The Age of Change, in Reality, and in Mind

This is an age of change, of China and of the world.

I feel it, but cannot name it. I see it all the time with all those small things in my life, but still cannot tell what it really means. My simple instinct tells me, 2007 is a very interesting and unique period for China. My friends, help me to understand it.

Job Market

My reader SuperDav asked me the question:

I see you’ve previously posted about some locals making 300-500,000RMB (per year). That’s almost $75k/ yr. USD! Most people in the US don’t make more that unless they have been working for MS for ten years…:)

I believe SuperDav must be surprised, that 500,000 RMB is not a very high salary in Shanghai in 2007 any more. I am not saying it is not high, but I can assure you there are so many people in Shanghai (senior managers in foreign, and local companies) earn more than that. Considering the exchange rate change between US, and China, the rate means higher than before. The recent salary survey I saw surprised me a lot – with the continuous CPI increase, the salary level in Shanghai finally raises. The concept that Chinese always earn less than foreigners should be updated.

The other interesting thing is, as I wrote in another blog, Foreign Job Seekers Move to Shanghai. This is also a trend that didn’t happen in the last centaury.

Capital Market

The recent IPO of PetroChina in the Shanghai Stock Exchange makes it the largest company in market cap in the world, by passing the second place, EXXON.

The second event is, China Mobile‘s market value bypassed Microsoft and became the largest technology company in the world several months ago.

Although the market cap does not reflect the power of the company, especially the PetroChina case, where the P/E is much higher in Shanghai stock than in U.S., and China Mobile is complete monopoly in the market, it is very interesting fact. There are some Chinese companies getting bigger in some way than U.S. companies. (P.S. Don’t need to argue about the fact. I know it means nothing using the irrational market valuation ways in current crazy Chinese stock market. I know that. I just want to play the numbers and show something that is very rare before).

People’s Life in China

I had the conversation with my parents the other day. I said, after centauries of poverty, Chinese people have to face the dramatic change in the next few decades of moving from poor, to wealthy. I wrote about this in previous article Not Be Afraid of Grace and Beauty (my thoughts when I was in YLF). I just realized the grace and beauty of the ancient China is coming back these days. Art, music, drama, film, even space technology is just like Renaissance. Which really means something.

Stronger China?

I don’t want to be too optimistic than I should be about the future of China. It is very hard to tell whole story about China and it is even harder to make any prediction. China is such a mixed subject mixing the worst, and the best, the richest, and the poorest. So, I don’t try to be complete (since no one can do that). I just picked some events, and attempt draw one side of the reality of China.

In reality, many things changes, but in mind, it may takes longer for people to realize it. The gap is there. It takes time.

What is your comments?

Train Ticket Office at Maglev Station

Many people arrives in Shanghai Pudong airport empty handed – I mean without the train ticket to the next city. Typically, they just arrives, and want to get train ticket, and then directly take a train to nearby cities, like Hangzhou, or Suzhou.

There is a train ticket office at the Longyang Road Station of Maglev (Maglev only have two stations, Pudong Airport and Longyang Road). It can be very helpful if you know its location to plan your trip.

Location of the Train Station

You should be able to find many pictures I took about the train station. Here are more detailed map from Google Earth:


The silver roof building at the south is the Maglev Station, and the more ugly square building on the north is Metro Line #2 Longyang Road Station. The Train Ticket Office is just inside this building.

Photos of the Train Ticket Office

Be prepared that this ticket office is not a fancy place – it hides in a small door with a very small window – it reminds me of scene of a jail.


This is the "jail" window. There is only one lady behind these bars. Also be prepared that the service is really bad, since this lady must be very badly paid (I guess)



This is outside ticket office. It reads: Railway Ticket Office. It is at the gate #2 of Long Yang Road Metro Station.


I hope the view north of the ticket office helps you to find it. It is a metro station (of future Metro #7). Typically, you will leave the Maglev from the south side, and you will only see a nice parking lot area. If that is the case, you need to turn to north to find the Metro Station building.


This is the view FROM the gate of the Ticket office looking south. At the end of this hallway is the Maglev Longyang Road Station. I hope this picture gives you a little bit idea about the relative locations of this small office. The reason I show you so many duplicated photos is, the office is so small and is really hard to find.


