Saturday, July 02, 2011

Beijing revisited, 23 years later

I spent a week running around Beijing to meet journalists and people connected to the business journalism program at Tsinghua University where I will start teaching in the fall.

Little is recognizable from a visit I made in 1988. The city and society have packed a century of progress into two decades. Beijing is now like Manhattan with wider streets. Freeways of 10 and 12 lanes ring the city center.  Then it seemed there were 1,000 bicycles for every car; now it is the reverse. I have a few photos from then and now.

China, 1988

Bikes owned the road.
A hutong, courtyard home

The hutong homes once seen everywhere in Beijing are rapidly disappearing. In hutongs, several one-story brick homes surround a coutryard and families share toilet facilities. High-rises, highways and other new constructions are replacing them.
At the People’s Daily, printers were still hand-setting type 23 years ago. Today the media have world-class technology.  

Beijing today

High-rises surround the Tsinghua University campus

The National Center for the Performing Arts, also known as the Egg, is one of many avant-garde buildings in Beijing. The Egg houses several large concert halls. The massive scale of the place is not, unfortunately, captured in this photo.  

China’s economic success has made many people nostalgic for the simpler life of the old days. This night club is a kind of Cultural Revolution dinner theater, where songs from the era are performed. The Long March ballet was amazing. The restaurant’s tasty peasant style food was served by waiters in Red Army garb.

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