A City the Size of Kansas

Here’s a question — is there a limit to how large a city can be and still be considered a city (as opposed to a province/state or region)? That question popped into my mind when I read an article in The New York Times recently about China’s plans to create a super-city by combining Beijing with some of its surrounding cities and provinces.

For decades, China’s government has tried to limit the size of Beijing, the capital, through draconian residency permits. Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people.

The planned megalopolis, a metropolitan area that would be about six times the size of New York’s, is meant to revamp northern China’s economy and become a laboratory for modern urban growth.

“The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin who advises local governments on regional development. “It reflects the senior leadership’s views on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.”

The new region will link the research facilities and creative culture of Beijing with the economic muscle of the port city of Tianjin and the hinterlands of Hebei Province, forcing areas that have never cooperated to work together.

To accompany the article, Jonah Kessel produced this excellent video to give you a glimpse of what this new “city” will be like.

And note this:

But the new supercity is intended to be different in scope and conception. It would be spread over 82,000 square miles, about the size of Kansas, and hold a population larger than a third of the United States.

So, to my original question — is a city the size of Kansas really a city?

Friday Photo: Qing Dynasty Man

The Temple of Heaven is one of my favorite places in Beijing. In addition to being a major tourist destination, it’s also a favorite park where locals hang out. There’s an area near the east gate where you can find people doing everything from playing cards to dancing, to singing old revolutionary songs. One day I spotted this fellow all dressed up like a Qing Dynasty official practicing his stringed instrument.

Why not?

singing in the temple of heaven

Smoke in My Eyes. In Minnesota!

When I lived in Beijing, we often had a weather forecast that was just one word: Smoke! It was usually in the fall, when the peasants in the surrounding provinces of Shandong and Hebei were burning the fields after harvest. The city would be shrouded in smoke, with off-the-charts bad air quality until it rained or the winds shifted to the north.

On Monday it was Minnesota’s turn. Smoke from wildfires burning in northern Saskatchewan descended on our fair state, making the air quality in Minneapolis worse than in Beijing.



Talk about embarrassing!


Image #1: MyFoxTwinCities

Image #2: twitter.com/David Cooper, via MyFoxTwinCities


Related Posts:

The Smoke is Nothing New

Good and Bad Beijing Air

The Power of a Tweet




Bilingualism is Good for the Brain

I ran across this interesting info-graphic on the Twitter feed of the good folks at Lingholic.com. It highlights how bilingualism is good for the brain.


I like the idea of dimentia prevention. And the next time someone says I’m dense I’ll just tell them it’s my grey matter and that’s a good thing.

Image source: https://twitter.com/lingholic

Related Posts:

My Favorite Language Learning Quotes

A Letter to Chinese Language Learners

How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese? 

Another Great Reason to Learn Chinese


The Ruts are Still Visible

Even though I had come looking for them, I was still surprised at the sight — wagon wheel ruts and the footprints of a child in the weathered sidewalk of a small town on the Minnesota prairie. I had seen them before, back in the 1960’s, but did not expect that they would still be visible today.

rust in the pavement

But there they were, evidence that a child had dragged his wagon through freshly poured cement on the sidewalk opposite the Baptist Church.

When my mother was born, her father was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Westbrook, Minnesota. She was the third of four children. Her only brother, Paul was the oldest, and he was the little boy who pulled his wagon through the cement.

In 1932 her father was called to pastor a church in central Oregon, so the family packed up the Model A and headed west, leaving behind the ruts and footprints.

Last week I was driving in southwest Minnesota and took a little detour to Westbrook to see if there was anything left of them. To my amazement, more than 90 years after they hardened, they are still visible.

I never knew my uncle very well because I grew up on the other side of the planet and he passed away shortly after we returned to the United States. From what I do know, he was a wonderful man. In the same way that the ruts of his wagon are visible in the sidewalk in Westbrook, so too are the ruts of his life visible in the lives of his daughters and grandchildren scattered around the country.

Well done, Uncle Paul!

May the ruts of our lives be visible decades hence as well.

All Together Now

Last month, The Atlantic published a series of  amazing photos from China showing people — lots of people — doing things in unison.


I had a good chuckle because seeing people do things as a group is a fairly common site in China.

Students (from pre-school to university) learn how to march in step and do synchronized morning exercises.

Security guards practice goose-stepping in front of the establishments they guard.

Restaurant and store staff often line up on the sidewalks outside their respective establishments in the morning to chant or sing their pledges to serve their customers. Sometimes they even dance, as was the case with these ladies getting ready to start the work day in their beauty salon in Ya’an, Sichuan!


I remember my first encounter with a lots-of-people-doing-things-in-unison event in China. It was at the National Games held in Zhengzhou in 1984. All the foreign teachers in the city (that would be 10 of us) were taken to the event and seated in the VIP section where we watched a thousand 3-year olds dancing and twirling parasols in unison as part of the opening ceremonies.

china national games zhengzhou 1984

No way you could get a thousand  American 3 year olds to do that.

Am I right?