Lucy’s siheyuan 前百户胡同

qibai.jpgThe main gate, left with my cousin (Jiujiu’s chidlren) Sophie, Zhenzhen and Xiao Peng, right with Popo, 1979.  Pic below Uncle Jimmy with my Mom 1955. file 23768


With the proceed from the 糖房胡同 villa, grandaunt Lucy bought a junior siheyuan (about 300 sq meters) on Qianbaihu Hutong 前百户胡同 in 1944, not far from Canzheng Hutong.  Jiujiu said that at time the inflation was so severe, goods were paid with fabric in pi 匹 or gold in liang 两 troy oz (not sure here – does Chinese use different measurement for gold?).  The north and south wings had five rooms each and the side wings had only two rooms each.  Uncle Jimmy was born here in 1950.  Jiujiu moved in to take care of it when they left for Macao in 1957.  Jiujiu/Mom/Xiaoyi had been living with Popo in a rental1955-w-uncle-jimmy.JPG siheyuan on Guoxia 果匣胡同 Hutong – as matter of fact, Mom and Xiaoyi never lived in Canzheng Hutong.  Jiujiu only gets to live there after Yeye and Nainai passed away and Lucy’s siheyuan was demolished for prime modern office complex in September 1998.

Owning a house in China had very little expenses.  Before 1966, aside from few yuans – less than a $1 of electricity and less than a yuan for water monthly, the only big expenditure is the property tax that levied every quarter.  Lucy’s was about 15 yuans, about US$8 per year.  But again, the average salary for a maid or factory work was 30 yuan a month, medical care was free.

When Dad made his way to Beijing from Sichuan to marry Mom in 1959, they stayed at Lucy’s siheyuan.  I lived there briefly with Yeye and Nainai occupying two rooms to the east side of the main hall.  Jiujiu and Popo used three remaining rooms.

One dawn in early June 1968, Dad waked me up, saying curtly that we were going to Tianjin.  “For what and for how long?” I was still sleepy and confused.  Wondering why no one had told me so?  Why didn’t I get a chance to say good bye to Nainai and Yeye, and even Popo and Jiujiu ..  Dad said nothing, indicating not to disturbe others who were asleep.  I tiptoed out of the room, and saw Nainai holding up the curtain mouthing a good bye.  For some reason, I just felt something was terribly wrong, I could feel my heart was sinking fast.  I started walking toward her.  But Dad was very quick on his feet, he grabbed me and tucked me under his arm, juggling a suitcase with another arm, in a swirl we were out on the hutong.  Then the bus ride.  Then the Soviet-inspired, imposing Beijing train station, deserted in the early morning hours under a heavy cloud.  Mom had committed suicide few days ago, my serene and priviledged childhood came to a scratching halt.  It would be a decade before I saw Yeye and Nainai again.

baidu 前百户胡同, 2013-03-31

baidu 前百户胡同, 2013-03-31


This siheyuan was demolished with the area in late 1980. Because Lucy was an overseas Chinese, plus diligent and exhausted efforts by Jiujiu, the government swapped a siheyuan in Dongcheng district with her, plus a two bed/bath apartment in Fengtian for Jiujiu.  Other Chinese neighbors got nearly nothing, given a small and shoddy apartment far away from the city.

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