On the bus to
The next day I got up at half past six with my friends, left the flat, rode two buses and found myself in
As the graceful Jiaxiu pavilion emerged into sight on the river island from a hedge of modern buildings, I realised I had by then come to terms with Chinese cities. On my first visit I had found them disappointing with their clusters of tattered tile-lined apartment buildings and soaring tower blocks, so anonymous that the only signature they bore was the regime’s official style, or the real estate speculators’. Old photographs of
You have to accept this. At first sight the present-day plastic face of Chinese towns doesn’t seem to leave much room for differentiation but, underneath, a lot of local culture survives in the markets, in the food, and especially among the inhabitants who uphold a vast heritage of customs and traditions. But local as it may get, the true common denominator remains the great umbrella of Chinese identity that probably finds its most outstanding element in the Han language and the proud use of the hanzi as a writing system, the most powerful tool to encompass the nation’s culture and exclude those who are alien to it. How many times I have met people who, upon my admitting a general ignorance of the character script, had giggled complacently – a reaction I’d always interpreted as meaning “Of course, this is our thing!”.
From the top of the hill,
I met my friends after they got off work. We had hotpot and then they wanted to see my hotel room. Being just a 68 Y room I felt a bit embarrassed, but they loved it. We cramped into the room and sat down on the bed and as the temperature increased for lack of ventilation or air-conditioning, we spent a good half hour chatting together.