Our Beau­ti­ful Hu­tong Homes

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Shasha, Zhu Jiant­ing Edited by David Ball Pho­tos by Ma Ke, Zhang Chuan­dong and cour­tesy of Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice of the Dongcheng Dis­trict Peo­ple's Gov­ern­ment of Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity

The Chaoyang­men Sub-dis­trict's con­cept of “De­sign for the Peo­ple” has now been up­graded to “Ver­sion 4.0.” Bei­jing De­sign Week in

hu­tong is no longer fo­cused on the “avant-garde,” but on is­sues closely re­lated to the peo­ple's daily needs for cul­ture and art.

In Court­yard No. 27 on Nei­wubu Jie, visitors can enjoy nat­u­ral, sweet tea from South­west China; the clas­sic drum­beat per­for­mance called “jingyun dagu” in which sto­ries are told in the Bei­jing di­alect with a drum ac­com­pa­ni­ment; stand-up shows to help re­lease the pres­sure of work; or watch a movie out­doors to re­live the good old days. The most touch­ing things when liv­ing in hu­tong (tra­di­tional al­leys) are hear­ing sto­ries from neigh­bours, see­ing the in­her­ited old cul­ture such as dough fig­urine mak­ing, lis­ten­ing to the beau­ti­ful melodies of oboes and en­joy­ing fam­ily time watch­ing shadow plays to­gether. As such, it is pos­si­ble to be a vis­i­tor, par­tic­i­pant or even pro­tag­o­nist in Court­yard No. 27.

As a venue for Bei­jing De­sign Week and as part of the Dongsi South His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural Block, Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict is home to sev­eral old com­mu­ni­ties that have changed a lot over the past four years. Since the be­gin­ning of 2015, the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict's con­cept of “De­sign for the Peo­ple” has now been up­graded to “Ver­sion 4.0.” Bei­jing De­sign Week in the hu­tong is no longer fo­cused on the “avant- garde,” but on is­sues closely re­lated to the peo­ple's daily needs for cul­ture and art in as­pects in­clud­ing food, cloth­ing, ac­com­mo­da­tion, trans­porta­tion, cul­ture and en­ter­tain­ment.

Walk­ing into the Dongsi South area where many large and small hu­tong in­ter­sect, it is pos­si­ble to feel that this is a cul­tural area which is very much still alive. As one passes through the wooden gate of Court­yard No. 24 in Shi­jia Hu­tong, two open yards re­veal them­selves. This is Shi­jia Hu­tong Mu­seum, once the res­i­dence of Ling Shuhua (1900–1990), one of the “three tal­ented women” dur­ing the Repub­lic of China Pe­riod (1912– 1949). To­day, with the joint ef­forts of the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice and the Prince's Char­i­ties Foun­da­tion China, this for­mer home of a renowned writer has been trans­formed into a hu­tong mu­seum. It at­tracts those fas­ci­nated by the cul­ture of old Bei­jing; re­minds the lo­cal res­i­dents of the area's cul­ture; and of­fers tourists an in­ti­mate, 40-squareme­tre (sq.m) space to re­lax. Here there is plenty of nos­tal­gia to be found as well as cul­tural and cre­ative prod­ucts fea­tur­ing hu­tong. Peo­ple can also drink tea, read and en­ter­tain them­selves here, mak­ing it a par­adise for the com­mu­nity's res­i­dents to chat and un­wind.

Strolling through the hu­tong, one can eas­ily find all kinds of beau­ti­ful things: well-built stair­cases, hand­some brick walls, bloom­ing flow­ers, elab­o­rate tex­tures and com­fort­able wooden benches. The “Mi­cro- Gar­dens in Hu­tong” model is cre­at­ing a new aes­thetic of hu­tong life. De­signs filled with cul­ture, art and aes­thet­ics taken from our daily lives shine bril­liantly dur­ing Bei­jing De­sign Week and put the con­cept of “De­sign for the Peo­ple” into prac­tice. Li Zhe, deputy direc­tor of the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice, said: “Bei­jing De­sign Week only lasts for two weeks and has evolved into a kind of ‘car­ni­val' where the pub­lic join in just for the fun of it. How­ever, our de­sign cy­cle be­gins when the last event fin­ishes and runs through­out the whole year. We in­te­grate de­sign into peo­ple's lives and de­velop in­ter­est­ing and prac­ti­cal de­sign projects. Then, we in­cu­bate these projects and show the re­sults dur­ing De­sign Week to serve the peo­ple in these com­mu­ni­ties.”

