Is it Good to Live in a Large Modern City?
I Hate to Live in a Large Modern City
"Avoid the rush-hour" must be the slogan of
large cities the world over. If it is, it's a slogan no one takes the
least notice of. Twice a day, with predictable regularity, the pot boils
over. Wherever you look it's people, people, people. The trains which
leave or arrive every few minutes are packed: an endless procession of
human sardine tins. The streets are so crowded, there is hardly room to
move on the pavements. The queues for buses reach staggering proportions.
It takes ages for a bus to get to you because the traffic on the roads has
virtually come to a standstill.
Even when a bus
does at last arrive, it's so f ull, it can ' t take any more passengers.
This whole crazy system of commuting stretches man's resources to the
utmost. The smallest unforeseen event can bring about conditions of utter
chaos. A powercut, for instance, an exceptionally heavy snowfall or a
minor derailment must always make city-dwellers realize how precarious the
balance is. The extraordinary thing is not that people put up with these
conditions, but that they actually choose them in preference to anything
Large modern cities are xoo big to control.They impose their
own living conditions on the people who inhabit them CIty-dwellers are
obliged by their environment to adopt a wholly unnatural way of life. They
Iose touch witla the land and rhythm of nature. It is possible to live
such an airconditioned existence in a large city that you are barely
conscious of the seasons. A few flowers in a public park (if you have the
time to visit it) may remind you that it is spring or summer. A few leaves
clinging to the pavement may remind you that it is autumn. Beyond that,
what is going on in nature seems totally irrelevant. All the simple, good
things of life like sunshine and fresh air are at a premium. Tall
buildings hlot out the sun. Traffic fumes pollute the atmosphere. Even the
distinction between day and night is lost. The flow of traffic goes on
unceasingly and the noise never stops.
The funny thing about it all is that you pay dearly for
the "privilege" of living in a city. The demand for
accommodation is so great that it is often impossible for ordinary people
to buy a house of their own. Exorbitant rents must be paid for tiny flats
which even country hens would disdain to live in. Accommodation apart, the
cost of living is very high. Just about everything you buy is likely to be
more expensive than it would be in the country.
In addition. to all this, city-dwellers live under
constant threat. The crime rate in most cities is very high. Houses are
burgled with alarming frequency. Cities breed crime and violence and are
full of places you would be afraid to visit at night. If you think about
it, they are not really fit to live in at all. Can anyone really doubt
that the country is what man was born for and where he truly belongs?
Read the following passages. Underline the important
viewpoints while reading.
I don't live in Tokyo. I don't even know whether I
would like to live there. I love it and hate it-it is one of those places
that you can love and hate at the same time.
The first "fact" about Tokyo, for me, is that
there are too many people. I don't mean the fact that more than twelve
million people live there. A number like 12,000,000 doesn't mean anything
In Tokyo there are always too many people in the places where
I want to be. That is the important fact for me. Of course there are too
many cars. The Japanese drive very fast when they can, but in Tokyo they
often spend a long time in traffic jams. Tokyo is not different from
London, Paris and New York in.that. It is different .when-one wants to.
At certain times of the day there are a lot of people
on foot in London's Oxford Street or near the big shops and stores in
other great cities. But the streets near the Ginza in Tokyo always have a
lot of people on foot, and sometimes it is really difficult to walk.
People are very polite; there are just too many of them.
The worst time to be in the street is at 11.30 at
night. That is when the night-clubs are closing and everybody wants to go
home. There are 35, 000 night-clubs in Tokyo, and you do not often see one
that is empty. Between ll and 12 everybcdy is looking for a taxi. Usually
the taxis are shared by four or five people who live in the same part of
During the day, people use the trains. Perhaps the
first thing you notice in Tokyo is the number of trains. Most people
travel to and from work by train, and there is a station at almost every
street corner. Tokyo people buy six mi1lion train tickets every day. One
station--Shinjuku-has two million passengers each day. At most stations,
trains arrive every two or three minutes, but at certain hours there do
not seem eo he enough trains. At 8 o,clock in the morning you can see
students pushing passeng.ers into the trains. Usually the trains are
nearly full when they arrive at the station, so the students have to push
very hard. Sometimes the pushers are also pushed in by mistake, and they
have to get out at the next station. Some people who are pushed into the
train lose their shoes. They, too, get out at the next station, and go
back to look for them.
