• Context's walk of how creative industries are re-arranging traditional hutongs in Beijing
  • Context's walk of how creative industries are re-arranging traditional hutongs in Beijing
  • Context's walk of how creative industries are re-arranging traditional hutongs in Beijing
  • Context's walk of how creative industries are re-arranging traditional hutongs in Beijing

Walk Description

China is entering an exciting, tense phase in its development. As China increases its role as an economic powerhouse, the country is learning both the power and value of maintaining and transforming its historic spaces for profit. During this two-hour walk of Beijing's historic hutongs we’ll dive into this transformation, using the gentrification and "hip-ification" of the hutongs as a tool for understanding how the commercialization of historic architecture has aided in the rescue of spaces that would otherwise be lost. As we weave through several of Beijing's historic alleyways, or hutongs, many of which date to the 16th century or earlier, we will look at how these wonderful, atmospheric spaces serve as the architectural backbone and centers of community for the city.

The walk will start in Wudaoying Hutong, an up-and-coming neighborhood with boutiques selling local design, and move on to Guozijian Street, home of the Confucian temple, a place always associated with learning. Nearby, Fangjia Hutong 46 is an example of a government-supported creative zone. By juxtaposing more commercialized hutongs with more traditional spaces where people continue to live, we will have no shortage of material for understanding the impact both the destruction and revitalization of the hutongs have had on Beijingers.

In the course of our time together, we'll have the opportunity to enter several hutong courtyards and discover how Beijingers inhabit these spaces: We'll learn about life in the hutongs yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our itinerary will also include a stroll down Nanluoguxiang, a street originally associated with the hutong renaissance, but now overrun with tourists, and a visit to a garden formerly owned by the family of Empress Wan Rong—consort of the last emperor—that has now been transformed into a design and fashion concept shop that Wallpaper describes as one of the top twenty reasons to visit China.

Throughout the walk we will touch on a variety of themes including recreation and creation, "Made in China," and the presence of the government in commerce, industry, and housing. We'll experience a wide variety of Chinese architectural spaces, from the newly constructed to the historic. Along the way, we'll discuss the energetic eagerness palpable in Beijing for Chinese designs and architecture, both traditional and non. We'll look at the role the West plays in terms of aesthetic influence and education as well as that of tradition and the Communist period, which will leave us with a clear understanding of China's rapid development and how it has impacted its citizens both for better or worse.

Duration: 2 hours
Category: City Ambience
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    Misha Tadd

    Misha grew up in a leafy Massachusetts college town and began to study Chinese language and culture during high school. Persistent interest in Sinology culminated in a recent PhD on early Chinese thought and religion from Boston University. His research centered on Han dynasty interpretations of the Daoist classic, the Daodejing, and engaged with historical analysis, theoretical debate, as well as text, commentary, and translation work. More broadly, he is interested in the intersection of Chinese philosophy, religion, and the history of medicine, co-editing "Worms and Parasites in Religion, Culture, and the Body," and authoring essays on topics such as the physicality of mystical experience, and the political application of early conceptions of yin and yang. Residing in Beijing with his filmmaker wife, he takes much inspiration from the vibrant city and works on multiple research projects bridging the ancient and the modern.

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    Jimmy Selent

    Jimmy Selent fell in love with Chinese culture and history when he took his first Chinese history course. Since then, he has spent more than two years studying Chinese language and culture in Beijing as well as graduating from Tulane with degrees in Chinese history and Chinese language. His most extensive research comes from the later Qing Dynasty period, more specifically the "century of humiliation" beginning with Opium Wars in 1840 and lasting through the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the Warlord Period, all the way to the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. While living in Beijing, Jimmy has led numerous tours of the Forbidden City, the hutongs, and the old Summer Palace. Beyond the capital, he has led student trips through Yunnan, Xinjiang, and Gansu provinces, providing him extensive knowledge not simply of Beijing itself but of China as a whole.

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    David Moser

    David Moser holds a master’s and a PhD in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan, with a major in Chinese linguistics and philosophy. He was a visiting scholar at Peking University from 1987-89, and a visiting professor for five years at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, where he taught courses in Translation Theory and Psycholinguistics. In the early 1990s, he worked as a research assistant in the Cognitive Science department at Indiana University, and with a joint cross-cultural psychology research project with the University of Michigan and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Psychology. Moser is currently Academic Director at CET Chinese Studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, an overseas study program for US college students, where he teaches courses in Chinese history and politics. Moser also worked at China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing as a program adviser, translator, and host, and continues to be active in Chinese media as a commentator in both Chinese and English, on news shows such as CCTV Dialogue and China Radio International’s current affairs show Today in Beijing. He lives in Beijing with his wife, Lihua, and daughter, Leah, and regularly plays piano with various Beijing jazz groups.

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    Valentina Punzi

    Valentina holds a double PhD in Chinese and Tibetan Studies from L’Orientale University in Italy and Minzu University in Beijing. Her research interests focus on Chinese and Tibetan religions, local versus national history and collective memory. Since she moved to Beijing in 2007, she has conducted extensive travel and ethnographic fieldwork in Tibetan areas in western China and she also cooperated with the Italian Embassy on bilingual health education projects in Lhasa, where she was a resident student of Tibetan language in 2009-2010. She was a visiting PhD at the Folklore Department of Tartu University in Estonia and more recently a visiting postdoc at the Central Asian Department of Humboldt University in Berlin. An insatiable walker of Beijing urbanscape, she experiences with a mixture of nostalgia and fascination the fast changes of the city and continues to work on different research projects.

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    Pengfei Li

    Pengfei Li is a visiting scholar in the Department of Urban Construction at Beijing City University, where he is teaching classes The History of Cities and Urban Planning. Pengfei holds an M.Phil, is wrapping up his PHD in Environmental Psychology from the City University of New York, and was teaching psychology at New York City College of Technology from 2011 to 2014. He graduated from Wuhan University with a BA in philosophy. He then did research in ethics at the University of Notre Dame in 2008. At present, his research project focuses on Beijing’s suburbanization, specifically on how the newly built suburban community and the suburban development process influence suburbanites’ daily lives. His writings on urban planning and philosophy have been widely published in the US and in China.

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    Isaac Landeros

    Isaac is an architect with a Master's in Open Space Design. He has been living and working in Beijing since 2012. His interest in design, architecture, and public spaces has taking him around the world in order to obtain a firsthand understanding of the diverse layers involved in the most iconic urban environments. These experiences have become an engine that propels his design ideas. He pursues a path based on transdisciplinary collaboration that goes from mapping the city to graphic and furniture design immersed in a world that mixes local culture, art, and trends from the four corners of the world.

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    Kunyang Fang

    Kunyang grew up in a family of two archaeologists in Jinan, Shandong Province. She studied at University of Toronto for her bachelor's degree in anthropology and then earned a Master's in anthropology at Yale. Her thesis focused mainly on ancient Chinese Buddhist sculptures. During her studies in Canada and the US, she was actively involved in museums and art galleries. She currently works in Beijing with the Confucius Institute, promoting Chinese language and culture to foreigners. With in-depth knowledge of both Eastern and Western cultures, as well as a mixed educational background in art and science, she offers a unique perspectives on Beijing and China as a whole.