The ‘De­sign for the Peo­ple’ Con­cept

Chaoyang­men Dis­trict is lo­cated in the pros­per­ous cen­tre of Bei­jing and is also a model re­flect­ing the land­scape of the old city, which can be found within easy walk­ing dis­tance. Res­i­dents' de­mands for the ba­sics can be eas­ily met here. Lo­cals can buy fresh food on the way home from work, dine out on the week­ends, take their chil­dren to school in the morn­ing, in­ter­act with neigh­bours, stroll to nearby parks, or see a doctor in a com­mu­nity clinic.

Such kind of com­mu­nity liv­ing is in fact nor­mal for old neigh­bour­hoods. Per­haps peo­ple there do not need to de­lib­er­ately cre­ate, but rather to un­der­stand, cher­ish and re­tain the com­mu­nity life that be­longs to all the res­i­dents and to their “home.”

As the host of the Bei­jing De­sign Week—chaoyang­men, the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice joined hands with Bei­jing De­sign Week for the fourth time to con­tinue pro­mot­ing its con­cept of “De­sign for the Peo­ple” in 2018. Un­der the theme of “Com­mu­nity Life,” de­sign­ers, aca­demics, res­i­dents, gov­ern­ment staff and oth­ers all took part in the par­al­lel ses­sion.

Ac­tiv­i­ties at the Bei­jing De­sign Week—chaoyang­men were di­vided into four sec­tions: “In-situ Ren­o­va­tion,” “Pro­tec­tion and Re­newal,” “Cul­tural Ecol­ogy” and “Open to the Pub­lic.” Up­hold­ing the orig­i­nal con­cept of “peo­ple- cen­tric, daily de­sign,” the par­al­lel ses­sion ex­hib­ited the day-to- day re­sults and ex­pe­ri­ences pro­vid­ing ser­vices to the pub­lic. These cov­ered such ar­eas as his­tor­i­cal land­scape pro­tec­tion, city plan­ning sur­veys of the old city, im­prove­ments to pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, ex­plo­ration of pub­lic cul­ture and the devel­op­ment of an artis­tic com­mu­nity. They were dis­played in var­i­ous forms such as daily work ex­hi­bi­tions, in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tions, fo­rums and sa­lons.

Ac­cord­ing to Li Zhe, there were 57 projects in the four sec­tions. These in­cluded high­lights such as: “Our Block: 2018 Dongcheng Dis­trict Ur­ban Pub­lic Sphere Con­struc­tion Ex­hi­bi­tion;” “Chaoyang­men Talk” fo­rum em­body­ing thoughts on five-year cul­tural con­struc­tion in the Chaoyang­men area and the “Chaoyang­men: 2012–2018 Cul­tural Con­struc­tion Prac­tice Achieve­ments Ex­hi­bi­tion;” “Dongsi South His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural Essence Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion Platform” ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cus­ing on cul­tural in­no­va­tion ser­vices in the Chaoyang­men area; “Mi­cro Gar­dens in Hu­tong” project which fo­cuses on the nat­u­ral ecol­ogy of hu­tong; a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties held by the Shi­jia Hu­tong Mu­seum show­ing the cul­tural com­mu­nity of Chaoyang­men; a se­ries of events by the Shi­jia Hu­tong Art Work­shop; and the Chaoyang­men Com­mu­nity Cul­tural and Life­style House at No. 27 Nei­wubu Jie. In con­trast with pre­vi­ous events, this year em­pha­sised the par­tic­i­pa­tion of res­i­dents, for ex­am­ple via a string of ac­tiv­i­ties which wel­comed lo­cals. These ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded “Wel­come to My Home—open Day” for com­mu­nity fam­i­lies, which has been held for three con­sec­u­tive years and high­lights pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion; the “Neiwu Neigh­bour­hood Fes­ti­val” re­lated to home con­struc­tion; and the “Yanyue Com­mu­nity—res­i­dents' Com­mit­tees in the New Era” dis­play­ing the in­no­va­tive work of res­i­dents' com­mit­tees.

In ad­di­tion, some themed ac­tiv­i­ties were held for young peo­ple dur­ing Bei­jing De­sign Week—chaoyang­men. They in­cluded the first open­ing of No. 81 Chaonei (Chaonei Church) to the pub­lic, as well as the orig­i­nal “Mid-au­tumn Gar­den Party” and “Beip­ing Party.” Many ex­hi­bi­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the city, its plan­ning, de­sign and life­styles were also staged by the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal In­sti­tute of City Plan­ning & De­sign, Bei­jing Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and other in­sti­tu­tions, al­low­ing visitors to have a full ex­pe­ri­ence of “home.”

