China Green

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Above the three gorges dam, on the Yangtze River, in China, there is a cultural centre, complete with a scale model of the dam, an overlarge super-realistic heroic sculpture that mixes gods with humans, a giant billboard that features the most famous national TV star, who looks like an oriental Tom Cruise and, a wonderful hidden garden.

In this garden there are hunks of rock, grass that is green beyond green, and an open sewer that takes waste from the tourist rest stop, down the hill, to an organic soaking pit. Having negotiated the rituals of buying single sheets of toilet paper, and the shock of a hole in the floor, few foreign tourists make it into this garden.

Alone, in the curiously named “Ecology Park” the Chinese fascination with stone formations starts to make sense. It is not simply that some rocks look like other things. The rocks, in their placement, provoke a child-like wonder and an innocent willingness to just be in nature. Gone is the critical mind that questions whether the dam should exist.

When Mao Tse-tung proposed the taming of the Yangtze, he sought to placate the fears of the people through poetry. His poem ends: “The mountain goddess, if she is still there / Will marvel at a world so changed.” The mountain goddess is a revered rock outcrop that sits well above the flood plain, so, to the Chinese, Mao was confirming, in the end, all would be well. In the little garden, all is well.

China Green

Keith Russell

Newcastle, Australia

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