Word of the Day – Nail House


A nail house (dingzihu or 钉子户) is a Chinese neologism for homes belonging to people (sometimes called “stubborn nails”) who refuse to make room for development, often in an attempt to negotiate a high price in exchange for selling out. The term, a pun coined by developers, refers to nails that are stuck in wood, and cannot be pounded down with a hammer.[1][2] A number of high-profile nail houses have received widespread attention in the Chinese press.

In one famous case, one family among 280 others at the location of a six-story shopping mall under construction at the location of a former “snack street” in Chongqing refused for two years to vacate a home their family had inhabited for three generations.[6] Developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home. [1][8] The owners broke into the construction site, reoccupied it, and flew a Chinese flag on top. Yang Wu, a local martial arts champion, made a staircase to their house out of nunchakus, and threatened to beat any authorities who attempted to evict him.[1] His wife, a restaurateur named Wu Ping who had planned to open a restaurant in the home’s ground floor, granted interviews and frequent press releases to generate publicity.[2] The owners turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007.[6]

Did you catch that? Yang Wu, a local martial arts champion, made a staircase to their house out of nunchakus. That’s it. My next house is going to have a staircase made out of nunchakus.

Knoxville has a number of nail houses. I can think of three past and present in the Fort Sanders/UT area. There used to be a little house on a tiny wooded lot next to the First Tennessee bank on the Strip. It succumbed to a Chili’s restaurant a while back.

There’s the little cottage and the brick house surrounded by Fort Sanders Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and their attendant parking lots. A half dozen blocks away there’s this brick house, which used to be one of many, but all of its neighbors were knocked down and replaced by new apartment buildings.

There’s a payday loan place on Alcoa Highway across from the airport surrounded by new hotels and empty lots ready for construction. I’m guessing the owner is holding out for a jackpot.

Hat tip to Jason Kottke, who has links to some famous nail houses.

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2 Responses to Word of the Day – Nail House

  1. Placebo says:

    The Seattle Times just wrote another article about this “Nail House” in Seattle.


  2. CWBIII says:

    He’s one in Fountain City on Midlake. Surrounded by a St. Mary’s medical office. As I recall the owners had a contract to sell to the developer, but tried to balk on the contract for a higher price. The developer said “No thanks” and built around them.