Although they are usually crowded, Japanese trains are
very good. They always leave and arrive on time. On a I.ondon train you
would see everybody reading a newspaper. In Tokyo trains everybody in a
seat seems to be asleep. Some Japanese make a irain journey of two hours
to go to work, so they do their sleeping on the train. But if a train
journey lasis only five minutes, and if they have a seat, thcy will also
go to sleep. They always wake when they arrive at their station.
The last time I went to Tokyo, I went there from Osaka
in great comfort. The blue-and-white trains which run evcrv?half-hour
between the two cities are not only very fast but very comfortable. There
are no pushers; only those who have reserved seats can travel on the
train. It was not possible to run more trains on the old lines, so the
Japanese built a special linc for the new fast trains. It is a very good
line indeed. You can eat and drink without difficulty at 220 kilometres an
hour-you know the speed because there is a speedometer inside the
In Tokyo, I stood outside the station for five minutes.
very latest kind with every moclern fitting -raced past on the way to one
of the many fires that Tokyo has every day. The peopie who passed on foot
included some of the loveliest girls in the world in the latest European
dresses or the finest Japanese kimonos. Businessmen passed in big new
cars, and. among them, in a small Honda, there was a geisha in the clothes
and hair arrangement of hundreds of years ago. Tokyo has so many surprises
that none of them can really surprise me now. Instead, I am surprised at
myself: I must go there next week on business, and I know that I shall
hate the city and its twelve million people. But I feel like a man who is
returning to his long-lost love.
2. What Kind of City Should Beijing Be?
The C. P. C. Central Committee Secretariat has proposed
(1) a model in public security, social order and moral
standards for the whole country and one of the best in the world;
(2) a first-rate modern city with a fine environment,
high standards of cleanliness and good sanitation;
(3) the nation's most developed city in culture,
science and technology, with the highest educational standard in the
(4) a city with a thriving economy, providing its
residents wit.h stability
in life and all kinds of conveniences.
3. Duo Duo Bar, Where Many Meet
A small coffee shop on Xidan Street, barely wider than
a hallway, has become a haunt for many young people in downtown Beijing.
The Duo Duo Coffee Bar has a charm of its own. Its red
walls adorned with reed and bamboo hats and a spider web hanging from its
dark ceiling remind one of the sunsets, perhaps at lakeside in a light
drizzle. This is the atmosphere in which people sip a cup of coffee, tea
or wine while chatting with their friends.
Duo Duo (Chinese for many) is owned by two yotrng men,
Zhang Keyu, a technician, and Lu Wei, an artist.
"We started this coffee bar not only for making
money," said Zhang, 27, in a soft voice. "We want to offer our
young friends a place for social contact. If what we earn is enough for
paying the tax, we are satisfied.
"Before opening this bar, we often heId weekend
parties at home in which we chatted, sang and danced. Then an idea
occurred ta us to open a coffee shop so that we could know more people and
more about the society.
"Without wasting any time, Lu Wei and I took out
all our savings to refurnish this room. Our friends did what they could to
help us. Lu Wei did the decoration himseif, using a lot of reed, which is
what his name means. Within a month, this mini-coffee room opened its door
to the public."
The atmosphere appealed mostly to young people. A
university graduate, for instance, needed a place to hold a farewll party.
The young owners offered the bar to him free of charge and suspended their
business for the night. The young man invited 20 friends. And the party
was a great success.
"Making friends is more important than making
money," Zhang observed. Being a full-time technician, Zhang has to
work in his company by day and work in his coffee bar by night. He hires
no employees. His friends volunteer to serve in this shop.
A fashion designer whose nickname is also Duo Duo came
in one day. "I'm glad my name is the same as this lovely bar's. I
wish I had as many friends as it has,?she said.
Pierre was a French student on a study tour in Beijing.
He enjoyed himself in the bar so much that he could not heip dancing like
Charlie Chaplain and blowing on the suona, a Chinese wind instrument.
"Business has been good since the bar opened last
year, but there were minor troubles when two or three rascals said they
could not pay for their drinks. All we could do was ask them to write down
their names on our credit list. Sometimes a rude fellow would drop in and
talk too loudly. But the quiet atmosphere here would soon make him feel
out of place and he would leave. I wish I could write a novel about
society based on what I've seen and heard in this bar," Zhang said.
