The Beginning of the End

Waking up to my 8 o’clock alarm, it was hard to believe that this is the final day of our visit to China. Although the 4 a.m. bus ride to the Pittsburgh airport seems like an eternity ago, each individual day in China passed as minutes. Coming to the lobby at 9 a.m. we were greeted by Jim, our guide for Tuesday’s Museum tour, who had returned for our trip to the Yu Garden. While the bus slid through the crowded city streets and passed enormous skyscrapers and modern buildings, Jim explained several of China’s innovative policies implemented to minimize the effects of crowding and congestion in major cities. Shanghai, being China’s most populated city, has 24 million residents, 15 million of which are born in the city and 9 million of which immigrate from surrounding provinces. To gain some perspective of the magnitude of this population, New York City, the United States’ largest urban center, has only 8.2 million people. Thus, measures have been taken to deal with the mass amounts of foot traffic through Shanghai. The first subway line in Shanghai was built in 1994 and since then has expanded to 16 lines. This extensive subway infrastructure makes inner-city travel much more efficient. The rapid increase in car numbers led to the installation of an elevated high way in 1996. Additionally, automobile traffic is curbed by restricting the number of registered cars that are able to be driven in the city. In order to acquire a license plate, citizens must pay to enter into a monthly lottery. If the .01% odds of winning this lottery are in your favor, you must then pay 15,000 USD to receive a license plate. This process has limited car ownership in the city to 3 million. This, however, does not address the issues of cars driven into the city from surrounding areas. Citizens living in neighboring areas of the city are prohibited from driving in the city during particular days of the week. As far as population is concerned, the cost of living in the city is extremely expensive, with 1 sq ft housing purchase of 1000 USD. Personally, I found all of these policies fascinating, as their use in the United States would seem outlandish. However, given China’s unfathomable population size, these practices are elements of everyday life for Chinese citizens.

We soon arrived at the Yu Garden, which used to be positioned at the city center. Jim revealed that this garden was a gift from a government official to his parents. Having originally lived far from his area of work in Shanghai, this garden was built to house his parents such that they could see him. Its construction began in 1557 and ended in 1577, and the garden was later open to the public in 1980. As we were led through the covered corridors of the garden, we could see the many components that were included to illustrate the connection between humans and nature. The stone walkways and walls were lined with auspicious carvings to promote longevity and good health. The strangely shaped stones that pervade the garden were thought to protect inhabitants from evil spirits and bring good fortune. Ponds, trees, and plants completely surrounded the houses, paths, and bridges of the complex to create a seamless transition between human life and nature. After our tour we were able to roam the local shopping quarters briefly and then boarded the bus to return to the hotel. 

At the hotel, my group and I performed our last practice presentation of our business idea. Throughout the trip, 6 groups developed their own business ideas and used their new-found knowledge of the Chinese market to explain how they would be successful in their given industry. We all walked to a nearby hotel and each group presented their idea and business model. Later, we had a great send-off dinner that was celebratory yet sad. It is tough to think that our time as a group is coming to an end. 

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