Space Modernization and Social Interaction

A Comparative Study of Living Space in Beijing

  • Qingqing Yang

About this book


This book concerns the Beijing Hutong and changing perceptions of space, of social relations and of self, as processes of urban redevelopment remove Hutong dwellers from their traditional homes to new high-rise apartments. It addresses questions of how space is humanly built and transformed, classifi ed and differentiated, and most importantly how space is perceived and experienced. This study elaborates and expands Lefebvre’s “trialectic” of space on a theoretical level. The ethnography presented is a conversation with Tim Ingold’s argument about “empty space”. This research employs the ethnographic technique of participant-observation to secure a finely textured, detailed and micro-social account of local experience. Then, these micro-social insights are contextualized within macro-social structures of Chinese modernism by speaking to geographical concerns, orientalism and history.

Qingqing Yang has a captivating narrative style; its deceptively light personal touch causes the reader to see as she does and to learn with her, and we come to appreciate the habitual round of Beijing life amid forces of radical change.

                      From the Foreword, by Nigel Rapport, Professor of Anthropological and Philosophical Studies, University of St. Andrews Space.

Modernization and Social Interaction is a truly intriguing and original piece of work. The aim of the book is to compare conceptualizations of living space in Beijing: on one hand in traditional Chinese courtyards referred to as Hutong, and on the other hand in modern high-rise apartments. This is prompted by a dramatic relocation by the government of residents from Hutong to apartments as a part of a city-planning scheme, in which some of the Hutongs are replaced by new wide roads. Other Hutongs are maintained and equipped with modern facilities such as natural gas pipes in kitchens and bathrooms. It was in the latter type of traditional Hutong with modern facilities, that Yang did her main fieldwork for altogether fourteen months between July 2009 and September 2012. She also spent four months in a high-rise apartment compound outside the city. It is obvious that her fieldwork was most successful.

                     From Professor Helena Wulff, Stockholm University.


Beijing Hutong Modernisation of Chinese urban society Urban Space Urban anthropology Urban environment Urbanization

Authors and affiliations

  • Qingqing Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Ethnology and SociologyMinzu University of ChinaBeijingChina

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Foreign Language Teaching and Research Publishing Co., Ltd and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
  • Publisher Name Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
  • Print ISBN 978-3-662-44348-4
  • Online ISBN 978-3-662-44349-1
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