The Last Days of Old Beijing

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A woman walks through her courtyard home in one of Beijing's hutongs March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
A woman walks through her courtyard home in one of Beijing's hutongs on March 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

What you don’t see is what’s wiped away, or barely hanging on. The miles of “hutong” alleyway neighborhoods that, until very recently, made Beijing the world’s last modern capitol with a living medieval heart.

This hour On Point: the last days of old Beijing, with an American who lived there.

Joining us from Beijing is Michael Meyer, author of the new book "The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed." He first went to China in 1995, working as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Sichuan. He moved to Beijing in 1997 and has lived there for most of the years since, working as an English teacher and a freelance writer.

Also in Beijing, we're joined by Li Hu, a partner at the New York-based firm Steven Holl Architects. He and his firm have designed “Linked Hybrid,” one of the big new projects now going up on the Beijing skyline. It’s a complex of luxury, mixed use high-rises with parks built on skyways between the buildings’ upper floors, cinemas, shops, schools, and more.


The Last Days of Old BeijingYou can read an excerpt from "The Last Days of Old Beijing" on

View photos from the Flickr group 'Beijing Hutong'

Mapping the New Beijing
Architectural Record offers a fascinating look at Beijing's new architecture. See especially the section "Project Porfolio: Beijing," which has images and descriptions of major architectural projects around the city.

This program aired on August 1, 2008.


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