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Report 7 - November 26, 1999

Stucked here in the South-West, Kunming was, among China's big cities, one of the least modernised. Now it is, as we pointed out before, an example of how fast China is developing. Demolishing the old face of the city is obviously a condicio sine qua non to further development and reconstruction, so that even one of the most famous crooked little street, the Wenhua xiang ("Culture alley") just behind Yunnan University's Center for Chinese Studies, is bound to be gradually brought down. For a while we all heard rumors of the imminent destruction of the whole street, which is a few hundred meters long and hosts tens of shops and restaurants; then today we finally saw an advice from the local police station which cleares up the confusion, at least for the next few months: according to it, only a small portion of the alley will be demolished, namely from #20 to #24.
#24 is actually the Red Star Cafe' we told you about before; the others host a few families. The whole portion is possibly the most beautiful and traditional one, but we must admit that the houses there are not only old but absolutely impossible to live decently in; the guys at the Red Star have been able to do some good work on their cafe', but theirs is mostly an open-air courtyard with little roof on it.
We leave to our readers any judgement about this decision, and we take the chance to show you two pictures of the doomed houses. It's a fascinating place indeed, and though we have chosen black&white to add some ancient taste to it, its original colors are pleasing, too: a bright yellowish-green among the red brick walls. We wonder what will come out of it; hopefully no other building will take the place of these, but just a broader street. Will we miss those muddy puddles and holes all over the place? Will the government save some little piece of old China, even if they should paint it anew until you can no longer distinguish wood and stone from plastic?

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