One res­i­dent ex­plained: “Chaoyang­men's par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Bei­jing De­sign Week over the past four years has been like open­ing a door to wel­come friends from around the world to visit the area, and also pro­mote res­i­dents' aes­thetic ap­pre­ci­a­tion. The most im­por­tant thing is that it shows Chaoyang­men's achieve­ments and ways of life to oth­ers, which makes our old res­i­dents proud, and love our home even more. Now ev­ery res­i­dent loves to say that they're from Chaoyang­men!”

The Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice has stayed true to its tenet of “De­sign for the Peo­ple.” Through five years of ef­fort, re­mark­able achieve­ments have been made in cul­ture, peo­ple's liveli­hoods, so­cial con­struc­tion, pro­vi­sions for the aged, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ment and other as­pects, and the sat­is­fac­tion and hap­pi­ness of res­i­dents has in­creased day by day. The Dongsi South His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural Block was awarded the China Hu­man Set­tle­ments and En­vi­ron­ment Award by the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban-ru­ral Devel­op­ment at the end of 2017 and has grad­u­ally achieved its vi­sion of cre­at­ing a har­mo­nious and live­able life.

A Pro­to­type for Com­mu­nity Build­ing

Niu Ruixue is one of the founders of the Chaoyang­men Com­mu­nity Cul­tural and Life­style House in Court­yard No. 27 and a key plan­ner of the Bei­jing De­sign Week—chaoyang­men. Sev­eral years ago, she re­turned to Bei­jing af­ter study­ing in France where she earned

de­grees in drama, cre­ative in­dus­try and cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion. She worked as a writer for CCTV'S pop­u­lar gameshow “Fe­ichang 6+1,” founded the Bei­jing One Arts Fes­ti­val and dreamed of be­com­ing a cul­ture re­porter. How­ever, she never imag­ined that she would set foot in a hu­tong court­yard in 2016 and has since be­come a provider of au­then­tic com­mu­nity cul­ture ser­vices.

In 2014, Niu par­tic­i­pated in Bei­jing De­sign Week for the first time and the ac­tiv­i­ties she and her team or­gan­ised were a big hit with lo­cal peo­ple. At the time, re­searchers from the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences told her that her ac­tiv­i­ties demon­strated a pat­tern of com­mu­nity gov­er­nance. But, hav­ing just re­turned from abroad, she only knew “pub­lic art” rather than “com­mu­nity gov­er­nance.”

In Niu's opin­ion, pub­lic art awak­ens peo­ple's feel­ings and helps them recog­nise their cul­ture. It was for that rea­son that all the ac­tiv­i­ties she planned were in­ter­ac­tive and par­tic­i­pa­tory. In one ac­tiv­ity, a fe­male artist chat­ted with res­i­dents and passers-by next to a com­mu­nity no­tice board and then took pic­tures of each per­son's navel. Fi­nally, she pasted these pho­tos on the no­tice board to form a vast “starry sky” which as­ton­ished res­i­dents. Artists from France and Guizhou were also in­vited to per­form shadow plays in shop win­dows down nar­row hu­tong, with a band play­ing along out­side. A total of 66 projects were planned and car­ried out over two weeks in 2014.

Among these projects, the “Read­ing Po­ems un­der Street Lamps” event was par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with lo­cals and many iden­ti­fied emo­tion­ally with it. As such, it pro­vided a ba­sis for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Niu and the Chaoyang­men Sub-dis­trict Of­fice.

Niu Ruixue re­called: “It was get­ting dark and the street lamps were com­ing on. Around a dozen of us be­gan read­ing po­ems un­der the lamps. Grad­u­ally, more passers-by stopped and lis­tened to us, in­clud­ing a grand­mother and her grand­daugh­ter who'd just fin­ished school, some res­i­dents who'd left work and some mi­grant work­ers.” Smil­ing, she con­tin­ued: “The young girl took out her school­book and read the poem ‘Ode to the Goose' loudly. Her grand­mother seemed touched and also re­cited a poem. An of­fice worker stopped and said that he felt frus­trated af­ter he'd been crit­i­cised by his boss. He thought what we were do­ing looked in­ter­est­ing and so he read a poem, then left in good spir­its. There were around two dozen mi­grant work­ers nearby, all lis­ten­ing qui­etly. One who looked like a leader stood up and started smok­ing, all the time keep­ing his eyes on those recit­ing po­etry. Sud­denly he put out his cig­a­rette, walked un­der the street lamp as if he was mak­ing a big de­ci­sion and re­cited a poem. Al­though it wasn't pos­si­ble to tell what he was say­ing ex­actly be­cause of his strong ac­cent, ev­ery­one lis­tened in si­lence and peo­ple were deeply im­pressed by his se­ri­ous­ness and emo­tion. A fe­male artist there shed a few tears—maybe be­cause she un­der­stood the man's grief. From then on, those mi­grant work­ers have of­ten taken part in the ac­tiv­ity.”

