Huangzhou China Banking on Bikes

December 6, 2010

Watching this video was exciting. The city of Huangzhou in Zhejiang province is about a hundred miles or 161 kilometers from Shanghai. We’ve visited several times. Our last trip was in 2008 shortly before the project this story covers was launched. Huangzhou is one of the most beautiful cities in China.

Al Jazerra’s Melissa Chan reports on one of the largest bike sharing projects in the world and one of the most successful.

Launched in 2008, the city of Huangzhou provides 50,000 free bicycles at 2,000 bike stops across the city.

The people Chan interviewed say they use the bikes to go to work and it is great to be outside and exercising. One woman says it cuts her commute time.

Melissa Chan says the first hour of bike use is free. It’s actually possible to cycle free all day as long as you check in at a stop every hour.

The system is easy to use—just swipe a bike card across a reader (similar to riding many urban rapid transit systems) and off you go.

Registering for a card is simple.  All that’s needed is a deposit and identification.

Huangzhou, also known as the Westlake, has been one of the more environmentally conscious cities in China.

The government made space to build parks alongside the rapid development and modernization. Huangzhou has remained picturesque unlike many other cities in China where the concrete jungle has taken over.

Li Zhi Hong of Hangzhou Public Transport says the city wanted to encourage citizens to leave their cars and use more public transportation. The bicycles allowed people to take that final kilometer from the bus station to their destination.

The bikes are also great for tourism.

Melissa Chan says public busses have also adopted European emission standards. While there are still many cars on the road, people tell her that it could be a lot worse.

The city has taken the pollution issue seriously and Huangzhou’s success has attracted the attention of Beijing where the pollution problem is still “painfully” visible with each breath.

Today, Huangzhou is one of the cleanest cities in the country.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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Mao Weitao and Yue Opera

March 14, 2010

Mao Weitao is considered a living treasure in China. She imitates men in the opera roles she plays—a reversal from Imperial China when women were not allowed on stage so men played female roles.

Mao Weitao is on the left

I was introduced to Yue Opera in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province about a decade ago. Mao Weitao and her husband have their own theater company near the shores of the famous Westlake. My wife translated while I watched the live-opera performance in fascination.

The costumes were lavish and the acting and opera was dramatic with a backdrop of classical Chinese music.

The challenge today is to keep this form of Chinese opera alive. The audience for opera is shrinking dramatically in China while remaining popular with the older generation. Television, movies and the Internet are claiming the shorter attention spans of the younger people.

Mao Weitao, considered an innovative genius on stage, adapts and works to keep the art form alive. According to her husband, no two performances are exactly alike.

Discover The Orphan’s Life


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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Risks on the Road

February 23, 2010

I’ve learned that the Chinese don’t restrict gambling to lotteries, dice or cards.  They also gamble on real estate along with any venture that might turn a profit.

Most Chinese are born entrepreneurs. I’ve read that the Chinese invented paper money and added credit to banking a thousand years ago during the Sung Dynasty. The Chinese are masters at doing business and that’s probably why my wife, who is Chinese, warned me not to do business in China. Do not misread my words—I don’t mean Westerners shouldn’t work with the Chinese. Read my piece on Doing Business in China or what Bob Grant has to say on the topic.

However, it was during a trip to the shores of the Westlake in Hangzhou where I learned how far Chinese drivers are willing to take risks to earn quick dollars. 

Traffic in China. This is mild!

On a drizzly, cold evening, we hired a three-wheeled motorcycle to carry us to the lake where there is a paved walkway along the shore.  It was raining but we had umbrellas. The driver decided traffic was too slow on the right side of the road so he drove onto the walkway where a police officer appeared from the shadows, blew a whistle and waved him off.

Then the driver drove down the wrong side of the street with a wall of traffic headed toward us. We were sitting on a seat behind the driver of a three-wheel motorcycle.

There was a bus in the lane we were in and the bus started to flash its lights.  Our driver did not blink, and the bus swerved out of the way.  All the cars behind the bus went around us too as if our driver were Moses parting the Red Sea.

We reached the lake alive, and the driver went in search of another paying customer.