Monday, June 18, 2012

Abort the One-Child Policy?

A friend with whom I am not particularly well-acquainted asked me, today, a rather personal question, "Does being Catholic affect your view of the [one-child] policy? If so, how?" In case anybody else is curious, here is my considered answer. 

The local abortion hospital
Being Catholic affects my view of everything! The Church on Earth seems to think it has a special mission to focus on abortion and contraception, which I think is sexually deviant. The fullness and beauty and sanctity of life is preserved, consecrated, and respected in so many other equally important ways.

Over-population is one of the great pressures on the climate and natural resources that allow us to live healthy, happy lives. By any measure, China's confrontation of this great human predicament (i.e., climate change and environmental degradation) is a hundredfold more earnest than anything the United States' broken democratic system has been able to implement. This statement from the concluding remarks of a white paper, written in 1995, captures the Chinese government's intent behind the One-Child policy:
China is home to more than one-fifth of the world's population. It thoroughly understands the responsibility it bears in stabilizing world population growth and the essential role it should play. Family planning as an effective solution to China's population problems is more than just responsibility towards the well-being of the Chinese people and future generations; it is a duty owed to maintaining the stability of the world population. Working for the common interests of all of humanity, at the same time working for individual interests of each nation, the international community and each nation should work together to solve the population problems facing individual nations and the entire world. This will promote development and progress in every country and throughout human society.
Changchun's "family planning" hospital
I do not fault Vice-President Joe Biden (aka Gaffer-in-Chief) for his comments--"You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family. The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable." The bold part--er, not so bold part-- is often taken out of context and used by the right-wing media.

States--and the Church agrees--are sovereign and, therefore, China has a right to establish its own policies. I think pushing the Chinese government to abandon this ineffective and sometimes inhumane policy is only likely to make them dig in their heels and turn it into an issue of sovereignty and self-determination. One needs to understand ones opponent. To make stopping this draconian policy a principle goal of our foreign policy and central to the diplomatic discussions that the US has with China seems fool-hardy and not constructive. Although there is nothing more important, no more enduring value than the sanctity of life, we have other fish to fry in these consultations between our embassies.

On the other hand, I think presenting the Chinese leadership with well-reasoned and scientific data about the failures of One-Child is not likely to fall on deaf ears. One of the strengths of a state that is run by a clan of people who are actively atheistic is that they cannot rely on superstition or faith for the support of their decisions; they must rely on reason and logic.

Feng Wang of The Brookings Institute is only one thinker at one think-tank who has cogently made the case for relaxation of the policy.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine, now almost seven years old, further outlines the weaknesses of this policy. The most interesting statement of these authors was, "First, relaxation of the policy can be considered only if fertility aspirations are such that a baby boom will not result." This is a brilliant, clear conclusion. The trouble is that we have no way of accurately measuring what they say in the next sentence, "There is now good evidence that China is becoming a small-family culture." The survey of almost 40,000 people upon which this inconclusive statement relies are inevitably poisoned by the inability of Chinese citizens to tell their government what they themselves want instead of what they think their government wants to hear.

Actually, the question that fascinates me is how China will use more social engineering to extricate itself from the problem that it has created for itself. Central planning is the hallmark of the Chinese communist system. One has to believe--with faith--that there are analysts, engineers and bean-counters wrestling with the big questions of gender balance and old-age dependency. One must also hope against hope that they will continue to crackdown on family planning officials who coerce women to make tragic choices. Forced abortion is illegal in China, even if a couple is in violation of the family planning policy.

Selected Bibliography
Therese Hasketh, Li Lu, and Zhu Wei Xing. 2005. "The effects of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years", New England Journal of Medicine, 353, No. 11 (September 15): 1171–1176.

"China’s One Child Policy at 30". Brookings. 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2012-06-18.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New sheets and a new addiction to 圍棋

New Dragon and Phoenix flat sheet, duvet cover, and four pillowcases for 380RMB. Not bad!

I have started to play a lot of Capture Go! on-line at I was turned on to the site two weeks or so ago when I spoke with my college adviser and dear friend, Professor John Elder. He has been playing weichi for years. I forgot to ask him what his most recent rank is, but I think retirement has been generous to his game.

I am thoroughly amused by the accidental condescension of the KGS website that states:
Now you have learned enough about go to play a simpler version of [the Game of Go/WeiChi], called "capture go." In capture go the two players play until one of them has captured a stone. The first player to make a capture wins! In real go, you keep playing after a capture, but for now let's just play until a capture is made.

