On-again, off-again superskyscraper in Changsha is on again

On-again, off-again superskyscraper in Changsha is on again
JISHOU, HUNAN — Two years ago, I wrote about Sky City, a skyscraper proposed for the city of Changsha that would be the world’s tallest building. It was also supposed to be the world’s first prefabricated skyscraper. Well, that didn’t quite come off as planned. Instead of 202 floors, there are only 57. In effect, this more modest Mini Sky City serves as a working proof of concept for the original plan, which the builders, Broad Sustainable Building, have not abandoned at all. In 2013, I expressed surprise that builders had gotten permission for such an audacious project — a super-skyscraper in Changsha, which is, after all, only a provincial capital and not world-famous like Shanghai or Beijing. I figured government mucky-mucks would object to Changsha stealing thunder from the country’s metropolises. Indeed, last year, one of my friends in Changsha told me Sky City had failed to get the necessary building permits, and construction had been halted. Well, it turns out the main problem was its colossal height. A 202-story Sky City would poke its head right into flight paths around Huanghua International Airport, and aviation authorities nixed that idea. Sky City was in fact completed this February, but ...

Changsha anesthesiologist uses cartoons to talk to deaf mother

[Via Shanghaiist.com.] A Changsha, Hunan, anesthesiologist has become something of an Internet hero after cartoons he drew to communicate with a deaf patient circulated in social media. Yao Xiang, 25, of the Hunan Disabled Soldier’s Hospital 湖南省荣军医院 (Hunan Sheng RongJun YiYuan) , doesn’t know sign language, but he needed to communicate with the patient, an expectant mother undergoing a C-section. So, he drew cartoons like the one below. Yao said he began drawing when he was a kid.

Your lazy blogger checks in

JISHOU, HUNAN — Well, I’ve lots of blog ideas swimming around in my head these last three weeks, but none of them ended up in print till now. The muse was on vacation, and just got back from Mallorca. OK, I was being lazy. So, here’s what’s new here, in the middle of the Middle Kingdom. I passed my annual health tests, which are required for all foreigners working in China. The schedule is: blood test, chest X-ray, ultrasound of abdominal area, blood pressure (135/71), height and weight. Takes about an hour to get them all done, but the testing requires a trip to the provincial capital, Changsha, to the international travel health office. Hunan citizens who will work or study abroad have to visit the same place for more extensive testing. The university pays the fees for my tests, about 500 yuan ($80 or so). Outbound Chinese pay between 800 and 1,000 yuan for their physical examinations. Cash only, by the way. Sue, the new foreign affairs officer, accompanied me and took care of the arrangements. While I was there, I met a young American working at a kindergarten. He said he’s been working in Changsha for three years ...

World’s tallest (sustainable) building to be built in Changsha 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — From the Shanghaiist, developers have been given a go-ahead to build a 2,749-foot, 202-story building in Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan. It will then be just a wee bit taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, making the Changsha project, Sky City, the world’s tallest building. Once it’s completed, China will have two skyscrapers (or four, if you include Hong Kong and Taiwan as most mainlanders might) among the top ten tallest buildings. Changsha has no buildings that come even close to this height, so Sky City will certainly, um, stand out from the crowd. That part of Hunan is also relatively flat, so Sky City will be visible for miles around. (Frankly, I am surprised Beijing is letting Changsha go ahead with this project. I’d have assumed the powers-that-be would prefer a showcase skyscraper like this one be in a major metropolis like Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing or Guangzhou.) More details are at Treehugger.com. The builder is Broad Sustainable Construction, a Chinese firm which specializes in prefab construction. BSC claims they will be able to finish Sky City in seventh months, and that the “vertical city” of 30,000 residents will more environmentally friendly than China’s usual ...

Contract renewal time #4: time for health tests and reflection

CHANGSHA, HUNAN — Since China likes its foreign guests to be healthy, returning to work at Jishou University is contingent on passing a series of fairly minimal health tests that must be done here, in the provincial capital, at a testing center for all travelers coming from or going abroad. So, the university’s tiny compliment of returning foreign teachers — four Americans, one Ukrainian and one Japanese — came together for an overnight stay here. Tanya, the voice teacher from Ukraine, and I work at the Jishou campus; the others at the Zhangjiajie campus. Although the two campuses are just 90 minutes apart, we teachers seldom have a chance to meet. The health tests include a blood test, electrocardiogram, vision (colorblindness only, for some reason), height, weight, blood pressure and rest pulse, chest X-ray and abdominal ultrasound for both genders. We all passed, so it means we can all stay here to teach another year. [One year, a Canadian woman failed the EKG — some kind of irregularity in her rhythm — and had to return home. No one is sure what happened to her, as she didn’t return to China.] There’s also a long list of questions about your ...

