Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out
– French proverb and quoted in and inspired the title of the Chinese novel, Fortress Besieged.
After being passionate about bigness, and the magnificent, the splendid, and the modern, I started to learn to appreciate the beauty of smallness.
Growing up in the Smallness
Grew up in a mid-sized city, Luoyang, in the middle part of China (with 6 million population), most of the things around me are small.
The biggest building in the area of my school is a theater. In the current world-class standard, that theater is just a mini model of the real theater at 3:1 scale.
The tallest building in the area is 6 stories high. In the current Shanghai standard, the lowest residential building that is not classified as a villa.
The road is narrow – just one wide lane in each direction, making it difficult to pass.
That was the memory in the early of 1990s.
Beijing! The Big City
My first visit to Beijing in 1993 shocked me a lot. I loved the high-raised residential buildings that stands 18 floors high from where I stand. The contrast made me, and I believe many Chinese people, to admire the height of the buildings, and the width of the road.
Later, after I am transplanted to Shanghai, the high buildings, and complicated road system, including the traffic jam, are mixed together to form a scene of the modern, and the future.
“How I hope one day, Luoyang can be as big as Shanghai!” I dreamed when the tallest building of 14 floors in height was just under discussion.
Back to Smallness
After 15 years in Shanghai, and travel to many places in this world, I started to really understand the beauty of smallness. I started to enjoy travel to the old Hongqiao Airport T1 instead of much more modern, and big Pudong Airport, because the small airport provide easy access to the city, and don’t require me to walk too long. Just few years ago, the bad news of losing the chance to fly to/from PVG would ruin my entire day. The airport I like most started to be the Nanyang Airport, and Aspen airport, where you pick up your luggage at the side of the aircraft, and everyone walk from the plane through the small room (they call it terminal), feeling as the VIP of VIPs.
I started to love small town like Aspen, CO, or small city in Hainan. If I have a choice, I live in places like Aspen where there is just 5000 residents. Los Angeles? Oh. No. Thanks. New York? Oh. No. Thanks!
Smallness is the outside of my besieged fortress.
As an example, HangZhou near Shanghai is small and charming. If people can really afford, living in Hangzhou is a better choice than living in Shanghai. Unfortunately, HangZhou doesn’t offer as many jobs as Shanghai does.
There are tons of smaller cities and towns that offer charm of living in the US, how about Naples in Florida, where many Wall streeters have second homes there, but not many highly paid jobs. Well, middle class and immigrants must live in big cities because of jobs, the livelihood for them are more available in big cities. Sometimes, people don’t have much choice.
Aspen is not an average American small town. It is a resort town, beautiful for sure, but expansive. It is the place where the rich and famous ski and have their 2nd or 3rd home there.
Yes, Aspen is kind of like Naples in Florida, they are the second-home depot for the rich and richer. They are the places for average working people.
Here is a link that shows us 10 “coolest” cities in the US. Average people should consider themselves lucky to live in one of these, they all have plenty of jobs, opportunities and varieties of life:
Not intending to be biased, I myself don’t live in New York City either. Please see the above list, the number 1 coolest place to live in the US is surprise and surprise: New York City. I guess JS may not have high opinion about NYC, :-), I understand that, because the first time when I visited NYC, it didn’t impress me at all. Later on, when I have time to visit there often, it just have so so so much culture, style and varieties of artistic exposure that few other cities in the world can beat. One has to really understand NYC to understand why Forbes magazine rated it as the No. 1 coolest city in the US.
Hangzhou is not a small town, it’s has millions of residents!
Well. Hangzhou has 2.06 million population, 1/7 of Shanghai, and not a very big one in China standard. The more important thing is, the feeling Hangzhou gives to people is a small city.