Yangshan Deep Water Port – Part II

I am attending a meeting at Yangshan Island. Here are some photos of the Donghai Bridge, and the Yangshan Deep Water Port. This is a meeting with government. I just found out that Yangshan is a great place to host a meeting – it takes about 2.5 hours to get there, including 0.5-1 hour to reach the A2, and 30 minutes on the A2 to Donghai Bridge, and 30 minutes on the bridge (at 80 km/hour), and 30 minutes on the boat from Xiao Yangshan to Da Yangshan. Here are some photos I took on the way there.

Where is Yangshan Port?

Google earth just specially updated the Yangshan Port area. On the satellite image below, you can see part of the bridge, and the part on the mainland is not updated – you should see a huge lake there in the current sea area.


It seems the recent updated Google Image has much higher resolution than before. Look at this one:


The bus stops at the Emergency Area, so we can take some photos of the port.


This is the platform – big enough for helicopters to land. There are several this kind of facility in the 32.5 km long bridge.


The water of the East China Sea is highly polluted, and it is all yellow.


From the top of the hill looking down to see the whole port area.



The night of the Yangshan Port.


This is the photo I took this morning when we returned from the Da Yanshan Island.


This is the view from the harbor of Da Yanshan Island, looking at the Xiao Yangshan (where the port is located). The fast ferry only takes 15 minutes to get to the other side.


This is the temple fishers go to before they sail into the sea.




 DSC02086  DSC02088

Update of Metro Line #4

My pilot friend George sent me a photo and asked me where it is. It is the map of Shanghai Metro Line #4 Puhuitang Base. I finally located the place on Google Earth, and I believe it is exactly what is on the map.


This facility is the parking place for the trains. By design, it has the capacity to hold 67 trains (402 carts) – pretty big, isn’t it?


It is very near where I lived before.

New Lines

By the end of this month, four new Metro Lines will open to public by the end of this month. They are

  • Metro Line #8
  • Metro Line #9
  • Metro Line #1 North Extension Phase II
  • Metro Line #4

39 new Metro Stations will be put into operation at the same time. This is really amazing.

Winter Arrives

Shanghai enters winter these days. It is very cold and chilly outside. Visitors to Shanghai, please bring enough cloths with you. I feel frozen this morning.

Hotmail Problems

I am experiencing Hotmail connectivity problems these days. Anyone encountered the same thing?

SJTU Campus Starts to Charge for Parking

I work on Shanghai Jiao Tong University campus. The campus is located in the downtown of Xujiahui. It is very hard to find parking lot in that area. However, the campus was always a free parking space. I have friends who always park there – for free.

There are safety guards at the gate. You have to tell them the reason you need to enter the campus. Typically, if you know any address or name of this university, you can easily get in.

From yesterday, SJTU starts to charge 7 RMB per hour. This is the first charging campus in Shanghai. There are hot debates around it on newspaper. Many people think it is not appropriate for a public university to charge…

Emmm. I am happy I have an annual parking permit already.

Great Ocean Road

One year has past, and I just realize I have never posted my Great Ocean Road trip onto blog yet. OK. Here are the breath-taking pictures of the trip in Australia.











When I look back and summarizes the most impressive trips I made, I get a list:

  1. 2004 – One month cross American trip
  2. 2005 – First trip to Silicon Valley
  3. 2006 – Australia Trip (Great Ocean Road is part of it)
  4. 2007 – In terms of distance, the Cambodia trip is the highlight. In terms of impact on me, maybe it should be the Young Leaders Forum trip in Nanjing.

What is in 2008?

Hope for Microsoft Web Effort

I start to use the Windows Live application by Microsoft – I mean the client application tools, not the LIVE.COM services. It gave me much hope about the future of Windows Live.

When I use the first and second version of Windows Live, my comment was: "I see great hope in Microsoft Live product. It shares something in common with many great products from Microsoft – the first two versions are always garbage."

I am happy that I am right again. Although the first two versions of Microsoft Live Writer is not good, this version (version 12) works very well. It simply works without many bugs. I also enjoy using Microsoft Live Mail – using it as a client, the experience is just better than GMail – that is the strength of a desktop application over a web application. The new Microsoft Live Photo Gallery is also doing very well. Comparing to Picasa, I didn’t see significant weakness. Live Photo Gallery is even stronger in sorting according to date.

Jiayou, Microsoft.