On the board below, you can play your computer at capture go. The computer doesn't play very well, so after a few tries you should be able to win. You can play as many times as you want; once you think you really have capturing down pretty well, move on to the next page of the tutorial.
I have not found it easy to win every time. I have definitely played my first 100 games by now, I would guess, but even if I get good at this tutorial, which shows you the last move and any place where you are in 打吃 (aka atari [Japanese] or check [English]), when I play in real life there will be no computer to mark the stones thus. 

The porch of the fancy tea place near my house in Changchun.

Can you say, "Dork!"

Lifting two white stones in defeat.
 These are not my own pictures, but were taken by a friend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Helen Caldicott, MD: China Nuclear Policy and Fukushima

Dr. Helen Caldicott
Dr. Helen Caldicott is one of the world's leading voices in opposition to the civilian and military use of nuclear material. The founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility (in 1985, PSR shared the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to IPPNW for building public awareness and pressure to end the nuclear arms race) and a mentor of mine, she gave a speech that prompted me to start Project Laundry List in 1995. She lives and gardens in Australia, but still travels extensively to speak to large audiences about the threat of nuclear power and weapons. She had the longest private meeting with Ronald Reagan during his time in office and reports that he frequently became anxious as she corrected him during the 75-minute conversation.

I sent her a list of questions and what is notable is the large number of times that she had to say, "I don't know." It is a reflection on the opacity of the Chinese government and the whole industry.

Since writing to Dr. Caldicott with these questions, there have been a couple major developments.

In today's New York Times, the International Energy Agency's executive director Maria van der Hoeven says, “Let’s be honest. If governments want to phase out nuclear power, they have to replace it with something else. If they’re going to replace it with renewables, that’s fine. If they are replacing it with coal, that’s not fine.”

China's top propaganda chief and a member of the 9-person Politburo, Li Changchun, has made a visit to the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation in an effort to force the media here to "to assist the spread of common knowledge on nuclear power to foster an amiable environment for its development."

Also, the Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday, "China National Nuclear Power Co. said it is planning a Shanghai initial public offering that will go toward financing part of five power projects worth 173.5 billion yuan ($27.2 billion), in a multibillion-dollar deal that signals that the country's ramp-up of nuclear power is moving forward."

It also appears that Japan is moving too quickly towards reactor re-starts at Fukushima in a 'feudal' manner. The Boston Globe and The Guardian, as well as numerous other international newspapers of some repute have run articles about the strident plea of Prime Minister Noda to maintain Japan's standard of living by restarting nuclear power plants.

Anyway, let's get to the interesting part. Here are my questions and Helen's answers:

Visitors walk past China's second nuclear missile on display
as they visit the Military Museum in Beijing
    Photo: GETTY
1. A. Where does the chain of command end in China?

Have no idea. Why don’t you find out?

B. Is Hu Jintao the only person who can order a nuclear strike? Is it technically possible in China (or any of the other nuclear powers) for somebody lower in the command chain to give the okay for a nuclear attack?

Don’t know any of this.

2. The Wikipedia article, People's Republic of China and weapons of mass destruction, offers a quite thorough assessment about what is known about China's nuclear arsenal. Is there anything you would like to add?

No, I know nothing more except at one point not too long ago they only had 20 missiles that could hit the US.
3. China is the only nuclear weapons state to give a security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon states, "China undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones at any time or under any circumstances." What efforts have been made to see the other four nuclear powers agree to something like this?

I don’t know, but they all reserve the right to use them and most are on hair trigger alert.

4. This article [Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris (November/December 2011 vol. 67 no. 6). "Chinese nuclear forces, 2011". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. pp. 81–87.] also declares that, "Today, China is the only one of five original nuclear weapon states that is increasing its nuclear arsenal." Do you find this alarming?

Yes I do, but they are all in the process of “modernizing” their nuclear weapons. Why, I don’t know.

5. "The US government has complained for years that China is too opaque regarding its military forces and budgets and that it needs to be more open. It was therefore surprising and paradoxical that in its 2011 report on China’s military—one of the most widely used public sources for following Chinese nuclear developments—the Pentagon decided not to provide a detailed breakdown of the Chinese missile arsenal, as it had done in previous volumes. The Pentagon’s omission inadvertently assists Chinese nuclear secrecy." [Ibid.] Why do you think the Pentagon failed to include this and do you think it aids China with secrecy?

