Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 8: On the Train to Shanghai

Photo: The apartments that you can see were about half the total. These were in a small town in the country and seemed to just appear. Point being: the building is everywhere and huge. Also, smog is real.

It really is a matter of perspective, is it not? Being in Beijing for the past week, it is difficult not to be totally captured by the grandeur and the majesty of the capital. The soaring skyscrapers and the behemoth modern structures leavers one almost awestruck by the power and the glory of the "New China." And then you venture into the countryside and realize that "Old China" is not far away.

The nine hour train ride that we have taken reveals an extraordinary mix of old, often beaten houses and apartment building side by side large, new, architecturally creative, new high rises. It is as if there is an effort to raze the old bit by bit and replace it with the new. From our very limited exposure, it appears that the pace may vary in terms of how quickly the old is pushed aside and the new is developed. What seems obvious, though, is that it is methodical, systematic, and pervasive.

The pattern during the trip is pretty consistent. You have maybe 10-15 minutes where it is nothing but farmland. Almost all the land is under cultivation and very little land is undeveloped. There was a lot of corn, some rice, and many grasses that were unfamiliar. It was noteworthy that there were dozens of miles of rows of trees that were clearly planted to be replanted elsewhere. Then we would come upon a town with old, run down houses and buildings. About a quarter of a mile from the train tracks would be a series of brand new apartment buildings that were all one design, and there would be 10-20 of them side to side, between 10 to 20 stories high and 15 to 20 apartments wide. And then less than a quarter of a mile later would be another 10-20 buildings, and then another. It was relentless.


Megan said...

It's very cool that you got to see the countryside and the scenery it had to offer. From the way you describe the apartment buildings, it sounds like yet another case of urban sprawl.
Do you think the entire capacity of China's territory will be overrun by human occupants? When I was reading this entry I envisioned the countryside becoming engulfed by the city because of their large population and the fact that mass-produced apartment buildings already exist there. Hopefully that doesn't occur, but it seems likely considering the longevity of human life in recent times as well as the amount of smog present in your pictures. Maybe the smog will drive citizens to the countryside before the population expands to occupy it.
I also wonder how sustainable the existent farms are.. It would be interesting to see how they operate in comparison with other farmers and how they are able to feed all of their people. It would be a feat to grow for 1.3 billion people.
Enjoying the blogs and new information!!

Al said...

The descriptions make us feel like we're right there with you, Tom. Keep them coming.--Al