In 2015 when Bei­jing De­sign Week opened at the China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment, the “Read­ing Po­ems un­der Street Lamps” ac­tiv­ity was fully un­der­way in Qin­g­long Hu­tong. Niu's team went on to win a prize that year, as did the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice. At the awards cer­e­mony, Niu Ruixue met Li Zhe for the first time, and Li ex­plained the Sub- dis­trict Of­fice's theme of “De­sign for the Peo­ple.” Af­ter hear­ing about the theme, Niu thought that this was a ex­cel­lent idea that re­ally aligned with her own think­ing. By putting for­ward such a peo­ple- cen­tric con­cept, it showed that the gov­ern­ment was for­ward-look­ing and made the like­li­hood of suc­cess that much greater.

Mean­while, Li Zhe also paid close at­ten­tion to Niu Ruixue at the awards cer­e­mony. He re­called that he also ap­pre­ci­ated Niu's speech on cre­at­ing a new type of com­mu­nity cul­ture, cul­ti­vat­ing pub­lic aware­ness and re­viv­ing old neigh­bour­hood ties. At Li's in­vi­ta­tion, Niu Ruixue then agreed to start a busi­ness in Court­yard No. 27 on Nei­wubu Jie.

Li ex­plained to Niu that the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict was pur­su­ing two un­der­tak­ings: com­mu­nity build­ing and tra­di­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. How­ever, it was dif­fi­cult to em­bark on com­mu­nity build­ing as they were un­sure how to pro­ceed. He told Niu that her plan­ning skills showed a touch of com­mu­nity build­ing. On the eve of the xi­ao­nian ( lit. “lit­tle new year,” mark­ing the pre­lude to Spring Fes­ti­val), Li pro­posed hold­ing a New Year ac­tiv­ity. At that time, the ex­hi­bi­tion work­ers and artists had all gone home to pre­pare for the hol­i­day, so it was

hard to get the ac­tiv­ity un­der­way. Niu got many old items and arte­facts from an old col­lec­tor Li in­tro­duced to her, planned and ar­ranged the ex­hi­bi­tion “Open Up the Mem­o­ries of Old Bei­jing” on her own. The ex­hi­bi­tion dis­played ob­jects from the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Bei­jing, and in­cluded DIY ac­tiv­i­ties such as blow­ing sugar fig­ures, writ­ing cou­plets and play­ing sanx­ian (a three­stringed plucked in­stru­ment), to­gether with some old Bei­jing crafts­men. The won­der­ful event was ex­tended from a week to more than a month and al­lowed the res­i­dents to enjoy a mean­ing­ful ex­hi­bi­tion. Niu also con­firmed the strong de­sire of hu­tong res­i­dents for cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties through this event.

There­after, Li ap­plied for op­er­a­tion of an area of over 700 sq.m in Court­yard No. 27 and granted it solemnly to Niu who trans­formed it into a cul­tural life­style hall. At present, 80 per­cent of Niu's team have master's de­grees and 60 per­cent of them have stud­ied abroad. These high­end tal­ents jointly chose Court­yard No. 27 and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Af­ter tak­ing over Court­yard No. 27, Niu has planned 10 themes for its 10 spa­ces to al­low peo­ple to visit at dif­fer­ent times. She has also de­signed a one-year ac­tion plan con­sist­ing of reg­u­lar and tem­po­rary ac­tiv­i­ties. Un­like tra­di­tional com­mu­nity cul­tural sta­tions, Court­yard No. 27 is an ac­tiv­ity space in­te­grat­ing art, cul­ture, sport and life­style. Its themes in­clude read­ing, ex­er­cise, cre­ation, taste, play and flow­ers. These are served by a read­ing room, fit­ness area, tra­di­tional cul­tural work­shop, snack area, chil­dren's space and women's area. This tra­di­tional court­yard is now more in­ter­na­tional. It has trans­formed the old pat­tern of peo­ple en­ter­tain­ing them­selves and the same peo­ple at­tend­ing, changed low venue util­i­sa­tion, and im­proved the cul­tural stan­dards of res­i­dents.

