Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hong Wan Lv Shu

Qingdao is a seaside city about an hour's plane ride from Beijing. Back when China was weak and western powers were flexing their muscles, Qingdao was a German concession. Although the Germans are long gone (the common foreigners here now are Japanese and Koreans), Qingdao still has the fingerprints of its European past. Most famously, Qingdao is home to the beer bearing the name of the city (you know it as Tsingtao).

But the Germans left behind not only their brewing skills. They also built an impressive collection of houses with red roofs, hence the phrase (above) that translates as "red roofs, green trees." As the city is dotted with small hills, we climbed up to the top of several (including xiaoyushan, Small Fish Mountain) and got a bird's eye view of lao shiqu (old downtown). (As you might imagine, there is a new downtown, and Qingdao now boasts a population nearly the size of New York City.)

One of the byproducts of living in China for such a long period of time is that we get the opportunity to see places, like Qingdao, that are distinctive in some visual or cultural way. Sure, there are strong ties that bind this country together. But China is no one dimensional place, although current government policies continue to push the nation in an ever more homogeneous direction. I only hope that everyday people continue to preserve China's regional flavors, so that cities like Qingdao persist into the future as more than museums to a varied past.



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