今人的難題,古人的對策

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1995 / 4月

文‧張靜茹 圖‧張良綱


歷史沒有新鮮事。

中國歷史上的大城市一樣有今天台北市面臨的公共安全、垃圾何處去與汙水處理的問題,也一樣需要綠地、公園等休閒設施。古人並沒有今天的科技管理知識,但翻看過去城市的歷史,是否也有一些值得二十世紀人仿效的地方?


根據台北市政府主計處做過的市民對市政建設意向調查,公園、綠地等公共休閒設施缺乏、公共安全堪慮,都是市民最不滿意的事。

而垃圾何處去?淡水河水清何日?也是市民關心的問題。至於市內違規停車、人行道擺滿攤販,與違章建築充斥,造成市容破壞,行走不便,更令許多台北人苦惱。

以前主持市政的人又怎麼處理這些問題?

不准州官放火

台中衛爾康餐廳大火燒死了六十幾人,喚醒了台北人的回憶,近幾年台北包括三溫暖、KTV不斷傳出大火,造成的嚴重傷亡比率,是紐約市的一百五十七倍,倫敦的六十倍。公共安全管理制度與救災能力薄弱程度,被剛上任的都市發展局長張景森形容為「慘不忍睹」。

中國城市史上,消防組織較健全的是宋朝,因為宋朝城市裡就像今天的台灣都市,商業區住宅區打成一片,道路縮小到五十步距離以下,大街小巷,屋宇相連,人口成份複雜,街巷建築密集,萬一失火容易延燒,防火就成為城市公共事業中不可缺的一環。

朝廷因此建立了一整套防火救災制度,《楓窗小牘》中記載,汴京每坊三百步有軍巡舖,又於高處有望火樓,上有人探望,下有屯軍百人及索梯之類工具,每遇事發撲救,須臾便滅。

汴京火禁甚嚴,甚至規定入夜就須滅燭,士庶家若有醮祭者,必須先報告。宋仁宗年間,樞密使狄青有一晚醮祭,忘了先報備,中夜就有探子馳廂主(類似今天里長)處報告,又報開封知府。雖然等到廂主、判官趕到,火已熄滅很久,但事後官場中頗多議論,迫使狄青自請調離京城。雖然今天不可能要人們入夜後不准生火煮炊,但汴京對公共安全的重視,顯然絕非只准州官放火,不准百姓點燈。

秦朝的下水道

近來德國「明鏡週刊」引用國內環保人士指出我們「住在豬舍裡」的文章刊出後,另一位環保人士譏笑道,我們其實還不如豬,因為台灣許多養豬場都裝設了衛生下水道;台北市衛生下水道的普及率只有百分之二十,家家戶戶的汙水排放並未有專門的管線運送至處理廠。

此事若讓老祖先知道了,不知會不會覺得後代子孫丟了他們的臉?

今天考古學家在許多秦漢隋唐的大中小型城市遺址中,發現普遍都有下水道遺跡,雖然沒有現代鋼筋水泥材料,管道都以陶土製成,但陶管逐節串連貫通,顯然當時城市的排水已頗嚴密。

蔣夢麟先生曾經形容北京的下水道系統,是舊日的一項偉大工程成就,「用以排泄市內汙水的地下溝渠很像現代行走地道車的隧道,到了清朝末年,所有這些下水道都淤塞了,但每年檢查下水道一次的制度卻維持到清朝末年,過去檢查人員必須入下水道,從這一頭查到另一頭,看看有沒有需要修補的地方。」

研究中國傳統城市的大陸學者指出,元朝興建大都(北京)之前,首先在地下順著地形的坡度,舖設下水道,裝置了排水措施,其次才在地面上根據分區佈局原則,進行設計。

即使沒有鋪設衛生下水道,城市裡有兩百五十三條溝渠讓汙水排出的宋朝首都汴京(開封),為了防止老百姓將垃圾倒入溝內堵塞流水,開封府派人專門巡邏督察。宋朝的「六法全書」《刑統》規定,把穢汙倒入排水溝者,要「杖六十」,管理水溝者若不加以禁止,與丟垃圾者同罪。