My Winter Holiday, part the third

JISHOU, HUNAN — OK, so I guess I need to finish the story of my Winter Holiday, with an account of my trip to Hainan, China’s Hawai’i. My companions for this trip were my neighbors, Grisha, Anya and their son, Nik, 9. Grisha and Anya are Ukrainian piano teachers here on a three-year exchange. I’ve been teaching Nik English twice a week. In December they asked me to join them on a week-long trip to Sanya 三亚, on the southern tip of Hainan. Hainan is roughly the same latitude as Hawai’i, with a very similar climate. Formerly a neglected part of China (criminals were once banished there), mainlanders realized it was prime vacation spot about 20 years ago, just because of its location. Now it’s the site of scores of hotels and resorts, including swanky places like Sheraton, Hilton and Ritz-Carlton properties. And Russians. Lots of Russians. Some have settled there, like our tour agency owner, Tatiana , while most just come to bask in the sunshine and swim in the still-clean ocean. There are so many Russian tourists that menus are bilingual, and many shops boast bilingual signs. Of course, there also many, many Chinese, even at the ultra-swanky ...

Journey to the West* 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — Well, really, I’m heading east to the West — the USA, specifically — in two days. My feelings are, strangely, mixed. On the one hand, I will be able to see my kids and my relatives again, after 17 months’ separation. On the other, I’ll be apart from my friends here in Jishou, who themselves will scatter to the four winds after exams end on the 20th. Then, there’s the prospect of flying, which I used to enjoy and now regard as a necessary evil to get from one place to another. (Would someone please invent transfer booths**? Soon?) My itinerary is as follows. Leave Jishou’s Xiangxi Minzu Hotel at 9:30 am Wednesday by motorcoach to Changsha. Stay overnight in Changsha. Leave the next morning by air to Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport, then transfer by shuttle bus to Pudong Airport for an afternoon flight to Chicago. From there, I’ll go to Indiana or Kentucky, depending on which child picks me up. I’ll be in the USA for just three weeks. It seems a bit short, after 17 months’ absence, but my travel plans after I return to China dictated a curtailed US visit. My Ukrainian neighbors (two piano ...

We now resume our regular programming, now in progress. 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — My webhost just upgraded many of its customers to a new superduper server over the weekend. Somehow, my site got lost in the shuffle, but now we’re back! Predictably, the outage happened while I was out of town and for the most part away from the World Wide Web. So, I had no idea anything was wrong until my buddy notified me by email. I sent a message to Planet Earth Hosting, and 24 hours later, the site was up, good as new. The occasion for my trip out of town was the big car show in Changsha. Two of my former students were going — one to shop and one to wish — and asked me to join them. So, Saturday morning I took the coach to Changsha. Also on board was a postgrad friend of mine and her friend. They were going to Changsha to shop and (for one of them) to sit for a qualifications exam. To my delight, the bus company has changed its normal stop — next to a swanky hotel — to a place practically next door to my usual — non-swanky — hotel. It makes catching the return bus a ...

My latest travel adventure: Shaoshan, Mao’s birthplace 3

My latest travel adventure: Shaoshan, Mao's birthplace
JISHOU, HUNAN — This weekend’s trip to Shaoshan was great during the daytime, but interesting (in the alleged Chinese proverbial sense*) during the night. Shaoshan (韶山), a county near Xiangtan, south of the provincial capital of Changsha (长沙), is the ancestral home of Mao Zedong’s family. Mao (毛泽东) was born and raised there, and spent his final decade there in a specially constructed compound for the founder and first Chairman of the People’s Republic of China. As you can probably guess, there are all kinds of touristy places to visit. The area also lays claim to Mao’s successor, Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇), who hailed from Ningxiang county, near Changsha. Liu was at one point a darling of the great leader, then he fell out of favor during the Cultural Revolution, only to be posthumously rehabilitated as a national hero in the 1980s. So, we visited museums dedicated to Liu and to Mao, the statue of Mao and a mountaintop garden dedicated to Mao. It was an “all Mao, all the time” weekend, with some unexpected features. (It was a lot like any version of Windows.) On Saturday night, our hotel lost power — for the entire night — just after we ...

Holy intermodal transportation, Batman! 2

JISHOU, HUNAN, Sept. 2 — I planned my departure from Kong Kong carefully, but the actual trip was not as smooth as I had expected. Given my available funds, and time remaining before classes started here, I decided to fly in to China instead of taking the train. There are no direct flights from Hong Kong to Zhangjiajie, the nearest airport to Jishou. Those flights leave from Shenzhen, so I had to figure out how to get there. Conveniently enough, there is a coach that departs every half hour from Hong Kong that takes you to a special transfer point. The immigration controls for both Hong Kong and China share the same building, which straddles the border. After leaving there, you board another coach that shuttles you to the airport. Even more conveniently, for me, the ChinaLink Bus Company leaves from the Elements shopping mall right above a Hong Kong MTR stop (Kowloon station). So, all I needed to do was walk a half block from my hotel to the MTR station at Yau Ma Tei, transfer at Central station on Hong Kong Island (yes, you do not have to take the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Bay!), get off ...
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