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Beijing, 21 December 2012

Model builders in China must be very busy people – and very rich. I am referring to the models of new city quarters, new industrial zones, and similar which are being developed all over China. Here are a few examples of what I mean, from the large:


To the more modest:


To the very modest:


There must be literally millions of these all around the country – hence my feeling that model making must be a thriving business in China.

I have just come back from Lianyungang, a modest (by Chinese standards) port in the province of Jiangsu, opposite Japan and South Korea. Over the arc of one day, I saw three such models, which went from big, to very big, to huge. The pictures above don’t really give justice to what I saw. The pattern of my visit was always the same. First, I was taken to a temporary building, most times in the middle of a construction site, where an official of some sort was on hand to warmly welcome me. The official, usually with a number of hangers-on, first escorted me down a corridor with photos of various high-level worthies beaming their appreciation about this latest development. Then he brought me to a platform from which I could admire from on high a panoramic view of the model of what was to come in the sea of mud outside. With a flick of a switch, he turned on a son et lumière and I was bombarded with a high-tech video show on the wall of the future to come, with coloured searchlights racing back and forth across the model below me and triumphant voices describing the glories before me. At the end, befuddled by all the loud noise and flashing lights I murmured my appreciation of this vision of the future and everyone beamed. Then we headed for the door and after more warm handshakes I was on my way to the next model and the next son et lumière.

What actually caught my attention was something altogether different. At some moment in my itinerary, I was taken down to the docks to watch the containers being loaded and unloaded by their hundreds. Then the van pulled up in front of this:


This is point zero for the New Eurasian Land Bridge, or the New Silk Road, a skein of rail lines that will run from Lianyungang across China to the Kazakh border, unreel across Kazakhstan, then after a short skip across southern Russia on through Ukraine, into Poland, then Germany, and finally come to a halt in the Netherlands at the port of Amsterdam. And suddenly in my mind’s eye I’m off along that rail line, with the train wheels clickety-clacking in my ears, whirling across the rice bowl of China all the way to Xi’an, home of the terracotta army, then whooshing along the Hexi corridor of Gansu, hemmed in by the Gobi desert on one side and the Qilian mountains on the other, barreling through the northern reaches of Xinjiang along the far edges of the Taklamakan desert … then suddenly I’m called back to reality. So with a sigh, I move on to the next son et lumière.

the big model: http://www.thenational.ae/deployedfiles/Assets/Richmedia/Image/AD200810523775761AR.gif
the middle-sized model: http://wanderinggaia.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/scale-model-of-tianjin-e-c.jpg
the small model: http://www.saintcairon.com/en/webedit/UploadFile/20085895920773.jpg

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I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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