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Wuhan- A City of Innovations and Creativity

by Roy Dilawer Khan


    When I arrived in Wuhan for the first time, the first words which I remember reading were "Wuhan, Different Everyday". At first, the slogan appeared to me quite ambitious, unrealistic and superfluous. With the passage of time, first the Weather and then developmental works around the city convinced me that it was no exaggeration at all. In fact, for us, it started to seem as if Wuhan was not different everyday; instead it was different every hour. One year has gone by, the impression continues to deepen in our mind.

  Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei province, is called Jiusheng Tonqu- the ‘leading thoroughfare of nine provinces’ not only because of its central geographical location but also due to its extensive road, rail and water network that stretches across Mainland China. Blessed with the junction of two main rivers, Yangtze and Han, Wuhan has been home to innovation, creativity, mobility, art and intellectual studies for more than 3000 years. It was extremely fitting that the 1911 Revolution which resulted the toppling of the Qing Dynasty started from Wuchang, a district of contemporary Wuhan City, and spread throughout China.

  After creation of People's Republic of China in 1949, Wuhan remained a central hub for transportation, trade, ideas, innovations and technology. Since the reform period started in 1978 in China, Wuhan did not miss the opportunity and paced up its journey to a city of future. However, the most commendable step which Wuhan has apparently taken is that while it made unfathomable progress and development in last 40 odd years, the city never turned a blind eye towards its cultural and natural heritage.

  What makes Wuhan a progressive, dynamic and lively city! Of course, it has a geographical significance but that alone would not have been adequate to take it into top-tiers of fast-growing cities not only in China but across the globe. It was the quality of Wuhan to move ahead of time and lead the industry by attracting talented minds from around the world courtesy to its symbiotic environment. In industry whether old or modern, in architecture whether ancient or contemporary, in technology whether mobile phones or automobiles, in styles, designs and ideas, Wuhan is now a theatre of creativity, innovation and excellence.

  It is perfectly understandable that a report published by real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle has placed Wuhan eighth in the list of most dynamic cities in the world with regards to economic growth and development, after London, San Jose, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Boston. Wuhan’s dynamic quality originates not only from GDP growth which was 7.8 percent in 2016 but also from the pace with which it is innovating and progressing. This is the reason why Wuhan has been recognized by the beginners as well as big enterprises as a potential developing nub of the innovation economy, and thus Wuhan is receiving huge investments in every business. For instance, major automobile companies like Peugeot, Citroen, Nissan, Honda and GM have gathered here to set-up their manufacturing plants.

  Getting in and out of the city is one most significant point to appraise the development and novelty of any place. Wuhan's Tianhe Airport located in Huangpi district has opened its Terminal 3 for passengers 3 weeks ago which is styled as a 'Phoenix rising from ashes' and has the capacity to serve 35 Million Passengers a year. An interfusion of past and future, Tianhe Terminal 3 is a wonder in itself- which one cannot resist admiring.

  Wuhan has been long known for its far-reaching railway network. Besides having Hankou and Wuchang Railway Station, it has a new station by the name of Wuhan Railway Station. Once again, you would witness the blend of modernity and history- where the curvy roof of station is designed to resemble the wings of Yellow Crane Tower. The building is divided into nine different parts which symbolize the nine provinces of China with a central thoroughfare.

  Intra-City Metro Lines of Wuhan City are second to no city in the world. Wuhan was the 5th city in China to have a metro system. Wuhan believes in preserving and promoting its culture, which is evident from paintings and decorations of the subway stations too. For instance, 'The Hankou Railway Station' hosts the 'The Return of Yellow Crane', while showcases along line 6 are filled with items of cultural significance donated by citizens. However, Wuhan Business District Station stands out among all its counterparts. The station is ranked among top 10 metro stations in the world and with 64,800 sq meters area, it is largest metro station in Asia. Dome-shaped, and having 16 entrance-exit points, from the ground surface, it appears as if a new island is resurfacing from the ocean.

  A state-of-the-art theatre, Han Theatre, is a cultural symbol of Wuhan. Designed as the traditional Chinese paper lantern and nicknamed as "The Red Lantern", the Han Show Theatre have a capacity to house 2000 spectators. The designed was to reconstruct an instantaneously familiar and identifiable Chinese symbol with a picturesque structure that would infuse in it the elements of modernity. However, as grand and magnificent it appears from outside, the internal structure and combinations are even more astounding and formidable. The spectator seats are movable and they keep changing position during the show. With a 10 million liters water pool, the theatre also contains 3 giant 8-metric tons screens which are moved by mammoth robot arms.

