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Sanlitun Houjie Demolished: The End of Beijing Bar Street?

As Beijing’s city center is changing with incredible speed, it is now Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street that is demolished and bricked up. While Beijing expats might shed a tear over the disappearance of their much-loved bars, many Weibo netizens are happy with the government’s decision to “clean up” the unpolished hubbub of Beijing nightlife.

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As Beijing’s city center is changing with incredible speed, it is now Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street that is demolished and bricked up. While Beijing expats might shed a tear over the disappearance of some of their favorite bars, many Weibo netizens are happy with the government’s decision to “clean up” the unpolished hubbub of Beijing nightlife.

Beijing is changing fast – really fast. As parts of the old hutongs are already unrecognizable or in the midst of being bricked up, bulldozers have now reached the area of Sanlitun Houjie / Tongli Studios, better known as the back street of Sanlitun Bar Street.

Sanlitun Bar Street is one of the most famous nightlife areas in Beijing, known for its cheap beers, many bars, restaurants, and street vendors.

Since the Beijing Olympics, the area at large has undergone drastic changes. With the coming of the Taikooli Shopping center in the summer of 2008, the transformation of Sanlitun from a low-key nightlife scene to an upscale shopping street was set in motion.

Bulldozers renovating the Sanlitun street in August of 2016.

For local bar lovers and many expats and students, there was always still the Sanlitun ‘back street’, or houjie, one of the few parts of the area that did not seem to have changed that much over the past decade and was not as polished or expensive as the newer parts of town.

 

“The demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.”

 

The ‘rough part’ of Sanlitun was both loved and hated for its street vendors, loud music, 10 RMB beers, beggars, balloon sellers, occasional bar fights, and lively atmosphere.

View on Sanlitun houjie from Taikooli, 2016.

On April 24 the bulldozers and construction workers hit the street to start the demolishment of the street side across from Tongli Studios.

Rumors were going around for weeks that parts of the old bar street would be demolished. According to one of the staff at the old Luga’s bar that What’s on Weibo spoke to, they do plan to reopen again after renovations, but the exact plans of what is happening in the area is yet unclear. Other sources said that the whole side of the street would be closed and simply bricked up.

According to the Beijing Youth newspaper, the demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area so that houjie would no longer be a “dirty street” (“今起不再有’脏街'”). A total of 33 business will be demolished, among them are several DVD stores, bars, restaurants, shops, and nail salons.

On Chinese social media, the large-scale renovation of Sanlitun is receiving ample attention from various media outlets and netizens. Many Weibo commenters show their support for the latest government move and agree with the renovations, saying that the Beijing bar street needed to be cleaned up.

“This time, I give Beijing full points for this renovation,” one Beijing resident (@小威威的野蛮女友) says on Weibo: “This place was too crowded, too messy, too dirty.” Another commenter agrees: “They will make it pretty again.”

 

“Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

 

“The people who say this demolishment is not good obviously do not live in Beijing, haha,” one other person said.

But not everyone agrees. As the city center of Beijing is rapidly undergoing renovations, there are considerably fewer parts of the city that offer a laid-back and unpolished nightlife scene, while fancy bars and expensive dining places are mushrooming everywhere.

“There is a sense of beauty in these places that are are bit messy,” one commenter said: “They are more friendly, they are warmer.” “I agree,” another person says: “From now on, Sanlitun will not be as lively as before.”

“The street may have been somewhat dirty, but I love that kind of feeling,” one local resident (@bulabula安) commented.

There are also many people who say they feel sad over losing their favorite noodle place located across from the Tongli Studios or other popular bars and dining places.

“Goodbye dirty Sanlitun street!”, Beijing musician Liu Dayi writes on Weibo: “I can only say f*ck! Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

– By Manya Koetse

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

American Randy’s Illegal Changzhou Food Booth Sparks Discussion over “Double Standards for Foreigners”

Some accuse city authorities of double standards for allowing Randy to run his hamburger stall.

Luka de Boni

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When Chinese local authorities reacted leniently to the improvised breakfast food stall of ‘grandpa’ Randy in Changzhou, debates erupted on Weibo about double standards for foreigners in China.