汴京「清水專案」

事實上,汴京除了保持排水溝清潔,因城內河道縱橫,常有決口之險,易造成水災泛濫,於是對侵佔溝渠、設置障礙物者,朝廷或直接干預,或令開封府監督進行拆除。

仁宗時,對於興建違章建築阻礙排水的官僚貴族,開封府還可以直接向朝廷彈劾。比如有個官大勢大的家族,靠近惠民河築園榭,造成河塞,鐵面無私的包青天就將它全部拆毀,還下令若有人再敢侵佔河川地,立刻上奏彈劾。「正因為有了較好的排水管理制度,並能認真執行,所以京師雖屢遇大水,都能化險為夷」,《宋代東京研究》一書作者周寶珠指出。

汴河也因此保障了汴京在五代、宋朝的繁榮。美術史教授蔣勳在提到描寫汴京生活的清明上河圖時就說:「今天看清明上河圖,可以感覺到北宋徽宗年代對首都上河的重視,皇帝請畫工調查漕運和兩岸商店與人民的生活,將其描繪成圖像,每次看圖都令人想進一步再次了解我們居住城市河流與我們的關係。」

許多城市都在大河畔興起,如果城市是身體,河流就是血管,可惜今天在台北已經無法感覺與水的密切關連。但台北成為一個重要城市,是因為有一條重要的河流——淡水河,「現在堤防將河流封死,加上污染,已經感覺不到它曾經以其血液不斷撫育這個城市……」蔣勳感嘆。

城、鄉互惠

有美麗的河流,也需要乾淨的地面。《馬可孛羅遊記》中記載,有各地外國人來往的元代大都城:應知城內不許埋葬遺骸,不論是有偶像的教徒或基督教徒、回教徒、他教之人,亦運屍於城外,由是城內能保衛生。

五代後周世宗擴建汴京,也規定新城不准埋葬和設置色情場所,目的除了保持新建城市的整潔、秩序,也希望城市留有發展餘地。戰國時代秦國就規定過,隨便丟棄垃圾,必須接受處罰。

至於讓今天台灣許多城市頭痛的垃圾問題,由於城外仍保留許多農村景緻,加上過去不易分解的垃圾畢竟比今日少,因此城市雖然持續發展,城市的汙穢物,由城郊土地取得當肥料,農作物產量因此更高,這幾乎是自古城鄉互相配合、兩相受益的定律。

《中國古建築與都市》書中指出,中國城市裡的汙物處理,通常是由私人經營的手推車負責,他們在晚間逐戶從廁所收糞便,然後運到城外周圍的農場,作為堆肥用的肥料。可惜今天垃圾問題比過去複雜,農業又逐步瓦解,農地因為都市土地被炒作,也跟著水漲船高。鄉村都想變都市,垃圾處理不但不可能再有城、鄉互惠的可能,各縣市不為垃圾展開大戰已屬萬幸。

周世宗拆違建

根據主計處估計,台灣攤販總從業員高達卅七萬人,台北市攤販的數量已經到達每兩家正規商店,就有一家攤販。主計處更發現,去年攤販平均營業額達一百一十八萬,不只造成不公平競爭,政府也損失許多稅收。

由於商業的發達,五代以後的城市,可以說和今天台灣一樣,到處都是地攤,兩旁做生意的把京城的大街越擺越小。

宋真宗時就曾為街巷狹隘,命謝德權將道路恢復原狀。謝德權受命後,先拆毀貴要的邸舍,一時議論紛紛,真宗只得下詔制止。謝德權上書指出,今天都是些權豪侵街建屋,造邸店收取租費,不拆,落百姓口實。真宗只好允許他的請求,先從權豪下手,規定了街和巷的寬度,登記簿籍,甚至在馬路上樹立「表柱」。

不過解決老百姓在街道上違建較成功的,卻是五代後周世宗。尤其汴京在成為宋朝首都前,因為位於大運河與黃河相交處,大量漕運在此轉運,人口增加很快,城市居住擁擠。為了適應居住與商業發展的需要,周世宗擴建汴京城,同時大刀闊斧地將大梁舊城中侵佔街衢、蓋違建,以致大車無法通行的街道拓寬。

