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“Hutong Living: Modern Day Life in an Old School Courtyard,” The Beijinger

Hutong Living: Modern Day Life in an Old School Courtyard

“You realize the romanticism of courtyard living wore off for me in the first 14 years of my life? Also, the pipes in the bathroom are frozen again.”

Such was courtyard living circa 2008. My wife and I lived in a pingfang, a courtyard within a courtyard set out of sight – although not out of earshot – of 32 households of neighbors surrounding us. It was a communal experience not unlike Burning Man or one of your nicer labor camps, except that we were paying RMB 4,500 a month for the privilege. A bargain in these days of avaricious landlords and runaway rents. We almost forgot that the bathroom was a short walk outside of our house.

Originally published in The Beijinger, July/August 2017 Issue