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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils of China: There goes the neighbourhood    

By Garreth Humphris
2910 Views | 9 Comments | 6/18/2013 7:17:55 PM

My little city is becoming famous for it's building known affectionately as “The Big Pants”. Recently featured on a BBC news program about the excesses of unabated China’s Construction miracle - it's real name is the Orient Gateway but from any direction it is like a big pair of legs and a lower torso - like a giant robot part left over from an epic Atom Boy battle!

If you have read my blogs before, it is actually located on top of the 'last orchid pond' in a past post and the new subway passes directly underneath it, beside the Golden Chicken Lake!

It is hard to work out the actual height, but it towers above all else in the area and I am waiting for a sunny, pollution-free day to see how far the shadow it casts will go!

I’m not sure whether I like it! On one hand it is a pretty cool building - designed to fly airplanes between it’s knees - but on the other it dwarfs the people below it - and appears a ’little out of character' from the city’s genteel garden oasis image. But whether I like it or not is probably of little consequence to the owners, designers, builders or backers! And no doubt the shoppers who will inhabit it’s underbelly in the glass glitz of the proposed shopping development complex.

I have a little '6 degrees of Separation’ relationship with it in that the father of one of my former employees was on the pile-driving team that started the foundations and initial diggings in the mud!

I stopped by one day to see if I could spot him! Couldn't see him there at the time but met him later at Starbucks... he is a bamboo farmer from a nearby mountain - he has wild tea plants and a huge forest of bamboo that he harvests each year, slits and weaves into bamboo matting. He moonlights the rest of the year as a pile-driver with a local company. In Starbucks, he stared into his milky drink, marvelling they could get ice so small... and that they would put it in a drink... he told me that the cost of this one drink could keep him in vegetables for a week! He lamented his daughter grew up so fast... and was surprised she had foreign friends and that we were so nice. He told me as a boy he had always thought foreigners ate children! He had a textbook drawing to prove it! I wasn't sure if he was joking or not! Interestingly, he was only a few years older than me... but such a divide existed.

And this thought got me into other things - about how long I had been in China and what impact that may have had in my own little way.

In fact, my first office was demolished last week to make way for a new building - standing for about 10 years, a group of excavators demolished it in about 2 days - I walked out in the morning to see the innards of the building exposed - in particular the wall that once had my company plaque proudly hanging on it! It is strange, I had moved office from that location for a few years but I had a strange pain in my chest in that I’d somehow been in China long enough to see a building ’generational change'! When i first came to China it was in construction - i had witnessed the birth and death of a building! In Australia, this is very unlikely in a lifetime - but in China there seems to be constant re-invention.

I reflected back on my time in the city, and I took a bit of a bus-ride along some of the old routes I used to take. In the old days, the buses would end up at stops in the countryside - a little village area with a few shops, a bank and some low-lying houses surrounded by closely-tended gardens growing cabbages and onions.

But these are now mid-point whistle-stops on the expanded bus network and the houses and market-gardens are somewhere under the “Europe Garden” complexes and multi-storey office glass facades. Every now and then you see a defiant old house with an equally defiant old resident - their local neighbourhood gone and the new buildings surrounding them - ready to engulf their tiny, flimsy home the moment they leave it!

Certainly, you can understand that people want modernity and the convenience of running water and plumbing in their homes, heating and cooling, soft furnishings and modern style - but each time I see these little relics of just a few years past, I feel a pang of remorse for the old-people, pushed so relentlessly in so many different directions by the rapidly changing recent history of their country...born fighting and probably die fighting!

To my way of thinking, progress is good - but maybe not at the expense of the total well-being of the people... but maybe 1.4 billion Chinese will disagree with me there!

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(Showing 1 to 9 of 9) 1
#2013-06-18 21:46:17 by prana @prana

我不喜欢中国的建筑,它的设计没有考虑中国人的使用习惯。
更糟糕的是,下水道排泄、空气流通的设计也没有处理好。
城市的雕塑也没有各自的个性。
不止开发商赚钱,政府也要赚钱。
在中国城市里,空气、水源污染很严重。
我渴望远离这些大都市!

#2013-06-19 11:28:10 by anonymous6616 @anonymous6616


我国近几年来最具有代表性的几大建筑物有:鸟蛋、鸟巢、央视大裤叉,最振奋人的建筑莫过于‘人民日报大楼’它受到了老外全民的调侃,(因为该楼的外观极像男人勃起的生殖器),于是它被过国外的玩具商给制做成了充气模型,,,哈哈,,真怀疑这楼的设计者是不是有宠拜阳具的情结?聪明的网民们把这些建筑连在一起,是这个样子:大裤叉之间坠着一个硕大的吊,在吊的下面接着它的是一大而深的黑窿窿,既 鸟巢。也可能这些很有才的设计者是想让人们知道‘中国正在’崛起‘吧?哈哈,,,

#2013-06-19 12:20:37 by Apinkapple @Apinkapple

The essence of Chinese cultures was in ancient civilizations.

