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The Last Days of Old Beijing: An Illustrated Book Talk by author Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer talks about his book about urban development in the hutongs of Beijing.

October 19, 2010 4:30pm to 12:00am

A longtime Beijing resident, author Michael Meyer lived for three years as no other Westerner in a shared courtyard home in Beijing’s oldest neighborhood, Dazhalan, on one of its famed hutong (lanes). There he volunteered to teach English at the local grade school and immersed himself in the community, recording with affection the life stories of the Widow, who shares his courtyard; co-teacher Miss Zhu and student Little Liu; and the migrants Recycler Wang and Soldier Liu; among the many others who, despite great differences in age and profession, make up the fabric of this unique neighborhood. Their bond is rapidly being torn, however, by forced evictions as century-old houses and ways of life are increasingly destroyed to make way for shopping malls, the capital's first Wal-Mart, high-rise buildings, and widened streets for cars replacing bicycles. Beijing has gone through this cycle many times, as Meyer reveals, but never with the kind of dislocation and overturning of its storied culture now occurring. See photos and hear about Meyer's first book, in addition to his current research on a rice farm in China's far northeast.

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