Chinese Protest Houses Defy Progress

In Chinese, they're called "nail houses" (钉子楼 or "ding zi lou"). These protest abodes stick up for as long as the owner — and ultimately, the Chinese government — allows them to. Then, they're smashed down.

Recently, Chinese site XinhuaNet ran photos of a nail house in Rui'An, Zhejiang Province. The entire building, save for one corner, has been torn down. Zheng Meiju, the apartment's owner, is refusing to vacate, alleging that the compensation the construction company offered is not sufficient.

This past January, the water was shut off. In February, the electricity was turned off. Since then, she's been carrying buckets of water from the village to use for the restroom, cooking, cleaning, and drinking. "Now the weather is really hot so I head over to a friend's house to cool down," said Zheng. "I come back to sleep at night."

Zheng is not an area local and thus has different resident status, which is why she says the construction company offered more money to the Rui'An locals. Compounding the problem is that it's necessary to pour in extra money to fix up the housing that was offered to her, she says. Zheng also claims that she's having financial difficulties and is therefore stuck in this apartment building until she gets a better offer.

Nail houses are not exclusively motivated by money. Often, there is a variety of factors at play. Moreover, nail houses are not strictly Chinese. There are countless examples abroad. The Pixar film Up, for example, featured a nail house.

Over the years, there have been numerous nail houses in China, and they're increasingly common. During the 1990s, construction companies had more power to "force" a compromise. (People aren't "kicked out", but rather, a compromise is forced on them.)

Now, thanks to the internet, a slightly more daring media, and new real estate laws, these protest houses get more exposure in China. And the construction companies (and their government backings) are forced to put up with them longer so as not to look too oppressive, with some residents refusing to leave for years. Allowing them to continue is, in a way, good PR.

Here's a look back at some of China's nail houses from over the years.

温州“片片楼”立废墟 街道称户主补偿要求太高 [Xinhuanet]

Pictures: qjy168, Razno, 1688, ifeng, Bandao, CNHubei, Hexun, Soufun, NewsQQ, Ifeng, SZ.House, Ifeng, Guancha, Henan, People's Daily, TakungPao

Eric Jou contributed to this article.


    Wow some of those are just crazy! the one on the hill!, how does the occupant get food and such? and when he is away why doesn't the construction company just knock it down?

      I'm pretty sure they set up a number of Home Alone style cardboard cut-outs who's silhouettes create the illusion of a dinner party taking place.

      because its illegal and immoral?

      how would you like it if you returned home and your house was knocked down?

        They'd be classed as squatters no? Assuming the house and land have been purchased by the construction company, then they'd be living there against the owners will. when they leave for shopping, knock it down.

          I know what you mean, though by the sounds of it China does not have squatters law to adhere to. More than likely historically the Chinese government would just kick them out but being watched by the media as the article says they don't want to 'look' heartless.

          More surprising is that I would think these houses would impact construction and time delays and all those things that cost money. Could they not just buy them out for a reasonable price. Or if they're building apartments there just give them one with a "rent-control" attached to it?

            they dont do this because it sets a precedence
            and speaking from experience, it will open the floodgates and nobody will sell until "the price is right" making it uneconomical

            That being said, the construction companies make billions from each redevelopment, mostly footed by the govt, so they are at fault for being tightarses

            One of my distant relos got kicked out of her 100 year home, got paid a measly $10k and forced to relocate to an expensive area she couldnt afford

            so you see where these "squatters" are coming from

          the construction company hasnt purchased their tiny block of land

          thats the whole point

          so they are not squatters

    Interesting piece, but what has it got to do with gaming?

      Nothing, which is a good thing.

      A little variety never hurt anyone so why the baseless complaint?

        Kotaku Australia | the Gamer's Guide | Computer and video game news and reviews

        There's a million fluff websites I can go to and read this kind of thing, I come here for a more singualr purpose

          They play games in their houses to pass the time.

          Besides, this is a Kotaku US article, while the AU site may list themselves as "news" the US site is, realistically, a video game related blog, not a news site.

          That said not everything will fit into video games, e.g. Culture Smash, almost anything by Ashcroft and Jou. If you are coming here purely for video game related news, you are visiting the wrong site.

        So you THINK something differently, something that is not quantified or officially stated anywhere and you ask the other person; "why the baseless complaint?" As if they are obviously wrong. Now if you were the sort of person who we could call "aware" or perhaps "well-researched", then perhaps you have an argument. Unfortunately, what actually happened was someone brought up an issue where a story seemed at odds with Kotaku's mission statement (written on the site) - so a valid question - and you responded to this observation with nothing of worth. Nothing.

        Just letting you know because it's not the first time.

          Now if you were the sort of person who we could call "aware" or perhaps "well-researched", then perhaps you have an argument.

          I used to be an academic and lecturer. So yes, I am well read as the ol' phrase goes.

          Unfortunately, what actually happened was someone brought up an issue where a story seemed at odds with Kotaku's mission statement (written on the site) - so a valid question - and you responded to this observation with nothing of worth. Nothing.

          Transference: it does not work on me. The man/woman in the mirror wishes to have a word with you.

          Furthermore, as I said earlier, it does not hurt to have some variety. If articles such as this were all Kotaku offered then the mission statement would be violated.

          So no, the mission statement is being held with a more than acceptable margin of error.

          Just letting you know because it's not the first time.

          So you're my watch dog then? Don't you have a life of your own or do you make it your mission to come to a conclusion first and then attempt to attach it to any random poster?

          Sorry to bust you bubble, Login, you are the classic example of a troll. I will take your bait this one time but this is it.

          Besides the odd, rare post, I take the time to check my facts and formulate a well researched opinion. And if I am wrong (it happens) I humbly retract the claim and apologise.

          But not in this case: my reasoning is sound. Good day.

          Last edited 23/07/13 4:13 pm

      Maybe this is a new DLC for SimCity?

      Terrible joke I know :|

    "People aren't “kicked out”, but rather, a compromise is forced on them."

    Not always.. back 2008, just prior to the Beijing Olympics, there were a lot of "forced evictions" by the government and this practice is certainly not uncommon when enough money changes hands.

    I've seen these "nail houses" first-hand in Xi'an.. looks very weird..

    Swinburne University's Hawthorn campus had one until a few years ago. Now there is an empty gravelled lot where the house once stood.

    Kind of the same as the movie "Batteries not Included".

      I must've broken the VHS tape on that movie as a kid.
      An old guild I was in did a movie 'scene-it', where you take a screencap from a movie, then everyone else tries to guess which movie it was from. Someone posted an unremarkable street-level establishing shot of that building, and I - and a few others - knew it instantly.

      If a building from a movie can inspire that kind of fond recognition, it's no wonder people who've lived there for decades might feel strongly about letting go.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now