If you can’t imagine being able to tell the difference between a building that is a castle, a building that is a church, or a building that is a public toilet, than you obviously haven’t been to China!
Wuhan city officials have come under fire from netizens after photos were posted online showing an elaborate public toilet built to resemble a castle.
The two-storey toilet in the Hubei capital was claimed to have cost more than 1 million yuan, though an official response from the city’s Chengguan Office put the real figure closer to 800,000 yuan.
City management officials defended the project, saying that it was part of a larger plan to beautify scenic areas throughout Wuhan.
When I read this I was reminded of the first day of the Esther Expedition in March when Noel and I and our local guides mistook a public toilet facility for a renovated old church. You can read all about it in a post titled Seeing What We Want to See.
A big story in the news in China this week was a yellow haze that enveloped the central city of Wuhan. A couple of netizens went online and suggested that it was the result of a chlorine leak, which stirred up the masses, which forced the government to declare that there was no leak; the cause of the smoke was farmers burning off old stalks in their fields.
Since then there has been much debate about the plausibility of the haze being the result of smoke, with netizens (Chinese and foreign) wondering why this would suddenly be a new phenomenon, given the fact that peasants burn their fields every year.
Tonight as I was riding home on my bicycle, I noticed the air smelled of smoke. When I got home I checked the Yahoo! weather for Beijing (I need to know how many layers of clothes to wear tomorrow), and, under “current conditions,” it said, simply, SMOKE. This is the only city I know of where SMOKE is one of the possible descriptors used for the weather report. It’s not uncommon to get SMOKE this time of year because all across the North China Plains, peasants are burning the fields after the harvest. I’ve been in rural areas of Shandong this time of year where it was so thick you could barely see across the street.
But here’s a thought….in a society where 70% of the males smoke, does anyone really notice?
Nobody fussed. Nobody started rumors. We just donned our masks or stayed indoors.
Peasants burning their fields and whole cities being enveloped by the resulting smoke is nothing new in China.
What is new is an internet environment that allows millions to go online and fuss.