In this instalment of his twice-monthly column, Dave Bidini laments China’s unstoppable development rush. In an effort to be seen as good Olympic hosts, he writes, it is sacrificing pieces of its cultural uniqueness. Bidini’s trip ten years ago to the walled city of Yingpao is particularly illustrative:
We ended up staying at the only place in town, a ten-storey concrete hotel that, outside, possessed a grim Scarborough-projects facade, but, inside, bustled like a Cotton Club of the Far East, with brilliant chandeliers and young female attendants wearing ’70s-era taupe and mauve stewardess outfits serving gold-seal white liquor and countless exotic dishes to small tables horseshoed around the glittering lobby. It was like being dropped through a strange fissure in time–’70s fashion meeting ’40s China meeting a futuristic tourist idyll; a backwater Plaza on a quilt of ricepaddies–and our time in Pingyao–we stayed for three days, until the next train passed through the town–is my most sustaining memory of my first trip to China.
Today, that previously remote city is home to an international photography festival and has become a hotbed of tourism. Similarly, Bidini writes, Beijing is giving up some of its historical charm to roll out an “asphalt welcome mat” for this summer’s Olympics.
PHOTO FROM FLICKR BY MONIQUZ