The use of a library card...

Internet cafes in many parts of China normally ask customers for an ID of some kind (this seems to be controlled by provincial laws, and the strictness of the law's enforcement at a particular place). I have never figured out which places would require one and which would not (although places in bigger cities seemed to be stricter in this respect). I assume that most customers would present standard national ID card, and from a foreigner, a passport and visa would be expected. In practice, though, a foreign provincial ID card would usually do. I used to carry a very nice library card from an Italian library, complete with my photo, and it was accepted as an ID as well. (A pity it was lost a while back by Air China, along with all my luggage!).

This time, in Qufu, Shandong Province, the fellow on duty decided that neither a foreign ID card, nor a passport with a current Chinese visa would do. After rummaging in my wallet, I decided to make yet another try with yet another document: a reader's card from the National Library in Beijing. (Not that I ever *read* anything there, but you needed to get a card to get on premises, and getting it was free...). No name or photo on the card, but it was officially looking enough... and bingo, it was accepted!

P.S. As I've looked at more of such places (in Jiangsu mostly), it seemed that the usual mode of operation for them was to swipe a PRC national ID card, which, I assume, all resident citizens are supposed to possess. This way, at least potentially, who uses what becomes automatically loggable (since the login ID given out by the internet cafe may be linked to one's card number). I am not sure what exactly happened when a particular place accepted my passport, a foreign ID card, or even a library card (well, just that once) as an ID; it appeared that in some cases they simply ended up swiping someone else's national ID card on my behalf.

(Poster above: "Present an ID and register with your real name! Civilized behavior on the Internet, and healthy leisure!". Seen in Gansu, 2009).


Wuhan Metro

Wuhan Metro Line 4 under construction
For many years, Wuhan Metro has consisted of one pretty useless line in Hankou. Finally, the city got its act together and started digging all over the place, to connect the 3 far-flung section of that great metropolis: Hankou, Wuchang, and Hanyang. Of course, the subway is being build along the routes which are used by the greatest number of travelers - which means, exactly the routes that are most congested now. The tunnels apparently are being bored without disturbing the street surface (i.e., *not* cut-and-cover), but each station does require digging a huge hole in the middle of one of the busiest streets, such as Luoyu Rd, reducing the space open to traffic to 2 lanes each way. So the congestion on these routes now reaches epic proportions, with traffic coming to crawl by 3pm, even on weekends.

Shanghai Metro - airport to airport

Trying to post by email...

Here's our experience trying the new Pudong-to-Hongqiao subway line (Line 2) in Shanghai.

  • 16:00 - landing in Shanghai Pudong (PVG)
  • 16:50 - having passed immigration, baggage claims, customs, finding our way to the Metro stop (not much farther than the Maglev), figured the ticket system (my Shanghai Metro fare card from 2008) apparently no longer valid) and the escalators, actually boarded a train
  • 18:10 arrived to Hongqiao metro station (this included a cross-platform transfer at an intermediate stop at Guanglan Station)
  • 18:25 got to the ticketing machines and purchases a ticket for a 19:00 train to Nanjing. (We probably could have even made the 18:30 train if we had been a bit faster earlier on, and more familiar with the layout)
  • 18:35 navigated through the gigantic Hongqiao Station, got to the boarding gate
  • 19:00 a G train leaves Shanghai Hongqiao Station

    20:15 - arrival to Nanjing Station. (This was a non-stop G train, probably one of the fastest trains of the day.

    The subway fare was just Y8 - and that's to cross the entire huge metropolitan area, probably over 30 km across.

    The G train to Nanjing, was Y146 (a bit over US $20) - as compared to something like Y70-90 on a D train (which takes 2-2.5 hrs) or Y50-60 on a K ("kuai", "fast") train which may take over 4 hrs

Overall, both the subway and the intercity train line are of course major engineering and public works achievement, as was the Shanghai Maglev. One is left wondering, however, whether the travelling public would have been better off if, instead of building the Maglev and the Huning line (where the new G trains run between Shanghai and Nanjing), Shanghai had instead somehow extended the regular train line from Shanghai (Main) Station to Pudong Airport, with a couple stops near Pudong's dense business and residential areas. That would allow some D trains to run all the way from Nanjing or Hefei to Pudong, making the overall travel time from PVG to places like Suzhou, Wuxi or Nanjing quite a bit shorter than the current arrangement does.

P.S. Traveling back on a Sunday afternoon; subway trains pretty full, but not overcrowded. 1 hour 30 min from boarding the subway train at Hongqiao to arrival at Pudong Airport Station.


