Translation: “New Houses in the Country, Easy to Build But Hard to Live In”

The following is a translation of this piece from Southern Weekend. While obviously not all rural building projects are this poorly-thought out, it’s an interesting story that may be reflective of a larger trend in Chinese building, especially in poorer areas: first get it built quickly and cheaply; worry about tomorrow when and if it comes.


A couple days ago, I returned home to Guanshanzhuang village in Rizhao, Shandong. I heard that one of my uncles was building a new house. The house was being built on a space put up for sale by the village government, on a hillside halfway up the mountain, a long-ago abandoned farming area. He paid 80,000 RMB for one mu of land, and cooperated with other villagers to build the building.

The uncle said that this house was costing over 80,000 RMB, including the costs of land, materials, and labor. He knew that I was an architecture major, and asked for my thoughts. I took a look at the house, which they’d already built up to the second storey: it was going to be a four-family Western-style villa, with no steel reinforcement, thin walls, and no layers of insulation. There were no trees near it, and the southern face was covered in single-layer glass windows.

I asked my uncle: “For the blueprints, did you band together and hire an architecture firm, or did you just find someone to draw them up yourselves?” He replied: “Farmers building a house still need to pay someone to make drawings? Think about the money that costs! We just asked some construction workers, we’ll build based on their experience!”

I asked, “You’re moving to a new house that’s almost four times bigger than your old one. But the windows are drafty, the walls are thin, there are no trees, there’s no well, you’re on a hillside…how much is it going to cost you to air condition this place in the summer? How much to heat it in the winter? Did you add that up?” His response: “……”

I asked again, “This house has no steel frame, no insulation, and no shade from the sun. Isn’t it going to fall apart over time?” His response: “…….”

Farmers building houses looks like a good thing. But after moving in, how many people are going to be able to stand these unseen and unconsidered costs?

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The kidnapping and selling of children is a serious problem in China, and has been for decades. Many children are tricked or otherwise stolen away from their parents, and then sold to other families, into lives begging on the streets or, in the case of some girls, into marriage or prostitution. We want to make a documentary about these children and their families in the hopes that we can bring more attention to this crucially important issue. We’re calling it Finding Home, and we’re really excited about it. But we can’t do it without your help.

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Your donation will help us pay for expenses including additional equipment and train and bus tickets, so that we can ensure we’re 100% prepared to capture these childrens’ stories. We’ve already started research and are working with volunteers from a local Beijing charity so that every child we find who may have been kidnapped will also be reported domestically, and spread through a nationwide network of volunteers dedicated to searching for justice and for the child’s real family.

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0 thoughts on “Translation: “New Houses in the Country, Easy to Build But Hard to Live In””

  1. I would like to contribute, but no credit card, no amazon buying…. but living in Beijing. If you give me (private mail) an account number in China I will put my little grain of sand to help


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