Blue Sky in Shanghai

It is so rare – there are blue sky and clear air. I took this photo out of the window of our 18th floor office in Xujiahui.

Whenever I see city scene like this in Shanghai, I am thinking about climbing to the top of a skyscraper – either World Financial Center, or JW Marriott with my sketch book and draw something of this city.

Yangtze River is Now a Yellow River

It is a sunny Saturday in Shanghai, and I guess it is so for the Yangtze delta. Wendy and I wanted to bring Yifan to a new city. After the US trip (1600+ miles in 7 days), we reset our definition of living area. 500 km is the new boundary of what we define as “far”.

After checking out cities as far as Rizhao 日照, which may cost 6 hours, we finally decided to go to Nantong 南通. It is at the north side of the Yangtze River, opposite of Suzhou.

The Yangtze River under Sutong Bridge

Sutong Bridge is the new bridge built on Yangtze river. The north side is Nantong, and the south side is Suzhou. The bridge itself, along with the highway running through it is called G15, a 3400 km expressway connecting Shenyang in very north part of China to Haikou, in the south in Hainan. We passed Sutong Bridge today.

The Yangtze River I saw today is very very different from all the photos I saw, and more different than the river in my impression. It is completely dark yellow. Look at this photo:

Photo by Jian Shuo Wang. Yangtze River under Sutong Bridge

Yangtze River is a Yellow River

I remember a comic about the subject. On one end of a phone line, Yellow River is calling: “Yangtze River, Yangtze River, this is Yellow River speaking…”. On the other side, Yangtze River replied: “Yellow River, Yellow River, this is also Yellow River!”.

Few decades ago, the lose of forest at the upstream of the Yellow River caused the river to contain huge amount of soil so it is completely yellow. At that time, Yangtze River is still relatively clean. The Yangtze Crocodile (Alligator sinensis), a rarely seen crocodile from millions of years ago are still living in the water of the Yangtze River in this area.

Today, look at the Yangtze River – the pollution has already made it a more yellow river than the Yellow River. I was shocked by the scene of wide yellowness before me. There are many ships floating in the disgusting surface of the river. I believe it is very hard for fish to survive (even there are fishes, I doubt they can see anything with their eyes under the water). I don’t think anyone can still swim in the river.

Whose River it is?

If it is a river in my own garden, I will spend money and effort to make it right. If it is a river of a neighborhood, we will gather and make something happen. Now, the longest river in China is highly polluted, but there is no political system to support the course to purify it, and protect it. Media is not free to report, or discuss who are the people cutting trees or pour polluted water into it; the government is not held responsible to sue the factories before court (well, court and government are the same organization with the same supervisor); NGO are under legal challenges. What can we do to protect the mother river of China?

I was shocked, completely shocked to see another yellow river in China.

Sand Storm Hits Shanghai

I am happy that the sand storm is over. Yesterday, Wendy and I planned to go out for a walk at around 5:00 PM. It was windy, but the surprising part was, the air is full of dust, and it smelled like being in the middle of cleaning of an old building.

We are still luck. The sand storm from southern part of Xinjiang already hit many provinces including Beijing. It looked much worse than Shanghai.

Today, all the cars are covered with yellowish dust. It helped Wendy and I to finally make the decision about the color of our next car – WHITE! The concern was, white cars are too easy to look dirty when there is dust. However, this experiment rest assured us that black cars performed worse than white one in extreme conditions like sand storm.

Shanghai Also has Blue Sky – for One Day

I don’t have official statistics, but I believe the pollution in Shanghai is worse this year than the last year. Why? From my observation, there are almost no blue sky in Shanghai in the last few months. It is partly due to the rainy season, but I just feel I was too excited to see the blue sky of today.

Today is an exception.

The sky was blue and there are white clouds in the sky – very beautiful, and the visibility of the air is much better than average. I can see the Jinmao tower clearly from Xujiahui.

This is good, but days like this is so rare in Shanghai.

Discussion about Blue Sky

Today reminded me of an interesting discussion under an old blog article. Once I posted some pictures of the Bay Area to my blog, and there are readers from mainland commented:

“Look at the blue sky!”

Actually, not one person. Many of them. They are surprised to see the blue sky in the California in the pictures.

More interestingly, people from the States (I guess) commented that they were very surprised to find out the fact that someone will be surprised to see blue sky, which is their everyday life.

