A Disappearing World, is part one of the three-part series "The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs."
In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.
Once a ubiquitous feature of Beijing, the hutongs are more than simply housing; they are actually a way of life. Entire families live in single, crowded courtyards, often with no bathrooms. Yet despite the lack of modern amenities, the communal aspect to life within the hutongs means that few want to leave – even as their neighbourhoods are being demolished and redeveloped. UNESCO estimates that more than 88 percent of the city’s old residential quarters are already gone, most torn down in the last three decades.
In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.
CHAPTER ONE: For many residents, hutong life is all they have ever known, and their memories and lives are intertwined strongly with the old streets and alleyways. Yet as time has gone by, many of the courtyards have become overcrowded and the buildings themselves have deteriorated. Despite the cultural heritage of the hutongs thousands of them have been razed in the past decades to make way for urban development destroying centuries of history and contributing to the shrinking of the remaining hutong space.