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Yamenkou Village #26: 20 years of transformation

November 21, 2019

konjaku: Village # 26 is Yamenkou, in the Shijingshan district

衙门口南社区 Yamenkou south community

石景山区鲁谷街道 Shijingshan district, Lugu neighborhood

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While many previous villages were transformed beginning in 2010-2011, the Yamenkou project started in 2017. Articles translated below emphasize safeguards in the contract-signing process, and there is no on-line record of any protests. The new residential housing was approved 2019-11 and is still being built.

A West Beijing old village disorder and renovation: in 20 years it has been renovated seven times



Source: Bi-weekly talk net

“I came here at 6 AM, and there were more than sixty numbers ahead of me. I am getting ready to select a large residential unit in a sixteen story building.”  Mr Wang is a villager from Yamenkou village in Shijingshan. The Yamenkou slum clearance project officially began 12-12 of 2017. The village houses and land has been requisitioned by the government, and Mr Wang and his neighbors have come to this place to sign contracts for new homes. He said, from here on out, everything will change.

The Yamenkou area has been an important transportation hub for Beijing city since ancient times. Now partitioned by several major roads and a railway line, the village site has been split apart and scattered. The partitioning is not so bad, but every time they widen or improve a road land is requisitioned and villagers have to move, said the section chief of the Shijingshan Building Requisition Office, Zhang Baijun. In Yamenkou this has affected 1200 pre-existing household compounds, involving 5000 residents.

Old Mr Ji said that the village has experienced demolition and rebuilding projects seven times, but this slum clearing project, including the building of replacement housing, is the most comprehensive, and it is now his turn to see his house demolished.

Zhang Baijun said a number of villagers and migrant workers were recruited by the nearby Capital Steel and Iron Works in 1996, and now live in state-owned housing in the district. The compensation process for them will be different.

“Of old, Yamenkou was a flourishing village, as goods were transported back and forth along the roads that passed through it. My house looked out on a neighborhood that looked much like Dashilan (a famous shopping street in central Beijing), said villager Li, pointing to the street in front of him. This street, about 300 meters long, was crowded with shops with richly colored signs.  

Many people from elsewhere set up businesses here, and every day many people streamed into this area to also shop at large-scale markets specializing in hardware,  agricultural products, second-hand books, and building materials. But this year Shijingshan started a project to fix urban overcrowding by moving these markets all together to Gaobeidian city in Hebei.

Mr Yu is from Fuyang in Anhui, and runs a wholesale dried fruit stall in the agricultural products market, and he also rents a store in the village. On 12-11 he, on his own initiative,  moved all his inventory to Gaobeidian. Mr Yu has struggled to make a living in Beijing for more than 20 years, and has been at Yamenkou  for some ten years. “Starting in 2005, many people came here from other places, and it became really crowded and busy.” Although he was reluctant to leave, he wasn’t in bad shape. He had saved enough money to buy a house in his native place, so he would always have a residence to go back to. Also,  in the years in Beijing he had raised one son and one daughter, and put them through technology school and university, after which they got jobs. This was something which would never have happened if he stayed all his life in the agricultural village in which he was born.

When there was a great influx of people in 2005, the villager Mr Li found that his neighbors tore down their one story house to build a two-story house, for the purpose of having rooms to rent. He followed the same pattern , building three two-story houses in the village,  with twelve rooms above and twelve below, with six facing the street. In less than half a year the rent from income had paid back the loans he had taken for construction costs.

Mr Li said rents had been steadily rising, from 100 yuan a month, to 300 yuan, then 500, and currently it is 900 yuan for a room, 1600 yuan for a commercial space. Altogether he makes 20,000 yuan a month on rentals.

But starting in 2017 he had some rooms for rent that stayed empty, and in 2017-06 batches of tenants began moving out.

On 12-12, this reporter went to Yamenkou village to observe. Inside the village there were many household compounds which had been rebuilt by the owners, showing evidence of shoddy construction.  The roads were squeezed by the excess building, the infrastructure was outdated,  and the wholesale markets that used to be on the periphery of the village had already been moved away completely.

“The environment here is in poor shape. There are many hidden dangers to safety, and when it rains these dangers increase, and there is little we can do about it,” grumbled a Mr Fan to this reporter. Many houses and buildings along the street had rebuilt entrances raised above the ground. Mr Fan explained that this was to prevent surges of garbage-filled water from flooding into the buildings during torrential rains.

The street that was “like Dashilan” in Mr Li’s eyes was overrun with badly constructed buildings taking up much of the space. As this reporter watched, a car tried to go through on the road,  but the rider on the passenger side had to get out and go ahead, ”clearing the road,” pushing bicycles and pedicabs to one side, carrying boxes of goods back to stores or storefronts. One villager said that in 2016 they had called emergency, but the ambulance was not able to get into the village.

As he waited in line, Mr Wang said they had been waiting for an improvement in the village environment for a long time. He was ready to sign a contract for the replacement housing, as soon as possible. 

