Bian Guoqiang – 2004
Life in the Hutongs






Life in the Hutongs

In the late 1950’s I left Hong Kong and was sent to study in Beijing. When my lessons were over after school I used to go to the deserted city wall and play there with my friends. One day we went with our schoolteachers and started pulling down the city wall. Years later, after I had become a teacher myself, I used to take my own students there to continue the work. By the 1980’s the Beijing city wall had completely gone. On top of its original site is now the Erhuan Highway and underneath it is the MTR.

Since the early 1990’s Beijing’s property development has spread like wildfire. Large sections of the city have been pulled down. One by one the quiet hutongs around the Forbidden City have disappeared.

Bian Guoqiang has been painting the Beijing hutongs and their inhabitants for over a decade. His paintings portray their harmony and tranquility. These ageing hutongs are powerless against the tide of modernization, however, the people living there continue their lives energetically. The hutong life portrayed by the artist in his paintings is authentic and not idealized.

In future when children ask us what is a hutong, you will be able to find the answer in Bian Guoqiang’s paintings.

Fong Yuk Yan

April 2004