Through­out sum­mer 2016, Niu and her team planned ac­tiv­i­ties for Bei­jing De­sign Week with the sup­port of the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice. She closely iden­ti­fied with the theme and so up­dated it to “De­sign for the Peo­ple 2.0— Com­mu­nity Build­ing.” This idea was af­firmed by the sec­re­tary of the CPC in the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict Of­fice Com­mit­tee's, con­vinc­ing Niu that grass­roots gov­ern­ment was demo­cratic and de­ter­mined to serve the peo­ple.

Niu went on a spe­cial fact-find­ing mis­sion to Shang­hai with an aim to im­prove com­mu­nity build­ings. There she dis­cov­ered some­thing very in­ter­est­ing: rich sub- dis­tricts tend to do well in pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity cul­tural ser­vices be­cause they enjoy more gov­ern­ment fund­ing, whereas poorer sub- dis­tricts are will­ing but lack funds. She thought that pub­lic cul­ture re­quires a bal­ance of re­sources so that ev­ery­one can enjoy the same ser­vices. At that time, the State be­gan en­cour­ag­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions or in­di­vid­u­als into the gov­ern­ment ser­vice sys­tem and third-party in­sti­tu­tions gained a cer­tain vi­a­bil­ity.

Niu Ruixue's idea was sup­ported by the Chaoyang­men Sub-dis­trict Of­fice, which al­lowed Court­yard No. 27 to run at a small profit. Since then, the Court­yard is re­quired to serve the three com­mu­ni­ties un­der the Chaoyang­men Sub-dis­trict Of­fice but also has be­come an ex­per­i­men­tal base for pro­mot­ing pub­lic cul­ture. To­day, 75 per­cent of Court­yard No. 27's pro­grammes are of­fered for free and 25 per­cent have a change. Any fees are re­turned to lo­cal res­i­dents to help im­prove ser­vices and the qual­ity of ac­tiv­i­ties. Af­ter this idea be­came re­al­ity, many sub­dis­tricts and com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try have vis­ited to in­ves­ti­gate and learn more. Court­yard No. 27 has be­come a blue­print for “com­mu­nity build­ing” and has started to in­tro­duce the ex­pe­ri­ence across the whole coun­try.

Re­viv­ing Old Streets with Shared Cul­ture

Si­t­u­ated in the same lanes and un­der the same azure sky, the Dongsi South His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural Block (DSHCB) cher­ishes the same mem­o­ries as the bricks and tiles of its old dwellings. Over the years, the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict gov­ern­ing DSHCB has been tire­lessly work­ing to­wards cul­tural re­ju­ve­na­tion and com­mu­nity cul­ti­va­tion. It has formed its own char­ac­ter­is­tics and paved a sys­tem­atic devel­op­ment path by for­mu­lat­ing the DSHCB Pro­tec­tion Plan in 2012, set­ting up the Shi­jia Hu­tong Mu­seum in 2013, es­tab­lish­ing the Shi­jia Hu­tong Ap­pear­ance Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion in 2014, host­ing Bei­jing De­sign Week events in 2015, cre­at­ing the Chaoyang­men Cul­tural Life­style Hall at Court­yard No. 27 in 2016 and found­ing the Shi­jia Hu­tong Cul­tural and Cre­ative Prod­ucts Store in 2017. The sub- dis­trict also es­tab­lished strate­gic al­liances with the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal In­sti­tute of City Plan­ning & De­sign (BICP) and Bei­jing Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy to form a fledg­ling Chaoyang­men cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tion and com­mu­nity. A com­mu­nity of shared cul­ture was also the main theme of “De­sign for the Peo­ple 3.0” at the 2017 Bei­jing De­sign Week— Chaoyang­men.

Shi­jia Hu­tong Mu­seum, Bei­jing's first com­mu­nity-based mu­seum based around hu­tong cul­ture, was opened to the pub­lic on Oc­to­ber 18, 2013, mark­ing the be­gin­ning of cul­tural re­ju­ve­na­tion in Chaoyang­men. The hu­tong- themed mu­seum con­sists of an ex­hi­bi­tion room, re­cep­tion room and dis­cus­sion room. It is con­tin­u­ing its cen­tury-long host­ing of cul­tural per­son­ages with sa­lons, themed ex­hi­bi­tions and com­mu­nity dis­cus­sions, and is build­ing its rep­u­ta­tion at home and abroad.

