Background Information

Heavy air pollution is an unfortunate reality for many living in China’s urban centers. The burning of fossil fuels often creates a haze (otherwise known as smog) that can coat the air with a gray tinge. In larger industrial cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen, smog can be quite visible. In smaller large cities such as Nanjing and Suzhou, smog may not always be detectable with the human eye, but air pollution nevertheless remains. Many people wear pollution masks to cope to filter the air they breath, but the effectiveness of certain masks is debated. Many purchase indoor air purifiers to help clean the air they breath at home. Some cities have planted trees in an effort to help clean up the pollution. Recently, more drastic measure were taken by the government to cease excess polluting by large companies. Some have been detained as a result of not following laws limiting coal burning. As a result, pollution levels have been decreasing in cities such as Beijing. Of course, pollution does not stay in one place; it spreads to surrounding countryside and even other countries. Combating pollution will certainly be one of China’s most crucial environmental projects for years to come.

A Chinese professor explains what air pollution does to your health (World Economic Forum)

Helping China Fight Air Pollution (The World Bank) 

Beijing’s air pollution is changing, new research shows (South China Morning Post)

Beware China’s ‘anti-smog tower’ and other plans to pull pollution from the air (The Conversation)

雾霾和污染 Smog and Pollution

Suggested Level

Context Information: Mae is an American student, and 如风 (Rǔfēng) is a domestic Chinese student. They are discussing today’s pollution.

Mae: 今天的天气怎么样 (laughing)?

如风: 霾——

Mae: 嗯。

如风: 今天有霾。

Mae: 今天有霾,很多霾。

如风: 对我记得两年前基本上大街上所有人都需要戴口罩。

Mae: Mhmm。可是为什么现在没有人戴口罩。

如风: 因为现在已经好很多了。

Mae: 真的吗?

如风: 真的!

Mae: 已经好很多。

如风: 对两年前就是你从这看出去外面是黄色的这种颜色。

Mae: 哦!

如风: 很可怕。

Mae: 可是可能有时候冬天还会这样。

如风: 嗯,对的。

Mae: 对。

如风: 去年也有。


      1. 天气 (tiānqì) Weather
      2. 霾 (mái) Haze
      3. 基本上 (jīběnshàng) Basically
      4. 大街 (dàjiē) Street; main street
      5. 戴 (dài) To wear (something worn on the head)
      6. 口罩 (kǒuzhào) Mask; pollution mask
      7. 颜色 (yǎnsè) Color
      8. 可怕 (kěpà) Terrible; scary