I lived in Changzhou for the better part of two years as an outsider who blends in visually with the locals. Through this series, you will see that Changzhou is progressive urbanization superimposed upon existing villages, and these two opposing forces, at the time of photographing, exist side by side. With this city layout there are two kinds of residents in Changzhou: those who source most, if not all of what they need from their village or one block radius, and those who source the same things more from malls and supermarkets. The second class of people may choose to go to a smaller shop frequented by the first class of people, but probably not the other way around. At every turn, you can see the interplay between these two classes of people. Visually, I tended to gravitate more towards the villages, because they made me believe that it was 1960, and without a doubt distance travelling plus time travelling trumps solely distance travelling. It’s clear which force is more dominant and which direction Changzhou and other Chinese cities are headed, which is why I believe that the older parts of the city ought to be documented, and not with a cell phone camera. One day, when the last village area becomes demolished or restored, proof will exist that at this time and in this place, things looked like this.
Part 1: My Old Neighbourhood
This is 富都小區 (Fudu Little Area) in the 新北區 (Xinbei District) of north west Changzhou. It’s the alley by my apartment complex, and 富都市場 (Fudu Market) in one of the pictures is where I bought most of my groceries towards the end of my stay. In fact, you don’t need to leave this alley to have almost everything for your daily life taken care of, if you can live like a Chinese. There are banks, cell phone shops, barbers, an e-bike repair shop, an electronics repair shop, fruit shops, a cake shop, a bread shop, a couple daily use items shops, convenience stores, drugstores, daily breakfast stands, many restaurants, a couple bubble tea shops, a liquor and cigarette shop, shops selling suitcases, handbags, makeup, and hair accessories. 富都市場 (Fudu Market) sells everything from vegetables to ready-to-eat food, noodles, Chinese mattresses (which is a giant rolled up bamboo mat), kitchen utensils, custom order leather shoes, and clothing. This is something that I wish I had realized sooner. Why would I have wanted to pay more for forks and plates from Tesco when I could have gotten them cheaper at that 24 hour store that sells everything?
Less than one kilometer downstream my backyard canal is 新北區公園 (Xinbei Park), which is quite cleaned up in appearance compared with 富都小區 (Fudu Little Area). People take their grandkids here to play, young families take out one of those multicoloured plastic boats and couples go on a leisurely afternoon stroll. Instead of drinking milk tea or coffee from a smaller company like Super Daddy, people drink coffee from Starbucks or its copycats.