What a sad story. I feel very bad when I saw the conversation and deeply concerned about the pollution in China.

Many People Forgot about What Natural should Look Like

The much more frustrating fact is, in China, many people including me, have forgotten what the natural should really like. When we see some pictures (like the default desktop of Windows Vista), we just don’t believe there are such thing in the nature.

Last time when I visited Australia, I was so surprised to see the water in the river. It is acturally clear – to be honest, I never saw such water in middle or eastern China. The only time I saw such clear water was in Daocheng – the distant Tibet area that almost no people live there.

The Story of a River

Let’s talk about river.

Victor lives in village in rural area of Shanghai in Jiading District. He recalls that the river besides his home was suitable for swimming when he was young. When we visited the river last Saturday, it smell so badly that we want to leave it as soon as possible. The river was dark yellow and I doubted any fish could survive there.

I suspect it was due to the Paper Manufacturing Factory nearby.

The Story of my Home Town

The even more astonishing fact is, people don’t care about pollution at all (especially the government).

Last summer, I went back to my hometown, and one of my distant relatives came to our home and introduced the investment environment of the area. He was now a government official of the town, and pitched us to spend about 20,000 RMB to get some land in our hometown and open a factory.

I asked

Is there any additional benefit to open factory here?

His answer was:

You can setup factory that pollute the environment! In east area (he means the coastal area), they (he means the local government) control it too tight and you may not be able to open such factory. We (he means the local government in my home town) welcome all such factories!

This was the benefit they gave to factory owners.


Hope? Not Really

I hope there are more blue sky like today in Shanghai, and I am sure there will be less blue sky in my home town if nothing is done about it.

Shanghai is Still Highly Polluted

Today, the weather is the same (except colder) and the dark gray, almost yellow sky is still like several days ago. According to local newspaper, it had been the 8th continuous day of grade II (which means slightly polluted). Based on my observation, I guess today should be the 10th continuous polluted day. So called “slightly polluted” is already “very polluted” in normal people’s view, because it starts to do harm to people already.


Recently, I am feeling very tired this week. Maybe catching a little bit cold is one example, staying late at night is another. I hope I can go to bed early today – 10:30 PM? I hope so.

Wendy is back home for her sister’s wedding, and I am packing for my trip to San Jose. Driver’s License, passport, flight tickets, invitation letters… and the power converter… It requires some work, but I think I’d better go to sleep now. I went to bed too late last night (or this morning).

Ads on the Street

There are new things around me every day. Several days before, I saw the new form of advertisement at the Raffles City (at the side of the Xizang Mid. Road).

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

There is a big projector at the top of the shopping mall and project the advertisement image to the street. It also keeps moving so attracts a lot of eyeballs



I don’t want to response too much about the comment on ignorance of major events in China, or Shanghai (so change this paragraph to smaller font). I admit that recent half year, I was not able to get involved in the city as much as I did before. I don’t often watch TV (what was my last time watching TV?). I don’t often listen to radio (besides the 20 minutes on my car back to home). Sometimes my connection to the city was cut out so I don’t have too much city story to share. Meanwhile, as my rule, I intentionally limit to my first hand information. If I am interested in a piece of news, I may go there by myself, just as a reporter do, and take pictures or exprience it. Then write about it. Otherwise, I don’t feel I can add any value by just translate the news (which is already on headline of major newspaper). Point-of-view is important, but facts are meanful to share. So take it as a blog, not a newspaper, since I cannot carry my cameras and go to all the events. :-)

Polution in Shanghai – Part II

This is the seconf part of Polution in Shanghai.

It is the second time my warm hearted reader Carsten send photos on Shanghai to me. Last time, carsten wrote

I would like to help people here to be more aware of, and understand, that if all do a little every day, it will have a tremendous impact.

This time, Carsten sent me another picture taken from CA164:


© Carsten, who kindly gave me some earplugs for F1 race

To be honest, the scene is not the worst in Shanghai. Sometimes, Shanghai’s sky is completely gray or even dark at daynight and visability is only 1,000 meters at most. Polution is a big problem in Shanghai.

Carsten said (used with permission):

I attach a photo taken today from a Boeing 737 (CA164 from KIX, Japan)

a few minutes before landing on runway 34L on PVG. Nasty air pollution, isn’t it ?

You can use it for a posting of pollution. That is an issue worth following up on.

I totally agree that it is an issue worth following up.

How to Follow Up?