Ac­cord­ing to deputy direc­tor Li Zhe, ex­hi­bi­tions are not enough for a com­mu­nity mu­seum—the im­por­tant thing is pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. For that rea­son, cul­tural sa­lons and hu­tong tea par­ties are of­ten held in the court­yard to dis­cuss how to de­velop the sub- dis­trict.

The Shi­jia Hu­tong Ap­pear­ance Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion was es­tab­lished on Septem­ber 24, 2014, with the help of the Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict to build mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and carry out block preser­va­tion and ren­o­va­tion. The bot­tom-up so­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion brings res­i­dents, prop­erty own­ers, gov­ern­ment work­ers and so­cial forces to­gether onto a shared platform to jointly pro­tect the area's his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural her­itage.

Founded in 2017, the Shi­jia Hu­tong Cul­tural Cre­ative Prod­ucts Store neigh­bour­ing the mu­seum, has re­lied on the area's hu­tong cul­ture and qual­ity his­tor­i­cal re­sources to de­sign and de­velop a se­ries of pop­u­lar cul­tural and cre­ative prod­ucts. The store has taken root in the com­mu­nity and re­cruited ar­ti­sans, cal­lig­ra­phers and artists. In 2017, it signed agree­ments with 15 com­mu­nity

artists to trans­form or recre­ate their cal­lig­ra­phy, paint­ings, hand­i­work and pho­tog­ra­phy into over 30 works themed around Party build­ing, clean gov­er­nance, hu­tong cul­ture, care for the el­derly and the lo­cal mu­seum. This work was widely recog­nised by res­i­dents through­out the sub- dis­trict and com­mu­nity.

Bei­jing's hu­tong con­tain the tra­di­tions and cus­toms of the lo­cal peo­ple, and are live­lier than other cul­tural items such as paint­ings. The old Lishi Teach­ing Hall build­ing at No. 127 Lishi Hu­tong im­presses passers-by with its grey bricks and tiles, wood-panel doors, tim­ber floors, white walls and colour­ful benches. The 40-sq.m hall is bright, warm and full of cul­ture with its “Hu­tong Gallery,” “Chon­gru Study” and “Herb Gar­den.” Per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tions are held in the gallery show­cas­ing the works of hu­tong res­i­dents and com­mu­nity artists.

Court­yard No. 27 has been in­ter­act­ing with the com­mu­nity and has grad­u­ally be­come a fo­cal point for lo­cals who like to go for a stroll, drink tea, write, paint, read, or take part in some ac­tiv­i­ties. On the eve of last year's Bei­jing De­sign Week, Court­yard No. 27 housed more cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions and went from be­ing an event venue to a platform for pool­ing so­cial re­sources and ex­hibit­ing pub­lic cul­ture. Niu Ruixue ex­plained: “Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict is a heaven for cul­ture and cre­ation and boasts pro­found pub­lic cul­tural ser­vice genes.”

The deep court­yards and tran­quil hu­tong cre­ate a leisurely and pleas­ant life­style for Bei­jingers, and the Shi­jia Hu­tong Ap­pear­ance Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion boosts cul­tural re­ju­ve­na­tion. The mu­seum, cul­tural and cre­ative so­ci­ety and teach­ing hall on Shi­jia Hu­tong im­prove the lo­cals' qual­ity of life, of­fer new car­ri­ers for cul­tural in­her­i­tance and shared mem­o­ries, and clar­ify the mean­ing of “Chaoyang­men Com­mu­nity of Shared Cul­ture.”

“Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping pro­posed build­ing a ‘com­mu­nity of shared des­tiny' and Chaoyang­men will build a ‘com­mu­nity of shared cul­ture.' Cul­tural recog­ni­tion cre­ates co­he­sion, which is the ba­sis of Party build­ing and one of the core val­ues of so­cial­ism,” Li Zhe ex­plained. “Cul­tural re­ju­ve­na­tion is a step-by-step process rather than some­thing that is ac­com­plished overnight. With the grad­ual re­ju­ve­na­tion of de­clin­ing com­mu­ni­ties, res­i­dents will have a greater sense of hap­pi­ness and achieve­ment, peo­ple will trust each other more, and they'll strive for shared ob­jec­tives based on cul­tural recog­ni­tion. These changes have in­flu­enced the peo­ple in im­per­cep­ti­ble ways.”