由於城裡居民侵街為舍已很嚴重,街道狹窄,必須強制拆遷,就和今天政府拆違建一樣,周世宗的都市更新也招致抗爭,即使大權在握,改造都市,明君仍須步步為營。他的策略是先安撫天下人說:改建京城對百姓生活影響確實不小,怨謗之聲,我願全部承擔,都市改建之後,所有人都會受利。

世宗倒不是說說便罷,為了減少民怨,接下來他就規定城內街道寬五十步者,兩邊人戶,可以在五步內種樹、掘井,和修蓋涼棚;三十步以下至廿五步者,則在三步內進行綠化。他在疏濬汴河後,為防止河川地再次被佔用,也准許京城居民環汴河栽榆柳、起台榭,增進都會景觀。

家家都種樹

《中國古代都城制度史研究》作者楊寬指出,允許兩邊人戶各自佔有街道十分之一,在門前種樹、掘井、蓋涼棚,此舉同時可以使街道綠化、便於用水,樹與井也可以用作街道的標記,用來防止住戶侵佔街道。

防範老百姓違規佔用道路、河川地,又達到綠化效果,果真一舉兩得。不過,規定老百姓種樹,不是周世宗的創舉,綠化最成功的城市也不是汴京。

東漢時代王莽就規定,「城郭中宅不樹藝者為不毛,出三夫之布。」意思是城市民宅內一定要種樹,否則將受到懲罰。

四川成都在經宋末、明末兩次戰亂後,清朝乾隆年間四川總督李世傑重修城垣,在重新規劃的街坊完工後,命人在內外城隅遍種芙蓉,還間植桃柳,讓整個成都「蔥蔥鬱鬱,蔚為茂林,匪惟春秋佳日,望若畫圖。」

漢學家李約瑟在《中國之科學與文明》書中曾提到,中國北京由高處望去,很少看得見突出樹叢之上的屋頂。當時北京人口密度比許多歐洲城市都高,但是因為樹木眾多,城市仍保有花園的性質,很難讓人相信城中的樹比城外更多,「從這些優點上看來,北京像一個樹林,只有最重要的屋頂可在樹頂上看出來。這意味人口的密度達到高水準,然而仍保存一種幽隱的感覺。」

你住綠色園林,我住水泥森林

蔣夢麟先生在《西潮》書中也提到,「根據由來已久的皇家規定,北京城裡只准種樹,不准砍樹,年代一久,大家已經忘了這個規矩,卻在無形中養成愛護樹木的好習慣」,他認為,這個例子說明瞭制度本身雖被遺忘,制度的精神卻已深植人心。

除了種樹,中國私人園林在城市中扮演的角色也很重要。周寶珠指出,園林不只是社會上層人物的生活場所,更是市民文化的重要舞台。明代以後,在江南城市中,一般市民在狹小的空間一樣追求園林的情致,也使園林長久來美化與保護了中國城市環境。

至於今天的台北市,已開闢的公園綠地面積,包括陽明山國家公園與木柵山區,和巴黎相較之下,台北土地面積是巴黎的兩倍多,平均每個人分到的綠地二.四七平方公尺,只有巴黎人的五分之一不到,別說無法與歐美城市相比,也落後大部分的亞洲城市。

前任台北市長黃大洲為了一改台北「水泥森林」的稱號,鼓勵大家種樹,有一陣子可以見到許多公共建物上到處長滿爬牆虎。可惜台北空氣污染嚴重、許多行道樹又老是遭到路邊商家虐待,樹根又淺,去年幾個颱風下來,台北市就更灰撲撲了。

今天台北情侶約會、朋友聚首,往往只能躲到公共安全設施不佳的KTV、MTV去高歌一曲。因為公園、綠地等休閒設施缺乏,人行道上違規停車,情侶散步連手拉手都沒辦法。

一張一弛,文武之道

可能現代台北市政官員沒有人記得孔子說過「一張一弛,文武之道」,治城要與治國一樣,緊張、勞苦的生活中,必須要有休閒娛樂,城市裡就需保留多一點的休閒空間。

過去官方圍建城池,城中常常保留大量的農田、園圃、山林、川泉,不僅使圍城威脅減少,大片空地——不是準備作為建地,而是配合水源,開闢為公園、遊覽勝地,常常成為百姓同樂之處。長安城在城南就設有芙蓉園、曲江池,是民間與皇家同樂的地方。山東濟南的大明湖更讓劉鶚完成了《老殘遊記》。

