Word of the Day – Nail House
July 8, 2009 2 Comments
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. 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. Developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home.  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. 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. The owners turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007.
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.