Ex­hi­bi­tions for the De­sign Week come straight from the peo­ple's daily lives. As the com­mu­nity of shared cul­ture has taken shape, the De­sign for the Peo­ple 3.0 at the 2017 Bei­jing De­sign Week—chaoyang­men ap­plied this as its theme. Over time, the grow­ing Chaoyang­men com­mu­nity of shared cul­ture con­tin­ues to in­cor­po­rate qual­ity so­cial re­sources into it­self.

This year, the “Mi­cro Gar­dens in Hu­tong” de­sign and “Life, Aes­thet­ics, Re­cre­ation” ex­hi­bi­tion, spon­sored by the Work­ing Com­mit­tee and Of­fice of Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict and or­gan­ised by the BICP and Hou Xiaolei's team from the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts, were held in Shi­jia Hu­tong. Young artists, de­sign­ers and res­i­dents jointly dis­cussed the ren­o­va­tion of mi­cro gar­dens, up­grad­ing of ur­ban gar­dens and how to bring about the con­cepts of “life, aes­thet­ics, re­cre­ation” in the area.

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Hou Xiaolei, one of the ini­tia­tors of these ac­tiv­i­ties, ex­plained: “In Bei­jing's old blocks, res­i­dents of­ten grow plants and veg­eta­bles like roses, gourds and grapes us­ing reused pots or aban­doned ma­te­ri­als to make small gar­dens. How­ever, these gar­dens are stylis­ti­cally in­con­sis­tent as they haven't been pro­fes­sion­ally de­signed and the own­ers have a range of dif­fer­ent aes­thetic and prac­ti­cal pref­er­ences. We hope to of­fer some pro­fes­sional guid­ance to help them beau­tify their gar­dens and high­light the vi­tal­ity of the plants and the art.”

Li Zhe said: “Pro­fes­sor Hou re­alises the great op­por­tu­nity for art in com­mu­ni­ties and hu­tong. The com­bi­na­tion of art with peo­ple's lives will bring about new in­spi­ra­tion. Then, once it takes roots in the hu­tong, art will have a ro­bust fu­ture.” Li went on to ex­plain that a “com­mu­nity of shared cul­ture” means build­ing cul­tural al­liances. Grad­u­ally, new­com­ers to Chaoyang­men will build al­liances unit­ing the in­dus­try's up­perand lower-stream par­tic­i­pants, of­fer­ing cus­tom ser­vices for the lo­cals, in­clud­ing

pub­lic cul­tural ser­vices which orig­i­nate from rou­tine in­spi­ra­tion.

Build­ing Happy Homes for the Peo­ple

The De­sign for the Peo­ple 4.0 theme for the 2018 Bei­jing De­sign Week— Chaoyang­men is “Com­mu­nity Cir­cles.” This in­volves both up­grad­ing the phys­i­cal form of pub­lic cul­tural ser­vices and en­hanc­ing peo­ple's sense of recog­ni­tion and be­long­ing.

Li Zhe ex­plained: “We plan to build a ‘home sta­tus' be­cause third-party in­sti­tu­tions here have de­vel­oped a sense of be­long­ing to the sub-dis­trict. Home is first and fore­most a ge­o­graph­i­cal con­cept. The ‘home sta­tus' is not a sin­gle home with sev­eral peo­ple, but a so­cial sta­tus within a given scope, like the court­yards we used to live in where neigh­bours shared com­mon mem­o­ries. That's why we want to re-in­tro­duce the con­cept of ‘Com­mu­nity Cir­cles.'”

Prepa­ra­tions started to be made for the devel­op­ment of “Com­mu­nity Cir­cles” at the end of last year's De­sign Week. Li spoke about how the cul­tural sec­tor de­vel­oped a sys­tem­atic plan which is be­ing un­rolled over a pe­riod of years. As for the pen­sion and el­derly ser­vice sec­tor, the sub- dis­trict pro­posed a shared com­mu­nity for se­nior cit­i­zens. The shared com­mu­nity not only fea­tures care cen­tres and pen­sion sta­tions oper­ated by the sub- dis­trict, it also plays a key role in mo­bil­is­ing and con­nect­ing so­cial forces.

