Beijing should have been a closed casket
Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
272Trip End Ongoing
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ive found that no matter what city you go to in china there are at least a couple of million residents. these are cities that you have never even heard of but there are 5 million people living there. the population of this country is amazing and when you look at the rural conditions i would have to say its one of the poorer nations ive been to....maybe only second to india. oh sure we all watch tv and the news and hear about the chinese behemouth that is going to take over the world and how every one is so prosperous.....here's a stat for you....its estimated that 100 million people are still living in caves here (defined by at least 2 walls of your home being comprised of the earth). the picture that we all see on tv is very sanitized but its hard to sanitize a 28 hour train journey through the poorest parts of your country.
i left datong in one day since it was like all other chinese cities....very large and COMPLETELY lacking in any sense of character or uniquness (sp!). the idea of a chinese city is for very broad streets lined but what they consider modern buildings. there is no doubt that the chinese are going ape shit building entire cities out of nothing. everywhere you look in beijing you see the forest of construction cranes but the problem i feel is that under the communist rule, most forms of creativity and free thought have been trampled underfoot and frowned upon with the threat of prison if the frown doesnt work. the architecture of the new city emerging all over china is that of saltine boxes stood on end....if you are lucky there may be some sort of spire on top of your particular saltine box. to add insult to injury, when the chinese decide upon a floor plan they dont build just one....if they start building they are gonna produce AT LEAST 2 or 3 of these horrific buildings side by side. ive seen 9 or 10 side by side and the sheer numbers dont help matters.
i have just finished reading "the world according to garp" which was very interesting to say the least but the part that stuck with me was when the character was in vienna right after the russians left and he described the city as a dead body which let him stop and look and examine and peer until he had had his fill and felt he had really absorbed the city. in his words, you couldnt do that with a modern city because the body is always moving and changing but he was afforded a rare oppurtunity with the dead corpse of vienna. I feel the same way about beijing in a sense but not in such a positive manner. its not just a dead body that lets you stare unflinchingly at its exposed form but instead it has been gutted and sanitized and then gutted again. left naked and prostrate for the benefit of those who cant turn away. beijing is an old and decrepit body that was involved in a serious car accident and the mortician had no fucking idea how to put it together again. beijing should have been a closed casket. I almost choked on my latte grande in starbucks today (i had to do it man....feeling all cosmopolitan and crap)while reading the paper. whenever you are enjoying the news in china you have to expect a bit of censorship or communist spin. as an example, i watched a very compelling documentery the other day about how the chinese army liberated tibet, but i digress. in the paper today there was an article about the refurbishing of the forbidden city and they were interviewing the man in charge and he made a statement something like "working in beijing is amazing because i look out across the skyline and see the perfection that our ancestors laid forth 500 years ago to create the most beautiful city in the world." ok im all for propoganda and making yourself feel better but beijing ranks behind arlington heights in the beauty factor (and good old A.H. isnt all that high on my list either).
in comparison, hong kong is just exploding with life and vitality. to use the body metaphor one last time, its as if the city is in a midst of an orgasm 24 hours a day. the streets are filled with people into the early hours of the morning, the skyline is massive and modern with art scattered throughout the many parks. its amazing to think that these are pretty much the same people as the mainland chinese and if not for the "great leap forward" maybe mainland china could be half as vibrant and alive as hong kong. there is more yet to tell but im tired of typing. i will finish up in a day or two. just to give you an idea of what its like in china let me just say......i actually stopped and had to consider whether or not to use the "headline" about beijing. its definitely time to go