New vs Old

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Datong is a walled city in China. The unusual thing about the wall is its age.

Datong’s wall is massive about 5 stories high and has been totally rebuilt since 2008. The wall was built as part of an ongoing grand project to diversify ‘the city of coal’ and become a high profile tourist destination.

We walked along about half of the walls permimeter; it took about 2 hours at a slow place. Looking over the edge parts of the gigantic wall (wider than the great wall) from the eastern section you could see a newly built park. The park followed the entire side of the wall including a moat. The park and moat will eventualy surround the entire structure but is currently only completed on the east side.

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You looked in towards the centre of the old town you could see the systematic way the existing patch work of building from all eras, including a large area of truely old small building are being torn down and replaced with grand buildings in a fake ancient style.

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The scale of the project is unlike anything I have ever seen. The old partially rundown city is being replaced by a beautiful new entirely artifical city. The old city is dead, all that will remain are a few token structures and some street names.

Looking outwards from the wall, you can see skyscrappers in all directions. The skyline is dominated by cranes still working on new residential areas continually expanding the city in all directions.

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Datong is being transformed and within a decade there will be little left of the old and only the new will be left. The speed of change in Datong is impressive.

How much concern should be made to preserving the old vs new? How much should progress be tempered in order to preserve the truely historic? Will the project bring in the tourists and improve the lives of the locals? Will the people displaced by the project eventually benefit personally from the change?

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