To me, there are eight features of an ideal place to live.
First, the rooms have to be small. One bedroom would do, two bedroom tops, the extra bedroom can be used as the guest room, or in case I argue with my life partner so bad that we have to separate rooms. Every bedroom should be less than 10 square meters, the great emperor Qian Long lived in bedroom no more than 10 square meters(although he has hundreds of them), and ordinary people have less of the emperor’s qi to cover larger bedrooms. A kitchen with air-fryer and dishwashers. Nowadays, people are getting to lazy to cook or do the dishes, so these machines became household necessity. A living/dining room with a table and six to ten chairs would suffice the purpose of dining and teatime. Unrealistic as it sounds, I would like a real fireplace in the living room, it calms me to watch fire when it gets cold. A study for reading, writing, and working. I remember there was a leather armchair at my grandparent’s study, I used to lie there reading after lunch, and the books helped me sleep and the setting sun woke me, and all the things I read before nap can be better remembered. If I do the math, I hundred square meters would do. The extra parts of a larger house isn’t really necessary but adds troubles for decorating, cleaning, tidying, and maintaining.
Second, yard and garage have to be large enough. I’d like to grow a fruit tree or a flower tree, or both, or a tree grows both flowers and fruits. The fruits home-grown might not be as pretty or sweet as those sold in fruit stores, but the sour tastes and ugly shapes can’t take away the sense of accomplishment. During the flower season, I can put a set of park table and chairs, so I can watch the flower bloom and fall in the wind, with a little white wine.
Third, good weather. Not too dry like Beijing, or too wet like Wuhan. Ideally, winter isn’t so long, summer mornings and nights aren’t too hot.
Fourth, university nearby. A decent university within walking distance adds a lot to my life. Where there’s university, there’re libraries, there’re books and magazines I can never finish. Where there’s university, there’s cheap and delicious food in restaurant that stays open 24*365. Where there’s university, there’re professor and classes: if I manage to get a class calendar, I can sit together with college students and remember my college years while keep learning. Where there’s university, there’s young people: when the flowers at my yard fall, I can still see the flower of youth around.
Fifth, convenient facilities nearby: some old decent restaurants with fresh foods and reliable cooks, a nice cafe with someone who knows his business, a sport bar where I can watch the world cup and NBA without bothering my family, independent book stores where I can visit from time to time to add new blood to my book shelf, a hospital with caring and sympathetic doctors and nurses, that puts money into curing patients instead of fancy buildings.
Sixth, international airport within driving distance.
Seventh, the city must have a history of at least 3–5 hundred of years. Museums and old places I can visit from time to time prevent me from feeling detached from our ancestors.
Eighth, friends nearby, the more, the better. With a group of friends scattered within 5 blocks, when the dinner’s ready, I can make a few phone calls to gather a few friends, who have different occupations, similar hobbies; different experience, same values; different tastes of food, similar tastes of people; different family backgrounds, similar life pursuits. One of the easiest way to make a house ideal is to convince friends to buy houses nearby. From this perspective, the eighth might be the most important.
Of course, before all these features, there are more fundamental requirement: the air is clean, the water is clear, the food is fresh, the streets are safe to walk around anytime of the day, the polices are not busy, the people are friendly. Sometimes, basic as these requirements sound, they are very hard to achieve in modern society, even if we have reached this level of civilization thousands of years ago.
P.S. If I were to write this piece in a Chinese forum, I would have stopped here, but continuing the discussion from WP4 a bit, what is this piece about? Why would anyone be interested in my housing preference? What is the message here? Actually, there’s some hidden messages throughout the article: house is commonly used as a metaphor for one’s root, by discussing “house”, I am actually expressing my priorities in life and some fundamental understanding of the world. Like the idea of “room should not be small” and “having less is more”, the importance attached to reading and my values towards friends, and the Chinese philosophy of “enrich oneself, then manage family, then run the country, and then pacify the world”. However, instead of simply writing and discussing these points, Chinese writers prefer to let these ideas float along the lines and slowly sink into reader’s mind gradually, like a “spring rains that nourish the land without a sound”.