#204-151 Competition for road space became intense and dangerous with the introduction of motorized vehicles. This “Iron ox” tractor, as they were called, competed with the traditional pony carts for business. Both were indispensable short-haul passenger vehicles and equally uncomfortable on the bumpy dirt roads. The Iron Ox was produced as a tractor but overproduction in the face of under-supply of public transport inspired people to convert them to mini-trucks. Unfortunately, injuries and fatalities were too common in the cities and countryside as trucks, busses and homemade vehicles shared the roads with pony carts.
#149-018 This chicken cage is made of American aircraft runway materials that were airlifted into China over the Himalayan Mountains from India. The flights were referred to as “Flying the Hump.” The perforated metal strips were laid on top of the soft earth of a rice paddy to make an instant airfield for fighter planes of the Flying Tigers to defend China’s cities from Japanese bombers. In chatting with the man it was clear that he remembered the war, the airfields and the warplanes. His home features the customary rhymed couplet on either side of the entrance with protective door gods pasted on the door itself. These door gods and couplets are always renewed at New Year’s time.
#149-008 China’s command economy never fulfilled the actual needs of its citizens until the private sector was permitted to operate as a market economy. China’s current swift rise as an economic power stems from this shift. Here, in 1979, we see the overproduction of tractors and the need for more trucks solved at the local level by attaching a trailer to a tractor for use on city streets.
#120-106a A principal downside of a command economy is that production is not finely tuned to demand as it is in market economies. This resulted in under-production of busses of all sizes in favor of trucks. The only solution was to use trucks as busses. Note the ladder for access.
#110-042 These frontage avenues were reserved for bicycles and pedestrians before cars and trucks took over. Now these frontage avenues are filled with parked cars. In some cases, they are obliterated by widening the street to an eight or ten lane boulevard.
#110-031a After 1979, the sound of hundreds of bicycle bells was heard in the streets. The dreadful Cultural Revolution was over. No more wholesale mobilizations of the population into frenzied rallies. The rampages of the Red Guards had ended. Peace reined and people were relaxed. It was evident everywhere except in some backward places that still had not gotten the word that it was a new day with new policies. In such places the tension was palpable; loud speakers, martial music and restrictions of every kind were perpetuated. There were no private autos yet but bicycles and trucks were becoming more available. In less than twenty years, cars will take over the streets with their noise and pollution. A new China was about to be created.
#110-027a These bicycles can carry heavy loads. This is a cargo of Chinese peppers similar to our bell peppers heading to market.
#110-021a There are an endless variety of these homebuilt sidecars on city streets but not in the countryside. Farmers have no use for this kind of thing and would consider it coddling. The “little emperor” is enjoying a soda while the parent finishes grocery shopping. Bicycles were still considered a luxury and most of the population walked or caught the bus. The one-child policy was written into the 1978 constitution and the new regulations put into effect in 1980. Subsequently, a single male such as we see here became known as “the little emperor.” The emphasis in China on a male heir to continue the family line resulted in the current imbalance in the male to female ratio. Social problems for men unable to obtain a wife led to the relaxation of the one-child policy in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
I#110-017 In spite of the major streets in China being clogged with heavy traffic, the tricycle street sweeping machines remains in use on many of the calmer side streets. In large buildings such as airports, pedaled machines are used to polish the floors. White shirts are regarded as somewhat formal wear whereas colored shirts are considered to be sporty and informal. In the summer heat when coats are not worn, office workers tend to wear a collared white shirt.
#043-079 The centrally planned economy under Maoist rule over produced tractors and under produced trucks. The local solution was to convert a tractor to a truck using a welder’s torch. The exposed pulleys on the tractor have caused countless accidents in China. A lifetime of unrelenting hard work, childbirth and a lack of calcium very likely are the cause of this elderly woman’s stoop.
#017-001 Typically, sidewalks are used for almost anything but pedestrians. Here bicycles sprawl while elsewhere there are light manufacturing being performed and vegetable stands and laundry spilling out onto the street blocking passage. These days automobiles use the sidewalks for parking. This little tricycle truck is ubiquitous for hauling passengers and freight. Many, like this one, are motor-assisted pedal vehicles.
#015-185 Buses and trucks shared the streets with family carts. There were very few automobiles then and people were unfamiliar with vehicles on the roads and streets. This resulted in accidents that took many lives. In my annual visits to China I never failed to see numerous fatal accidents, many involving children and whole families.
#015-064 Dali in Yunnan is laid out typical of old China with a long main street and a city gate at each end. All Chinese cities and towns were laid out in a grid of streets surrounded by protective walls with guarded gates. The gates were opened at dawn and closed at dusk. Dali still has its gates but the walls are gone. The building overhang design offers shelter from rain. In 1979 bicycles were severely rationed. By the late 1980’s production increases made it possible for anyone to buy one if they had the money. A woman in those days wanted her fiancé to have a bicycle, a sewing machine and a washing machine. These items were rare in the marketplace after years of government investments focused on heavy industry.