China, Raw and Tender by Paul RelisWhen I first visited China in 1988, the streets of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were seas of bicycles and pedestrians. There were very few highways, and those were mostly free of cars. Although construction was beginning to ramp up by the mid-80s, the buildings were not the immense structures that are characteristic of today’s China. The scaffolding used to build them was bamboo, a soft touch of nature in the developing hardscape. There were still many quarters in Shanghai and Beijing where people lived as they had for hundreds of years, mostly in low-rise brick and clayroofed houses and compounds.

On this, my fourth trip to China, I was visiting Xi’an, China’s ancient capital city located about 600 miles southwest of Beijing…

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