“Guo'an Com­mu­nity spe­cialises in el­derly ser­vices, and can­teens, banks and hos­pi­tals pro­vide con­ve­nient ser­vices for se­nior cit­i­zens. The shared com­mu­nity con­nects all these so­cial forces to form al­liances. In this way, the el­derly can eas­ily find a ser­vice sta­tion nearby to help meet their ba­sic life ser­vices,” Li Zhe said, con­tin­u­ing, “On this ba­sis, there are also pro­fes­sional, tar­geted ser­vices like med­i­cal care and emer­gency treat­ment. All these com­bine to cre­ate an el­der­ly­cen­tric ser­vice en­vi­ron­ment. To this end, the sub- dis­trict has es­tab­lished an el­derly ser­vice platform, which cov­ers daily care, med­i­cal treat­ment, en­ter­tain­ment, health and other func­tions, and pro­motes the platform in an or­gan­ised way.”

The de­sign of “Com­mu­nity Cir­cles” high­lights ur­ban and com­mu­nity life­styles in all as­pects and sub­tly con­nects life ser­vices. In ad­di­tion, its cov­er­age has ex­tended be­yond Dongsi South and reached other com­mu­ni­ties in the east of Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict.

The “Com­mu­nity Cir­cles” con­cept aims to build not only a ge­o­graph­i­cal home, but a spir­i­tual one for res­i­dents in the sub-dis­trict. Niu Ruixue ex­plained that she once or­gan­ised a project called “Home­town in Bei­jing” ex­tend­ing concern to im­mi­grants who have lived in Bei­jing for sev­eral years through an event called “Night of Guizhou.” In­gre­di­ents were pre­pared at Court­yard No. 27, al­low­ing Guizhou na­tives liv­ing in Bei­jing to cook for them­selves, talk about their life, work and fam­ily back home. The project of­fered them the chance to re­fresh their mem­o­ries of their home­town.

In or­der to nar­row the dis­tance be­tween peo­ple, Court­yard No. 27 and a cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tion jointly launched the “Lonely Granny Live Show.” Two el­derly women from dif­fer­ent so­cial classes and with dif­fer­ent life­styles in Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict were the stars of this live show. One of the ladies was from a fam­ily of in­tel­lec­tu­als and lived a petty bour­geoisie life; the other lived a sim­ple life with her grand­daugh­ter in a sin­gle­storey house a lit­tle over 10 sq.m in size, but was very op­ti­mistic. Dur­ing the live show, the two grannies chat­ted about their opin­ions on cul­ture. This at­tracted big rat­ings and con­vinced spon­sors to pro­duce a half-hour short film. Sur­pris­ingly, the ma­jor­ity of the au­di­ence was born in the 1990s and ac­tu­ally com­plained that the film was too short.

In­spired by the “Lonely Granny Live Show,” Chaoyang­men Sub-dis­trict ini­ti­ated the “Be Me” cam­paign dur­ing the 2018 Bei­jing De­sign Week in a bid to bridge the gap be­tween young and old. Niu ex­plained that such ac­tiv­i­ties were big hits with or­di­nary peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties and the gov­ern­ment, at­tract­ing large au­di­ences as well as re­ceiv­ing ac­tive feed­back from so­ci­ety. “We call these ac­tiv­i­ties ‘so­cial in­flu­ence pro­grammes.' So­cial con­sen­sus is per­va­sive and dif­fer­ent groups may reach spir­i­tual con­sen­sus through a pro­gramme. So, in most cases, we not only or­gan­ise pro­grammes, but also pub­li­cise them widely as well.”

De­sign for the Peo­ple 4.0 pro­vides con­ve­nience to res­i­dents in Chaoyang­men Sub- dis­trict. It carves out the right path for im­prov­ing qual­ity of life and estab­lishes a com­mu­ni­ca­tion bridge al­low­ing neigh­bours, peo­ple of dif­fer­ent so­cial classes and dif­fer­ent ages to reach con­sen­sus. Prepa­ra­tions are cur­rently un­der­way for next year's “De­sign for the Peo­ple 5.0,” which aims to bring new changes to the an­cient sub- dis­trict when it is rolled out.

Artists speak­ing at the Chaoyang­men Talk event

Young visitors to Shi­jia Hu­tong Mu­seum

Res­i­dents dis­play­ing their art­works

A cul­tural fair in hu­tong

Cul­tural prod­ucts in Shi­jia Hu­tong Cul­tural Cre­ative Prod­ucts Store

Chaoyang­men Cul­tural and Cre­ative Cen­ter

A com­mu­nity-based cul­tural room for res­i­dents

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