This has been a year of extremes - extreme joys and extreme sorrow. It was a year many celebrities decided to tie the knot, or bear children, or emigrate overseas, at least in name; and it was a year amateur photographers made history without the aid of Photoshop.
Blueprint of a mammoth city
It could be a photographer's paradise - if it comes true as envisioned by local officials.
Shandong officials said they would invest 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) in a special city called the "landmark city of Chinese culture". It would be positioned as "China's adjunct capital of culture". And it had the backing of hundreds of celebrity scholars, let alone the official seal of approval.
There's a hitch: Culture cannot be planned or built from the ground up like a shopping mall. It is the way people live and love, the lifestyles of various demographics. It is the natural product of people whose lives encompass more than just survival.
The denunciation of the project by the public, or the vast majority of it, shows the chasm between bureaucrats who mistake hardware for software and the general public who wants a say in public projects of a massive scale.
The day the earth shook
There were many great images of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake. They were heartbreaking; they were heart-warming.
What was unexpected was a sudden outpouring of poetic expressions. Not since the "Vague Poetry" movement of the 1980s has the country seen such a passion for verse. Strangely, many of the best works were anonymous and appeared in the first days of the catastrophe. Faster than the print media could carry them, they spread from cell phone to cell phone, touching millions of hearts and opening floodgates of tears.
The poetic surge was abruptly halted when a professional writer from Shandong published two poems, one of which fantasized about installing television screens at tombs so that the quake victims could watch the Olympics broadcast from the other world. "Even as ghosts, we were happy," Wang Zhaoshan wrote, thereby putting words into the dead and engulfing the nation in a wave of disgust.
Yes, words still have the power - to inspire or to repulse.