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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