Art Silverman

Chengdu: One Heckuva Job

Chengdu River

Rivers with tree-lined pathways wind through Chengdu.Photo by Art Silverman, NPR hide caption

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Chengdu is not the city I came to a month ago. The city I entered May 2 looked vast, dirty and ugly. I now find it brightly colored, sprinkled with parks and people I enjoy seeing everyday

Also, I'm no longer covering Chengdu, I am experiencing it. And that makes a huge difference. I am moving slower, looking not for news, but for people.

My original plan was to finish up here when the work ended and get out to the glorious mountain, deserts and lakes I have come to love through movies such as "Hero," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and "House of Flying Daggers."

Instead, I stayed in this Chinese New Orleans. Here's why I say that:

- Sichuan is "different' from the rest of modern China.

- People proudly admit they are very laidback here.

- The food is spicy and people like to party and drink.

- The dialect is distinct and sometimes hard to understand to people from the rest of the country.

Bamboo ParkChengdu

At a sharp bend in the river, there's a bamboo-filled park where tea is served. Photo by Art Silverman, NPR. hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Art Silverman, NPR.
Silverman Chengdu

NPR Producer Art Silverman finds new best friend at open air market in Chengdu. Photo by Connie Wieck. hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Connie Wieck.

Some Big Differences

Then there are twists that make Chengdu NOT New Orleans.

There's no "Brownie."
Here, the national government responded quickly. There were no public squabbles about jurisdiction and flow of money. (Stress on "public," we do not know what occurred behind closed doors, such is the nature of life here.)

Huge army convoys came rolling into the province. Instant tent cities arose in orderly fashion. Medical supplies, food, water reached everybody we talked to in days.

(NOTE: My job for the past month has been to handle the posting of entries and comments to this blog. I had to learn how to do this from scratch. I have worked at NPR for 30 years, and I do sound. That's it. So I needed help from experts, such as Wright Bryan and Andy Carvin. NPR Photojournalist Coburn Dukehart also helped me by cautioning against too free a hand with PhotoShop to improve pictures. And when the earthquake struck, it was former intern Travis Larchuk who stepped in to help.)



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Thank you, Art, very much for the in-depth reporting and the photos are beautiful.... It always amazes me that how people see exactly same things so vastly different. You said it all, experiencing it instead covering it. I am quite certain that the city did not change that much in the two weeks of time while you are there. It is you who are revealing the city's true face inside and out.

Sent by cz | 10:11 AM | 6-3-2008

You are indeed experiencing Chengdu, yes they are more laidback by looking. But do not fool by their apparance, especially woman, know to be able do anything in China, they will supprise you when you at least expected...they can be too hot and spicy to handle...

Sent by Mary | 2:46 PM | 6-3-2008

My memory is back again by seeing these photos. The Jing river and the WangJiang park..Many peoples' minds may not be as tranquil as the river and the bamboo park, I believe the worst time is already gone.

Sent by C. Liang | 12:54 AM | 6-4-2008

Hey, Art.
Thanks for writing this. I lived in Chengdu for 6 weeks in the winter--a very different experience, but it was lovely then, too. I enjoy reading about the city my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons live in.

Sent by Sheri | 10:50 AM | 6-9-2008

I grew up in Chengdu. I like the angle you look at Chengdu and New Orlean. Very interesting point of view. I've been to New Orlean before and was instantly attracted to it. By the way the pictures in this post are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Sent by JY | 12:09 PM | 6-9-2008