I’ve lived and worked in China for almost three years now. There’s many things I still don’t understand but there’s no urgency. These things will sort themselves out.
Representations of grass (1)
A Chinese Tier 2 city with aspirations to becoming a New Tier 1 city will generally have a metro system in place and, where I live, people are on the case. Overhead power cables are being relocated underground. Footpaths are either being widened and/or relaid after being destroyed by the roots of roadside banyan trees. Roads are being widened to include dedicated bus lanes and dedicated bicycle and e-bike lanes. After about three years of inconvenience the major roads are mostly done.
Once the roadworks are over, rocks, mature trees and shrubs are moved in and sods laid. The verge landscaping is in place within two weeks at most, but usually within one.
There’s also much construction going on. Most is behind site hoardings that are usually one of two types. An actual wall built of concrete block on the site boundary and topped by a tiled or imitation-tile capping will probably surround long-haul projects of four or five years. When construction begins, these walls will be kept fresh with graphics and encouraging slogans, often against a backdrop of artificial grass. Here’s two of this type.
Less permanent hoardings on shorter projects will be freestanding assemblages of modular panels. A hundred metres of two-meter high metal panels spanning frames inserted into four-meter long concrete bases can appear overnight. By the next night it will be sheathed in artificial grass and by the night after will have the project name alternating with graphics and encouraging slogans.
Sometimes, it’s as if metal panels simply have to be sheathed in artificial grass as quickly and expediently as possible. There’s a sense of urgency.
Sometimes, instead of artificial grass is a graphic of a close-up of a stylization of artificial grass. I don’t know how to understand this graphic representation of artificial grass that itself is a representation of grass. Is it post-modernism squared? I don’t think it’s a case of a representation of something being as good as the real thing because site hoardings aren’t situations where you’d prefer to see real grass anyway. Having said that, in Shanghai once I did see part of a site hoarding that was an actual living wall.
I used to think this fixation on natural over metal might be a Chinese aversion to the sight of metal. The five traditional elements (or phases) of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water each have their own properties, interrelationships and place in the Universe. [For more information look here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuxing_(Chinese_philosophy). It’s a surprisingly robust way of understanding the world.] However, the five elements may be different but they’re all still equal. No one is better or preferable. It can’t be that.
Nevertheless, I definitely see an effort to avoid the sight of metal in gardens or when surrounded by plants. Here are four examples including a wrap of a country scene, two views of bamboo screening a water treatment plant, and bamboo screening an electrical distribution box and the metal fence surrounding it. I’m not imagining this.
Drains alongside roads and paths are fitted with metal grilles that stop them being clogged by leaves but these grilles may be covered with a layer of pebbles. This is a nice thing to do.
If metal has to be used in a garden, it’s often the colour green. For now I conclude that the sight of metal and grass together is not unsightly per-se. It might just be that the natural colour of metal is jarring or somehow discordant.
Along with painting the metal green, I also saw this which I thought strengthened my theory even though I wasn’t sure what my theory was. Perhaps all it is, is that people just prefer plants to metal. I won’t go back to my Chinese elements theory or invoke feng shui but green and greenery seem to be consistently countering metal.
Representations of grass (2)
The city of Wenzhou where I live is between mountains and the ocean and there’s much surface water as well as subterranean water. This and the ongoing relocation of overhead power lines underground means there’s a lot of manholes. A lot. Manholes for 10kVa cables occur in the middle of footpaths and access roads but also in lawns where they will invariably be covered by a piece of fake grass. Fake grass being fake grass, the colour is never the same as real grass and nobody’s fooled. I think I’d rather see the manhole than these poor attempts at disguising them but, once again, I get the feeling there’s something cultural at work. If this were merely the personal preference of individual gardeners then I’d expect to see more variation, less consistency of approach.
Metal or concrete manholes aren’t a problem if they are not on grass.
For three years give or take this hasn’t worried me. It’s just something that I noticed I was always noticing. Focussed on fake grass as I was, I didn’t pay that much attention to what was happening with other manholes in footpaths.
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You see what’s happening.
Special cases are dealt with.
These next two are my favorites. I find it amazing somebody thought this was important. It’s all done by stonecutters with hammers and chisels and handheld cutters.
Here’s one being restored. These covers aren’t as robust as solid metal or concrete ones but still people think it is a good thing to do.
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I think I finally understand. Discontinuity, when it invariably occurs, must be countered by a continuity. Before, I used to see the artificial grass as a discontinuity rather than a continuity, and although I still do, not so much. One person’s complexity and contradiction is another person’s simplicity and consistency. These next five images can be read either way.
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