《東京夢華錄》裡形容清明節的汴京,每逢節日「四野如市,往往就芳樹之下,或園囿之間,羅列杯盤,互相勸酬,都城之歌兒舞女,遍滿園庭,抵暮而歸。」

南宋建都杭州後,西湖也由天然蓄水庫變成首都的風景區,帝王將相、地主富商將之當成安樂窩,上百萬市民和全國各地來到首都的流動人口以此為大公園。外國來華的使節、商人、僧侶,也無不到西湖遊覽和進香。歷代來亭台樓閣、寺廟精舍不斷修飾、充實,而有「山外青山樓外樓,西湖歌舞幾時休,暖風吹的遊人醉,卻把杭州做汴州」的風景佈局。

汴京瓦市、北平天橋

除了到公園散心,城中心更熱鬧,隋唐佛教寺院大規模興建後,不少寺院建有園林,常常成為都城中居民遊樂之處。唐代長安居民就以寺院道觀作為遊覽場所,既有名家書畫的佈置,又多園林盛景,更多栽名花,常是遊人會集之處,詩人吟詠之所。長安寺院更進一步設有表演歌舞和百戲的戲場。

北宋都市裡特殊的景緻之一,就是戲場或演藝場集中的「瓦市」,藝人常常就在街市的空隙地段表演,就像今天歐洲許多大都市的街頭表演,但更具規模。許多瓦市,最大可容數千人,由於瓦市的發展,民間藝人大為活躍,技藝也不斷提高,市人演說小說、講史和小唱,儲宮調、雜劇與雜班,傀儡戲、影戲和喬影戲、商謎,花樣繁多。

清末民初,北平天橋廣場上,也是東處一個棚,西處一個圈,平劇、大鼓、魔術、相聲、評書、西洋鏡,雖然都要花錢才准參觀,但並無票價,隨人給錢,不分包廂,一律平等。

問題不同,道理相通

確實政治、社會制度的不同,今天城市許多問題已經與過去大相逕庭,科技發展帶來的副作用,也讓問題更複雜,例如汽、機車在城市製造的空氣污染,大概過去的能君聖王也會覺得棘手。但和過去相比,我們畢竟也具備了更多解決難題的科技與管理方法,否則其他國家怎麼有資格嘲笑台北?

不論如何,人們在城市裡居住的許多基本需求往往是一樣的。台大歷史系教授徐泓說,從歷史上看,人類世界沒有太多完完全全新鮮的事,天下人都希望住得舒服,文化不同,原則相通,也都需要相同的設施與基本規範。由這點看來,台北人與長安人確實還有一點相似之處,不是嗎?

〔圖片說明〕

P.18

北宋「清明上河圖」裡顯示了貫穿開封城的汴河與人們生活息息相關(故宮博物院提供);台北能成為重要城市,也因為有一條重要的河流淡水河,可是今日的淡水河污染嚴重、溢滿垃圾,人們也感覺不到與河流的密切關係了。(黃子明攝)

P.20

春秋戰國時代齊國臨淄城遺址,已經設計有排水道。圖中磚塊間隔堆疊處是過濾污物、避免阻塞水道用的。

P.23

園林是傳統中國城市裡重要的組成部分。圖為頤和園。

P.24

大量的汽車,嚴重的空氣汙染,今天城市問題更複雜。圖為上海

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Chang Chin-ju /photos courtesy of Vincent Chang /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Over the course of history nothing that happens is really new.

Like those of Taipei today, the residents of ancient China's cities worried about fires and about how to dispose of their garbage and waste water. And they likewise needed green spaces, parks and other leisure facilities. The ancients lacked today's understanding of technology. Yet studying the history of earlier cities may provide some valuable lessons for the people of today.


According to a survey carried out by the Department of Budget, Accounting and Statistics of the Taipei City government, residents' biggest gripes with Taipei are about public safety and the lack of parks, green spaces and other leisure facilities.

They also worry about where their garbage goes, and how long it will take to clean up the Tanshui River. Still more causes for their grief: Illegally parked cars and motorcycles, sidewalks crowded with vendors' wares, and all those things about Taipei that make the city ugly and impede ease of motion.

