Chengdu / Phil

Power of Destruction

拆: chai – Verb: dismantle, demolish, tear, tear down, tear apart, tear open, unweave.

拆: chai – synonym: development.

A Google Translator search for  拆 will provide you with the first line of translations – that of destroying, undoing or opening. This character is sprayed, painted, carved all over Chengdu and across China. As the country strives to modernize and achieve double-digit growth for a fourth consecutive decade, hard and occasionally unpopular decisions are being made as buildings go down. Before you come to a conclusion ask yourself “how else would can these new, massive infrastructure projects, in the middle of cities, happen without the removal of original, old and occasionally dilapidated, buildings?”

The inhabitants or patrons of the buildings usually have little say in whether their building is old, unusable or in the way and that rarely matters. Yet not all inhabitants of or their owners go quietly. Take Chongqing’s “Nail House” from 2007, an event that demanded international and domestic coverage because of the land rights issues it raised. As a result of the coverage and the family’s demonstration of Chongqing’s notoriously obstinate character a settlement was achieved.

Then 拆 was achieved.

拆 should not be viewed only as a mark of doom because the projects that sprout from the demolition site are generally improvements. It is without a doubt that the system could use improvement, with cultural heritage being saved and individual rights recognized, but it would be unfair not to recognize the benefits that come through destruction.


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