China’s breakneck modernization is running roughshod over some of the most cherished parts of Chinese cities. Before the Olympics in 2008, media outlets published a flood of hand-wringing about the death of the hutongs, the traditional neighborhoods and narrow alleys that run through Beijing. Though story has largely dropped off the media radar, MovingCities reports, “Beijing’s hutongs are still disappearing at rapid pace.”
The government has tried to cover up the destruction of traditional architecture in efforts dubbed “Fake-overs” and “paper preservation.” MovingCities points to an article in the People’s Daily lamenting the loss of traditional businesses, some more than 150 years old, in Beijing’s Qianmen neighborhood. Hu Xinyu, an advisor at the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, told the paper:
Hundreds and thousands of original residents were expelled from Qianmen before the project began, but the suburban housing they were promised as compensation for moving out has not even begun being built yet.
Organizations, including the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center and the Global Heritage Fund are working to preserve some of Beijing’s most historic vulnerable sites. But as the photos from MovingCities show, many of these historic places have already been lost.