Friday, 3 February 2012

Plum Flower Valley

Sha Tin paddy fields 1960
A friend writes:

Once, several lifetimes ago, I used to walk at the weekends over Lion Rock and down the other side into the the tiny fields of fruit bushes and vegetables with their low banks of earth. I'd wander the same way more or less through this network and on past the the only tea-house, all clattering with mahjong tiles - the only building between the mountains at my back and on the tiny settlement of beaten tin huts a couple of miles away. It was a stop on the railway which came straight through the mountain with that lack of respect for our Great Mother that is the hallmark of engineers anxious to prove it can be done. It was called Sha Tin, which means Sand Field, a new name for a made-up place. I used to go further to the edge of the water and then I could call across to get a passing junk to pick me up and take me the almost-mile to the other side. There was a communist village there, all old-style houses and banana tress in front. The narrow valley behind was dry with great rocks and a rough steam ouring down, its energy a little depleted in summer. Kingfishers crisscrossed the stream, flashing blue and white, as it seemed. I loved the place. Now Sha Tin has over a million people and high rises cover the vegetable fields of the place that used to be know as Plum Flower Valley. Shen Zhen existed then, I think, but I never saw it. Twenty miles down the track, maybe less.

I would go back to writing my monthly reports that showed how China had nowhere to go but towards US. I'm afraid I might in a distant, proleptic manner have contributed to that much greater outpouring of concrete. personally, I like earth.

Sha Tin panorama today