I would think that they do not want people to know so they can kind of demonise and invent stuff re the Chinese
6.  Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, reportedly acknowledged to American officials in 2009 that there were “areas of China’s nuclear program that are not very transparent” and declared, “It is impossible for [China] to change its decades-old way of doing business to become transparent using the US model” (Dorling, 2011). Do you agree with General Ma?

I really don’t know enough to comment, Alex.

7. This article explains the current reality here pretty well, China Doubles Down on Nuclear Power. Mainland China has 14 nuclear power reactors in operation, more than 25 under construction, and more about to start construction soon. China is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle. Do you think that the Chinese leadership can be convinced to abandon these plans and embark on a safer course for their energy needs? Which leaders do you think are likely to guide the nation in a nuclear-free direction?

Don’t know any of the leaders, but I do know that China has developed deep reservations about nuclear power since Fukushima.

8. I arrived here a couple weeks before the tsunami in Japan and iodized salt was gone from the grocery stores in a matter of hours. What are the risks to Changchun, PRC, and the continuing world from the Fukishima Nuclear Reactors?

Well, if Building 4 collapses, god [sic] help everyone because the whole site will have to be evacuated, and it will be a radioactive catastrophe such that the world has never before see.

9. A. Will you be attending

God almighty, no.

B. Is there any conference or event planned that can serve as an answer to this delegate rich symposium?

I think not.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dining with the 1% & D-Day

Last night, I more than tithed myself to pay for dinner for two at Z-Space Steakhouse; it cost two to three times what I paid for Beijing duck in the original Beijing duck restaurant. The food was very good, but not extraordinary. The service was strange, punctuated by a couple of highly awkward moments, which I will describe below. I have often walked by this city's fancy restaurants--many are alongside or near the park, which abuts my neighborhood--and I have wondered who the clientele are.

Their fancy cars are parked neatly on the sidewalk--BMWs, Audis, and more VWs than you can count. The lousy Chinese drivers are generally directed by men, usually dressed in paramilitary uniforms, who bark their parking directions like drill sergeants. (My favorite is the place with the men in FBI vests and garb, who in other seasons or different weather are sometimes dressed in knock-off 101st Airborne uniforms replete with American flag arm patches and a scraggly version of the official insignia.) For the less-connected, perhaps less-educated sociopaths who could not join the vast police forces or actually join the PLA as a drill sergeant, I guess this a great job, but in their Napoleonic great coats come January, it does not seem so to me. At this place, the parking attendant was dressed more like a bell-hop or chauffeur, which struck me as more normal and classy. Maybe the Chinese elite like bumping up over the curb (kerb in British English) before eating some pricey hot-pot and feeling like they are storming the beaches of Normandy. Z-Space, if it does one thing really well, parks cars in a genteel manner.

Aside from a lanky ShiDaFuZhong student in her uniform, I saw nobody I could place so I guess you could say that I have no more idea about who these diners are now than I did yesterday afternoon before this impulsive extravaganza. I asked my dinner partner if they were government employees and she smiled, "Maybe relatives of government employees." "Maybe they work in the banks?" I pushed, but this topic was done.

Later, snuggled on our own banquette just far enough apart to keep others from feeling uncomfortable, we did wave, like baseball fans at a stadium, to the cameras on the ceiling in lieu of kissing one another. We did not discuss whether they were necessary, although I assume we were not being listened to. Being watched is just part of life here.

Our table was the one nearest the excellent pianist and violinist's stage. The only other couple that I could see clearly from this vantage point was lounged, er, positively slouched, in such a leisurely fashion on their plush banquette, looking at an IPad together and casually drinking their red wine (starting price per bottle about 350RMB) that I could only deduce they were regulars. During the dinner, the only other patron who we watched with joy was a little girl, who pulled herself up on to the stage after the musicians had left and peered into the innards of the grand piano with glee and fascination.

