By chance, I discovered these wonderful photographs of Kunming’s center from the 1980s. It’s striking to note the differences, especially on the bike lanes.
Kunming, August 1983 taken by Leroy W. Demery, Jr.
“Everything has changed” – Donnie Dong
Photo by David Gleit, 1985
“While I was small my father take [me] by bicycle, “永久” brand.” – 大头宝宝
The old communal houses in the center of town are now largely vacant. On the door and wall is a list of names and contact information of former residents that have moved away.
Kunming, November 2011
From the bike lanes
The intersection of Baita Road and Dongfang Road before afternoon rush-hour.
Mainland China has about 500 million bicycles, according to the Beijing-based China Bicycle Association. Since the 1949 Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong, the Chinese government pushed and endorsed the bicycle industry. Bicycle lanes became part of urban street planning and commuting workers received financial subsidies when purchasing a bicycle.
The bicycle ownership became a status symbol, and an embedded part of Chinese culture. The tradition of san zhuan yi xiang, or “three round things and a sound” included four essential items a couple needed to begin a life together: a sewing machine, a watch, a radio, and a bicycle. In those days, Flying Pigeon was the country’s biggest bike builder. In the 1980s, it sold around 4 million bicycles every year.
For most of the urban elite, the car has replaced the bicycle as the symbol of affluence. In Kunming, it’s no different; its registered motor vehicles has exceeded 1.3 million, and the city continues to add over 1000 new automobiles daily.
Post and select photos by Sewon Chung. Additional photos by Leroy W. Demery, Jr and David Gleit.