“Ghost Buildings in Beijing.” Mickey Glantz. 31 October 2010

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on November 01, 2010 with 1 Comment

During a recent trip to Beijing, I was fascinated by “ghost buildings” in Beijing and I waited till Halloween to talk about it. As far as I know, I am the only one who refers to them as ghosts. They are not unique to China but the high level of pollution in some Chinese cities has become quite notable even in the Chinese press.

A ghost building is one that cannot be seen during the day, because of the high degree of opaqueness of the air in the city. The pollutants from factories and cars, buses and trucks often combine with fog to produce a concoction called smog, an unhealthy combination for one’s lungs. I noticed smokestacks both short and tall ones belching into the air aloft smoke and steam and heaven knows what else of various shades of grey.

So, not-so-distant buildings that would be visible in clean air cannot be seen at various times of the day. Building in the distance become indicators of visibility as well as of levels of pollution on an hourly as well as a daily basis. Air pollution is a fact of life in Beijing. That is the normal situation. On a daily and a seasonal basis the level of pollution can vary, but every day witnesses a level of pollution that impairs visibility. On a good day visibility may be about a kilometer or two; on a bad day, however, it can be measured in meters.

I guess to inhabitants of Beijing, including government leaders, ghost building are the norm, especially in areas where the air quality is rated worse than poor. To an outsider like myself it would be an intolerable situation that demands a solution rather than acceptance.

Enough talk about ghost buildings. You get the picture. Now, here are some photos that capture the existence of “ghost buildings.”

Success at reducing air pollution in Beijing and surrounding areas can be measured easily by the disappearance of ghost buildings and the appearance of structure off in the distance. If there is a will to rid the city of ghost buildings, there is surely a way to do it, given Chinese ingenuity in technological developments.


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  1. another interesting thing about Beijing (not all across China but in Beijing) is when the sky sometimes becomes clear, the weatherman will be so happy to notify that “next week we will have 2 days of blue sky!” and then you can hear all the cheers!… grey has for too long occupied the city

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