Altar

A short distance south of Liuzhangli Station is a block of abandoned two-story apartments. Before they were vandalized just revolt, it was possible to walk among them. I did so one day, and found a view through waist-to-ceiling windows into a living room painted pastel blue. It was square, about four meters on the side. The sun shone well into it, and though small it had a spacious, airy feel. Inside, two chairs on the left, with a low table between them, mirrored by the same arrangement on the right. On the far wall was a shelf, probably used as an altar for placing pictures of deceased relatives and an incense offering. I imagined a husband and wife sitting, entertaining visitors, with their children playing in the middle, and tea set out on the low tables.

Nowadays a common housing arrangement is to have children in separate rooms while the adults sit on a sofa in the living room facing the altar, which has become a flatscreen.

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