According to section chief Zhang Baijun, Shijingshan planned to build 28 new residential towers in five complexes,  built out of green-certified pre-fab material, covering over 400,000 square meters. “The old villages of west Beijing will undergo a magnificent transformation, and say farewell completely to their overcrowded, chaotic past.”

The “Chang’an Green Axis” is the name for the new western gateway into the capital, a landscape of connected parkland at the Yamenkou village site, light and spacious, and filled with greenery.

The Yamenkou project also plans to restore and preserve eight historical village homes, to commemorate the old village, and give residents a sense of belonging. The demolished building materials will be recycled, and used to build the new roads in the area.

The Yamenkou site will set a standard for an ecological zone in Shijingshan, with a ratio of 50% green space to developed areas.

konjaku: going back one year



Several days ago, there was a medical emergency and the ambulance could not do get through the streets of Yamenkou, because of many primitively constructed buildings that impinged on both sides of the road. To fix this problem, city management, traffic, and public safety came together on 08-22 to clear the road by demolishing some ten privately constructed buildings, clearing away the odds and ends stacked along the street, and removing unofficial traffic barriers.

Many households have built in the alleys small shacks, which they use to store goods which they sell at stands or from carts. The space these shacks take up narrow the space for vehicles. The shacks are simply put together with planks, iron sheets, or brick and tile. Others are stuffed full with wastepaper and plastic waste, or kerosene and gas pipes. There are still others put up for recreation,  shelters without four walls but equipped with gas, water, and electricity, that function as places where as many as ten people can eat dinner together, or just relax.

Besides these shacks, people pile goods on the side of the road, erect homemade traffic barriers, and park their cars at night in any empty space in the alleys.  Not only is this a critical fire danger, but it’s impossible for vehicles to pass through.

Yamenkou villagers sign contracts

Yamenkou is the last remaining natural village in an area criss-crossed by traffic arteries. There is an incessant flow of traffic along roads, and railway bridges both high and low. The village itself lies hidden beneath an overpass. Today at 9 AM the Yamenkou slum-clearing and transformation project officially opened for villagers to select homes in the replacement housing, and sign contracts.




Mr Fan is one of the five thousand villagers who will give up his current home and sign a contract to live in new residential housing. The Yamenkou project is quite large, involving some 1200 households. The plan for replacement housing takes into consideration the need of villagers for  different types and sizes of residential units, as well as traffic patterns. The new replacement housing will occupy 400,000 square meters.

The next step is to turn two roadways into ecological corridors [areas with water and greenery] and reconfigure the Yamenkou site as a “sponge city” [storing and reusing rainwater by planting, wetlands creation, and permeable pavement, for areas liable to flood]. The villagers’ lives will see improvements in education, travel, and recreation. A staff member said the contract-signing period will last 48 days. After that, the new residential complex will be built on the old village site, and will be finished in three years.


Yamenkou villagers who have signed contracts to relocate is now at 99%


The Yamenkou village slum clearance project has a long history. There have been seven previous stages of demolition and relocation. The situation is complicated: there are 1180 household compounds as part of the village, and a large group of state-owned houses. But during the 48 days set for the signing of contracts, the rate completed now stands at 99 per cent –a real milestone for the project as a whole.

The village dates back to the Song dynasty (960-1279). During the Qing(1644-1911) it was named  Yamenkou (“gate of a government office”), because it was the seat of the first government office of Wanping county (Beijing was previously divided into two counties: Wanping and Daxing). In recent years it has suffered all the ills of the urban village, and has been especially vulnerable to flooding during outbursts of torrential rain. Therefore the renovation project, including the compensation plan once it was announced, has the villagers’ enthusiastic support. Once the sign-up period started, the sign-up rate was 40 percent on the first day, and it ended at 99 percent.

This high rate stems from the fact that the process was completely open,  impartial and transparent, with strict self-discipline to avoid corruption. Advanced technology was used to facilitate the sign-up process, and to ensure that  every step of the procedure was subject to rigorous inspection and supervision. To eliminate any irregularities, the teams mounted cameras and videotaped all their interactions with residents as they assisted them in signing contracts, in order that there would be a record left of their activities. The superintendents could monitor the contract-signing in real time.

In addition, to strengthen the supervision  in every possible area, the Party District Committee formed a special team devoted to the administration of justice and legal issues, to make sure the residents fully understood all the legal points and were fully satisfied when signing contracts. They also made sure that the confiscation of  properties was done legally, that all the public information was coordinated, that the posters and government website devoted to the project were accurate and convenient to access. They had an “opening day fair,” in which they invited the people and the media to come and examine every step of the process at the scene.

“Finally, our wait is over.” Villager Uncle Zhai sighed with happiness. Seven times the village had been cut up by construction projects to build roads or rail lines, and each time the villagers hoped that the whole village would be transformed, but that had not happened until now.

The green-certified replacement housing complexes will also include commercial, market-priced housing, high-end tech businesses, a school going up to ninth grade, and integrated underground utilities. The surrounding area will undergo ecologically sensitive development to improve the environment and increase green areas, which will have a positive effect on the villagers’ lives.