Aniseed Vietnamese French Cuisine

For some reason, I postponed my dinner to 9:00 PM. Now, I am sitting in the Aniseed Vietnamese French Cuisine. While I am waiting for my Vietnamese noodle (delicious!), let me tell my friend about it.

It is the best place serving Vietnamese noodle in Shanghai, based on my limited experience of restaurant. As the name suggested, it combines the delicious food of Vietnam and the grace presentation from French. The noodle shop (maybe this is a better term to describe this "restaurant") is not big – only 10 tables. But the music and the service is very good – very rare in its kind. The Taiwanese host greets every customers and checks "how is everything" like in U.S. This is also very rare in local restaurants.

It is just downstairs of the office building I am in. Here is the address:

189 West Guangyuan Road, Shanghai China 200030
It is at the corner of West Guangyuan Road, and Leshan road (one block away from the corner of West Guangyuan Road and Huashan Road)
Reservation Number:021-64476488
Opening Hours: 11 AM to 11 PM.

I have to give you a tip: Their noodle is very delicious, but the amount may not be enough. They offer free service to add more noodles. Just make sure you ask for it.

Hope you like it. Well. My noodle is waiting for me already.

P.S. They don’t have Internet access – I am using Microsoft Live Writer as offline editing tool.
P.S.2 Vietnamese noodle is my favorite food in America. I eat Vietnamese noodle in Seattle when I work for Microsoft, in San Jose (although the noodle shop at Bascon Ave and E Hamilton Ave is just on the border of San Jose and Cupertino) when I work for eBay.  I also eat the same noodle in New York and Boston when I travel – it offers exactly the flavor I love at a cost lower then Chinese food.

Comments on Robert’s Social Aggregator Ideas

(This post is posted via Microsoft Live Writer – it is pretty impressive)

Robert wrote a great blog about his thoughts on Social Aggregator. He pinged me on Skype about it. Let me do spend some time to write a kind-of review about the thoughts.

A social aggregator can aggregator various information (not just RSS feed of a blog or Flickr account!) from many feed sources, store data in local cache(db) for performance and queries, user can apply different filters to get very interesting result.

This reminded me of Rapleaf. I just met Auren in Nanjing the last week. Rapleaf is a reputation management tool to aggregate all kinds of information on the Internet about a person’s reputation. It seems similar ideas with what Robert is proposing. I know there is difference. However, the challenge I think Rapleaf faces is, there are not so much information in the Internet space. (Auren, correct me if I am wrong). For example, searching my email in Rapleaf didn’t turn out to be interesting result for me because of lack of information. Hopefully one day, when user’s profile information expands like the total number of pages on the Internet does, this aggregation can succeed as Google did. What I am trying to say is, the current problem is not lack of aggregation tools. The problem is lack of enough sources for people to aggregate. For people like Robert, Isaac, Joi Ito, Auren, and me, maybe yes. Good solution. But for many people I know, it is far from useful. Just as I know not much about music, conducting, art, drama, and space technology, they may not know Internet well enough.

I have the same comments for the three bulletin Robert wrote:

  1. Use LINQ as query language?
  2. Social Aggregator
  3. Use LINQ as query language?Use LINQ as query language?

It is the lack of data, instead of manipulation of the data that matters.

The other comment I have about "Very interesting results that a social aggregator can generate" is, to rely on the usefulness of other application is risky; to rely on the usefulness of many applications together in more risky. For the aggregation idea to work, it has to find source that people really like to put their reading list on (maybe Amazon), or put their wish list (maybe eBay), then this application is useful. The problem is, it is not easy for everyone to agree on which service is the best, and use that one altogether.

On the idea of the previous blog, I think it is very cool application for geeks, but not individuals. To educate people to setup a blog or even an email address is not easy, not to mention to have everything ready (like Blog, Photo sharing, wish list….). I am not saying that it is not useful, but due to the high threshold, not many people is really "qualified" to be the user of this application.

In the YLF in Nanjing, I did a survey, and to my surprise, out of Internet space, even the most high-profiled people, or those archived people, don’t adopt Internet applications very quickly.

Blog is a big thing, just like email. I believe it is big because it enables anyone with Internet access to WRITE on Internet, just as email enables everyone on Internet can reach each other. These are really big thing. That is the reason I am not super excited about the idea of Social Aggregator.

