Originally published via Armageddon Prose Substack:
If there’s one thing the Chinese hate, it’s nature. The extent to which this maxim is true is hard to appreciate without having lived among them.
Here they are spray-painting entire fields of stone flowers attached to metal stems with green (probably leaded) paint in a beautification effort.
“Why wouldn’t they just plant actual plants?” one might naively ask.
The Western mind could never grasp the answer, which is why it’s pointless to wonder.
I have previously regaled Armageddon Prose readers with this tale, and it’s also in my forthcoming memoir Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, but it’s so apropos to the Chinese perspective on nature that it bears repeating.
In 2011, while careening down a remote Taiwanese highway on the road to an amusement park full of unlicensed replication of slightly-off Disney™ characters (which is worth a story on its own), we passed a factory of some sort with two large smokestacks.
Out of the smokestacks poured a disgusting plume of yellow smog enough to induce asthma on sight alone. Yet, in stark juxtaposition, large painted unicorns frolicked against blue skies on the smokestacks themselves.
I laughed. The car-full of my Taiwanese colleagues did not.
I explained the irony to them. They didn’t appreciate it.
“They wanted to make it look pretty,” they replied.
Ben Bartee is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.
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