Cribs Beijing: Our Building

Cribs-Beijing-BuildingOur apartment is located on the 11th floor of a 17-floor building. There are about 12 apartments per floor, which means about 200 units in our building alone. Our building is one of over 10 identical buildings in the development. Do the math, and that’s over 2,000 apartments like ours in an area of about six square blocks. Figure an average of 2.5 people per apartment, and you’re talking 5,000 people. Are you starting to get a sense of the incredible urban density here? 

The entire development is called Hua Qing Jia Yuan (“Hua Qing” Beautiful Gardens), and it is so big that almost all taxi drivers in Beijing will know it by name. While the buildings were built in 2002, they don’t look seven years old. Let’s just say they haven’t aged that well, and I’m still looking for the beautiful gardens.

The history of the development is an interesting one. If you walk around, you’ll see two different types of buildings, one type being nicer than the other. The majority of the buildings were built to be sold on the open market, so they include a few extra amenities. One of the first noticeable ones is the presence of an external security door (and sometimes a guard – although the effectiveness of the guards is somewhat questionable). Regardless, the message is clear: only residents of that particular building can enter.

This is one of the nicer buildings in the development.

This is one of the nicer buildings in the development, but the look is very similar to ours.

Three buildings on the development are “special,” and like a lot of things in China (and elsewhere too), it has to do mostly with politics. In exchange for the rights to build the entire complex, the developer needed to provide three buildings of units to be offered at below market rates to the current residents of the land on which they were going to build. It was a way to help assuage public discontent over the proposed changes. Well, it also turns out that the developer didn’t exactly have a reason to make those buildings the same quality as the others. Our building is one of these three cheaper buildings.

But you couldn’t tell it from the rent. While rent in Beijing is known for being higher than most other Chinese cities, this specific area is known for being high in Beijing. Of course, high is relative. Our place has a monthly rent of 3,900 yuan + 50 yuan in foreigners tax that I pay. That translates into about $550 a month – not really that much in the US.

The reason for the higher rent is that the location is really desirable, especially to foreigners. Because Wudaokou subway station is in the middle of at least six major universities, students from all over the world seek to live here. As more and more students study abroad, demand for apartments increases, and so does the rent.

The six universities (that I know of – there may be others) that surround Wudaokou are:

  1. Beijing University (west)
  2. Language & Culture University (east)
  3. University of Geological Sciences (east)
  4. Tsinghua University (north)
  5. University of Science and Technology (east)
  6. Beihang University of Aviation and Astronomy (south)

Quick Fact:  I had also applied to teach at University of Science and Technology.  I was accepted but declined the offer after I was hired by Tsinghua University.



  1. The building does look nice and the space around seems open, is that the impression from your windows, or are you surrounded by tall buildings and looking out on tall buildings. How did the developer cut corners? How/where do you do laundry? I remember when I was in Beijing in 1997 that they were taking out the “hutong” (spelling?) and replacing them with tall apartments, is this what these buildings replaced? Is it noisy on the tenth floor (from the street/car sounds)? Thanks for the updates.

  2. Hi Joan! You’re right. The development is dense, but the buildings are not right on top of each other. They are definitely an “acceptable” distance apart. Our apartment is 11 stories above a pretty busy street, and we can hear traffic (especially honking), but it isn’t really bad at night. On the other side of the street is another Hua Qing Jia Yuan apartment building the same height as ours. That’s the only major building we look right into. Overall, it’s a nice place to call home, and we’re happy with it on the whole. I’m not sure if this was a “hutong” before. We’re a ways out from the center city, and I don’t know if “hutongs” were established here. I’ll remember to ask someone.

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