P.S. I am trying to provide negative comments on this idea, as I think different ideas help to polish the idea itself. I am also happy to disclose that I am also the person who said FocusMedia is a bad idea. That means, based on my track record, if I say something bad, there are very high possibility for the idea to really succeed. 

Saw June with Michael Bloomberg

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in Beijing today. Although I heard many great things about Mr. Bloomberg from my friends, I am not interested in him as much as I am interested in YLF participant June Mei. I saw her in one of the press photo:

Image in courtesy of Xinhua News Agency

June was behind Bloomberg. Looking forward the Mayor’s (and June’s) visit to Shanghai in the following few days.

Pinyin is Not Chinese

During my Nanjing YLF trip, I just realize one simple fact that many people outside China may not be aware of: Pinyin is not Chinese.

After I explained this to my friends, they were surprised. This is different from what they thought. I am even more surprised when people tell me that they think the Pinyin (the Romanization) is Chinese itself. In case you don’t know, let me tell you more about it.

Chinese Characters and Pinyin

The Chinese characters itself are like a logo. Chinese is ideogram language. Check out this page: Chinese Characters about Chinese characters.

Pinyin is just one of the many ways to romanize the language so people at least have some idea of the pronunciation of the character. It acts as a bridge for the world to use commonly used 26 alphabetic to quote a Chinese character.

For example, someone may think my name in Chinese is Wang Jian Shuo. It is wrong. My Chinese name is 王建硕. I know it is hard for people who don’t know Chinese to read it, so we invented Pinyin to turn these characters into English style word – Wang Jian Shuo.

The Mapping

The problem is, there are 10,000 Chinese characters (the small square pictures you see on the screen), and at least 2000 to 3000 of them are commonly used in daily life. However, there are only around several hundreds of pronunciation in Chinese – even includes the tones (same pronunciation with different tones makes different sounds). With some simple calculation, you have the idea that many characters have to be mapped to exactly the same pronunciation. To make it even worse, most of the Pinyin don’t have tones printed with it, so put four different pronunciation into one.

When I am presented a name of a school (Tian Jia Xing), I said I don’t know the name. My American friends may wonder: “How come! You don’t read Chinese?” My answer was: “I do read Chinese, but Pinyin is not Chinese itself.” Since so many characters maps into the same Pinyin, it is very hard to decode it and get back to its original characters.

Just give you a quick example about the mapping.

My last name is Wang. However, look at how many characters reads exactly as Wang:

These are just some samples of the 50+ characters mapping to Wang.

So, Pinyin is not Chinese at all.

Young Leaders Forum Fellow Blog Feed

We need to leverage new technology, don’t we? I volunteered to create an aggregated Young Leaders Forum Fellow Blog

Feed. The URL of this feed is

. There are some behind the scene works.

  • I get a list of all

    YLF fellow (the listing is still growing) and put all the blog entries together.

  • I sort the blog entries according to published time so the latest one is always on the top
  • I have limited my blog RSS output to only the articles with YLF or Young Leaders Forum in it, to avoid

    overwhelm people with not related comments. Remember, I write daily

  • I am still trying to add a “Translate this” button to the beginning of the description section of Chinese entries so

    our American Fellows can at least have some idea about what the entries are about. This is not completed yet

In case you want to trace the latest thoughts of YLF, please subscribe to this feed or simply check out this page.


Atlantis Launch Delayed

Just as many of my friends (and readers) in U.S and Europe started to pay attention to Shanghai news in their local TV station when we meet each other, I started to watch closely to launches of NASA after I meet with YLF fellow Chris.

The launch was scheduled to launch several days ago, and it is scheduled to launch today (Sunday), but it turned out to be postponed again because of the false reading from the engine cutoff sensor system. I watched NASA TV for some time at the due time, and found out nothing happened when it is approaching the launching time. NASA TV even didn’t provide any background sound, that I even thought I didn’t get any video from NASA TV, before I saw a helicopter flying in the background.

Image credit: NASA

Good luck to the Altantis and looking forward to its successful launch in early 2008. Good luck to Chris. It seems he has to wait for another one month or so to be really work in the Mission Control Center.

Gave Chinese Names for my Friends

In Tongli, in the shop next to our hotel, they have 20 small baskets of badges of Chinese characters – each badge has a character on both side of it. People can pick two or three badge to form the Chinese name for themselves. For example, I can pick 王 and 建 and 硕, and have them on a ring – that is my name.