In the 100 years of modern society, especially in the past 60 years, too many things were damaged in China. Confucian culture was destroyed and Chinese people's spiritual beliefs are deprived off.Chinese culture has been broken up and we became a lost generation.

In recent 30 years, the economy has developed rapidly,but civilians did not get the benefits of economic development. The poor are becoming poorer, but the rich are becoming richer. The government and businessmen league together to squeeze out the ordinary people's hard-earned money by selling real estate. In fact, we buy an apartment using one or two million RMB or more, in which we can only live for 50 years to 70 years.We never have a private real estate in China.

There are too many social problems in China. Contemporary Chinese people are really living in abyss of suffering.It's said that we live in the darkest era.

Without spiritual beliefs, there are no bottom line.
Where is the way out ?


#2013-06-19 13:45:57 by aussieghump @aussieghump

If there is a real need, and the occupancy can be guaranteed and the people who pay for it get good value from it...then there should not be any reason to build 'nice', attractive or inspirational buildings!

But if buildings are just shells, or monuments to the legacy of a few people who thought they were important then maybe they should not be built! Especially if it is public money and the public gets little value from building and maintaining them!

I am amazed when I travel around the city where I live with the number of new buildings going up and the occupancy of the existing ones not being very high! The 'build it and they will come' mentality is creating urban sprawl in China that is disrupting the fabric of society in the country...the issue is when do the disruptions become holes or tears!

Other countries are learning the true price of over-development - in the form of urban sprawl, unemployment, pollution and social ills. Hopefully China too will see these types of issues before they unfold!

#2013-06-19 15:44:55 by 345 @345

对,说很很对,中国没把中国人看在眼里,

#2013-06-20 10:36:36 by anonymous6624 @anonymous6624

I prefer that buildings over run down apartments buildings

#2013-06-20 14:06:47 by anonymous6625 @anonymous6625

@anonymous6616
哈哈,原来鸟巢就是飞机杯啊。。。。。

#2013-06-23 22:23:37 by sandy339 @sandy339

That is typical feeling of average people in modernlization.
Sometimes I am nostalgic too, but somehow it is inevitable,
what we should do is keep up the speed of developement and study for lifelong time, and try to relax under pressure?This is one way out?

I am really amazed by some Asian countries, esp whose countries with strong belief of religion, people there are so calm and peaceful, their life seems unaware of passage of time, what kind life would be in this way?
I hope I could back there from time to time to experience the stillness and peace of life and time...

#2013-07-01 04:54:22 by cotswoldrambler @cotswoldrambler

Lots of cities have famous buildings - but for very different reasons.

Your comments about seeing buildings you saw being built being demolished struck a chord with me. We see that too in the UK - but not really that often. When I was in China a few years back I was shocked that a country with such a big historic culture and sense of history showed such a short history in its buildings.

In the UK we have many 12th century churches still in daily use. Eton college which played host to the 2012 Olympic rowing still teaches in 400 year old classrooms (as well as some very modern ones). Windsor Castle is a few miles form here and is reputed to be the first UK building to have running water.

Some of the the buildings that house our government, widely known as the mother of all parliaments, are many centuries old but the "Big Ben" tower which is widely used to symbolise our country is only 150 years old. In terms of internationally recognised buildings I guess that is old - but it is nothing compared to the history of Chinese culture.

Having worked on historic buildings over here (I once supplied some very big oak gates for Windsor Castle) it is very noticeable just how much harm modern building techniques have done to historic buildings. Oak and cement really do not like each other - all of a sudden oak framed buildings that have lasted several hundred years being repaired with cement instead of lime products find their frames rotting like never before. Yet many countries simply do not have these ancient buildings.

We will soon realise modern building materials are not sustainable and we will return to historic materials as the buildings created with them will last longer than these modern glass, steel and concrete creations that are deemed unusable after a few decades. Many high rise buildings we though of as cutting edge only a few years back are now being taken down.

We talk of the "developed world" and of "3rd world countries" but the interesting thing is that the distance between the 2 has reduced to nothing. Many parts of China still do not have "land line telephones" we have had for decades - but they don't need them as they all use mobile phones. Development is leapfrogging over what some thought as essential but are now finding irrelevant.

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