Fast forward 20+ years and I find that many people still have the same general ideas about the country. Images of idyllic little villages with the sounds of wafting pipe music tend to fill one's imagination.
Reality is very different. My current city in northwest China is a stack of skyscrapers (most of which are apartments) that line a very long river. It's surrounded by mountains so air tends to just settle at the "bottom of the bowl" and our pollution levels are rather high. (Although, I must admit, the air quality wasn't too bad on the day these photos were taken.)
The pictures below are views from our bedroom window when we first moved into our apartment in August 2007. We had a somewhat clear view of the distant hills and we had a large pile of cardboard recycling that happened in the empty lot in front of the building being constructed behind us.