How did urban administrators of ancient days tackle these problems?

No VIP treatment

The Welcome Restaurant fire in Taichung that took the lives of over 60 reminded Taipei City officials that the city has had its own string of major fires at saunas, KTVs and elsewhere. Taipei's rate of death and injury from fire is 157 times higher than New York's and 60 times higher than London's. Chang Ching-sen, the newly appointed head of the Department of Urban Development (DUD), described the city's fire fighting capabilities and its public safety controls as "tragically inadequate."

In the history of Chinese cities, fire-fighting measures were most thorough during the Song dynasty. Song cities resembled those of today's Taiwan, with residences and places of business mixed together, streets less than fifty paces wide with alleys branching off them, buildings that rubbed up against each other, and great diversity within the population. With the city so tightly packed, fires spread quickly. This made fire fighters essential public servants.

And so the court established a complete system for detecting and extinguishing fires. The Maple Window Notes (Feng Chuang Xiao Du) describes how the city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) built army patrol stations every 300 paces, with manned lookout towers up top and 100 soldiers stationed below. Equipped with rope ladders and other tools, they would quickly put out fires.

Bianjing enforced strict fire-prevention measures. Candles and lanterns could not be lit at night, and, for big officials and common folk alike, permission was required to use fire in religious ceremonies at home. During the rule of Ren Zong (1023- 1059), the prime minister Di Qing one night held a religious service and forgot to report it. In the middle of the night a scout reported this to a neighborhood chief, who reported it to a magistrate. By the time the neighborhood chief and the judge hurried to the scene, the fire had long been put out, but afterward there were still criticisms among the officials. Finally Di Qing had to ask for a transfer and leave town. While it would be impossible to prohibit the entire citizenry from cooking at night, the city's emphasis on public safety is well worth emulating. It was not a case where, as a Chinese expression goes, "officials warmed themselves by bonfires, while the people could not light their lamps."

The sewers of the Qin dynasty

Recently the German Magazine Der Spiegel published an article that quoted a local environmentalist as saying that Taiwanese were "living in a pigsty." Afterwards, another environmentalist joked that pigs have one up on people in Taiwan because at least pigsties here all have proper sewers for their waste water, whereas in greater Taipei, which holds one-third of Taiwan's population, only 20 percent of buildings with human inhabitants are so connected. Instead, the waste water of household upon household is discharged into rivers without first passing through waste processing plants.

Who knows, if our ancestors were to get wind of this, they might well think that future generations had caused them a great loss of face.

Archaeologists have discovered remains of underground sewers amid the ruins of Qin, Han, Sui and Tang dynasty cities both large and small. They were made from fired clay, not reinforced concrete as are modern sewers. But when such pipes in these cities were connected one after another, they formed rather comprehensive sewage systems.

Chiang Meng-lin once described Beijing's sewage system as a great engineering achievement of the past: "To release the city's waste water, the system made use of underground channels that were much like the road tunnels built today. By the end of the Qing dynasty, these sewers were all silted up, but the system of inspecting the sewers once a year for needed repairs was continued until then. The inspectors would enter the sewers, looking from end to end for any places that needed to be patched up."

Mainland Chinese experts on traditional Chinese cities note that before the Yuan court established its capital Beijing, its builders first laid underground sewers that followed the lay of its land. Only then did they lay out the various districts of the city.

Even if it lacked underground sewers, the Song dynasty capital of Bianjing had 253 open-air sewers. To prevent people from throwing garbage in them and clogging them up, the city had regular inspection patrols. Song dynasty law designated 60 strokes for those who dumped garbage in the sewers. Lax enforcement would get inspectors the same penalty.

Cleaning up the Bian River

But the city of Bianjing was concerned with more than merely keeping sewers clear. With its network of criss-crossing channels and rivers, the city faced the constant threat that these would rupture and cause flooding. And so the court would directly order city inspectors to demolish illegal structures that blocked or threatened this network.

