting with New World Reality for the last two years, to assist with demolition and to find new housing for residents in Tongzhou. As Zhang stated, the government indeed found some replacement housing. In 2007, out of 7965 households, 1552 were relocated, leaving 6413. Another 100 houses were demolished to make way for the electricity substation on Xitang street.

Although some 2000 households had moved, for the next nine years the majority of households were stalled in place, unable to leave. To renovate dilapidated houses would cost money,as much as 60,000 to 80,000 yuan per house. But if residents ended up moving sooner, that money would be wasted.

The deputy project manager at New World Reality said there are several problems: compensation amounts are not clearly determined in the plan, and there is a lack of replacement housing available. Although they are trying to take appropriate action, finding the replacement housing is difficult.

Now, in 2016, the district head Li Xianzhong has said that there must be a renewed effort to complete the areas around the Temple of Heaven. The residents of Chongwai #6 are greeting the news with happiness, but they are waiting to see an exact timetable for demolition.
Chongwai #6  崇外6号

konjaku: The following summarizes what has occurred in Chongwai#6 in 2017. Is it going to be turned into a “good example neighborhood” or is it going to be renovated?



Along with the thunderous boom of the excavator, the pale colored boards of one room after another tumble like toy building blocks. Yesterday afternoon, along the east side of Chongwai Road, at “Chongwai #6,” a stagnated redevelopment project that has started up and then lapsed into inactivity again many times, crews began the main task of demolishing illegal buildings. This stretch of 1600 square meters will be turned into a parking lot, convenient for residents, easing the parking problem for this neighborhood.

According to the local neighborhood committee deputy director, some of these buildings are over one hundred years old, although the majority are from the 1950s and 60s. The newest date from 1976, put up quickly after the Tangshan earthquake. Since then, no new buildings, no buildings built to code, have gone up in Chongwai#6. Except for the homes which residents have renovated themselves, the buildings are all illegal.

The deputy director said that by the end of this year, here and on surrounding streets and neighborhoods, there will be no more illegal buildings, no more homes converted without permission into storefronts, no more ads posted on walls –it will be turned into a “good example neighborhood.”

Reporter/photographer Wei Tong

As of 2017-07, the situation in Chongwai#6 is still uncertain, as seen in the following exchanges, on a Message Board for Local Leaders.


Hello, the redevelopment project for Chongwai#6 has been in existence for a long time. From 2007 up to the present, in these ten years it has not been completed. We common people think of how to allocate resources to the next generation and divide up the family property. Since there has been no demolition, our households are frozen in place. We cannot make any decisions on these matters. If you are going to demolish and move us out , go ahead and do it to your heart’s content. If you are not going to demolish, please don’t overlook Chongwai#6 and leave it in this frozen state. Thank you leaders! –No answer —

Dear Mayor, Hello! I am a resident of Chongwai #6. Today I heard that some representatives have been asked to fill out a form giving their opinions on demolition and transfer to new residences. Why is it that I and my neighbors know nothing about this? May I please ask, is this survey something that counts for something, or not? Is this something going on behind the scenes that we are not supposed to know about? Please help us, the residents of Chongwai#6 to protect our rights. Thank you.

Answer: response from a neighborhood committee member: I have checked with the residential district, and can confirm that the district did survey a random group of 500 families. At present the New World Corporation is still in charge of the demolition and relocation effort. The purpose of this questionnaire was to go a bit further in understanding the residents’ requirements. We are doing all we can to get the residents’ concerns on the process and report them faithfully to the higher authorities.The questionnaire has nothing to do with making decisions on how the demolition is to be done, or what the standards will be.

Thank you for your concern and support to Beijing City Building Management! We welcome your scrutiny of our work, and we value your suggestions.






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