Chinese Name for Ashish

I happen to be with Ashish at the shop. I think it is a cool idea to give Ashish a Chinese name and send the name tag to him as a gift. I thought very hard about it and picked from the 2000+ characters available in the baskets. Finally, I got one, and I am very happy about it.

Before I tell you the name, let me introduce Ashish a little bit. Ashish is the CEO of Forward Hindsight, a consulting firm to help Fortune 500 companies on risk management. He is very successful with his company. Ashish came from India, and has the best characteristic of an India in him. He speaks very good English with no Indian accent at all, although he can easily switch from Indian-English to American-English. (I tried hard to learn how to say “I am from Mumbai” in Indian-English. That is of a lot of fun). He is the author of Sustainable Disruption. The most significant thing about Ashish is, he devoted his life and his company to solve a big problem – world hunger. He does everything just to help people in hunger through out the world. This is amazing work.

So to think of a name for Ashish, I tried very hard to archive three goals:

1. Pronunciation should be similar

2. I should reflect his vision about attacking the world hunger in the name.

3. It would be idea to have some kinds of India flavor in the name to reflect his origin of India.

So, here is the final name I choose:


阿 = Pronounced as A – just the pronunciation. Put at the from of a person’s name to show intimacy.

施 = Pronounced as Shi (first tone). It means to give, to help.

世 = Pronounced as Shi (forth tone). It means the world.

Put it together, the names pronounces as “Ashishi”, almost exactly the same as the English name. By meaning, it means Help the World, reflecting his vision of helping to cure the world hunger. Finally, when I check around, people said it has some feeling of Buddha. That may help people to connect him with India.

OK. Ashish seems to like that name. I am very happy about my brain work.

Chinese Name for Chris

I gave Chinese name to my other friend in the Young Leaders Forum. His name is Chris. He is an astronaut working in NASA, Huston, TX. He is expected to go to the space station soon.

Obviously, he wants some name that reflects his dream to explore the space, and he wants something like star, or sky in his name. The challenge for me is to find out a Chinese name that reflect this, and at the same time, be as similar as the pronunciation of “Chris”.

So, here is my final name I choose for Chris:


可 = pronounced as Ke (third tone). It means “be able, capable”.

历 = pronounced as Li (forth tone). It means “experience”.

星 = pronounced as Xing (first tone) – the pronunciation is very similar with English word Sing. It means “star”.

Put together, the pronunciation is Kelixing, or Klising – pretty like Chris, although there are some differences. The meaning is “be able to experience stars”. This is exactly what Chris is going to do in the space station. Not many people in this world has the ability to really experience the stars or the space as Chris does.

Chris. Used with permission

I Just Realized I LOVE to Give People Names

I feel accomplished when I choose the best Chinese names to reflect the pronunciation and meaning of my close friend. It does take time to really know a person well before I can give a English name.

Hope Ashish and Chris like the Chinese name I chose.

P.S. June Mei gave me high rating of this name. She is the top interpreter in Chinese/English world. We talked about the translation of 万 (ten thousand) to Million instead of ten thousand to reflect the reality that both are the largest number in daily use, and often, people in Chinese do not mean the number of ten thousand when they say “万岁”.

Spend Money on Art or Porverty

This is a very interesting topic we covered in this Young Leaders Forum. When we talk about whether it is appropriate to spend more on art when world poverty or world hunger is not solved. This was among the hottest debate we had.

Two Sides of the Question

One opinion was, we should pay attention to world poverty first. There are still people starving, or there are still children dieing because of lack of medical assistance. What is the point to spend the money in art. The extreme statement can be: Spend a dollar on piano may kill the hope to save a child’s life.

The other side of the argument is, the importance of art and others (like space technology) is as important as solving the other problems. Government should have a balanced budget spent on all different areas.

My Two Cents

I lean toward the second opinion. There is a Chinese saying:

If you wait for being rich before you help, you will never be able to help;

If you wait for spare time to read, you will never be able to read



That is what I am trying to say. Although we hope one day, the world, or a country or a person can be rich enough that there is nothing else to spend but to put into art, this day will never come.

There is another Chinese saying: “Don’t stop doing good deed just because it is small. 勿以善小而不为”. Although spending on art does not seem as noble as spending on saving people’s life, it is good deed and we should do it.

