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Prof. Stuart Christie
Professor, Department of English Language and Literature

   
Stuart Christie teaches English literature at Baptist University where he has been working since 1999. He is the author of two books, Worlding Forster: The Passage from Pastoral (Routledge, 2005) and Plural Sovereignties and Contemporary Indigenous Literature (Palgrave, 2009).


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Hangzhou Half-Step
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Hangzhou Half-Step
2010-07-27 09:55:20.0 網誌分類: 旅遊日誌
 
What I love about Hangzhou is that it still seems a half-step slower than the rest of bustling, eastern- corridor China.

But this is a deceptive statement, because Hangzhou is actually growing just as fast. What is different about Hangzhou, then?

 Apparently—and I am certainly no expert—city planners have persuaded the central government to back their urban plan, which consolidates growth and development to specific areas of the urban core, while leaving other adjacent areas entirely closed off to development. People more knowledgeable than I have confirmed that Hangzhou has been carefully zoned by government officials, ensuring that at least the areas to the north and west of the Westlake area will remain a greenbelt and relatively untouched by the intrusion of development.

Now that’s visionary urban planning.

I was in that old Tang dynasty silk capital recently for a conference.  Thanks to an inspired colleague, we rented rickety bicycles (wobbly wheels and butterfly handlebars) and biked as far around the Westlake as we could. As dusk fell, I marveled at how the entire slope of the forested hills to the west was carefully back-lit by spotlights through the trees. A recently renovated, multi-tiered temple (also illuminated) stood off from the halo of the moon, without a trace of haze in the sky.

Entirely simulated for the benefit of the many passers by walking (or cycling) around the lake, the view of the hills in half-shadow as the moon rose was breath-taking. And the greenbelt to the west of Westlake also presents a lovely contrast to the emerging cityscape rising to the south and east of the lake.  And pedestrians can easily walk—or bike—the meridians linking inner city to greenbelt: a journey of a short distance, yet one which bridges the modern and natural elements of the body, heart, and mind.

Thus Hangzhou has the best of both urban (modern) and forested (natural) worlds in a harmonious balance, not unlike that democratic vision of the American city planner, Frederick Law Olmsted, who rightly declared in the nineteenth century that the wealth and prosperity of the city environment belongs not only to the materially wealthy—the rich—but to each and every citizen.

But, of course, Hangzhou offers the Western traveler even one better, because it displays a uniquely Chinese context and history, one that would certainly have made Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park and many other American city parks, marvel.

I commend the city planners of Hangzhou. Their integrated plan took courage and vision. And the results are clear for everyone to see: Hangzhou is rapidly becoming a top tourist destination for ordinary people—not just the well-heeled, jet-setters, but working families; many of whom, I suspect, call Hangzhou home.  May I say that I think Hangzhou sets a good example—not only for other Chinese urban planners, but any urban planner in this rapidly transforming and urbanizing world?

Hangzhou would offer the face that all cities should present—first, to their own people, and then to their international guests—as a place of health, comfort, cleanliness and community.


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