This is not an easy question to answer.

Besides the telephone number, email address and website I provided in my last article, I think at least we can do something.

1) Report whatever polution source we see to news hotline or on some public forum or BBS (This blog included). Although most time the voice will be ignored, at least it is something we need to keep doing. (A blog does not make any difference to the world, but keep doing may contribute something)

2) To tell other people about the situation of polution in Shanghai or in China, exactly like what carsten did. I was moved (for the second time) deeply by Carsten, who is an expat in Shanghai but concerns about environment more than most people do (I admit he is doing a much better job than I do).

Any other suggestion?

Small Effort? But It Makes Impact

This is the second time he drop me emails and more than second time commented about polution on this blog. I feel I have the responsibility to talk about polution at least immediately after I get the email. I believe what carsten did at least impacted one person – me, and I hope what I did at least one person – you.

What is Google Doing

Google started to offer 1 USD per installation in China – previously, this program didn’t open to China. Today should be the first few days that a FireFox tab appear in Adsense.

What is Google doing? By investing agressively on a browser (not belong to Google yet), Google wants to occupy the one of the most fundmental ring in the chain – the browser. If there are enough people to put it on, and attracts enough uses to use this browser (with Google toolbar), it will really be scary.

Polution in Shanghai

I am moved by Carsten, one of my reader, after I read his email to me days ago. An expat as he is, he is more concerned with the polution in Shanghai than many local residents. After getting his permission, I am posting his first email with me here:

Hi Jianshuo

I have read your blog for almost 2 years by now, it is great !

I will spend at least one year more here.

Anyway, maybe you can tell me where and what protects Shanghai against pollution, some officials in the city hall or something ?

What trigged me into this topic was that yesterday I saw some guys working outside a small repair shop for motorcycles. They should change the oil, and just opened the oil plug of the motor and let it directly down on the street and into the rainwater drain system.

Then it will go to Huangpu and then the sea, polluting about one million times more seawater than the amount of oil. (How many motorcycles in Shanghai ?!)

I think at the moment noone informs anyone what the effects of this unawareness are.

At the moment people think : If I cannot see it, it is not doing any harm.

I would like to help people here to be more aware of, and understand, that if all do a little every day, it will have a tremendous impact.

In my country (Denmark) anyone can call the environment municipal office and say if someone pollutes unnecessary, so it will be stopped.

And when people feel that the air gets cleaner, and the streets are not stinking and dirty, then it will enhance itself.

Unfortunately I think that most people here in Shanghai believe that “the authorities will take care of this”.

Best regards,


I agree that is a big problem in the polution status in Shanghai. A lot of effort should be spent on educating people on environment protection. This topic is not widely noticed yet.

Carsten continued to write in another email:

My idea was mainly to influence the people’s general attitude in Shanghai.

Shanghai is a good place to begin making people aware of this, as Shanghai soon will be the city with most influence, because the richest people lives there (you and me ?), and they are the only one who are able to pay for cleaning up after the factories waste!

But – it must begin at the factories.

My idea is – 1: start with the peoples attitude – 2: go for the polluting companies, which now buries the wonderful China in deep trash and chemical waste, just for a short term profit.

That demand must come from the people itself.

My country has been through all the same story before (chemicals – erosion, nitrogen pollution from farmers causing lack of oxygen on the sea, etc., etc.), and we have paid a tough burdon to get everything cleaned up (and still does).

As a good outcome of the efforts: in my home country’s capital Copenhagen, we are having swimming facilities in the downtown harbour for 3 years now !


It is a great idea. I have did some research and found the following information on the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau. They provide an email address to report any environment problems:

Welcome to the internet pages of Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.

Here you can find out the latest development in environmental policy and about the work of the SEPB. You can download environmental reports or regulations. We welcome your ideas and suggestions.

They also provide hotline to report any pollution of air, water, soil, noise, radiation, hazardous wastes, toxic chemicals, and vehicle emission, etc.




Once some workers were digging a very big hole on Cao Bao Rd. and made unbearable noise. I called the Environmental Protection Hotline of Xujiahui and within 10 minutes, their staff came and talked with the workers. 5 minutes later, the workers left the construciton site. I was very happy that time. I hope the hotline works for any pollution Carsten reported. A joint effort will make Shanghai a better place to live. Thanks Carsten!

Update: Carsten’s photo July 25, 2004


Carsten sent me the photo he mentioned in his comment.