I also face the same question in daily life. When I tried to save a cat, someone pointed finger to me and said “Why bother care about a cat while some human being is still hungry”. When I tried to help people in hunger, someone may say “You should spend to help people’s life”. The “more noble” thing is endless. We should not criticize anyone from doing any good thing – anyway, it is the same kind of people who save both cats and human. If someone does not care about cats, it is more likely that he/she does not care about human.

What J.F. Kennedy Said about This

I searched my photo album, and found another sentence I took on the wall of J.F. Kennedy Center for Performing Art.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang in 2004

It reads:

There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Lorenzo De Medici was the age of Elizabeth also the age of Shakespeare. And the new frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a new frontier for American art

Thanks J.F.Kennedy to put it preciously that spending a dollar in art may not always cause reducing some spending in other area. The push from art or other field to economic success may eventually complete the positive feedback loop (my major in university is automatic control), so it is not always conflicting with each other.

Hopefully, this helps to justify many of the good things artist, dramatist, conductor, musician, astronauts, even soldier is doing.

Not Be Afraid of Grace and Beauty

When I wrap up my Young Leaders Forum 2007, and the extension trip in Suzhou, Tongli, and Shanghai, I could not help thinking about an important question about the future of China: Are we, as a nation, afraid of grace and beauty?

Here is why I asked this question.

The Beauty of Ancient China

Yong Leaders Forum is a small group of young leaders from all the fields in U.S, and China. It is on two year term that we meet in China (odd years), and America (even years) to discuss U.S. and China relationships and other important things. I am among the 6 representatives from China this year.

The extension trip was as interesting as the main sessions. Since this is in my own country, and I tried to bring my American friends to places I love – like the mid-night tour of Tongli. Many people, especially Ashish, were amazed by the beauty of the water town. It happened again in the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou.

I am also overwhelmed (again) by the scene of old China. I started to ask the question: Why beautiful things only happens in ancient China? Where are the beautiful places we built recently? Why many building in the recent 50 years are ugly or lack-of-repair?

Suzhou Museum and Guiling Garden

Two places changed my mind. The first is Suzhou Museum. I talked about this place in another blog entry. It is a break-through. I can tell, at least, it costs lot of time to design and construct it. It is beautiful, and expensive.

The other is Guilin Garden.

Thanks for Alex Liu, YLF Fellow 2007, we had dinner in Guilin Garden. That garden was originally the private garden of Huang Jin Rong, and was turned to a public garden. A private equity investor acquired this garden and renovated it and turned it into a very nice restaurant. I was impressed how beautiful an ancient garden can be turned to a great wonder. The new owner brings life back to the gardens. All rooms are lit up, decorated with curtains and paintings. I don’t have pictures, but it gave me the impression that 1930 is back, or 1600 is back to life. The waitresses were trained for 3 months, and they also showed the best of Chinese culture – beautiful, grace, polite, and many characters I only experienced in old novels. Of cause, this does not come without cost. The renovation project costs several million USD. If you look at the history of this garden, the private beautiful garden to bad maintained public park to a decent private garden in the last 100 years seem to be a big circle that it returned to its original starting point.

Whether we should pursuit the luxury like this or not

I may be too quick or too generalized to say that people in China are afraid of beautiful things. This is obviously wrong. Look at the beautiful furnitures, calligraphy, gardens, silk, and millions of great things we created in the past. China is so beautiful (although it takes time for us to re-discover it).

However, nowadays, people still didn’t recover from the lack of (material) resources in the 20th century. People hate luxury things (there are national wide propagandas against being luxurious). The famous saying for socks and cloths are: “New for three years; old for three years; patched and fixed, they last for another three years”. It seems to wear the same socks for 9 years is the virtue of Chinese people. So people face the moral conflict between being grace and beautiful, and saving money.

However, the reality is, much big portion of beauty comes at higher cost than those ugly one. When we have more and more resources, how should we choose? That is a question new generation of people in China has to answer.

JFK’s Answer

This reminds me of something J.F.Kennedy said. It was carved on the wall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I happened to took a picture of that wall:

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © 2004. Taken at the south wall of J.F.Kennedy Center for Performing Art.

The first sentence reads:

I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty. — J.F.Kennedy

At the first sight, I felt puzzled. Is there anyone who is afraid of beauty? There are!

We are in a hurry, that we don’t dare to slow down to spend the time to really appreciate the beauty of our life.

We are afraid to put time and effort to make our living environment more beautiful, and healthy.

