You may ask what is interesting about the photograph at the top of this post. It is, after all, a view out of a Chinese factory window. The buildings are of a typically functional, brutal style found all over industrial China, and there’s a small hillock covered in trees in the distance. It is a very fortunate hill, as I will explain later. The reason this image is extraordinary is not because of what’s on the ground, but what’s above it: clouds, visible ones, against a soft blue sky. Not so extraordinary, I can imagine you are thinking? Well, I can tell you that clear skies are a something of a rarity here. The heavens are often hidden by a heavy blanket of yellowish smog, so it’s a happy day when we get an unencumbered view of the sun, even for a short while.
I have started and not finished many posts about the natural enviroment in southern China. The reason I have not completed them is that I have found the topic rather depressing, and I dislike being gratuitously negative even when the topic offers little to be positive about. However I am seeing signs of improvement. Yes, most development here is ugly, bordering on grotesque when viewed through western eyes, but developers are finally clocking on to the fact that the increasingly wealthy Chinese want to live and work somewhere green and leafy, with decent air quality.
I have been staying on the shores of Songshan lake in Dalang, Dongguan for the last 10 days. The area around the lake is designated a high-tech industrial park and is laced with wide boulevards lined with trees. They are as generous and well landscaped as any in the world. The trees are transplanted at a size which would be unthinkable (and unaffordable) in the UK, but thanks to the subtropical climate they race away and look established in next to no time. Behind this green screen, mammouth company headquarters and industrial buildings are springing up beneath a dense forest of cranes. It’s progress, but of a much more considered and sensitive nature than what’s gone before. I hope it’s a sign of what we can expect from China in the future.
So, back to my obscure hill, or “mountain” as it might be referred to here. I describe it as fortunate because hills do not pose much of an obstacle to development in these parts. In fact there used to be a lot more hills where the flashy new buildings reflected in Songshan Lake now stand. What became of them? Well, they were simply removed. Today alone I counted over twenty hills that were in the process of being flattened: maybe “tactically relocated” would be a more palatable way of putting it. These wooded pimples on the thick skin of progress are regarded as little more than an inconvenience. They are shaved away at vertically, like a pudding on Christmas Day, until nothing remains to stop the march of concrete, steel and glass across the landscape.
Despite all of this I am still woken by birdsong each morning. Between my balcony and the the lake there are dense groves of glossy green trees which extend around the shore. Quite how many more birds there might have been before the building of the hotel I don’t know. I am quite certain that no amount of flora, fauna or shady hillocks were going to stop it being constructed. However, if future urban development goes hand-in-hand with sensitive landscaping it will be better for China, the Chinese and the world at large, attracting more visitors and more businesses to come and work, rest and play, together under a bluer sky.
Note: For those of you wondering where I have been, now you know! WordPress and other social media are restricted in China, hence I have been quieter than normal for the last fortnight. I’ll be back to normal soon. TFG.
Categories: Musings, Photography, Travel
9 comments On "Moving Mountains"
I was wondering if you were still traveling or heaven forbid if you were sick. Good to know you are busy as a bee working but with no ability to post. This is a very interesting article especially to someone like myself who has never been and never will travel to China. Living here in a state that treasures its natural resources and people show up at meeting to protest a tree being removed, it is a very different world that you are visiting. Travel safely.
Don’t say the ‘s’ word Judy!! So far I am staying fit and healthy. I have planned my trip carefully to avoid as many stresses and strains as possible.
From what I can observe the Chinese State is still happy to bulldoze anything in order to create the infrastructure needed for a country with this population, but it does seem that some degree of discretion is creeping in.
Hope you have a super weekend 🙂
The view from your hotel looks quite lovely, although the idea of repeatedly moving hills is a little disturbing. I do find it hard to discern how China ‘should’ be developing. We had fast growth in a period when we were incredibly naive and ignorant of most aspects of well-being and the environment, but does this mean China ‘should’ slow down and do things as the West would perhaps (a whole debate in itself) think more appropriate today? It’s a really tricky one. Glad you have found some signs of ‘improvement’ though. Hope you’ve had a productive trip.
Yes, very productive. My feeling is that China is coming out the other side of its very rapid industrial revolution. Whilst I don’t consider it my place to judge China’s development strategy, I think a nice environment in which to live and work is universally appreciated. Now that Chinese people can afford to think beyond the basics they are demanding more on all fronts and quite rightly so.
You might be interested in the projects of this company from China http://www.turenscape.com/
Some of them are very impressive indeed.
Great tip Barbara, very interesting! When the Chinese do something they do it on an impressive scale!
I travelled in Yunnan in western China earlier this year and it seemed that China is gradually relocating itself, one dump truck at a time, to somewhere it thinks is more convenient, such as the South China Sea.
While the scope of Chinese landscape projects is breathtaking, I do think it a shame though that topography is not considered something worthy of preservation. And it seems strangely ‘un-Chinese’ in a way, where so much feng shui is tied up with the shape of the land.
I did a tour of northern china a couple of years ago. Yes the smog can be bad, particularly in the cities but if you have a chance get out to the national parks. One issue can be the sheer numbers of Chinese also visiting the parks. You may find thousands queing and you are the only western person. Do not worry as you can pretend to be a VIP and go up the lane reserved for tour guides!! When you get into the park you will be rewarded by some fantastic views. The parks are a little regimented but the scenary is great. I am not at home so cannot suggest locations. Let me know if you want more info.
I am amazed that you have been able to post at all in China. Good to read the update and to see some blue sky.
I am horrified by the idea of moving mountains but it’s not just the Chinese really, is it?
I was in North Yorks yesterday and you could feel the horror of the population at the prospect of fracking within a national park.