This is Real China

Longmen Caves


Henan province–河南–birthplace of Chinese civilization. (Not Hunan, that’s south, but KHUUH-nan, the heartland). Four ancient capitals. Legendary Shaolin. Longmen Buddha grottoes…

Old Luoyang

Shaolin Pagoda Forest

…the world’s largest kung fu school at Shaolin Temple. I was sick in a hotel bed and saw none of it.

Shaolin kung fu

Kung fu

Thus, during my few feverish moments of alertness in the van, I saw only right-now China. That is: high-rise construction. Thirty years ago, Henan was one of the poorest places on earth, subject to killer floods and mass starvation. Today it’s growth is, if this can even be imagined, faster than China’s as a whole, dependent on “dwindling aluminum and coal reserves, agriculture, heavy industry, tourism, and retail” (Wikipeda). Here, without any romantic tourist tint, is the breathtaking reality. Have a look:

Luoyang, Henan

Henan is home to about 94 million people.

Zhengzhou, Henan

Sadly, because of corrupt blood-drive practices, many thousands here in so-called “AIDS Villages” are infected with HIV.


Everything 5- or 6-story is coming down and in its place, it seems only the 40-storey skyscraper will do. Another observation in restaurants: walls of bottles, tables covered with glasses. This is a big drinking province — hard liquor.

More modern Henan

It’s 6 hours from Beijing by bullet train, 9 hours on the slower overnight sleeper. Many Beijing students hail from Henan.)

40-storey, typically

Here is real China.

Henan sunset

One comment on “This is Real China

  1. sophia says:

    Next time when you are free, I suggest you visiting Kaifeng, another ancient capital in Henan, and you’ll find it more fancinating and mixed than any other places in Henan. Bustling night market, various snack food, ancient royal palaces, traditional embroidery… and it is a place where many Jewish people had fled from the western countries during the second world war to settle down. It is a place where a considerable number of Hui minorities live. And also it is the place where Liu Shaoqi, China’s president after Mao Zedong, was confined in prison and persecuted to death during the Cultural Revolution.


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