After I was back in China last month, I had received an email from Paul Butzi regarding the walled villages found in China. He did not have an opportunity to go through one while he was over in China, but had I?
I knew what he was talking about, because I had seen the remaining walls of one of these walled neighborhoods in Hongqiao, a part of the greater city of Shanghai near my hotel. A characteristic trait, besides the walls, were the limited entrances, usually just two into the neighborhood compound and the narrow passageways called a Hutong. At the time that I received Paul’s email, I had just hiked around around a similar area in Jiashan during the start of what would become known as the Chinese Lunar New Year blizzard. A couple of days later, I had a chance to visit another similar location in XiTang, in the JiaXing region of the Zhejiang Province. This is one of the benefits of being in China on assignment, you are not with a tour group with a tight time schedule. Of course the downside is you do not get to go “wide” and see much else but the area you are working in, so you just go “deep”.
But I was not sure that I was going to have an opportunity to go to the vacant walled area in Hongqiao, as my weekend was scheduled for continuing work on my assignment in PingHu. Then I was to boogie back to Shanghai to catch my plane. Rats.
But then as was now know, it started to snow, and snow some more and snow yet some more. And the flights out of Shanghai were getting delayed, the toll roads closed and the trains and buses a mess. Since we had completed what we had to, I left in the late morning versus the late afternoon to Shanghai.
Bottom line, I made it back to Shanghai in time to photograph this vacant walled neighborhood in Hongqiao later that afternoon. And my take away is these two images in this article of what I photographed. The first one is the chained and pad locked entrance to a walled area, and the other, a view of the inside, showing an interim parking lot. Looking around the area, it does not take a rocket scientist to see that this area is very valuable and when the price is right, a lot of construction will take place here. Also, a lot of destruction of the former village and hutongs.
Talking to some locals in Shanghai, they do not know of any such areas remaining other than the tourist area of Old Shanghai by Yu Gardens and even that area is mostly older buildings in a shopping area, not a true walled neighborhood village. So for me, how do these two images of pending construction fit in with my series Open During Construction or perhaps part of my other series I am considering I’m just Looking (Wo Zhi Kankan)? At the moment, I don’t know, but I have the prints made and I’ll lay them out and see how these work for me. Part of that creative process, don’t ya know ;- )