The highest bridge, the longest tunnel, the largest house … The Chinese love to surprise the world with records. In the near future – to surpass one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. To plum or peach directly from the balcony of a skyscraper – for a new China, this is no longer a fantasy.
In orderly rows, Chinese passengers leave the plane that landed in Shanghai. Russian journalists scattered around the cabin are gathering together. Customs meets us with narrow passages fenced with a ribbon, forcing us to stand in a line. The visa is collective. Therefore we line up alphabetically so as not to leave the system anymore all the time we are in China.
A Chinese guide meeting our group, who called herself for convenience the Russian name Mila, counts us by the head and loudly commands us to split into pairs. We grumble displeasedly, but accept the rules of the game. I look around – the Chinese human sea is not chaotic. Here is a system of schoolchildren in tracksuits, here is a line of grandmothers in panamas, here are the clear links of comrades in jackets and with briefcases. Everything is subject to some kind of internal order. There are no random people in China.
Having heard about the dirty air of Shanghai, the first thing I look for in the luggage is my cure for asthma. We leave from the airport. Strange: instead of smog, there was a bright sun, and very fresh air is smelling of flowers. Along the entire flyover are containers with fragrant plants. Beautifully welcomes guests of Shanghai. We drive off from the airport and rush along the autobahn. Rows of bushes and flower beds sweep past. We take off to the second and then to the third floor of the roundabout. I bow my head and see the supports of the flyover, entangled in powerful green vines. They scramble along a grid that covers all concrete surfaces.
A typical landscape of Shanghai – high-rise buildings, bristling with antennas and poles, on which the ropes are stretched. Laundry is dried on them, as if in an old Italian town. The lucky ones, living on the second floor above the shops, occupy their protruding roofs, thereby expanding their tiny apartments. On such a patch, the laundry, the dining room, and the kindergarten fit in – tiny miniature plants stick out from the tubs. Those who can not even afford a mini-garden decorate the terrace with artificial flowers. The main thing is to have something to admire. The scale for the Chinese is not of fundamental importance: a person should not oppose himself to nature; you need to feel like a particle of it. As the playwright Li Yu wrote (XVII century), “a handful of earth and a spoonful of water bring boundless thoughts,” it is important “to see the greatest in the lesser.” In China, miniature gardens are common. They are called “cat’s forehead.” If there are pine, bamboo, water, and stones, then there is a garden.
It is this tradition in modern China that is reflected in the idea of vertical gardening. There is not enough space on the ground – see above: there are still roofs, walls, balconies. Here the workers plant some trees on the roof of a five-story office building. The garden will bloom here next spring. Such as “foreheads of cats” design, calculating the maximum weight of the load on the roof, and strengthening it with waterproof materials. According to a senior engineer at the Shanghai Gardening Center, about 400,000 square meters of roofs are planted per year.
Streets with a length of more than 500 meters are given the status of “green boulevards,” and 90% of the area along sidewalks and the roadway is planted with noble species of trees: plane trees, camphor laurels, and kelreiteri. Obtaining such a status is beneficial. Municipal services take care of the green boulevard plants for free: spray the nutrient mixture, wrap shrubs and palm trees on especially cold winter days, monitor the health of old trees (many are over 90 years old). Such streets instantly attract residents. Even in the tiniest kindergartens, orchestras play in the mornings, people come to do gymnastics and take a walk before a working day. Renting real estate on the streets with the status of “green boulevards” rises, so the business is not only costly but also profitable in the long run.
The Chinese love everything “the most” and shamelessly how children copy the best examples of world architecture. Seeing the Milan project “Vertical Forest” by Italian architect Stefano Boeri, in China, they decided that they should have the same, only bigger and better. And they invited the master. Asia’s first experimental “forest” is due to growth in the city of Nanjing in the coming years. With the support of the state investment group, Boerie is building two towers 108 and 200 meters high, which will be covered from top to bottom with 23 species of trees and more than 2,500 shrubs. On such an amount of greenery, as Boerie expects, several species of birds can get along. This will restore the bio-balance of the industrial city environment. According to calculations, plants will absorb more than 18 tons of carbon dioxide and provide the city with 16.5 tons of oxygen per year. The buildings will house offices, a hotel, restaurants, a museum, and a green school, and a rooftop pool and private club will open. The architect himself calls his Chinese project “skin grafting,” a targeted intervention designed to create a new life in a small corner of polluted China. But Boeri does not plan to stop there. He is preparing an “organ transplant”: the global development of a new concept for Chinese cities.
