Hangzou - day 4 - I think

Today we started the Certification Seminar. It went well given the Chinese tradition of a 9 to 6 workday, with a break EXACTLY at noon for lunch. Allowing for some translation along the way, I finished at 6!! (Honest-right on time.)

Students are enjoying and are impressed with the well-developed program of the Guild.  There English is better than I expected. However, the approach we are using is for me to present an entire lecture (for example, the piece on the Loire Valley and Burgundy) then we take a 10 minute break to see if there are questions - which Dr. Lim then answers in Chinese, conferring with me to make sure he is correct.

We added a short lecture on Chinese wine to the seminar to make it better recognize the fact that we are teaching in China.

The lunch on day one is 'Chef's choice' just as it is in the US.  We all had Chinese 'take-away.' All of the lunches were the same: stir-fried green beans, steamed spinach, spicy squash, white rice and chicken.  The chicken was steamed chicken feet - everybody got 4 feet for lunch.

Lets talk about Chinese farms. Sherrie is writing a blog on the Guild's organic garden, so I though it would be fun to talk about farming in modern China.

Looking out my hotel room, if it is not raining, smoggy (really bad) or so much humidity that it appears foggy (well, foggy and smoggy), you can see some ‘classic’ Chinese farms – right in the City, right next to the hotel.

According to the people I am working with here in China, traditionally, Chinese farms tend to be fairly small with several families from the same clan working the land together.

Today, (more or less post-1990) farmers no longer live on the farm; they live in apartments or townhouses and ‘commute’ to work on a bicycle, electric motorbike (it's like watching motor scooters in Italy), or car. Most plots are still small and follow the row or the contour/mound method of planting.  The first picture (from my hotel room window) shows row planting.

You can see that there are several different crops in one small block of land. The buildings in the photo are traditional farmhouses where the first floor was used for storage and animals and the second (and third) floors were living space. Each one of these ‘houses’ would have been for two or three families. Chinese farms have been constructed this way for hundreds of years. 

During the Middle Ages, in Europe, farmhouses were also constructed with animals living on the ground floor and people on the upper floors.

The second picture shows contour farming, or mound farming. In this case the crops follow the contours of the mound.  It was unclear whether the mound was natural or man-made.  I would suspect man-made because the city is in a broad alluvial plain surrounding a large river. Such small mounds would not be normal - which raises the question: where did the dirt come from to make the mound? And, how long ago were the mounds made?  I was told, possibly centuries ago.)
The third picture shows new apartments being constructed directly behind the farms. These could be housing for the local farmers as well as workers in the City.

Since the 1990’s as the city has expanded*, dramatically, and farmland has been purchased for new urban development the farmers must be compensated in cash and a new house for each member of the family.  So, if you were a family of 3, the legal maximum in modern China (one child per family), then you would be given cash plus a new house for each member of the family – so three houses (apartments/condos) for a family of 3! This is what is done even if one family member is only one year old.

Often the unused houses are rented out – making the modern ‘retired’ Chinese farmer very wealthy.

*Hangzhou has DOUBLED in size since 1990; from about 3 million to 6.5 million people!  By comparison, Denver is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the US by maintaining a growth rate of 100,000 per decade for over 2 decades.  Think what it would be like to live in Denver, or any US city, if it doubled in size in 20 years. (Denver metro growing from, say, 3.5 to 7 million in 20 years - larger than Chicago.)

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