The replacement housing:





A New Destination for Construction Waste

There is less and less available space to dispose of the waste materials generated by construction projects in Beijing every year. The steady stream of construction waste, generated both by new construction products, and by the demolition of old buildings, means there is an urgent need to find new disposal sites.

One spring afternoon, next to the Zhaoyang Hospital, this reporter began chatting with an old person sitting in a chair beside the small road next to the hospital, listening to a radio, and enjoying the sun. The old person said he was staying in the hospital for treatment, receiving intravenous infusions three or four hours a day, and he had gotten in the habit if coming outside to lighten his mood. “This small street is newly repaved, everything is neat and tidy, there is trees and grass, only a few cars going by, and there’s a chair to sit in.” Rubbing his hand on the chair rail he said, “It’s well worn, but it’s still strong.”


This small road was repaved last year. But what is unusual is that the road surface, the enclosing wall on both sides of the road 500 meters long, the wall decorations [see photo] and the sidewalk of permeable brick, are all made from recycled construction waste. And all this waste material comes from the Yamenkou village slum-clearing project, three kilometers down the road.  On 04-25, this reporter visited the test facility where construction waste is recycled into usable material. 


The Yamenkou slum-clearing and village transformation project took place in 2017.  The buildings demolished covered an area of 251.42 hectares, and the construction waste resulting from the project totalled 2,660,000 tons. What to do with this massive amount of waste? This was the problem facing TTX company, the developer in charge of the project. A company official said that in the past, they looked for a place to dump the waste. The price to excavate a site, transport the waste, and then bury it, was previously set at 60 yuan per square meter, but even at that price the projected total was over 100 million yuan. These days the price is 100 yuan per square meter, or more, and the sites that accept construction waste are increasingly fewer, and farther away.

According to city management statistics,  in 2018 the total construction waste in Beijing was 1.83 billion tons. While 1.1 billion of that was buried in the earth, some 700 million tons is going through a recycling process to be reused.

And what is the cost difference between recycling the waste or simply burying it? The cost in 2018 to recycle waste on site is 45 yuan per ton. A city management environmental issues staff member said that to break down and transport construction to another location for disposal runs to 60 or 70 yuan per ton.  It is obvious which is the better choice.

If the waste from the Yamenkou project was stacked up, it would be a pile three stories high, covering 45 acres. Just to transport this waste to a disposal site uses up fuel and increases air pollution. From the standpoint of environmental protection, recycling on site is preferable.

Recently this paper published an investigation of illegal dumping sites, after which some sites have been closed, and some violators have been punished. However, this practice, which has gone on for many years, is unlikely to disappear completely. While the worst offenders are  targeted, others lay low for a while and then resume their operations as before. Until the root of the problem is tackled, this vicious cycle will continue. 

It is not easy to turn construction waste into reusable material. The TTX company has invested  over 20 million yuan to purchase two assembly lines to process the waste, and brought these to the Yamenkou site.


The testing ground has a handsome wall composed of half meter squares of recycled extruded steel. That draws peoples’ attention.  There are patches of green plants which are being grown with ground-up aggregate materials for soil, in order to check which plants grow well in these mixtures. There is also a stretch of brightly colored permeable pavement made from a mix of ground-up aggregate materials. This reporter took a glass of water and poured it on the pavement, and within a second the water had all seeped through.

This reporter put on protective clothing and a face-mask to enter the testing ground, but then felt these weren’t really necessary. In fact, the testing ground looks like a small park. There are patches of green plants, and a pond, the whole laid out as a scenic garden. This reporter imagined the air would be filled with dust particles and there would be deafening noise, but this was not the case at all. 

In the waste materials from the demolition of the village, there is quite a bit of garbage that comes from remnants of daily life. In order to make the reusable material as pure as possible, the ground-up end-product passes by an air-blower which blows the lighter bits of plastic and fabric into a fine mesh net, separating them from the rest. In addition, since the demolition site already has hollowed out areas where buildings once stood, the production process for permeable brick is done in these underground areas. reducing the noise and dust escaping into the air.

The assembly lines can process 1700 tons of waste a day, or 480,000 tons a year.  The Yamenkou village transformation project includes 118 hectares of green space with a forest park. In a few years, the recycled products made in these testing facility will be on full display in the construction of the park and green zone.

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Yamenkou village will change into a one hundred hectare park



Recently, the Shijingshan district announced it would build the Yamenkou Forest Park. At one square kilometer in area, this might be the largest ecological zone in the fifth ring, built as part of the project to change the dirty and chaotic urban-rural mixed zone encircling the city into a belt of green parkland.

The Yamenkou area was always part of the urban-rural mixed zone, therefore its problems were far worse than that of  purely agricultural villages gradually encroached upon by the city. Once the park is built, and all traces of the urban-rural haphazardness is erased, it will turn into a beautiful wonderland.

Since Yamenkou was never agricultural, its residents are mainly Beijing city residents, making it somewhat unique. Under rumors it would be eventually demolished, for years repairs were not made, and it became well-known as one of the most run-down areas of the city, worse than other areas on the margin. Now all that will change.


The old Yamenkou village in photos



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