Thursday, February 09, 2006

Restoration Anathema

The Xian that stands today isn't that old. It appears more like a 50-year-old city rather than the ancient 2000 plus years old capital that it’s supposed to be. The City Wall was repeatedly damaged and rebuilt, or just destroyed by the emperor so he could refashion it in his image. Often it was burnt to the ground by powerful court eunuchs eager to get rich on kickbacks from awarding the reconstruction contracts. Sounds a lot like modern day Guanxi, doesn’t it?

The day we were leaving to go back to Beijing, William got food poisoning & excused himself for a relaxing treatment at the local bathhouse…Yeah…a likely story I’m sure…hehehe…so I was left to explore the old city wall on my own before the over night train departs in the evening.

Scaffolding was everywhere, there was so much renovation work going on that I wondered if they had decided to rebuild it from scratch again. I suppose they were just making it look newer, as the idea of old historic buildings actually looking old is anathema to the Chinese. Even renovating (as near as damn replacing it, as far as I could tell) an old building is unusual in China. Usually they just rip it down and stick a faceless office block in its place.

This is progress. Old=Bad; New=Good. If an alien was to do a whistle-stop tour of Chinese cities, he might be forgiven for thinking that the whole place hadn't existed until the fifties, that it had all sprung into existence out of nothing. In a society that boasts the longest uninterrupted history on the planet, I found this saddening.

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