Amazing! Unable to afford rent, Beijing vagabond builds and lives in an “egg” home

December 1, 2010Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , ,

Beijing vagabond, a literal translation for the Chinese word beipiao, refers to the group of people who do not have a Beijing hukou (permanent residence), who migrated to Beijing from other places of China seeking opportunities and better life. Beipiao is also a life style of being a drifter in Beijing.

Dai Haifei, 24, has just graduated from college and now works an employee at an architectural design company in Beijing, built himself this egg-shaped hut using materials that costs only 6400 Chinese yuan (less than US$1000).

The “Egg house” is about two meters high, three meters long and two meters wide (Height: 6.5 feet; Length: 10 feet; Width: 6.5 feet). The hut was woven with bamboo and pegged with nails. Outside bamboo, there are mats, insulation film and waterproof film. The outermost is the insulation layer made up of sacks stuffed with sawdust and grass seed, “In the spring, grass can grow from within.”

The solar panel on top of the cabin

The egg-shaped cabin is not well-furnished. One bed about one meter wide (twin-size), a few books on the bed side. A water tank is hidden at the end of the bed. The pressure system can pump up water for washing. ”One tank can be used for about three days. After the water runs out, I fill the tank with water from my company,” Dai Haifei said. As the “shell” is just about a hand’s span thick, the inside is not much warmer than the outside. On top of the hut is a solar panel. The storage cell of the panel provides electric power at night. When the door is closed, the thermometer reads 4 ℃ (40 F).

Dai Haifei’s hometown is in a village in Hunan Province. His father is a construction worker; his mother worked as a cleaner at an company. Dai Haifei went to Hunan university, and found an internship opportunity at a Beijing-based architectural design company on the Internet. He stayed there after graduation. He said  his parents are getting old, but are still on the run, hoping to save money for his marriage. “They do not know that based on their wages, buying an apartment in Beijing needs their working for two or three hundred years.”
“Even renting an apartment in Beijing is so costly that I can not accept,” Dai said. Early this year, a design project on display at his company’s “Biennial exhibition” featured mobile egg-shaped cabin. “I want to build my house on my own. This design suits my expectation well.” Daihai Fei said he decided to use the company’s design concept and build a house for himself.
Subsequently, Dai Haifei borrowed more than 6,400 yuan from his cousin as the expenditure of materials. With the help of several alumni, after a couple of busy months, he finished the egg-shaped cabin. He spent another 3,000 yuan transporting the house from his hometown to the compound in which his company is located. During the day, he works and studies at the company. At night, he goes downstairs into the cabin to for sleep and gets up at 8 a.m. After the winter comes, it is increasingly cold inside the cabin, the temperature being only about 3,4 ℃ at night. ”I have a rechargeable battery.  I charge it once each month at the company. I use an electric blanket on cold nights.”

“Even without paying rent, I still don’t have much money left at the end of the monthly payroll cycle. But now my living standard has been clearly elevated,” said Dai Haifei. He has been living in the cabin for almost two months. Not burdened with rent, he manages to go to cafe and enjoy life of a petty bourgeois every now and then.

Asked about why he is willing to suffer the notoriously cold winter weather, Dai said, “I don’t think that much. In fact, I don’t feel I am suffering. Winter in Hunan is more intolerable than in Beijing. There it is cold and damp. So I am doing okay. I only sleep here. My comforter is very thick. I even woke up from heat last night. My parents know about my life. I gave them a call about where I live. They also feel happy I can save money on rent.

“My parents think I should own a house, find a girlfriend and marry her. But they don’t know it is so hard to achieve in Beijing. I rented an apartment before. It was a big apartment separated into multiple small rooms. A 12-square-meter room (130 square feet) charges 800 to 900 yuan (US$130 – 145). Earlier this year, I had to go back to Hunan to finish my final project before graduation, so I wished to terminate the lease. The real estate agent found many excuses to withhold the deposit. So I am free. I don’t want to worry about these things too much.”

Selected comments from Chinese netizens


People in foreign countries can afford a car or a house after working for ten years. Can we do that after working for an entire life?


Bro, make more and sell them to Chinese rich men as toys for kids, or sell them to people in the West who are fond of traveling. It is so much cheaper than an RV.


Watch out for upcoming chengguan!


Big as the world is, we don’t have a house of our own. It is too hard to buy a house.


You won’t set a housing reform in motion, will you?


When can I have a house of my own? How can the working class possibly afford to buy a house? My country! Alas, my country! ……

Original article here

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3 comments to “Amazing! Unable to afford rent, Beijing vagabond builds and lives in an “egg” home”

  1. Khartoum | December 7, 2010 | Permalink Reply

    For many post-1980 young people I met in Khartoum, they flew thousands of miles away from China here in Khartoum just wish one day they can make enough money to buy one apartment in Beijing

  2. Yaxin | April 27, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Nice story. The need in Chinese culture to buy a house before marriage sounds like a burdern; I'm glad that Britain does not have a similar need before getting married

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