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Illustration by Jun Cen

Fear Factors

When I moved to China nearly two years ago, one of the first things I bought was a bicycle. I live on a university campus, where everyone rides, and the bike was cheap: $17 for an ancient Five Rams cruiser, with a lively color scheme of teal and rust. I used to cycle to work when I lived in New York, dodging tourists and threading in between delivery trucks. But the moment I pulled out onto a street in China, it became clear that this was going to be a different experience.

Goat milk, goat cheese, goat meat . . . goat-hair rugs and vests. As they are for nomads throughout  central Asia, goats are fundamental to the Keketuohai Kazahks life.

China’s Little Yosemite

Foreigners are not allowed in newly opened Keketuohai National Geological Park. But, drawn by a hundred 1000-foot granite domes that rise above the coniferous forests and the gushing, emerald-green Irytish River, how could we stay away?

China’s E-Waste City

Officially, the Chinese government bans the importation of electronic waste. The country has even signed the Basel Convention, an international treaty aimed at preventing the developed world from dumping hazardous materials in poorer nations. The trouble is that computers, televisions, DVD players, cell phones, smart phones, and tablet devices are seen as a resource in an economy starved for raw materials. The discarded electronics come by the container-load and are transported in hulking trucks to be dumped in places like Guiyu—a cluster of four coastal villages on the South China Sea.

 

Flying Horses on the Silk Road

The warriors of Xi'an stood in darkness for 2,000 years, watching over their dead emperor. He was Qin, pronounced Chin, whose successors built the Great Wall and gave a name to China. The warriors are ranked in battalions, archers, cavalry with their horses, charioteers, and infantry wielding lances and swords. Though unmistakably Chinese, each has different features. Their hair styles are different, close cropped or luxuriating like their mustaches and beards. The baked earth they are made of is easily broken, and thousands have gone back to dust. But thousands remain, lifesize and still at the ready.

 

By A Dam Site

The people who built The Great Wall are now building The Great Dam—the world's greatest. The reservoir will flood an area 370 miles long. Disappearing under water will be 890 square miles of farmland. Totally or partially, 13 cities, 140 towns, 1,352 villages, and 657 factories will be submerged. China's scientists are already at work with pick, brush, and camera on archaeological sites that will simply be lost forever. The Yangtze River's Three Gorges will cease to be the world famous scenic fairyland it is today. If you want to see the real life version of the misty, craggy scenes on Chinese scrolls, do more than make plans to go. Go. Now.

 

Chinese Students and the Burden of the Past

Just hours before the tanks and armored personnel carriers clattered and blasted their way down Changan Avenue and into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, loudspeakers in the square crackled into life, and, as in Auden's "The Shield of Achilles," a "voice without a face" began repeatedly to declare, "in tones as dry and level as the place": Go home and save your life.