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April 13, 2012

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Home » Metro » Environment

Old house in tree must give way to new area

AMID the rubble, the retired solider takes a glance at his "little paradise" - a two-story house he built in a huge camphor tree but which now awaits demolition as an illegal building.

Climbing on the rusty iron staircase soaring straight up into the tree, visitors may be shocked to see the shady house covered by thick leaves 3 meters above the ground, alone in the ruins of a village razed years ago in a suburban section of the Pudong New Area.

Though the house has a size of only 14 square meters, it used to be equipped with beds, a television, bathroom, balcony and even a mahjong table.

Pipes and wires stretched through the windows to supply water and electricity for daily use.

A tiny stone bridge was there to link the house to the village over a small pond in the old days, but now the broken bridge crosses only a pile of rubble and garbage.

"In the old days, I would bring three villagers to climb on the second floor to play mahjong all night long, smokers could take a cigarette at the balcony overlooking the village," said 66-year-old Huang Chonggao, owner of the treehouse.

"Years after I finished the house in 2006, the camphor tree is still flourishing to wrap it inside its leaves," Huang said. "It's like the tree has given birth to the house and is taking care of it. So I named it the Pregnancy Pavilion."

The ex-soldier told Shanghai Daily that both of his hands were injured by bullet shells and bombs, but the injury didn't stop him from carving wood to kill time.

Huang said a visit to India in 1993 gave him the idea of building an apartment in the camphor tree he planted in 1973. Skilled in handworks, he started to design his little paradise in 2004 just for fun.

"I planted the tree myself and no law says I can't build a house in my own tree, so I started the construction on my own and no one objected to it," Huang said.

The entire construction cost Huang two years, pruning the tree, setting up the platform, building the structure and casting concrete. He said he spent 8,000 yuan (US$1,268)for the materials.

"Many villagers took their friends, relatives to see my house. It was the most brilliant time for my work," he said.

But under the town's relocation plan, the treehouse is defined as an illegal building and it must be demolished soon. Huang and other villagers are pleading with government officials to save the building as a unique attraction for visitors.

An official surnamed Kang with the town committee said the treehouse must come down for the relocation project, but Huang will be compensated.


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