Her home. A long history.

She left most affairs to her son whom she lived with. She slept on the first floor which was neat and well kept while he slept in the attic that had a single bed and an alarming amount of junk. Next to the son’s bed was a giant biscuit box which served as an ashtray.

Her bedroom was the main room of the house where I imagined people gathered when visiting. It was warm and welcoming. [Another view here.]

Like many enduring “nail houses”, mother and son wanted to ensure they got every penny they deserved from the government for relocating. The son was well-tuned to the exact value of his house.  His mind raced  like a human calculator as he broke down the intricacies of longtang real estate. Don’t you be calling them victims. They know their rights and the value of their property.

They were destined for Baoshan in northern Shanghai, an industrial town known as home to the state conglomerate Bao Steel. It seemed many newly relocated residents from the metropolis have moved out there.

I asked the elder lady if she was sad to move. She smiled and said thoughtfully, “Such is life. Why be sad? I hear at our new house, we get our own bathroom and there are nice facilities.”

She then pursed her lips and concluded, “Besides, we’re surrounded by rubble. Winter is coming. It’s cold without the neighboring houses.”

November 2009

Her home. A long history. 02



  • Reply January 27, 2010


    I think I know almost exactly where this is. They are sitting on a lot of money, theoretically, but it might be a long while yet before the government buys them out. I remember seeing maintenance workers patching up sewage pipes while I was there a couple of years ago, which leads me to think that big payday is not coming anytime soon.

  • […] 3 weeks ago, I was standing in the living room cum bedroom with an old woman while she watched television from her couch. I had walked up to the […]

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