residential districts (urban)

residential districts (urban)
The history of residential districts—planned (often gated) enclaves of urban housing—in Chinese cities parallels the modern development of Chinese society. Yet the idea that the urban residential landscape should consist primarily of enclaves dates back at least to the Tang dynasty, whose capital Chang’an was divided into walled compounds (fang). In the Qing dynasty, Beijing’s neighbourhoods of one-storey courtyard housing within hutong (see streets) were also organized according to the military units (‘banners’) whose members inhabited them. Western influences after the mid nineteenth century included the development of multi-storey attached houses and apartments, sometimes laid out in planned ‘neighbourhood units’, designed to particular standards to accommodate residents of different social classes. After the organization of society into productive entities called ‘work units’ (danwei) in 1949, ‘new villages’ (xincun) for workers took a more utilitarian and egalitarian form, inspired by the Soviet Union.
In the absence of capital and a land market, most inner-city housing was left un-redeveloped while the ‘new villages’ were built on vacant land at the cities’ edge, usually by and near the residents’ ‘work unit’. Since Reform, the commercialization of housing has led to the revival of strictly ‘residential-housing estates’ (xiaoqu) of increased density and varying standards—reflected at one extreme by the recent development of enclaves of luxury villas. The emergence of land markets in the early 1990s has also prompted the replacement of old inner-city neighbourhoods with new ‘estates’.
Lü, Junhua, Rowe, Peter G. and Zhang, Jie (eds) (2001). Modern Urban Housing in China, 1840–2000. Munich: Prestel.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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