In American suburbia, like the one I grew up in, new housing developments fell into two categories: those named after the streams and hills which they drained/bulldozed to develop, and those named using esoteric Celt words that sound mysterious and intoxicatingly inviting.

The apartment buildings Chinese developers are popping up makes good ol’ Plum Run and Turnbrae seem low class—what Chinese city doesn’t have a Cité International or Imperial Garden By The River? I’m pretty sure Shanghai had a governmental order a few years ago (I couldn’t find the article) to stop using foreign place names in their new buildings, since it so painfully wronged respectful, Shanghai-unrelated places like Santa Fe and Venice.

I know, this comes as news to no one, since I’m not the first person in the blogsphere to mention this romanticizing phenomenon, and I’m actually quite late in doing it, but I just had to bring attention to the apartment building which—I believe—is the first to be brutally honest about itself.

It is called Muma, or in English, “Trojan Horse”.

muma.jpgMuma’s advertisements cover bus stops and billboards across Nanjing’s downtown. The ads feature models in gauzy, filmy wispy dresses and strappy high heels standing next to horses (the strappy heels are “Grecian”, get it?). These ads convey the boutique lifestyle that Muma is selling.

Now, after being flabbergasted by the sheer capital invested into so many advertisements, I had Muma on my mind and got to thinking about the name…why Muma? In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized Muma is a great name for all the apartment buyers out there fed up with unrealistic, misleading apartment names.

Think about what a Trojan Horse is: a huge structure used to bedazzle townsmen so that they throw open their gates unarmed, resulting in being plundered and overtaken. So…follow my logic…the Trojan Horse apartment building is actually intimating to potential buyers that all of the horses and heels and lovely ladies are all just a trick, a plot to get their money! In a market where image is everything, isn’t that the perfect admission?

In order to check if Muma actually had a good reason for its name before writing what would be complete slander, yesterday I visited the construction site and the sales office thereon. Unable to get a comprehensible answer from Saleswoman Yi, I was happy to score a nice brochure-cum-lifestyle magazine instead. It gave no explanation either, but did detail apartment designs.

If the ads represent the intrigue of the horse, then the apartments represent its reality as a tool of deception. Muma, my friends, is typical of a serviced apartment: 37 or 52 sq.m., “essentially furnished”, with windows facing north and having your living room television backing the dining room table. Basically, a cramped apartment for 1-2 persons max. Horse and girl not included.

Cost of a Muma apartment, per sq. m.: RMB 17,900

Entertainment value of being named “Trojan Horse Apartments”: priceless.

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About Lauren

Lauren Buckalew has happily lived in Nanjing and Shanghai since 2002 because her parents never received the e-mail in which she articulated why she was not going back (and thus never had the chance to protest). She is from West Chester, Pennsylvania which is--no, not near LA. No, not San Fransisco either. Yes, near the 76ers! This is her first time writing for a blog, so please be forgiving.

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  1. That’s what I’ve never quite understood about Chinese apartments, they’re built like closets and even the painfully expensive places feel cramped.

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