It was already midnight. Xidan Street was asleep and
empty. But the lights in Duo Duo still beckoned lonely walkers. Inside the
room,customers were still chatting or humming.
4. Night Life Thrives
in northern China people are asieep by midnight, but in
Guangzhou most of the city's residents are still awake at that hour,
living it up.
Television and radio blast and blare away until two in
the morning. Cinemas are multi-purpose. Besides showing films, they
present video shows, dances and they have a bar.
"I love the rich and coloarful night life in this
southern city," a young Beijinger said when he came to Guangzhou for
a business trip. "Sometimes when I come to the city, ,I visit the
"I usually go shopping in the evening because I
work during tbe day," a middle-aged woman said. "Furthermore,
after supper,I like visiting the night bazaars. It's a.knid of
As most people in Guangzhou don't go to bed until far
into the night, they usually eat a midnight snack. After shopping or
leaving a concert, people often get a snack on the way home.
"I would like to spend 5 yuan ( $1.35) to sit down
and relax and eat something in the evening," Xiao Zheng, a taxi
driver said. "Meanwhile, I might .spend another five yuan to have my
car washed, ?he added.
In Guangzhou, there are car washing services near some
of the big bazaars which are popular with the drivers.
A lot of Guangzhou residenis take a second job at night
to earn extra money.
College teachers have part-time jobs lecturing at night
sometimes work on a project for another corporation. College students act
Problems also exist in the South China city.
Prostitution is a bigger problem in Guangzhou than
elsewhere in the country. And smuggling has increased recently.
5. Problem for Beijingers
Improving public toilets has long been a .erious
problem in Beijing, as well as the rest of China.
There is a wry saying among Chinese people,
"Follow the smell if vou want to find a toilet."
"About 80 per cent of Beijing's public toilets fit
the saying," admitted Xue Baoyi, an official from Beiiing Sanita tion
Bureau in 1989.
But at the we:tern gate of the chinese History Museum
near Tian'anmen. Square, there is an unusual "luxury" toilet of
ahout 300 square metrea, in wltich there are rockeries, fountains, fresh
flowers, a sofa and piped music. The standard of cleanliness is extremely
But visitors have to pay 0.3 yuan. Some say the clean
toilet is worth the price, but others complain that they can not afford
In Beijing there are now 40 such toilets at tourist
On the opposite side of the museum, by the southern
gate of Zhongshan Park, is situated another fairly clean pay toilet. Since
last March, Liu Zhaomin, a retired sanitation worker from the West City
District Cleaning Team, and his wife have contracted to keep the facility
clean, and the once dirty and foul-smelling toilet has become one of the
cleanest in Beijing.
The old couple charge 0.03 yuan per person, but
disabled people and students are admitted free. Outside the toilet they
also provide water and help people take care of their belongings-all for
Their service not only earns the old couple about 800
yuan monthly, but it also saves the government money. The toilet fees pay
There are no public toitets in some areas of the city.
About 200 WCs in downtown area have to have soil carried away manually,
mostly by old workers who are near retirement, and it is now very
difficult to recruit young people to do this job. Because of a shortage of
manpower, tools and disinfectant, it's very hard to keep those public
"WC service in Beijing has four key
problems," said Xue. "There are no places and money for building
public toilets. And most of them are in a very poor condition, and are
Xue also said that the users should take care of public
toilets. Many newly-
painted walls in WCs are already dirty.
6. The Countryside in Spring
We need never feel dull in the country. No matter how
often we walk down the same road, over the same fields, or through the
same woodland paths, there is always something new, somthing fresh to
see.It may be a little plant that has come up since last we visited the
place: a hedge that was just a lot of brown sticks may now be covered with
flowers. We may find a bird's nest deep in a bush, and, if we are careful
not to frighten the birds, as the days pass, see first the little eggs,
and then the baby birds.
We never know what we may see, or find, when we start
out for a country walk. But we must learn to use our eyes, keep them wide
open, or we shall pass by many a pretty or interesting plant, or miss the
sight of some little wild animal, who sees us well enough, and will keep
perfectly still and quiet so that we should not notice him, until we are
quite out of sight. The wild children of the woods and fields are easily
frightened, and if we want to get to know them, we must do as they do, and
learn to be quiet and keep very still when watching them at work or play.
All the year round, from the first warm breath of Spring till the last icy
wind of Winter, we shall always find something to please and interest
us in the country.