As I watched my dinner partner struggle with choosing the right fork and deciding how to hold it, I imagined my unsympathetic mother judging her over some future dinner and my defense: "But Mom, she grew up with chopsticks." Instead of the gigantic white napkin on her lap, she used the Kleenex on the table to dab at her lipstick and then left it crumpled on the table. A server noticed this and came back a minute later with some silver tongs, squirreling it away on a silver tray. How well-trained! "So un-ladylike!" grouses a voice in my head that sounds surprisingly like the woman who raised me (so well).
N.B. When you go to a mid-priced Chinese restaurant, you always have a little package of tissues that you can slip into your purse or pocket after the meal is over. If you are eating meat, especially any number of concoctions that include gristle, fowl heads and necks, or fish-bones, it is not impolite to pile them on the table in the area around your plate, soiling the linen if you are eating in such a fine establishment.
I had blueberry juice and she had cucumber lemonade.
I am smitten and we (both, I hope!) passed a couple hours easily in each others company here. We did not order wine. She does not like the way she feels after imbibing the red stuff and I was feeling a bit Scotch after seeing Kobe beef for more than 1000RMB on the menu. The servers did a half-decent job of filling the water glasses when they were drained. In their defense, my unquenchable thirst for water at fancy dinners is legend in our family. Many times, my father has embarrassed me, the way that fathers do, by announcing to a pretty waitress or a too-busy-to-care waiter, "My son is a waterite." (I think it was a Sniglet from a 1980s Word-a-Day calendar.)

You can see that table was well-appointed. The candelabra--its middle stem stuffed with monogrammed ribbon--was elegant. The featured prix fixe meals for this month were listed on a menu-ette that stands, in the picture above, behind the aforementioned box of Kleenex. Each of the three choice meals was linked to a European country's cuisine--French, Italian, and Spanish. The prices seemed to be relative to how well their economies are doing. Naturally, I should have assumed, despite any obvious indication, that this bottle of fine olive oil was for display purposes only, but the bread was good and the butter patties were gone so I cracked the seal. This sound attracted the attention of a passing waitress who reappeared moments later to explain that my mistake would cost us 100RMB, but we could take the bottle with us at the end of the meal. We had a good laugh over this indiscretion and talked about how we would not leave the bottle on the windowsill, but would hide it away in a dark cabinet. The waitress was gracious and soon appeared with demi-bowls of olive oil infused with ten year-old balsamic vinegar (from some opened bottle in the kitchen.

The advising chef, Clement, is an acquaintance of mine. He is French and a lovely man, who loves his job. Among his responsibilities are carving the beef table-side and improving the menu. He came out three times during the evening to chat with us. The first time, I said, "This is our first time here." His response made us chuckle later. He said, "I can see that."  Did we look like kids in a candy store? Were we improperly attired? We had made an effort to dress up a bit. Perhaps, he meant nothing and was struggling for the right thing to say in his second language.

The second time that I spotted him, I motioned him over and said that it was my dinner partner's birthday. He said, "Do you want a cake?" We were full and tried to decline, but between the three of us and our three separate languages, the message was not adequately conveyed. We sat there for five minutes and he reappeared, talking with the Chinese manager off to our left. "Can you wait twenty minutes?" Again, we tried to decline graciously and, again, the message was not received. We bantered about how what we were really celebrating was D-Day and he said, "But isn't that July 4th?" I smiled and reminded him about Normandy, 1944, being different than the Declaration of Independence, 1776. He laughed at himself and said in his French accent, "Oh, yes, I have heard of that. There is some cheese there or something." I might have smugly thought, "There would be Germans in Cherbourg if it was not for Omaha Beach." He could, of course, have been thinking, there would still be British regulars in Virginia if it was not for deGrasse and Rochambeau.

Not sure whether we were waiting for a cake or not, we motioned for the waiter and I paid the bill on a table-side credit card machine. We got up to leave and were told, "Don't leave. You have a cake coming." It came out with Clement and we thanked him again. It was tasty and too big so we carried the bulk of it away...along with our olive oil.

The following evening, which was the real D-Day and the real birthday, I lead a two-hour educational discussion at The Culture Club about a History Channel special on Sun Tzu's Art of War. I have spent some time studying this book and own a very nice copy. The blurb says:
“The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” So begins The Art of War, a meditation on the rules of war that was first published in China. Historians don’t know the exact date of the book’s publication (though they believe it to be in the 4th or 5th century); in fact, they don’t even know who wrote it! Scholars have long believed that The Art of War’s author was a Chinese military leader named Sun Tzu, or Sunzi. Today, however, many people think that there was no Sun Tzu: Instead, they argue, the book is a compilation of generations of Chinese theories and teachings on military strategy. Whether or not Sun Tzu was a real person, it’s clear that “he” was very wise: The Art of War still resonates with readers today.
The film talks extensively about the mistakes and successes of several important campaigns. I chose to show it because of its extensive review of D-Day--the blunders of Hitler and the successful strategy of Eisenhower.