A hot topic that has been included among Weibo’s top posts this week involves the American ‘Randy’, nicknamed ‘grandpa,’ who has set up an improvised and unlicensed breakfast food stall in the city of Changzou, Jiangsu province.

The post was shared by popular Weibo account Meishi Shijie (@美食视界, ‘Food Horizons’), which has 2.25 million followers. Within 72 hours, the post was liked more than 8000 times, shared over a 1000 times and received 2600 comments.

The topic was also widely discussed elsewhere on Weibo.

The post said:

American grandpa Randy recently opened a breakfast stall on a street in Changzhou, Jiangsu, selling hamburgers, hot-dogs, and mineral water. Because the food is so delicious and the stall so hygienic, his business has become very popular. This has come to the attention of city law enforcement, but they’ve not bothered him at all. In fact, they simply shook hands with him as they talked about matters regarding his license.”

Photo placed with the post.

According to People’s Daily, Randy is a 62-year-old American who has been living in Changzhou for seven years. He reportedly received permission from the local market to set up his stall there. He sells his hamburgers for 15 RMB (±$2).

The apparent lenient reaction of the city authorities towards Randy’s illicit food stall did not go down too well with some Chinese netizens. Many expressed that they felt the treatment was unfair, arguing that the leniency shown was based on the fact that the man is a white foreigner.

“What if the old man was Chinese? Surely the outcome would be different …” read the most popular comment, which was liked 4500 times.

“Wouldn’t they (the authorities) have confiscated the stall if he were Chinese?”, others wondered.

Many cities across China have seen crackdowns on unlicensed food stalls over the past year.

In the city center of Beijing, for example, many street food stalls have disappeared over the last years due to “civilized Beijing” campaign; street food is often seen as an indication of underdevelopment, but pollution caused by street barbecues and food safety issues are also said to be reasons for crackdowns.

Double standard for foreigners?

In the case of Randy, some netizens point out that had the street vendor been Chinese, authorities may have even resorted to violence to close down the food stall.

Confrontations between local officers and street vendors have turned into physical altercations before.

One popular comment, with more than 2000 likes, read: “Foreigners are
‘friendly’, but you wouldn’t hesitate to hit your own people..”

It is not the first time Chinese netizens complain about state authorities putting foreigners’ rights ahead of their own. Earlier this year, a video that showed the differences in dorms across China between foreign students and Chinese went viral. Many Chinese netizens felt outraged that the living conditions for foreigners were better than those of Chinese students.

In this case, there were also those netizens who came to the defense of the city authorities, saying they are generally good people and had been lenient with the American ‘grandpa’ because of their good will.

“Our city authorities here in Changzhou can be very helpful to the street merchants. Once, I saw with my own eyes as they helped some merchants move their watermelons back into their houses … do all people really think that they are monsters?,” said one commenter, gathering over 1700 likes.

Randy’s food stall is popular in Changzhou.

“There are many examples of local officers helping old grandpas and grandmas sell their vegetables. But you wouldn’t mention those, would you? To put it bluntly, you are being narrow-minded. How sad.”

But there are also those commenters who apparently only have one thing in mind: Randy’s hamburgers. They write: “I just want to go to Grandpa’s food stall..”

If they’re lucky, they’ll have a chance to taste Randy’s hamburgers soon; according to business media account @Avirex, Randy has now started to apply for an official license to run his hamburger stall, and is planning to open up his own fast food shop in the near future.

Note: It has come to our attention that Randy’s food stall generated media attention in 2014. The state media article referred to in this article also is from 2014. Nevertheless, this topic (again) became trending this week, along with the aforementioned discussions. All comments quoted in this article are from this week. If you have any updates as to how Randy is doing now and if he in fact has started up his restaurant, we’d like to know for a follow-up!

By Luka de Boni

This article has been edited and modified for clarity

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

‘Baozi Burgers’ as ‘Insult’? Global Times Editorial Attacks Western-Chinese Fusion Food

“It combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

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“A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing,” author Lilian Hamilton writes for Chinese state media outlet Global Times in a recent video news feature. The video criticizes fusion foods such as the ‘Baozi burger’ or ‘Baozza’ (baozi + pizza) that mix popular Western and Chinese fast foods.

