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Down time in Beijing
I’ve been lucky enough to get a day to walk around some of the older parts of Beijing. There aren’t many of these areas (hutongs) left. Many of them have been cleared to allow for high rise development and laying wide roads to accommodate the huge amount of vehicles here.
The hutongs are neighbourhoods with long and straight, but generally narrow alleys between walled residences. I’ve had the opportunity to explore these before a couple of years ago but but I was still curious to see a slice of the old city.
A friend of mine suggested I visit a jewellery maker he knows who has a workshop and residence south of Qianmen (literally Front Gate) at the extreme south of Tianamen Square. The jeweller, Wangjing, works with shards of broken pottery and puts them in silver (925 grade) settings as earrings, cufflinks and other items of dress jewellery. She works with old (200-500 year) pieces that would be of little or no value as they are. She is in effect up-cycling historical artefacts. For more information and to have a look at some of the items have a look here.
From a social enterprise perspective these hutongs are also a fertile space for the development of social purpose businesses. While some are well cared for and obviously have well to do residents, others have a less wealthy population and are in a relatively poor state of repair. I hope to have some more to report on social enterprise in hutongs in the near future.