Took a stroll the other night and stumbled upon some outdoor ballroom dancing in Hengshan Park. Can’t say the couples were outwardly enjoying themselves — they smiled about as often as Chinese gymnasts during Olympic routines — but I guess you could call it pleasure by post-Maoist-retiree standards. Anyway, you don’t see that in Central Park.
“Charming” is low down on the list of adjectives most Westerners would use to describe China. Even people who like it here would agree with that.
An exception? City parks. Specifically, the things Chinese people — even more specifically, older Chinese people — do in the city parks. In January, in Harbin, I saw locals ballroom-dancing and playing ping-pong in sub-zero temperatures. Last week, in Temple of Heaven Park, I saw locals doing pretty much everything else: tai chi, singing, fitness-dancing (that’s a thing, right?), ping-pong with shuttlecocks, hacky sack with shuttlecocks, quasi-tennis, tree-lined strolling, and having awesome kooky hair.
The park entrance fee is 10 RMB (~$1.50), but it’s free for the 60-and-up set. When I mentioned this to a few younger locals the next day, they said something to each other in Chinese and then giggled. I asked for a translation. Even if the entrance fee were as high as 2 RMB, they said, old people wouldn’t go.