During the rule of Ren Zong, the city government could petition the court to remove from office mandarins whose illegal structures obstructed the sewage system. A family of one powerful official built a garden near the Huimin River that caused the river to silt up. Impartially applying the law, the legendary Judge Bao promptly destroyed the garden and said the next time an official's family dared to build on the riverbanks, he would recommend the official be removed from office. "With a good sewage management system and vigilant enforcement of the law," wrote Zhou Baozhu in his book on Song Dynasty Bianjing, "the city often had floods, but they were not disastrous."

The Bian River allowed Bianjing to prosper during the eras of the Five Dynasties and the Song. When talking about a panoramic painting depicting river life in Bianjing, the art historian Chiang Hsun has said, "By looking at this painting today, you can begin to understand how important the river was during the rule of Hui Zong in the Northern Song. The emperor asked the painter to study the river's wheat barges and the lives of the shopkeepers and residents on the riverbanks and turn his observations into a painting. Every time I look at it, it makes me want to further understand the relationship between cities and people."

Many cities are built on the banks of big rivers. If the city is the body, the river represents the veins and arteries circulating its blood. Unfortunately, in Taipei it is no longer possible to feel that close connection to the water. Yet Taipei only became an important city because of an important river, the Tanshui. "Now dikes have sealed the river off. Add to this occlusion heavy water pollution, and one no longer has a sense that the river is nourishing the city's body by circulating its blood," says Chiang Hsun with a sigh.

Urban and rural interdependence

A beautiful river also requires a clean ground surface. Marco Polo observed of cosmopolitan Beijing: "Whether they be idolaters or Christians, moslems or the adherents of some other faith, corpses were all buried outside the city, which did much to make it a sanitary place."

In the Five Dynasties era, when Houzhou Shizong was expanding Bianjing, he also forbade burying bodies or building brothels in the new city districts. This was done not only to maintain order and cleanliness in the newly constructed city, but also in the hope of leaving room for future growth. And in the Warring States era, the state of Qin once decreed that litterers would be punished.

And what about disposing of solid wastes, which causes major headaches for Taiwan's cities? In the past, Chinese cities were still encircled by farmers' fields. Because the garbage of the past was largely compost, with little that was hard to decompose-- unlike today--city wastes could be used as fertilizer outside the city, raising agricultural productivity. Such was the symbiotic relationship between city and surrounding countryside.

In Chinese Architecture and Town Planning, Andrew Boyd describes how private operators would collect the excrement from residences at night and haul it in carts out to the outlying farms. It's too bad that today's garbage problems are more complex. With the demise of agriculture and speculation on urban land driving up the price of farmland as well, country villages all want to become cities. It's not only that the old urban-rural symbiosis will not solve current garbage problems. Nowadays, cities and counties can count themselves lucky if they are not at war with each other over how to deal with solid waste disposal.

Tear them down

Estimates put the number of street vendors in Taiwan at 310,000. In Taipei they are already half as numerous as the owners of other businesses. A Department of Budgets, Accounting and Statistics survey estimates their average turnover last year at NT$1.18 million, but reported earnings don't reach 7 percent of this. This not only creates unfair competition for shop owners; it also deprives the government of tax revenue.

In classical China, urban commerce boomed from the Song dynasty on. Its cities were much like those of Taiwan today. Vendors noisily hawked their wares and lined the streets with their stands, narrowing the arteries of traffic.

Concerned about the shrinking streets, the Song Emperor Zhen Zong ordered Xie Dequan to return them to their original state. Xie started by razing the houses of some highly placed officials. Confronted by a storm of protest, Zhen Zong backed down and rescinded the order. But Xie petitioned the emperor to reconsider, explaining how certain high officials were building illegal structures and then renting them out to storekeepers. Not destroying these buildings would invite the citizens' ridicule. Zhen Zong submitted to Xie's request, and the high and mighty were once again targeted first. The proper widths of streets and alleys were registered and even posted along roadsides.

But the figure who was most successful in razing illegal structures was Zhou Shizong of the Five Dynasties era. Before Bianjing was made the capital during the Song dynasty, it was an important transhipment center for grain, at the intersection of the Grand Canal and the Yellow River. With population growing fast, the city's residential districts were jam-packed and bursting. To meet the demand for new housing and commercial space, Zhou expanded the city and simultaneously widened the streets of the old city, which had become so clogged by illegal structures that large carts could not even pass through some of them.

