Skip to comments.Life in Beijing's Cellars
Posted on 12/25/2010 11:23:19 AM PST by DeaconBenjamin
As Beijing's real estate prices rise, those who cannot afford the rent go underground -- literally. Hundreds of cellars and air-raid shelters are rented as living spaces.
For 27-year-old Dong Ying, Beijing is a city of dreams. Two years ago, the sports teacher relocated to the Chinese metropolis. Here, she hoped, her wishes for a more interesting life would be fulfilled.
She goes from fitness club to fitness club every day, working as a trainer. She pedals, she bends and straightens and ensures that the affluent city residents stay in shape. To reach her students, she spends four hours each day in the city's subway.
She earns 3,000 yuan ($450) per month, far more than she would have earned in her hometown. "I am happy," says the young woman. "I love my work, and I feel free."
But there is a flaw in her lifestyle. Dong Ying lives underground. The only accommodation she can afford is a tiny room in the cellar of an apartment building. Every month she pays $68 for the room. Other tenants live even further down, on the cellar's second level, where the rent is even cheaper.
A bed, a small cupboard and a desk just fit into Dong Ying's room. A communal toilet and bathroom are at the end of the hallway. Anyone living here must eat out every day because any kind of kitchen is prohibited for safety reasons. Still, Dong Ying is positive: "The house management is OK. The corridor is clean."
Dong Ying is one of hundreds of thousands of Chinese sentenced to a life underground -- migrant workers, job seekers, street vendors. All those who can't afford life above ground in Beijing are forced to look below.
(Excerpt) Read more at spiegel.de ...
Those places look much better than some of our ghettos.
Goodness gracious — what would Chairman Mao think of this? People live in places which they can afford, or I should say, where they live is limited by how much money they have?
What about “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”?
I wonder if Chairman Mao would recognize China today, considering the free market reforms, and “decadent” indicators such as American fast-food franchises and so many Chinese people having their own cars??????
A lot of that depends on the quality of people.
Nice community laundry, tub, must be a new model from sears.
I just have to ask, does one remove his/her pants to use those toilets?
I never did - but as they say - it is an acquired skill.
This is a very common facility in Asia.
Ever notice that Orientals are able to squat very deeply?
There are a lot of advantages to living underground, if the accommodations are designed properly and well maintained.
If you live in a house, the best way to imagine this is to think of your house as a “penthouse” of sorts, and imagine what you could do if you had three or four basements and sub-basements beneath it. Not unpleasant at all.
Cities of the Underworld-Beijing. Don Wildmon call your office.
Cool in summer, well-insulated in winter. The only major issues are safety/evacuation, ventilation and psychology. The first two can be overcome with thoughtful design, the third with good lighting and frequent trips outdoors.
I have to wonder about the evacuation plans. If these were fallout shelters, they probably have a single entrance and exit, which could leave a lot of people cut off from escape and air in case of a fire. The ventilation is also probably limited. But from the pictures, I've lived in worse places.
I thought the biggest complication for underground living was the drainage and water table factor. I know most of those basements and extensive underground garages would fill up with water like Saddam’s abandoned bunkers if the sump pumps were shut off.
Having a 4-level, liveable basement in my house would certainly appeal to my Dale Gribble instincts but wouldn’t such deep diggings require massively expensive reinforced-concrete retaining walls and 24/7 pumps? Not to mention forced air ventilation and ducting. I get the impression that digging deep generally is a good deal more expensive than simply buying more land and building bigger and wider.
Except if you live in a dry, geologically favored area where the water table is way down below and the substrate doesn’t need reinforcement (like where they filmed Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome).
People brought up in Asia have trouble “going” unless they squat. If you’ve lived in a typical “no doors on the stall” college dorm seeing your Japanese co-residents squat atop a western style toilet reading the latest Manga from home is something you don’t soon forget.
I think that more stems from China's policy of "a bullet in the back of the head" for a second drug conviction. They even charge the family for the bullet. Now that's really cold, but it does keep the rate of recidivism down!
We have Indians at my work place that get their feet up on the toilet seat and squat. We are also rampant with staph infections. I work at a large worldwide corporation that prides itself on it’s “diversity”.
You got me. Not a world traveller. Bucket list.
First time I saw one of those on a street I was struck dumb, took picture to mail home. LOL
Small, but clean and safe.
Tell her stay our of Detroit, Camden, Central LA, Harlem, Roxbury, South Side of Chicago, North Philadelphia, East Baltimore, and Northwest Washington DC.
Georgetown? Embassy Row? Connecticut Avenue? I would say SE, SW, and NE before I would say NW.
Pretty cool fallout shelter / office. Sort of a “Dr. Evil” 60’s Post-Modern style.
Wonder if the place was decommissioned as a bomb shelter why they kept those emergency generators. Maybe it was too expensive to cut them up and haul them away?
I’m pretty sure that’s the same fallout shelter/office used by Wikileaks’ Web host.
Creation of good basements and sub-basements is a real art as much as a science. Out in the western US, there are few good residential basements, because few contractors know all the ins and outs.
Disasters happen when someone tries to build a basement just based on zoning standards, because every one needs to be different, if you want them to last and not be maintenance heavy. Any and every type of water in the area, soil types, earthquake activity, sometimes electrical grounding, conduits, sewage and fresh water plumbing, primary and emergency vertical lift, toxic gases and ventilation, even insects, molds, and roots have to be taken into account.
And then, if you want more than just a basic basement, it can get complicated.
So, keeping theirs makes sense. The gensets were likely in pristine condition and low hour.
So I guess, if one is having an elaborate basement built, one is best advised to go to a commercial contractor to handle the subterranean element?
From what I’ve heard, some contractors practically specialize in basements, needing more skilled and semi-skilled workers than surface contractors. They also have to be more heavily insured, because it is often much harder to fix mistakes after the fact underground.
And, to top things off, as far as the surface contractor is concerned, the basement is their foundation, so what they do is reliant on the quality of the construction beneath them. But the two are not disconnected, so they share sewer, water, electrical, air ducts, stairs and lifts, and likely other stuff as well.