“We were asked to design a whole city where there is not one tall building-forest, but 100 or 200 such structures of different sizes,” says Stefano. – The first such settlement will be in Luzhou, the average area of a Chinese city. The second is being developed for Shijiazhuang, an industrial center in northern China (according to Greenpeace, it ranks 28th in the list of the dirtiest cities in the world. – Note “Around the World” ).
Boerie considers his idea of construction simple but not impressive.
“What is impressive is nature.” More precisely, the idea of having a building that changes color with every season, like nature, says Stefano.
I walk along the paths of the most famous park in Shanghai – Yuyuan (“Garden of Joy”), located in the heart of the Old City, and recall the idea of Boeri. All plants in the Chinese garden are not planted randomly, although they mimic wildlife. The garden is designed to be visited at different times of the year. In the “summer” part, they enjoy the fragrance of flowers in the shade of deciduous trees: oak, beech, ash, plane tree. In the “autumn,” they watch the colors of maple leaves and inhale the aroma of tangerine flowers. In the “winter,” they look at the play of light on the trunks of pines and plums blooming at this time. In the “spring,” they admire the flowering of sakura, honeysuckle, almond, violets, and daffodils. All plants have their own symbolism. The Chinese understood the meaning of landscape composition since childhood. I have to ask the guide Mila.
“A peach expresses a wish for prosperity,” she explains, “pomegranate symbolizes family happiness, pine – longevity and strength of character, peony – wealth and nobility.
Over sakura and jasmine conjure barely noticeable gardeners, cutting off some extra branches with some kind of silent tools. The garden should be quiet so as not to interfere with contemplation. I ask Mila to ask gardeners what kind of education is necessary in order to get a job in such a prestigious place.
“What are you,” the guide is amazing. – They will not talk; they are at work. It is forbidden.
The flow of people is pushing our group further. Bridges from refracted, like strokes of lightning, lead from one section of the garden to another. The Chinese believe that evil spirits move only in a straight line, so they make bridges with bends. The walls of the garden are also protected by dragons.
“This is not a real dragon,” Mila hurries with explanations. – Count the fingers on his paws. See: there are six of them? The present has five. The garden was broken in the 16th century, during the Ming Dynasty. At that time, the dragon was a symbol of the emperor, and mere mortals did not have the right to use his images. Therefore, cunning Chinese dignitaries adorned their possessions with such “fake,” six-toed dragons.
Leaving the park without a hint is not so simple. The layout of the garden is based on the fact that “the visitor should not notice how he gets into the garden,” and “cannot get out of it without help.”
Listening to Mila’s story, I suddenly notice that I’m already walking along the streets of the city. But above me, as before, the crowns of trees obscuring the skyscrapers. And the eyes open more and more bends of the streets. Apparently, they are so laid for the same reason as curved bridges. Be that as it may, the idea of turning the streets into “green boulevards,” which arose in 2011, clearly works.
On the instructions of the party
It takes three hours from Shanghai to our destination. Outside the window, unfinished areas flicker, concrete “humane” with the same houses. Tired of impressions, the brain tries to process visual information. Something is wrong. Stop! A rare stunted tree pops up in memory in Moscow’s new buildings. And here, between the houses under construction, there are rows of large trees and bright flower beds. In the still undeveloped wastelands, people are swarming: they plant plants, bleach tree trunks, cut grass with lawnmowers. There is no bare land.
– And what is going on here? I ask Mila.
– In the days of Mao Zedong, fields were plowed in place of forests; people had to be fed with something. But very quickly, the air became dirty. Many were dying. And the party decided to turn China into the greenest country. We even have a holiday: Tree Planting Day. It takes place in March, on the anniversary of the death of Sun Yat-sen. He is called the father of the nation. He, like your Lenin, planted trees with members of his party, back in the 1920s. And the holiday appeared in 1981 when they adopted a resolution to conduct a nationwide voluntary tree-planting campaign. What since then has been done by employees and schoolchildren every March 12? All people from 11 to 60 years old should plant 3-5 trees each year and take care of them.
– And if someone does not want or cannot?
– Like this? – Mila is surprised. – We all want to live well. Even legless and armless trees are planted.
“Joking,” I thought. And I was mistaken.
Blind, armless and legless
The national heroes of China, which are taught to be equal to schoolchildren, are legless Ma Sanxiao, blind Jia Haixia, and armless Jia Wenqi.
70-year-old Ma Sanxiao is a former military man whose legs were amputated. Since 2000, he has planted more than 17,000 trees to turn a bare mountain into a forest. Every morning, on a motor rickshaw, Sanxiao arrives at the foot of the mountain, fastens on heavy dentures, and climbs up with a hoe and seedlings on his back. He calls trees soul mates: “For me, they are not trees. They are like my soldiers to me. ” At first, Sanxiao planted, just to give loans for treatment, but now he does it for free – he believes that this is the only way he can thank the country for the help he once received.
Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi planted more than 10,000 trees together. The Chinese Xinhua News Agency calls them “the greatest eco-friendly in the world.” Both soldiers over 50.
“After I went blind,” says Haya, “the family lived in poverty. I had to earn.
Jia decided to rent a plot along the river from the local authorities and called for help from an unemployed armless neighbor. To buy seedlings, you need the money that friends don’t have, so they use cuttings from willow and aspen branches. They take root well and grow quickly.
“I am his hands, and he is my eyes.” We are a good team, says Jia Haixia.
Friends act according to the established scheme. A blind man follows a sighted person holding his empty sleeve. Armless Jia is looking for a place to plant and water. And the blind Jia digs holes in the earth with an iron rod and drives cuttings into them with a wooden hammer. They have been using this method for more than ten years. Thanks to the efforts of friends, thousands of aspens and willows are now growing along the banks of the river. The authorities exempted both Jia from land tax and rent. Friends receive a subsidy from the China Federation of Persons with Disabilities, which is what their families live for.
Yellow dragon’s revenge
Landscaping for China is a strategic task. Due to the onset of the desert, China loses about 1300 km² of usable area annually. From the dust storms, which the Chinese call the “yellow dragon,” not only the northern areas directly adjacent to the desert suffer. Storms raise the average annual temperature in other cities, clog rivers and worsen the condition of already dirty air.
To save from this “yellow dragon,” as the Great Wall of China once rescued from the invasion of barbarians from the north, the so-called Green Wall is called upon. This is a protective belt of trees and shrubs with a length of more than 4,500 kilometers and a width of about 100. The tree crowns should hold the wind with sand, and the roots should strengthen the soil and prevent its erosion. The Green Wall Erection by The Three-North Shelterbelt Development Program(“Three Northern Shelters”) plan to be completed by 2050. The planted area should cover 405 million hectares. A resolution on a nationwide voluntary tree-planting campaign has become part of this project. Since 1978, Chinese citizens have planted more than 66 billion trees. It sounds beautiful, but in fact, not everything is so smooth. The lifespan of artificially grown trees is about 40 years. In addition, they are more susceptible to diseases and suffer from insects. Another problem is that in arid areas, trees can exacerbate desertification – due to depletion of groundwater and damage to grass that prevents soil erosion.
Fulfilling the will of the party, it is mandatory to green the wastelands that will soon go under construction. You cannot pave the road without planting trees. So, rows of high-rise buildings from still unfinished residential areas, planted with white-trunk lines of adult trees, flash across the window of the bus. And so that they better take root and do not fall during winds and storms, trees are fastened using transverse rigid ligaments. According to the old Soviet habit, trees are whitened here. They say it’s more beautiful.
Silence in the law
In Changzhou, where the Greenworks full-cycle plant is located, producing a new generation of gardening equipment, we are greeted by red banners and slogans calling for shock work. At the entrance – an instruction. I can’t believe my eyes: it turns out that the color differentiation of pants, which allows the inhabitants of the planet Plyuk to demonstrate their social status, is not an invention of the director of the film “Kin-Dza-dza.” The Chinese factory has its own system of color differentiation. However, it is still used in the case: it is easier to find the right specialist by the color of the form in huge workshops. For ordinary workers – white robes, for masters – blue. Yellow – for visitors like us. At the beginning of each line are the green tops of artificial palm trees. Everything in its place according to the staffing. Violate the strict production order only young IT people dressed in a variety of sweatshirts and T-shirts with the names of fashion brands.
Tearing into world leaders, China does not want standstill. In the realities of a rapidly developing market, high technology is replacing manual labor. In just a year, instead of 200 workers, only five remained on one of the plant’s lines: no more was needed to control automation. So now, the concept of “Chinese assembly” means a high-tech process rather than artisanal production. Business owners buy expensive production lines and recruit employees with a good education. It is not so easy to succeed; you have to look for unoccupied niches. Greenworks hosts made a bet on the “green” course of the country 15 years ago and did not lose. The plant is a leader in the production of garden equipment on batteries. Headquarters are located in the American city of Charlotte and Swedish Malmö, and innovative tools are developed in our own research center. Brush cutters, sprayers, lawnmowers, saws, and other equipment without exhaust gases, noise, and vibration, and most importantly, without wires, allowed the company to occupy its niche and conquer the world market. Traditional gardens and large government offices now prefer to live in Chinese: work in silence and contemplation of the beautiful.