In Taicang: Porcelain shards of history

The museum in Taicang (太仓) shows the city’s history, how 1000 years ago — during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty — it was one of China’s richest cities, thanks to its position next to the Yangtze River. But the link between that city and today’s Taicang remains unclear to me, apart from some excavations and […]

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In Kunshan: I’ve seen the future of China

Kunshan is where the high-speed way train stops to unload passengers, where people refuel their car, or where an English teacher first starts working in China before realizing there’s nothing to do there and moves to a better place. Kunshan’s biggest benefit is often described as; “well, it’s close to Shanghai”, or; “yeah, there is […]

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In Shanghai: God and Three architectural committees

When I pushed open the gate he said the church was closed, but when I replied in Mandarin he became more welcome to me: “Ok, have a look”. We spoke about churches in the Netherlands, and I told him that in the middle of every Dutch village, no matter how small, stands a church. I […]

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In Nantong: Pillars on the horizon

‘Nine dikes port’ (九圩港) lays on the outskirts of Nantong, cornered by highways and the ever-expanding industrial harbor of the city. The area is a collection of vegetable gardens and rural houses, tied together by one-car-width roads, and it feels a bit like a campsite. Everyone who enters changes. They soften up, forget about work, […]

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In Jiangshan: Three peaks and a railway station

I picked a random city on the map and bought high-speed train tickets. The whole country is off during the Middle-Autumn Festival (中秋节) and the last thing I wanted was crowds. Plus, China’s high-speed trains are really fast, its rails span far & wide —so all I wanted was a city with a station connected […]

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On Putuoshan: For this live, not the next

She looks south and seawards and always. Putuo Shan is the dojo for Guanyin Bodhisattva. She’s originally the patron saint of seafarers, but she now gives an audience to anyone who comes with wishes. And listen she does. The three characters that make up her Chinese name (观世音 Guānshìyīn) literally means ‘the one who hears […]

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In Suzhou: Ajax

“14:00 this Sunday?” someone asks in the WeChat group. Our chat is named ‘五人小场群Wǔ rén xiǎo chǎng qún’ (Five people small field group) and holds 36 guys from the neighborhood, including me. We play football without a schedule, usually weekly. Someone mentions a time, and critical mass (ten or more) either does or doesn’t form. […]

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In Danyang: An anonymous tier-4 city

When I search for tier-3 or tier-4 cities on Google or Baidu, I’m always looking at the same kind of photos: grey skies above a wide river, a park with leafless trees, and maybe an aerial photo of a harbor or monotone residential area. And other hits on Google would be a blog from a […]

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In Wuhan: A city on its own terms again

Ground zero. My mind can barely comprehend the human chain that is covid-19, that droplets from mouths right here have spread to bodies all around the world within 12 months. I’m at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, which feels like being at ground zero in Hiroshima, or the former site of the Twin towers, […]

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