On the way to Suzhou, about three hours northwest of Shanghai by train, we pass the town of Wuxi, 无锡. For generations, it’s gray-green hills were a source of tin, or xi, 锡, and so for most of history it was known simply as Xi. But eventually the stores were depleted, and the town was wu xi, without tin, and so it became known.
From the dining car, Wuxi looks like many of the growing urban centers just outside of China’s main cities. A common sight are scores of identical thirty-story cement and rust high-rises encircling a single patch of communal grass. I imagine the families in the little one-story shanties just outside their perimeter, anticipating the day they will move into a thirty-story cement and rust high-rise encircling a single patch of communal grass of their own.
I checked and there is no town in China, or anywhere in the world, by the name of Wubiyao, 无必要, without want or need.