Friday, June 27, 2008

Sex and the City

The other day on the radio I heard an interview with Dominic Johnson-Hill, a British entrepreneur here who set up the Plastered T-shirts shop in Nanluoguxiang hutong.

He's lived in China for 16 years, most of them in Beijing. He has three daughters and they live near his shop in a courtyard home.

Fluent in Chinese, he says he loves Beijing because it's very masculine. He said it's got huge buildings and wide roads, and the people are very straight-forward, which is what he likes.

And hearing that for me was a eureka moment.

It's been difficult for me to understand this city, and describing it this way has made me realize what my relationship with Beijing is about.

It's a city that wants to give the impression of machismo, one of power and pride.

But it has a soft side too. Once you get into the warren of alleys or hutongs, you find the heart of the city, the people and the interesting buildings of a much smaller scale.

Dominic-Hill also describes Shanghai as feminine because of its intimacy. He also finds it difficult to decipher exactly what the Shanghainese are thinking.

I've never heard of cities given a sex before, but if you were asked to describe Beijing in one word, masculine is probably the one I would use too.

Now that I'm enlightened, I'll try to work on my relationship with the city, looking past the macho appearance and find its true face.


ks said...

i agree . beijing has been the capital city of the past 600 years through the ming and qing dynasties. it is musculine in the fact that it is straight forwartd, square, symmetric. it has intimitating buildings, wide boulevards, huge parks, vast expanse of spaces. it is a megalomaniacal place. but within the hutongs and the smaller side streets there is a soft side of it. dominic hill must have a peculiar character , a particular taste much different from the ordinary kweilo.

Dominic said...

just saw this blog, thank you for kind words, if they are all kind? I'm not great with words to be honest, I'm usually much better after a couple of beers. Anyway nothing complicated about what i said, just a gut feeling. I love Beijing and all my friends and family here, its my home.
best regards

Dominic Johnson-Hill