Like In The Fable Of Yu Gong, Developers In Lanzhou Moving Mountains To Build New City

Caption for the above video, via the Guardian: “A promotional video shows planned development of a state-level development zone by government of Lanzhou, a provincial capital in China’s arid northwest.”

A Modern Parable

They told the Old Man the mountain, with its head as white as his, would not move, but he feigned deafness. They mocked him, shaking their fans and leaning forward so he could better see their sneers, but the Old Man wagged his head and flashed a toothy grin. The townsfolk gossiped behind his back and marveled at the futility of the endeavor, but the Old Man, rocking away his days on a hand-woven bamboo chair, knew that one day the steadfastness of his pursuit would coalesce with a dream so that in their sameness he’d wake to see the mountain gone, carried off to the shores of the Bohai Sea.

Perhaps this is the parable of modern China. We are our own royal messengers carrying Pangu inside his egg, ready to proclaim Man’s will in a world of gods. We are untethered to the forces of our making. We owe nothing to no one — excerpt, perhaps, the Old Man, his dream carved into the lee of the rock, now gone.

Via the above-linked Guardian article:

In what is being billed as the largest “mountain-moving project” in Chinese history, one of China’s biggest construction firms will spend £2.2bn [$3.5 billion, 22 billion RMB] to flatten 700 mountains levelling the area Lanzhou, allowing developers to build a new metropolis on the outskirts of the north-western city.

…The first stage of the mountain-flattening initiative, which was reported on Tuesday by the China Economic Weekly magazine, began in late October and will eventually enable a new urban district almost 10 square miles in size northeast of downtown Lanzhou – a small, but important part of the Lanzhou Nnew area project to be built.

Environmental impact, anyone?

(H/T David B.)

    4 Responses to “Like In The Fable Of Yu Gong, Developers In Lanzhou Moving Mountains To Build New City”

    1. jdmartinsen

      Oh, the sensationalism! Although the 中国经济周刊 article linked from the Guardian piece also frames this as a mountain-moving project, the quotes it provides from the actual development plan imply something rather less hubristic: the area is made up low hills and slopes, so a total of more than 700 hillocks will be bulldozed (整体推移山丘700余座). The old men may be foolish, but they’re not really trying to move any mountains.

    2. masomenos

      (Lanzhou lies in a canyon cut through deep silt deposits (loess) and bedrock. Air becomes trapped in the canyon and Lanzhou’s air quality is bad to terrible. Several years ago, there was a proposal to “cut a hole in the mountain” or canyon wall to improve air circulation, but it never happened.

      My colleague in Lanzhou tells me there is a new city planned, but it will be on the upland plain where the airport is now – 50-60km from Lanzhou proper, where some small hills will be leveled. Remember that hill and mountain in Chinese are the same word – “shan”.


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