  One main project related to cultural restoration is The Zhongshan Avenue Renewal Project which was launched with aims including but not limited to preserving the historical and cultural places surrounding the avenue, enhancing the importance of public transportation and creation of cultural tourism avenue for shopping, entertainment and walking. This project aimed at street reformation by giving priority to pedestrians, increasing public communication by building public spaces like central green island and pavements and improving 32 old communities along the street in a bid to ameliorate the living standards of residents of the area. Such were the high standards of this project that it gained world recognition when it was awarded 'Award of Excellence' at 52nd ISOCARP Congress held in September 2016 in Durban, South Africa under the slogan of 'Cities we have vs Cities we Need'. Sited at the location of old Hankou city wall which was demolished in 1907, this place is a must-visit to see the transformation and vision of this city.

  If we have to single out one most significant step of Wuhan, that makes it the country's leading city in technology and innovation in almost every field, it is the founding of East Lake Development Zone aka Optics Valley. Optics Valley of Wuhan established almost 30 years ago is a dazzling sci-tech town and has a special place in the optoelectronics information industry of the world. Surrounded by lakes, hills and waterways, offering a scenic landscape, the Optics Valley is home not only to optoelectronics information but also to bio-medicine, new energy, environmental protection, high-end equipment manufacturing and high-tech services. Optics Valley represents the supreme level of optoelectronics research and production in China. It ranks first globally for the scale of its optical fiber and cable production operations. The Optics Valley of Wuhan and Silicon Valley in Chicago are part of a major "Twin Valleys, Twin Cities Cooperation Plan". It is worth-mentioning here that the most used app in China, WeChat, was pioneered by a graduate of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan. WeChat, better called as WeiXin in China, has revolutionized daily life of people in China.

  Wuhan Optics Valley International Tennis Center is yet another exhibition of Wuhan's vision to lead the innovation arena and its determination to realize that vision. The facility houses a central court of 15,000 seats with retractable making it the joint largest tennis stadium in China. With its exquisite architecture of international standard, the central court serves as a vigor and energy for all youth who aspire to become Sportspersons. The interior of the stadium is flawlessly constructed and aptly decorated, reminding the beholder of perfect course of development undertaken by the city in general.

  Sustainable Development is a concept getting global recognition and it comes as no surprise that Wuhan is also leading the way in this imperative course of future action. In this respect,

  one trademark building reflecting the future of Wuhan and its intent for sustainable development is Energy Flower. Designed like a lily, with 140 meters tower in the center and relatively short flowers shaped building around it, Wuhan Energy Research Center is one of the most advanced energy efficient buildings in the world. With zero fossil fuel energy consumption and zero carbon emission, it is the largest green building in China. The Wuhan Energy Flower depends upon wind and solar energy to cover its energy needs while rain water is used to provide for all the water-needs of the facility. The research center is home to over 2000 students and researchers from sustainable engineering fields who are determined to provide new ideas and innovations in the field of green technology.

  When it comes to nature, there is nothing more synonymous with Wuhan than 'East Lake'. East Lake, more known by its Chinese name 'donghu', is the largest Urban Lake in China. When I came in Wuhan for the first time, the first tourist place I went was East Lake- and it made me fall in love with this city. Sitting by the bank of the lake on a lunar night, you feel the calm and peace this city imbibes in it while surging waves remind you that a tumultuous struggle to go across the stars runs through its every artery and every vein. To convert this place into a tourist and recreational spot, the Government initiated the East Lake Greenway Project. Divided into four geo-zones, it targets to purify the water of East Lake, restore the lake ecosystem and provide a walking track to residents of Wuhan. Moreover, the cycling and running track is built according to world-class standards considering the utility of this track for international races. The track passing by different hills and islands provides the visitors an opportunity to relax and soothe themselves in the middle of nature. Trust me, it is a quite a productive place especially for writers and poets.

  When it comes to Art, Culture, Fashion, etc., once again, you will not find Wuhan at any back-steps. With events like Wuhan design Biennale, International Acrobatics Arts Festival, Wuhan Strawberry Music Festival, La Fe te de la Musique etc. Wuhan is Mecca of Arts among the major world centers. In the parks and squares, old people dance to new tunes and keep fresh the lively and dynamic image of this city. The city never comes to a halt and from the very outset, appears to have a predefined destiny which every inhabitant, old or young, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, man or woman, is not only conscious of but also thriving to reach for it.

  Having said that, it is safe to conclude that the time is not far when Wuhan shall be a world leader in innovations, creativity, high-technology, sustainable development and livability. The long term goals of this city sometimes give an unpractical impression like the extension of metro lines to a cumulative distance of 1045 kilometers, but the past track record of the city leaves no room of doubt in its determination and perseverance to achieve its goals. Because with scores of brilliant minds flocking to the city from all over the world every passing day, it is arguably one of the best talent pools any global city can accumulate. With that much quantity of quality brains, there is no one denying the rise of this city beyond the pre-set horizons.

  My Name is Roy Dilawer Khan, I am a freelance journalist at wuhantime. I love travelling and writing, both of which have become passion for me over the years. My writings have been published on several international medias. I want to write more about Wuhan, a city different everyday. Thanks to Wuhantime for the great opportunity and support.

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