Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hello from Hangzhou

While I didn’t check out any galleries or studios this weekend, I did get a chance to see something that I think I’d be unlikely to see while exploring Shanghai’s art scene: nature (or something like it). Specifically, I saw big trees, green grass, and blue sky this weekend in Hangzhou – three things I have yet to see in this gray, hazy metropolis. Sure, I’m from Maine, where we have a lot of trees, but I wasn’t expecting every inch of this city to be paved over. I’ve seen a lot of places here where there’s plenty of room for a patch of grass or even a little bush, but instead it’s just a big empty space covered with pavement or dirty tiles.

Yet even in Hangzhou, where trees are more than 30 feet tall, the fields of surprisingly green grass were off-limits, and in a park the size of ECNU on the shore of the West Lake, there were something like 10 benches for 10,000 people. Although beautiful, the throng of people trying to enjoy the weather were forced to keep moving, walking on paving stones through this artificial and untouchable landscape.

In the end we decided to jump the fence and play a game of cards on the grass. Four thousand Chinese followed our example. I wish I had before and after pictures of this phenomenon, but all I have is a “before-the-police-arrived-to-kick-us-out” picture of everyone finally enjoying themselves, sitting on the grass. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Does China hate nature? Probably not – but where has it gone?

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