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Notes on the Geography of China: Taiyuan

Taiyuan is another of those second-tier Chinese cities that are hardly known outside China despite having populations approaching or in excess of three million. What to expect? The best short answer is: the unexpected.

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China: Taiyuan picture 1

Aerial approach. Looks like a City of the Future, as envisioned early in the 20th century. Except that this is no artist's conception. That's the Fenhe flowing south toward its confluence, a couple of hundred miles downstream, with the Yellow River.

China: Taiyuan picture 2

Not only is this a place of high-rises, it's a place where high-rises grow in thickets or, in that ugly word, complexes. Is the street-plan gridded? Yes, the street plan is gridded.

China: Taiyuan picture 3

The housing stock is distinctly generational, with older neighborhoods indicative of poorer times.

China: Taiyuan picture 4

A bit of both eras appear here, with the Longtan Park in the upper left.

China: Taiyuan picture 5

The 100% corner, Fu Xi Street and Xin Jian Road, the city's aspirational focus. We'll look more closely.

China: Taiyuan picture 6

The Chinese love prestigious foreign brands.

China: Taiyuan picture 7

The models here are all Western.

China: Taiyuan picture 8

If the object of models is to invite emulation, then the Chinese are doomed to frustration.

China: Taiyuan picture 9

Taiyuan is sometimes called a rust-belt city, and when it appears in Western news stories, the topic is generally coal or something related to coal. You'd never know it.

China: Taiyuan picture 10

What was it that Deng said about wealth and glory?

China: Taiyuan picture 11

For a nation that toils single-mindedly, nothing can be as alluring as time-wasting.

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