Crazy intercontinental Chinese doors

I’m not sure if other people find this interesting but…these doors are everywhere in Beijing:

They’re just normal doors. But the stainless steel makes them look exaggeratedly tough. And they usually feature elaborate patterns and rounded edges, with flowers engraved upon the stainless steel surface (as above). This combination of security overkill and design intricacy gives an almost Gothic impression– like a Dickensian door knocker.

Somehow the mix of rigid and flamboyant smacks of “the new China” to me…and yet they’re all over the place down here in Bay Ridge too!

The length of Eighth Avenue that stretches south from Sunset Park is known as Brooklyn’s Chinatown, home to a very large population of Chinese immigrants who hail mostly from Fujian province in south east China.

So I’m going to speculate here: Not only did the design for these doors make it from China as such, but it must have gone from northern China (Beijing) down to Fujian, or vice versa, before even crossing the Pacific. That’s kind of crazy in itself.

Let’s suppose that the doors are imported, or at least that the steel needed to put them together is imported. Raw materials are relatively cheap in China so it’s not an unreasonable assumption. There must be a *very* elaborate set of logistics in place to get these thousands of Chinese doors into Brooklyn. Think of the livelihoods that depend on this set of arrangements. Exceedingly complex human and technical relations come together *every day* just to maintain a simple, crucial equation: Metal and labor and ocean passage goes into ===> a silly looking door <=== and profit emerges out of it.

It’s nuts when you think about it…



2 Responses to “Crazy intercontinental Chinese doors”

  1. David Says:

    When I stopped by your “office” and we went to eat dumplings, I noted on our route a store that built such doors. I’m not sure how cost effective it would be to import the steel from China, on this coast; and I don’t know if, strictly speaking, steel can be considered a raw material. Plus, I’m sure steel can be found cheaply in this country, seeing as Pittsburgh is the only “Steel Town” that hasn’t completely collapsed in the past 40 years. I think it’s more likely some guy picked up on the trend, found some cut-rate material, and is making an absolute killing off people who will pay anything for a false slice of home. See: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, the passages where he details the swindling of nostalgic Eastern European immigrants, such as the production of sawdust-loaded sausage.

  2. tripinchina Says:

    Good point about the steel…I defiitely don’t know where it comes from. In fact I can’t claim any special knowledge about these doors other than that they are funny looking and a particularly goofy example of a supposedly central aspect of “globalization” — i.e the sharing of design concepts and business models beyond state boarders.

    The swindle theory might be punctured by the fact that I’ve seen lots of non-Chinese Americans fit their homes with said doors. The last time I visited the local Ïrish pub in Bay Ridge, for example, I noticed that a shiny Chinese door. After I struggled to open it, the bar tender yelled out “how d’ya like my new Chinese door??” I imagined a scenario: two drunks puncture the previous door in inebriated fury, bar owner does a cost benefit analysis, Chinese doors win out. Chinese doors are definitely not limited to the Chinese American community.

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