I also chose it because it uses weichi (the Game of Go) as a way to describe the thinking of Sunzi and his subsequent followers, who include Colon Bowel [sic], Robert E. Lee, Mao Zedong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh. I spent an hour speaking with my college adviser this week (I am missing my 15th college reunion) and he has reignited my interest in learning Go. I have already played hours of Capture Go at and joined another website that will send me a weekly email with training exercises.

Dwight David Eisenhower's letter to his troops who he threw on to a beach with no place for them to run and nothing to do but fight to live appears to the right. On D-Day, I think always of Frank Whelden, the quiet old man whose wife was my fourth grade math teacher and who, himself, ran the bookstore at The Fessenden School. As a budding history student, I interviewed him about his experience in the 82nd Airborne. These men were amazing. We ought to pause to honor their sacrifice.

This post is dedicated to the Clendenning-Poiniers and gourmands and foodies everywhere, as well as the men and women who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy, especially the 101st Airborne.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Chinese Rites Controversy, 1715

Many of you have commented on my earlier post about the Chinese Rites controversy. I promised to follow-up, but nothing that I can write would as succinctly describe the issues as what Paul Halsall assembled in 1997--the year that I graduated from Middlebury College. 

Modern History Sourcebook:
The Chinese Rites Controversy, 1715

One of the religious debates in 18th century Catholicism focused on the issue of "Chinese rites." The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was successful in penetrating China and serving at the Imperial court. They impressed the Chinese with their knowledge of astronomy and mechanics, and in fact ran the Imperial Observatory. Other Jesuits functioned as court painters. The Jesuits in turn were impressed by the Chinese Confucian elite, and adapted to that lifestyle.
The primary goal of the Jesuits was to spread Catholicism, but here they had a problem. The Chinese elite were attached to Confucianism which provided the framework of both state and home life. Part of Confucian practice involved veneration of the ancestors. The Jesuits tried to argue, in Rome, that these "Chinese Rites" were social, not religious, ceremonies, and that converts should be allowed to continue to participate. [The debate was not, as is sometimes thought, about whether the liturgy could be in Chinese rather than Latin]. This claim by the Jesuits may have been disingenuous. Although in later European commentary on China it has continued to be claimed that Confucianism is a "philosophy" and not a "religion" - because it does not conform to the model of western religions, the pope was probably correct in his assessment that the Confucian rituals were indeed in conflict with Christian teaching. As a result, he gave up a very good opportunity to convert a significant part of the Chinese elite to Catholicism.

The Kangxi emperor, one of China's greatest, was at first friendly to the Jesuit Missionaries working in China. By the end of the seventeenth century they had made many converts.

From Decree of K'ang­hsi (1692)
The Europeans are very quiet; they do not excite any disturbances in the provinces, they do no harm to anyone, they commit no crimes, and their doctrine has nothing in common with that of the false sects in the empire, nor has it any tendency to excite sedition . . . We decide therefore that all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practised according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.

From S. Neill, A History of Christian Missions (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books ]964), pp. 189­l90.
From Decree of Pope Clement XI (1715)
The Jesuits claim Chinese terms could be used to designate the Christian God and that the Confucian ceremonies were merely civil rites that Christians could attend and that Chinese ancestor worship was compatible with Christianity was condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1715.

Pope Clement XI wishes to make the following facts permanently known to all the people in the world....
I. The West calls Deus [God] the creator of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. Since the word Deus does not sound right in the Chinese language, the Westerners in China and Chinese converts to Catholicism have used the term "Heavenly Lord" for many years. From now on such terms as "Heaven" and "Shang­ti" should not be used: Deus should be addressed as the Lord of Heaven, Earth, and everything in the universe. The tablet that bears the Chinese words "Reverence for Heaven" should not be allowed to hang inside a Catholic church and should be immediately taken down if already there. 

II. The spring and autumn worship of Confucius, together with the worship of ancestors, is not allowed among Catholic converts. It is not allowed even though the converts appear in the ritual as bystanders, because to be a bystander in this ritual is as pagan as to participate in it actively. 

