By Marjolijn Kaiser

I am not a big fan of either random graffiti tagging or those funny jokes where people change a letter or two of a place-name sign so that it says something different (and usually dirtier). But this one I can appreciate. The red character 拆 chāi, means “to take apart, dismantle” and is written on the walls of houses that are designated to be demolished. It can, sadly enough, often be seen in the famous hutong alleys of Beijing, and with the current rapid development, undoubtedly in many other cities throughout the country as well. The tearing down of these (historical) buildings, and the subsequent uprooting of its residents, has evoked a lot of criticism and resistance. In this case, somebody added the characters 不 (, not) and 啦 (la), changing the factual indicator “dismantle” to an emotional cry for resistance: “Don’t demolish!!!”

It has been several years since I took this picture, and I can’t even remember exactly where I took it, but I fear that this building hasn’t been able to resist the march of urban development, despite its defiant (linguistic) markings.