The feature was covered by Beijing blogger Jim Boyce on Beijingboyce.com, where he writes that “state-owned medium Global Times just cooked up a heaping serving of culinary cultural appropriation shade with a side dish of WTF. In this slide show, it takes aim at “baozza”, the tasty pizza-baozi combos I have covered here, here and here.”

Culinary ‘cultural appropriation’ has been an online issue of debate for some time now. In this Huffington Post article, for example, the author expresses that she finds it “painful” when, among other examples, the New York Times issues a recipe that features ‘pho’ (a type of Vietnamese soup) with broccoli and quinoa, or when 7Up releases a self-invented kimchi recipe.

 

It combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

 

In the thousands of restaurants in cities such as Beijing or Shanghai there will be new food trends popping up every day. The ‘baozza’ is one of them; it is a steamed bun, called baozi (包子) in Chinese, filled with pizza ingredients.

By whatsonweibo.com.

The full text of the Global Times feature, which was also published as an editorial, is as follows:

A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing: BAOZZA (Baozi + pizza). Baozi is a common Chinese breakfast dish or snack. A fluffy steamed white bun with a vegetable or ground meat filling.”

Global Times.

Pizza is brought to life by the Italian thin crust dough and the right sugo (tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese and fresh toppings.”

Baozza claims to be ‘Pizza with Chinese characteristics.’ Instead, it combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

There must be at least a temporary demand. Otherwise, a newly-opened bar in Sanlitun would not offer ‘Burger Baozi’ on their menu. With the bamboo steamer basket being a mere decoration, these grilled ‘baozi’ halves come with beef, chicken, Beijing duck or mushroom filling. While a boazi at your regular street vendor costs 2 yuan, you pay around 50 yuan for a ‘Baozi Burger.’

Luckily, these fusion food fads are usually gone faster than you can flush the remnants of your latest food poisening down the toilet.”

The article text by Lilian Hamilton also says that the ‘baozza’ “seems like an insult,” and is “wrong on just so many more levels.”

 

A growing movement of people call out ‘white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures’.”

 

At a time when cultural appropriation, in general, is a hot topic, the idea of the cultural appropriation of food has also become more of an issue of debate.

Defining the term and idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ itself is not easy. While the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” the Urban Dictionary says it is “the ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures.”

A recent example is that of the American girl who wore a Chinese-style dress to her prom – something people in US seemed to take offense to, while most commenters on Weibo deemed the critique was silly.

The ‘cultural appropriation’ of food suggests that certain foods can be ‘confiscated’ when people from a dominant culture start to commercialize it.

A 2017 BBC article featured the views of Filipino-American food and travel photographer Celeste Noche, who finds it problematic that food bloggers will posts photos of, for example, Filipino short ribs with chopsticks (“even though Filipinos traditionally eat with spoons and forks or their hands”), or the stylization of Asian dishes on bamboo mats or banana leaves.

A Washington Post article from 2017 also addressed a growing movement of people who call out “white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures,” one of the names mentioned being Fuchsia Dunlop, a UK-born cook and food-writer who specializes in Sichuan cooking.

 

A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative..”

 

So are the ‘baozza’ or the ‘baozi burgers’ the next targets in the campaign against the ‘cultural appropriation’ of food?

The American inventer of the ‘baozza’, Alex Cree, evidently does not see anything wrong with it. He came up with the idea of stuffing a Chinese steamed bun with cheese, tomato, or other pizza toppings, during a trip with clients in southern China.

On Weibo, the only comments relating to Baozza are those of people who are curious to try out the ‘fad’ food. New or original food items such as these are often (temporarily) popular; another recent food item that attracted the attention of Chinese netizens was the Zang Baobao, a Chinese-French chocolate croissant product.

On Twitter, the attack on fusion snacks is also does not receive much understanding. “A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative! Way more tasty than traditional baozi,” @XiaoLan17 writes.

Damien Ma (@damienics) is already thinking of the next food fad; a ‘moonut’ that mixes Chinese moon cake with donut products.

Although Global Times‘s Lilian Hamilton and others might object, the rise of fusion food trends shows that snacks such as the Baozi Burger, the Baozza, or the potential ‘Moonut’ will not disappear from China’s big-city restaurant scene anytime soon.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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