A Fake Mountain On Top Of A Chinese Skyscaper–Why Not?

In China, temporary modifications to the built environment are common. But Zhang Biqing, a doctor and acupuncture clinic owner, took his need for some extra green space to the extreme.


The city of Shanghai will soon open the world’s second largest building, full of public green spaces and vertical gardens. But what about green spaces for residential buildings elsewhere in China? One man in Beijing has taken the job of greening his high-rise apartment building into his own hands.


Zhang Biqing, a doctor and acupuncture clinic owner, spent the past six years building his own rooftop villa–complete with an artificial mountain–atop his 26-story apartment building in a tony residential area of Beijing. Now the South China Morning Post says that the government is forcing Zhang to take it down:

Disturbed by constant noise from heavy construction machinery working on the roof, water leaks and worried about structural damage to the whole building, neighbours have complained repeatedly to the building management company, local urban management officials and even the police. The new ultimatum, published Monday evening on many local news sites, urges the owner to dismantle the structure himself within 15 days. Failure to comply would result in forcible demolition, it says.

It seems that Zhang has managed to avoid complaints by neighbors in the past using influence with the government, or even by intimidation. The Post reports:

Some neighbours who had complained over the years suffered harrassment and threats from the owner, Zhang Biqing, local newspapers have reported. One 77-year-old man was beaten up several times by Zhang and eventually forced to move, it was reported. Police didn’t seem to have intervened.

He told another Chinese paper that “Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”

That he was able to get away with the illegal structure for so long to begin with is a testament to the corruption within China and what many critics decry as the undue influence of the country’s rich and powerful. But the architecture is also an exotic example of the kind of temporary modifications people make to the built environment in China–like this five-story house that stood in the middle of the road for a year– that usually meet their end through demolition, not preservation.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere. Visit his personal website here.