< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: China: Wenzhou         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 

Notes on the Geography of China: Wenzhou

So it's 2007. You're flying from Shanghai to Xiamen, but you have to change planes in Wenzhou. The first flight is late, so you miss the connection. Next flight tomorrow. What do you do? May as well look around this city that you'd otherwise never see.

Make default image size larger

China: Wenzhou picture 1

Well, the fog on the Oujiang or Ou River doesn't help. It just happens that we have in our carry-on the British Admiralty's handbook for China Proper (1945, vol. 3). Never travel without it. The authors report that "Wenchow is an ancient walled city, founded at the end of the fourth century. The site is in a well-cultivated plain criss-crossed by canals and surrounded by hills... The old streets are paved with brick and stone, and many run alongside small canals, which have caused Wenchow to be compared with Venice. Of recent years some of the streets have been widened and modernized and new buildings erected, but the town still remains essentially Chinese." The report continues, "There is no foreign settlement and the foreign residents have been limited to a few missionaries and trade officials... There has been no industrial development."

China: Wenzhou picture 2

Well, that was 1945. In 2005 Wenzhou exported 438 million pairs of shoes, or about a thousand pairs for each of the 400,000 people engaged in shoe manufacturing. Ermenegildo Zegna sourced suits here from SharMoon, and something like 80 percent of the cigarette lighters sold in Europe were made here. Jiang Qing, no friend of the private sector she, is said to have said, more or less, "If you want to know what a capitalist is, try Wenzhou." One consequence: a Mercedes dealership on the road in from the airport.

China: Wenzhou picture 3

What's that saying: "there are only two speeds in China: fast and faster." Still, you can catch the Cadillac dealership.

China: Wenzhou picture 4

A forest of highrises.

China: Wenzhou picture 5

Two generations of housing.

China: Wenzhou picture 6

Does the spoked-wheel up top mean something?

China: Wenzhou picture 7

We'll head down to Lucheng Qu, the original city. It's shown nicely on the 1945 U.S. Army Map Service map of the city at 1:12,500. The city appears there as a rough square about a mile on the side, rimmed on the north by the river and on the other three sides by canals, beyond which there is little except paddy fields. So we're down in that old city, which obviously is Europeanized. The puzzle in this picture is the date 1868. How can it be? Wenzhou was opened to foreign trade by the Chefoo Agreement (or Che-Fu Convention)of 1877. The nice thing about leaving town tomorrow is that there's no way we'll ever find the answer.

China: Wenzhou picture 8

European styles had taken over certain streets in the old city by the time of the 1945 map.

China: Wenzhou picture 9

Was this the work of a European architect or a Chinese one with a European pattern book? Bets are the latter.

China: Wenzhou picture 10

A touch of Art Deco.

China: Wenzhou picture 11

A pedestrianized shopping street.

China: Wenzhou picture 12

Bus-stop advertising chocolate-colored cell phones.

China: Wenzhou picture 13

So people are the same everywhere? Yes and no.

China: Wenzhou picture 14

Finally something from the traditional Chinese city: Wenzhou's drum tower.

China: Wenzhou picture 15

We'll wander a bit through Dasheng Residential Quarter. Plenty of alleys.

China: Wenzhou picture 16

Houses of wood, glass, and plaster over... brick, perhaps?

China: Wenzhou picture 17


China: Wenzhou picture 18

Lots of tiny gardens in pots.

China: Wenzhou picture 19

Another example.

China: Wenzhou picture 20


China: Wenzhou picture 21

Another, this time with air conditioning.

China: Wenzhou picture 22

Cycle-rickshaws; charcoal briquets on the left.

China: Wenzhou picture 23

One step at a time.

China: Wenzhou picture 24

Birds in cages.

China: Wenzhou picture 25

Birds in cages?

* Argentina * Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Guyana * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Micronesia (Pohnpei) * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * Peru * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Romania (Transylvania) * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * South Korea * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uruguay * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page