Siheyuan Co-House

co-living program
10.1.20 - 11.5.20

This will probably be the most special memory from my 2020.

In July, after I learned that I had no choice but to go back to China to take remote classes in the fall, I decided to rent a siheyuan in central Beijing for a month and live with other Chinese students in US colleges like me, to have a sense of community in this uncertain time. Through friends, and friends of friends, I found 13 really cool human beings, almost all of whom I barely knew at the time.

The 36 days of living in this siheyuan were beyond anything I could have hoped for. With these new friends, I went to art shows, walked on the streets of Beijing at 2am, experienced sensory-deprivation tank, visited a psychedelic guitarist, watched sunrise outside the Forbidden City, visited a worker’s union exhibition, camped under the Great Wall, and watched the US election.

Many conversations happened in the common room from 12am to 7am -- that’s right, because I have “afternoon” classes at Princeton -- about the commonalities between mathematicians and artists, what to do with a so-called elite education, why we want or don’t want to have kids, and our thoughts about love.

We also opened the space to our friends outside the siheyuan every week. Events we hosted include: mid-autumn festival celebration, themed discussions, halloween pumpkin carving, election watch party, and a few casual gatherings. Every event was open to everyone who was interested. At certain points of our events, there could be 30 to 40 people in this little courtyard. And everyone interested was added to our “Friends of the Siheyuan” groupchat on WeChat, which has grown to almost 150 members by now. Because many people in this group met each other at our events, they now share information about art shows and film screenings in Beijing to find people to go together.

The siheyuan was only a beginning, of many beautiful experiences and relationships yet to come :)

photo by Jessica Wang