Saturday, February 25, 2012

China Pictory: Layers of Transformation

(View a slide show here)

Being back in my hometown could be a stress, because I have to deal with the fact that the place I grew up has become such a strange city that I can’t even find my way home without taking a cab.

Where has the place in my memory gone? So I looked everywhere, and found traces of the old city amongst layers of the city’s skyline, much like reading the growth of a tree through the layers of tree rings.

But unlike tree rings, which preserve even the very first year of growth, the older layers in my hometown are bound to be demolished sooner or later.

The city, like thousands of cities around China, is transforming into something the decision makers considered as “modern.” When red bricks, gray clay tiles and metal-bar covered windows are completely replaced by shiny glass walls and sleek high-rise apartment buildings, the city will take a whole new look, and the one as I remember will be gone for good.

I may be sad, but I know it is simply unstoppable. No one can ever stop modernization once you open the door to it. Old streets, traditional buildings or ancient sites could only survive as government designated preservation, just enough to allow people like me to maybe have a taste of the past.

Sure I will enjoy a new, modern city with all its glamour and convenience. But I will always remember, dearly, the quiet, narrow, stone-paved streets that I strolled down with my parents, once upon a time, on a warm Sunday morning.

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