III. Chinese officials and successful candidates in the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations, if they have been converted to Roman Catholicism, are not allowed to worship in Confucian temples on the first and fifteenth days of each month. The same prohibition is applicable to all the Chinese Catholics who, as officials, have recently arrived at their posts or who, as students, have recently passed the metropolitan, provincial, or prefectural examinations. 

IV. No Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship ancestors in their familial temples. 

V. Whether at home, in the cemetery, or during the time of a funeral, a Chinese Catholic is not allowed to perform the ritual of ancestor worship. He is not allowed to do so even if he is in company with non­Christians. Such a ritual is heathen in nature regardless of the circumstances. 

Despite the above decisions, I have made it clear that other Chinese customs and traditions that can in no way be interpreted as heathen in nature should be allowed to continue among Chinese converts. The way the Chinese manage their households or govern their country should by no means be interfered with. As to exactly what customs should or should not be allowed to continue, the papal legate in China will make the necessary decisions. In the absence of the papal legate, the responsibility of making such decisions should rest with the head of the China mission and the Bishop of China. In short, customs and traditions that are not contradictory to Roman Catholicism will be allowed, while those that are clearly contradictory to it will not be tolerated under any circumstances. 

From China in Transition, 1517­1911, Dan. J. Li, trans. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), pp. 22­24 

From Decree of Kangxi (1721)
The Kangxi emperor was not happy with Clement's decree, and banned Christian missions in China.
Reading this proclamation, I have concluded that the Westerners are petty indeed. It is impossible to reason with them because they do not understand larger issues as we understand them in China. There is not a single Westerner versed in Chinese works, and their remarks are often incredible and ridiculous. To judge from this proclamation, their religion is no different from other small, bigoted sects of Buddhism or Taoism. I have never seen a document which contains so much nonsense. From now on, Westerners should not be allowed to preach in China, to avoid further trouble. 

From China in Transition, 1517­1911, Dan J. Li, trans. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1969), p. 22.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook. 

(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jilin, Jilin on Children's Day

Changchun has put its flowers out.
The weather this weekend, though punctuated with some thunderstorms, was delightful. On Friday, I awoke at 5AM and got ready to board a train that brought me and my friend to Jilin, the former capital of Jilin Province and home to 1,975,803 people in its urban area. It is just 45 minutes from Changchun by high-speed train with one stop at the airport along the way.

The day was good, but we were both sleepy in the hot sun. There were lots of children everywhere as it was Children's Day, which is a big deal in China.

When we got off the train and exited the grand new station that Jilin has built, this was the square that we saw. I like this picture because it shows the way that most Chinese cities look--new construction, advertising everywhere (including Pepsi), and lots of public spaces for people to enjoy together.

 For Children's Day, there was dancing and the fire departments were out in full force.

Bill McKibben memorialized Jaime Lerner's brilliant move in Curtiba, Brazil, in his book, Hope, Human and Wild. You may remember that to close a dangerous street where people liked to drag race on the weekend, this architect-cum-mayor rolled out a piece of white paper and provided markers. It was so popular with parents and kids that they were able to close the road to traffic and turn the core area of downtown into a pedestrian area. While this was not the case here, it still made me smile to see these kids working together on this project.

Inside the local museum, there was a whole room of art made from the shaped roots of trees. The second photo is the most elaborate way to display calligraphy brushes that I have seen to date.

After we came back out from the museum, the majority of the crowd had dispersed and the firetrucks were getting ready to depart.Every city has to have a Mao Zedong statue; Jilin's is painted silver.

We crossed one of thee major bridges by foot and watched from the bridge with fascination as this heavy equipment worked to remove a road that had been built out into the Songhua River.

The river was being readied for Dragon Boat Festival later this month. These colorful rafts will be paddled in a race. The nickname of Jilin City is River City(江城), which was originated from one sentence "连樯接舰屯江城" of a poem written by Kangxi Emperor when he was visiting Jilin City in 1682.

The main square of Jilin has a sculpture of a man straining to row a boat upstream. 

The temple on the North Mountain was beautiful from a distance, though we decided not to climb up.  My friend, who knows a lot about history, told me that there were once nine dragon mountains here, but during the 18th Century some seer had told the emperor that a revolt would start from this place so he had most of them destroyed.

This is the main terminal of the Jilin train station, whose windows frame the painted smokestack of some industrial enterprise.