Because the situation was serious, with illegal structures greatly impeding traffic, he found it necessary to take forceful action, razing buildings and making people move. As in Taiwan today, Zhou Shizong's moves to tear down buildings and rebuild the city drew protest. Though possessing total authority, a virtuous emperor was wise to tread carefully when rebuilding a city. His strategy was to pacify people by saying, "Rebuilding the city will indeed have a big impact on people's lives. I am willing to take complete responsibility for the voices of complaint, but after the city has been reconstructed, everyone will benefit."

Zhou Shizong was not all talk and no action. To reduce dissatisfaction, he decreed that residents of city streets 50 paces wide could dig wells, plant trees, and construct shade canopies within five paces of their property. On streets that were 25-30 paces across, greenery was restricted to within three paces of the residence. He dredged the Bian River, and then to prevent the riverbanks from once again being illegally used, permitted residents near the river to plant elms and willows on its banks and build terraces and pavilions. These made the city more beautiful.

Everybody plant trees

In his book City Planning in Classical China, Yang Kuan points out that allowing residents to plant trees, dig wells, and erect canopies in front of their homes to within a tenth of the width of the street, not only made the city more green; it also made for easy access to water and demarcated the streets with trees and wells, thus preventing illegal building.

By eliminating the illegal structures from streets and riverbanks, one also made the cities more green, thus killing two birds with one stone. Yet Zhou Shizong was not the first emperor to allow citizens to plant trees on the street, and the greenest ancient Chinese city was not Bianjing.

During the Eastern Han dynasty Wang Mang decreed that "residences within the city walls without trees will be fined three lengths of cloth."

Chengdu in Sichuan was ravaged by wars at the end of the Song and Ming dynasties. Li Shijie, the governor of Sichuan during the rule of Qian Long in the Qing dynasty, redesigned the city streets and then ordered people to plant peach and willow trees between rows of hibiscus, which made the whole city, "lush and green like a forest, and during spring and fall as beautiful as a landscape painting."

In Science and Civilization in Ancient China sinologist Joseph Needham noted that when looking out from high spots in Beijing, one could only rarely see a roof among the trees. Because the trees were so numerous, the city still had much the character of a garden. Most people found it hard to believe that Beijing had a higher density of trees than the country around it. "From these high vantage points, the city appears much like a forest, with only the roofs of the most prominent buildings sticking up above the trees. This shows how Beijing has managed to reach a high density of population while still preserving a feeling of seclusion." [Retranslated from the Chinese]

Green gardens and concrete jungles

In The Western Tide Jiang Menglin says, "In accordance with long-standing imperial orders, only the planting but not the felling of trees was legal in Beijing. After a while, everybody forgot about these decrees, but they helped to foster habits of planting and protecting trees." He holds that this example shows how systems themselves may be long forgotten but live on in spirit in people's hearts.

Besides the tree-lined streets, the gardens of private residences also played an important role in the cities. Zhou Bao-zhu points out that these were enjoyed by common folk as well as the upper crust. After the Ming dynasty, most residents of southern Chinese cities lived in cramped quarters, but they still tried to keep small gardens. Thus gardens have long made the Chinese urban environment more beautiful.

Today the Taipei metropolitan area is twice the size of Paris, but even when you include the Yangming National Park and the Mucha mountain districts, it has only 2.47 square meters of green space for every city resident, less than one tenth the figure in Paris. And forget Western cities; Taipei can't even match up to most Asian cities.

When Huang Ta-chou was mayor of Taipei he encouraged everybody to plant trees so that city would lose its reputation as a "concrete jungle." For a while a lot of public buildings had a wall or two covered with vines. It's only too bad that the air pollution in the city is so serious, and the curb-side trees so mistreated by shopkeepers. Their roots are shallow too, and so the several typhoons that hit the city last year left it that much grayer. When friends and lovers meet, too often their only options are KTVs or MTVs, notorious fire traps.

And because parks, green spaces and other leisure facilities are in short supply, and sidewalks are crowded with illegally parked motorcycles, lovers can't even walk together holding hands.

The tense and the loose

Perhaps all of Taipei's officials have forgotten that Confucius said, "Warriors and scholars alike are now tense, then loose." Managing the city is like managing the nation. Leading nervous and hardworking lives, we need to relax, and cities need to devote more space to our leisure.

