China in depth, National Geographic special

National Geographic has put its stunning feature on China online, including a long article by Peter Hessler (who wrote the amazing story about China's instant factory cities), a series of pieces about China's middle class, life in Guizhou village (by Amy Tan!), architecture and the Olympics, the environmental depredations to the Yellow River, life in Tibet, and a beautiful gallery of aerial photos by George Steinmetz.

In a related story, check out the Chinese "Green Brothers", high-tech environmental activists who "do monthly, explainer-style documentary pieces on wind power, biomass engineering, and solar water heaters (?!) in China. They clearly know their stuff, and Zhao's favored Ghostbusters tee has a charming effect. Here's their first effort, on the problem of waste in Chinese cities."

Across Chinese society, parents appear completely at sea when it comes to raising their children. Newspapers run advice columns, their often rudimentary counsel–"Don't Forcibly Plan Your Child's Life" is a typical headline–suggesting what many parents are up against. Some schools have set up parent schools where mothers, and the occasional father, can share frustrations and child-raising tips.

At times educators go to extremes: At the Zhongguancun No. 2 Primary School in Beijing, vice-principal Lu Suqin recently took two fifth-grade boys into her home. "Their parents couldn't get them to behave, so they asked me to take them," she explains. "After they learn disciplined living, I will send them back."

Bella had one free day during the 2006 weeklong National Day holiday. Some of her extended family–seven adults and two children–took a trip to Tongli, a town of imperial mansions an hour's drive from Shanghai. Bella's father hired a minibus and driver for the trip; a friend had just been in a car accident and broken all the bones on one side of his body. Bella sat alone reading a book.

(Thanks, Marilyn!)