Happiness at 20N
   2013-12-13 10:56:42    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Luo Chun

Golden dragon jumps out of the water. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/ Wu Qianyang]

The four major ancient civilizations were birthed between 20N and 40N. Setting the course of humanity for centuries to come, people multiplied and spread their knowledge from these areas, which all culminate in today's modern civilization.

20N, however, is a subtle curve along the globe; along its coordinates are the places that helped shape modern civilization, but these places also teeter on the edge of it. Sitting along 20N near the equator are places like Mexico City, Dubai, Mumbai and Jeddah. All these cities nourished and bore splendid civilization, yet they seldom take center stage internationally. Meanwhile, the places along 20ˇăN herald the future of humankind.

Haikou, a city in China, is also located on this line. However, the area was historically neglected by history. Due to its dense forests, remote location and sparse civilian population, Haikou was where many of China's dynastic rulers placed penal colonies. On Haikou's Guo Xing Street sits Wugong Temple, known as "The First Temple in Hainan." The structure was built to commemorate the five famous officials who were sent to the province. In ancient times, influential figures "sent" to the area meant they did so in exile.

When Hainan was declared a province of China in the late 1980s, the housing market in the area boomed. A line from the famous Chinese opera, "The Peach Blossom Fan," perfectly describes the situation at that time in Hainan: "Gorgeous pavilions were plantedˇ­numerous guests were invitedˇ­fabulous mansions were wasted." In those years, the real-estate craze led to a massive bubble effect, the bursting of which left many buildings and homes throughout Hainan abandoned mid-construction.

Although the area's history has been morose at times, for Haikou's locals, they are nothing more than old stories. The city's climate is warm, unlike China's more notable cities, Haikou has clean, fresh air all year round. Likewise, the soil is extremely fertile, yielding crops from almost any seeds planted into its earth. Some say that, because of these positive amenities, the local population has "the unbearable lightness of being." Traditional family life in Haikou at one point in time generally looked like this: Men took care of the family's livelihood, while women manage the household and farm work. Mainly sea-farers, after the men returned from working on the ocean, they would unwind at "Dad Tea" shops to discuss national affairs, work or shoot the breeze. These shops charged less than one yuan for refreshments, allowing its patrons a relief from the day's burdens.

Now, however, "Dad Tea" shops are rarely seen in Haikou. They are more prevalent on old city blocks like Yanzao Road, with most of its customers being elder citizens. In contrast, Haikou's youth have long since embraced the hangouts of modernity: night clubs, gourmet restaurants, bars and KTV rooms. As night descends upon Haikou, its China World Trade Center business district turns into a nightlight playground for the city's young adults. However, whether young or old, one thing remains constant -- people here live life at a relaxed pace.

In the past few decades, a city's "happiness" has been associated with the growth-rate of its GDP. This idea would make Haikou a rarity, since it often ranks high on City Happiness Index surveys without an increase in its hustle and bustle.

Lewis Mumford, who was noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, once asserted in his book, "The City in History," that a beautiful city presents all the various appeal of human beings. However, in a municipality's infancy, people will see a beautiful outline, but eventually, some specific demands will be magnified, while others shrink or are ignored.

The wonder of a city does not depend on how many emperors and vassals it has ever contained; it lies in what spiritual home the city offers. In the highways and byways of Haikou, in the Arcade with a history of over 700 years along its vigorous west coast, in the deep-breath-of-life Yanzao Road, in the bustling China World Trade Center, how do these people living in a city on 20N have such a perception of happiness all day long with just a bowl of the local delicacy Hainan Powder and a cup of "Dad Tea?"

We look forward to find out the answer.


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