Photo by Celine Lamee
Photo by Celine Lamee

Aug 2, 2017. The workers and bricks arrived. In a single day, most of the shops on our section of Jianchang Hutong found their storefronts “rehabilitated” into walls. We knew what was coming. We had seen it happen in other places. However, even armed with this information, we were not prepared for the brutality. Wu Jin’s glass door and facade were ripped out and a solid barrier was erected, shielding the space from public view. Don’t look here; cover your eyes; Oh the shame. Not exactly sure why we should be ashamed, but it appears these little shops were considered unsightly, and orders from above dictated we be eradicated from view. The view of normal life is just so… ugly. There are other terms that others have been used to describe this act of walling – “returning hutongs to their ‘original’ state” is one. Of course, the situation is infinitely more complex than I am describing. After all the reasons and justifications and flurry of explanations and hand waving, this is what we are left with – a wall. Below is documentation of the process.

Photos of the cafe on the evening and morning before bricking:

Wu Jin on a warm summer night
A few of Wu Jin’s heroic staff were taking shifts on a 48-hour vigil at the cafe before the bricking started. It was their idea to stay open all day and night. Really. 左到右: 张亭, Bass, 曹岳, 阿科
8am, August 2, 2017

And then at 9am, it began. Video of the facade removal follows:

Then the bricks arrived:

low wall of bricks. Photo by Celine Lamee


workers take a lunch break. Photo by Celine Lamee
2017-08-02 12.25.18
Workers take their lunch break on Wu Jin’s table. The absurdity of this is not at all lost on us.

2017-08-02 12.25.50

Amazingly, our neighbor, the bing (pancake and noodle) shop kept on doing business through the demolition and walling. Stunning show of resilience, or denial? Probably both.

many joked this was wang wei “scaling the wall” 翻墙 – a little vpn humor.






A view of the wall from the inside. Access to the space is now through a “door” sawed into the back wall. First build a wall, then rip a hole.

For those familiar with Wang Wei’s Temporary Space project, we are witnessing life replicating art replicating life. Cycles abound. Currently still nursing our wounds, we will eventually recover from the shock. Will keep you posted as to what happens next.