An old alley – now vanished
Another “disappeared” neighborhood – 书院东街 Shuyuan Street E.
I shot these photos in December 2006, as another neighborhood in central Chengdu was being leveled. This small area stood one street north of Da Ci Si monastery, in a busy section of the city close to the central shopping district. I’m of two minds about scenes like these: first, I find areas of urban destruction and decay terribly romantic and creatively inspiring. Unfortunately, I also feel infinite sadness and gloom when I explore areas where so many people’s lives have played out, now reduced to rubble. Every “great shot” is also a final document of something that is now a memory.
On my most recent visit to this area it was an improvised parking lot. Soon the ever-present steel-pipe scaffolding and green fabric protective covering of construction projects will shield a new concrete monolith from view, like a great cocoon. [I can tell it’s getting late because my prose is becoming more flowery. Maybe I should stick to the facts and forego the atmospheric details.]
A house stripped of its covering. One advantage of demolition sites is that I can see how traditional buildings were put together. Timber framing is infilled with “basket-weave,” which is then covered with an earth-and-straw mixture and finishing coat of plaster. Often, as here, brick or stone is also used. The ubiquitous clay-tile roof is carried on wooden supports.
Door, window, and wall. It’s often difficult to tell the true age of a building, because the original construction is covered by new layers or materials.
Going, going, gone.
The Da Ci Si monastery area – 大慈寺
Da Ci Si ( Temple of Infinite Mercy) was once the largest monastery complex in Chengdu. Located near the downtown shopping area, its core of buildings, mostly dating from the 19th century, have been preserved. Some of the surrounding narrow lanes still maintain a hint of the past. Beyond these high walls, however, lies nothing but the rubble of buildings.
Lane just outside Da Ci Si. This quiet, solitary area is one of my favorite spots in Chengdu.
Old wall and decorative tiles
Not a great shot, but I liked the building’s wooden details.
Remains of the day: crumbling wall fragment
One residential building in the Da Ci Si area that has been preserved and is being rehabilitated. It stands virtually alone in the area.
Old and new: The pagoda stands outside Da Ci Si monastery. It isn’t threatened with demolition, but it provides a nice contrast with the neighboring office towers.
Parting shot: Chengdu, China, March 6, 2005
Dacisi – A game of mahjong at the demolition site. China Photos/Getty Images
“According to the government, they are demolishing shabby houses to transform Dacisi into economic and technological development area.” Source: