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兰州 Lanzhou: 牛肉面 | Beef noodle soup

This story can be read in both English and Mandarin Chinese (the texts are presented in parallel, alongside their accompanying images)


International student Shuang Shi went home for Chinese New Year and unexpectedly got stuck in her hometown Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province in north-western China. Lanzhou is known for its beef noodle soup, part of the national cuisine that has always been central to the city’s culture and identity. Through the trivialities of noodle soup culture, Shuang witnesses how the pandemic changes the everyday life of normal citizens and their informal practices, and how Covid-19 gradually reaches its epilogue in a Chinese city.


To any Lanzhou locals, the most important thing is always beef noodle soup (also famously known as Lanzhou Ramen). The city, located in the northwest of China has tens of thousands of beef noodle shops scattering all around the streets. During the pandemic, while the entire town was under lockdown, banking, delivery, and even police services were ceased, 33 beef noodle shops remained open due to citizens’ strong requests. 


In February, the city was under lockdown. A beef noodle shop was still open for business. Eating in was not allowed, so in order to taste freshly made noodles, a family used the rear of their car as a table.


At the beginning of March, Lanzhou saw the curve flattened. Some of the restaurants and malls started to open. In order to avoid customers’ physical contact, this noodle shop installed plastic fenders. It looks like an exam room…


Towards the end of March, the city officially ended its lockdown. Let’s go out, get a bowl of Erxi (thin noodles), topped with meat, vegetables, and eggs. More chili oil, less spring onions - this is to our emancipation! 


The so-called "shared economy" comes and goes. Endorsed by capital investment, then used as a public good when the start-up venture failed, and eventually functioned as some road barriers to enforce social distancing in residential compounds, these bikes must have had such an adventurous life! 


Pull the strings of the kites. Let spring stay here for a little longer...

All photographs by 石爽 Shuang Shi


This story was shared by Shuang Shi, an urban studies student currently isolating at home in Lanzhou, China.

How do you experience living in your city under Coronavirus? Share your story and join us to Spread stories, not the virus.

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