Segalen: "J’ai entendu passer et souffler le temps en tempête autour et au front de la Tortue porte-stèle"

Inimitable Victor Segalen's impression of the stone tortoises, carriers of imperial steles of the Liang Dynasty, from his Chine. La grande statuaire:
Voisines des lions et des chimères <...> sont les Tortues porte-stèles. Nobles bêtes, majestueuses, d’une élégante stylisation malgré leur masse imposante : neuf pieds de long, sur un socle qui en atteint près de douze, sous une stèle aussi haute que le socle est long. L’original animé de cette statue est, sans contredit, une tortue d’eau. De là ses ailerons-nageoires, ce cou étendu, souple, cette tête fuselée, mais ceci dit, le sculpteur ayant rendu les parties jadis essentielles à la vie, le reste est purement création plastique. Un ensemble, un conglomérat ordonné de belles surfaces courbes, dérivées de l’ovoïde , bien partagées par le tranchant de la stèle en deux masses, dont celle d’arrière étale bien la carapace. L’enveloppé des surfaces par les arêtes, formant un champlevage plein de souplesse, est excellent. Le décor est ici donné avec un rare bonheur par le rehaut, les rebords de la cuirasse. Rien de plus : un équilibre et un galbe parfaits. Le cou, oblique d’un seul geste, porte une tête petite, non pas monstrueuse, mais biseautée et incrustée de deux grosses olives oculaires. Ces tortues n’offrent qu’un type, et sont plus homogènes entre elles que les quadrupèdes, ménagerie composite des Leang. Celle dont je donne le portrait est une tortue de gauche de la sépulture de Siao Sieou <...>. Par sa date, 518, cette statue et la stèle qu’elle supporte sont, dans leur intégrité, l’exemple type de la statuaire dressée de la Chine d’autrefois. <...> [L]a bête pointe juste par-devant, promontoire, musoir refoulant autour d’elle, bête stable par excellence, l’effroyable écoulement du temps fou, le sifflement des remous, des ondes, des filets de cette eau impalpable, avec des houles invisibles : tout un mécanisme fluide et d’un dynamisme énorme compa rable seulement à une autre énergie inconnue, — ce mascaret que tout être connaissant reçoit en plein sur la face incessamment, — et qui finalement le détruit. C’est en face de ces monuments des âges, en face de ce rocher pensé qu’est une stèle chinoise, de cette œuvre accomplie du pinceau rehaussée de sculptures dans son monument et son socle, que cette image prend son corps, sa véracité. J’ai entendu passer et souffler le temps en tempête autour et au front de la Tortue porte-stèle.
Or, in Eleanor Levieux's translation:
A few paces away from the lions and chimeras <...> are the stele-bearing tortoises. Noble and majestic beasts, elegantly stylized despite their imposing bulk; nine feet long, on a pedestal that measures nearly twelve, beneath a stele as high as the pedestal is long. In life, the original is without doubt the sea turtle. Hence the fins-cum-pinions, the outstretched flexible neck, the streamlined head; but once the sculptor had rendered the features that were once essential to life, the rest was purely a plasric creation. A whole, an orderly conglomerate of beautiful curved surfaces, derived from ovoid shapes and neatly divided, by the stele as by a blade, into two masses; the rearward of the two spreads out the shell. The surfaces are superbly enveloped by the remarkably subtle way in which the sharp edges are cut away. Here is the lifting, the edges of the shell that succeed to a rare degree in forming the decor. Nothing more; nothing but perfect balance and contour. The neck, whose single movement is oblique, supports a small head, which, though not monstrous, is beveled and incrusted with two large olive-shaped protruding eye sockets. There being only one known type of such tortoises, they are more homogeneous than the four-footed composite Liang menagerie. The one whose portrait I show <...> is the left-hand tortoise at the burial place of Hsiao Hsiu <...> The date of this statue and of the stele it supports, A.D> 518, makes them the typical example of the vertical statuary of old China. <...> [T]he animal -- of outstanding stability -- points straight ahead, like a promontory, a blunt prow pushing back everything around it, the frightful flow of mad time, the whistling of the eddies and the trickles and the waves of that impalpable water with its invisible surges: a whole fluid mechanism, so enormously dynamic that is comparable only to another embodiment of unfathomed energy -- to the tidal wave that incessantly strikes every thinking being full in the face and ultimately destroys him. It is only when we contemplate these monuments of the ages, this intelligent rock that constitutes a Chinese stele, this achievement of the brush sculpturally enhanced as to both monument and pedestal that the image takes on its full meaning, its true sense. I heard time pass and stormily roar around the body and head of the stele-bearing tortoise.
Some of Segalen's original photos can be seen here
Modern photos of the statue Segalen wrote about can be found on Wikimedia Commons (mostly by myself), as well as on panoramio.com: P.S. Here's my video report on a visit to the site in February 2011.


And what did they write about railways in 1624?

When using Google Books yesterday, I was offered to fill in a survey. Besides asking whether I am aware of various new ways to sell e-books, they asked for a general feedback. Below, with minor edits, is what I wrote.
Google Books is a great tool of course, but there are quite a few things that can be improved: 1) Sometimes the font is too small - and zooming in the browser does not help (i.e., it's still illegible). 2) Old books are occasionally scanned in careless ways, especially when they are "centerfold" type pages that no one bothered to unfold prop erly. (Can't find a good example right now, but this one comes close, complete with the image of the scanner operators' fingers: Regni Sinensis la Tartaris Tyrannicle evastati depopulatique concinna Enarratio 3) A fair number of books are mis-dated, and the cool new NGram viewer has made it painfully obvious. Just ask, for example, "Who wrote about railways or railroads 300 years ago?" 4) It seems that the mechanism for Google Books "importing" reviews from the "usual places" elsewhere (i.e., Amazon.com, I reckon...) does not always work. E.g., the review existing this Roel Sterckx's book at Amazon does not show at the books's page at GB 5) How do you insert hyperlinks into reviews anyway? Even at Amazon you can insert a link to another Amazon product (via its ASIN); at the very least, Google Books should allow one to insert a link to another book at GB.