We are afraid that spending time with fine art is too luxurious.

We are afraid something is too beautiful that may be treated as outrageous.

When we talk about how many hours workers spent to create an ancient garden, we often said it in a negative way – “look at how luxurious the bad guys are!” However, we ignored the fact that really beautiful thing does take time. So the market is full of craps that a worker created in one hour, and very rare can we see some decent art work.

This brings us to the next sentence carved on the wall by J.F.Kennedy:

I am certain after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for the victories or defeats, in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit。 — J.F.Kennedy

It was a snowing winter in Washing D.C. Wendy and I just stepped out of the theater after watching the musical of The Thoroughly Modern Millie. At that time, we were touched by the words. He is absolutely right.

A Chinese, which is not afraid afraid of grace and beauty

I believe when people in China end the centuries of hunger, and war, we get back to the original track to pursue happiness, grace, beauty, and all kinds of great things, just as our ancestor did in the last few thousands years.

People in China were not afraid, and will not afraid of grace and beauty.

Humble Adminstrator Garden in Suzhou

This is maybe the third time I visit the Humble Administrator Garden. This time, I am with the fellows of Young Leaders Forum. We also have the wonderful (temporary) guide June Mei. She was well know by her interrupting work for American and Chinese top leaders. For example, Present Hu’s Yale speech, or many times of Premier Zhu visited U.S. (We had another high-profile ex-interpreter Rose Zhu joined us in the YLF in Nanjing). June knows Chinese architect and history well, and helped me to understand much better of the garden.

Here are some photos of the Garden. Due to the weather, it appears not as beautiful as it should be.

Suzhou Museum by I.M. Pei

I visited the Suzhou Museum on Dec 3. The museum is designed by I.M. Pei, and we had the honor to attend a behind the scene tour conducted by Bobbie Pei. Bobbie was so kind to talk about the design philosophy of his uncle. That tour was one of the highlight of the trip.

Symmetry is the key

Symmetry is one of the very key element of the Chinese architecture. It is also the symbolic sign of I.M. Pei’s design. Look at these pictures:

Below: The big Chinese window in the coffee shop.

Below: The Courtyard of the Museum.

The West Wing of the Suzhou Museum. The interesting thing is, there are two wings of the museum. The intention of the designer is to ask people turn left and see the west wing first and then leave the museum from the east wing. Pei didn’t put a large sign at the entrance “Turn left please”. He made the west wing a little big longer (seems more interesting), and had a water fall at the end of the hall way, so the sounds of water can be very attractive to visitors. At least, I turned left without a thought. That is the beauty of good design. It is the same principle in usability: if you need a label to explain something, the design may already failed.

Architects always face challenges. Just as triangle site Pei faced in the design of National Gallery East Wing in Washing D.C., this big white existing wall at the entrance is not easy to handle. Pei used stone to form a scene according to painting in Song Dynasty.

The “stone drawing” is not a 2-Dimensional picture. It is 3D. Looking from west, it looks like this:

The hallway of the west wing:

Even looking at 45 degree of the reception hall, it is still strictly symmetric.

This is the pond of the Museum.

My Thoughts

This is a great museum. The museum itself is a piece of art. Although I don’t like the management of the museum – they didn’t bring life into the architecture, and especially the open-ended Li Lan Qing’s personal exhibition of stamps there made it look funny, I love the museum itself.

The geometry thinking in the museum made me feel that I am in a world of pure lines and triangles, squares, and symmetry.

Suzhou is beautiful. The icon color gray and white made the the gardens so unique. However, this town started 2500 years ago, and many of the architects was built 300 years ago. How to bring the heritage of Suzhou and extend it is a challenge that not many people face.

Conflicting between Architect and Museum Construction and Management

I read a book about Pei. His conflict with construction workers when he designed the Xiangshan Hotel was famous – the workers don’t care what the designers say and just randomly put things up.

I didn’t expect the same conflict still exists two years ago, when the museum was built. Some trees died, and management simply put a random tree there. Every bamboo was planted exactly as what was designed originally, but it was re-arranged and it completely broke the “one-line sky” scene at 45 degree view point.

In the YLF conference, I talked about conflicting rules. This is another example about different people have completely different ways of doing things, and how they see this world.

Again, thanks Bobbie Pei for take the time to conduct the tour for us. That helps me a lot.