Huai’an: a city eager for a real hill

Located in a floodplain of the ancient Huai River, Huai’an has no real mountain or hill, except some hills at Xuyi county.

When I was little, I was so eager to see what a real mountain or hill looks like, later I saw it on a bus near Nanjing, and I was told that there were wolves in the hills, but that’s certainly not true.

China do have countless mountains and hills, the nearest metropolis – Nanjing has a lot. But for Huai’an people, it’s a rarity.

People in Huai’an city are so eager for hills that they’ve built several rockeries in the urban area. The most famous one is Bochi Hill, or translated as “Bochi Mountain”.

Mount Bochi in Huai'an

Located in the downtown of Huai’an city, Bochi Hill (钵池山) is a large park with an artificial hill. It’s often jokingly called “Idiot Hill”, because the pronunciation of its real name – “Bochi” is almost the same as “Idiot” in Huai’an dialect. But disappointedly, this biggest “hill” in Huai’an city is more like a red rock and is unclimbable.

You can also find some rockeries in another park – Taohuawu Park (Peach Blossom Dock), which are not tall but climbable and can meet your needs of rock climbing a bit.

My friend just sent a message that a hike is to be organized several days later, and the route is across almost all the parks in the urban areas of Huai’an city, which are connected by streets of course. If Huai’an had any big hill or mountain, such activity would surely don’t have to go across the streets.

Huai’an Municipal Library not open 1.5 years after completion

Huai’an Municipal Library, a large building as a part of the new government architectural complex in the “Ecological New City” (生态新城), was completed and finished internal decoration in April 2015, more than a year and half before now, according to online report of the local official news website.

Huai'an Library

However, eager readers in Huai’an haven’t even set their feet in it – it hasn’t been opened so far and there is no sign of it.

The earliest news about its opening was also in April 2015, saying that the library would hopefully be open by the end of 2015. But it wasn’t.

And then the authority said it would be open in July 2016 during an online session with netizens this April, but later the word was broken again.

It was rumored in October that the library will finally be open in December, but there is no official news about it.

When I went to the library in October, the building was brightly-lit with staff working in it, but a doorkeeper stopped me, saying that the library wasn’t open to the outside.

Huai’an has an old library located in the old town, a two-storey building donated by a Huai’anese Taiwan person named Li Chongnian. Books in this small library are old and few, the collection size is almost as small as that of Hongze county.

It’s weird that the new library of Huai’an is not open 1.5 years after its completion, the biggest possible reason is that it’s not given enough attention by relative leader/department. It seems that the building was built just as an image project, more or less.

Profile of Huai’an

Huai’an is a prefecture-level city in Jiangsu province of China, more accurately in Northern Jiangsu (苏北), of which the economy is known poorer than Southern Jiangsu (苏南).

Huai'an Introduction

As a result, many people from Huai’an have more connections with bigger Jiangsu cities like Nanjing and Suzhou than their hometown city.

As for me, I only came to Huai’an City for once before my graduation from university. And before that, I never regarded myself a Huaianese, I’d like to call myself a Hongze person – a county under Huai’an (now upgraded to a district, but is much farther from downtown than other districts).

Talking about Huai’an, people would say Huai’an is famous for its featured dishes – Huaiyang Dishes, which is said to be one of the five most influential styles of cooking in China.

Huaiyang dishes are of course also famous in Huai’an, but just like other places in China, other dishes also take a place here, especially Sichuan Dishes, and I like the latter much better. Compared to the light and slightly sweet taste of Huaiyang Dishes, heavy and acrid taste of Sichuan Dishes seem to fit local people better.

Huai’an doesn’t have many foreigners living here, and it’s only a tier-3 or even tier-4 city in China. Most foreigners in Huai’an either teach here or are employees of some foreign-invested plants or companies.

Despite of the current situation, Huai’an does have a much brighter future, as five high-speed rails are reported to join in Huai’an in several years, making the city a transportation hub. And the most talked-about one is the rail connecting Huai’an and Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu. The latter is only about 200 kilometers south of Huai’an, but there is even no railway between them.

One major reason why Huai’an is becoming a traffic hub is that the provincial government has positioned Huai’an as an “important center of Northern Jiangsu”.

Besides, since the nation has just approved Jiangbei (North of Yangtze River) of Nanjing as a state-level new zone, which is nearer to Huai’an and will be connected to Huai’an via high-speed railway by 2019, Huai’an seems more promising.

With such prospect, Huai’an has been speeding up its urban construction in recent years, and I have to say the changes are huge. Even in my hometown county Hongze, the city’s appearance is much better – it does look like a small city now.