When building a city in ancient China, the government would often maintain large tracts of open space within the city, containing farmland, gardens, wooded hills and springs. This was done not entirely to avert crisis if enemies surrounded the city. Nor were these vast tracts awaiting future development. Instead they would be developed as parks or major sight-seeing spots (especially where there was water), and they would become much loved by city folk. In an area south of the city, Chang'an set up a beautiful hibiscus garden near Qujiang pond. This became a playground for both emperor and common man. Jinan's Daming Lake inspired Liu E to write his Travels of Lao Can.

Dongjing Menghua Lu describes Bianjing on Tomb Sweeping Day, "Green spaces were as crowded as a marketplace. Picnics were spread out under trees and in gardens everywhere, and people invited each other to feast. The singing and dancing girls performed until late at night."

After the Southern Song established its capital in Hangzhou, the West Lake area became famous for its scenery. It became a favorite place of leisure for emperors, generals, ministers, and wealthy landlords and merchants, and was used by common city residents and visitors to the capital as a large park. Foreign envoys, businessmen and monks would also go to the West Lake and offer incense in its temples. The pavilions and temples from various eras were well maintained and numerous, as these lines attest: "By West Lake, where the green slopes are studded with pagodas, when will the singing and dancing stop? Drunk on the warm winds, the visitors forget that this is Hangzhou not Bianjing, forget that they have fled the north."

Street performers

Besides spending your leisure time relaxing in the parks, you could also go to the busy city centers. After Buddhist temples were erected-in great numbers during the Sui and Tang dynasties, many temples built gardens, which became places for the urban residents to go in their leisure time. The residents of Tang dynasty Chang'an made temples into tourist attractions. Possessing works by famous painters and calligraphers and beautiful grounds famous for their plants and flowers, they were places where tourists would congregate, where poets would recite their verse. The temples of Chang'an went a step further by building stages for musical and operatic performances. And operas were also staged on the plazas and streets of Chang'an.

A special feature of city life during the Northern Song dynasty, was the "wa market," the red light district of a city where street performers would put on shows much like they do in major European cities today. The difference was in scale. Some wa market plazas could hold thousands. With the wa markets, performers grew very busy and honed their skills. Performances included the telling of stories and riddles, singing in various styles, variety shows, and puppet and shadow puppet shows.

In Beijing's Tianqiao Plaza at the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republican era, you could watch operas, peep shows or magic shows and listen to book critiques, stories told with musical accompaniment, and comic cross-talk. And you didn't have to pay a set ticket price, but rather gave as much as you liked. It was very democratic, quite unlike theaters with their boxes and different grades of seating.

Same principles, different problems

With new governmental and social structures, the problems that are faced by today's cities are already quite different from those that were faced by the cities of China's past. The prosperity that has come with science and technology has also made problems much more complicated. Take the pollution problem, which is largely caused by motor vehicles. The most capable of emperors would still probably find that a difficult problem to tackle. Yet, science and technology have also given us more means to solve our problems. Otherwise, why would the people of other countries feel secure in looking down their noses at Taipei?

In any case, there are some needs of urban residents that will never change. Hsu Hong, a professor of history at Taiwan University, says that over the course of history there is little that is completely new. Everyone wants to lead a comfortable life. Cultures may differ, but people share the same principles. They need similar facilities and the same basic regulations. From this vantage point, the people of Taipei do share something with the ancient folk of Chang'an, don't they?

[Picture Caption]

p.18

A drawing of Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126) shows how the river flowing through the city was intimately connected to the lives of the residents (courtesy of the National Palace Museum). Taipei was able to become a major metropolis because it also has a major river (the Tanshui) running through it. However, the Tanshui today is seriously polluted and choked with garbage, and people feel no sense of attachment to the river. (photo by Huang Tzu-ming)

p.20

There were already sewers for carrying off waste water designed into cities of the state of Chi in the Spring and Autumn Period. In the photo you can see spaces between the bricks which functioned as filters to keep out impurities and keep the water flowing.

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Gardens were an important part of traditional Chinese cities. The photo shows the Summer Palace in Beijing.

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With huge numbers of cars generating air pollution, modern cities face far more complex problems. The photo is of Shanghai.

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