A WALK IN THE PARK

That's China - - That's China 城市漫步 -

hand swirling around to a slow melody rem­i­nis­cent of a ball­room party. Two steps, there are a group of

nd mid­dle aged men with match­ing yel­low track­suit pants break­ing it down to a pop­u­lar song while some passersby fol­low along in the back­ground. Three steps, one ec­cen­tric star of the show shines out in a crowd, an el­derly man don­ning a tight fit­ting black sin­glet and glossy pants struts up and down shak­ing his hips while ab­sorbed in his own world as he at­tracts many cu­ri­ous eyes. The Peo­ple’s Park in Chengdu is fa­mous for its bois­ter­ous spec­ta­cle, re­ceiv­ing the un­of­fi­cial nick­name of “nois­i­est park in the world”. It feels as if this hotch­potch of com­pet­ing sounds and con­flict­ing dance groups is a bal­anc­ing act on a thin tightrope. If the same sit­u­a­tion was to be placed in any other con­text, I imag­ine fights would in­stantly break out over who is en­ti­tled to the largest le­groom, or whose mu­sic could be pro­jected the fur­thest. Some­how the fu­sion of old and new, slow and fast paced mu­sic seems to blend to­gether like a time warp ma­chine of remixed songs. How­ever, con­flicts do arise ev­ery now and then, and noise mon­i­tors have been given the duty to stroll around en­sur­ing the noise re­mains at a re­spectable level, as res­i­dents nearby grow weary of the noise pol­lu­tion when peo­ple am­plify their mu­sic to com­pete with oth­ers. Once all the en­ergy has been drained from sim­ply ob­serv­ing the ex­trav­a­ganza, there are an ar­ray of seats

await­ing at the tea houses, where one can re­vi­talise with a cup of tea in hand, or call on a nearby man

nd hold­ing a daunt­ingly long ear-clean­ing ap­pa­ra­tus ready to rid your ears of any wax. The lazy af­ter­noon ac­tiv­ity is the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for fur­ther peo­ple watch­ing. “Shaocheng Park”, as it was orig­i­nally ti­tled, was the first public park in the city. Opened in 1911, the park was built on the for­mer grounds of a Qing im­pe­rial en­camp­ment. Af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China, it was re-named in 1950 (to the cur­rent ti­tle), and un­der­went en­large­ment and re­fur­bish­ment. A visit to such a park is not an act of es­cap­ing into the soli­tude of na­ture, but ab­sorb­ing your­self in the quirky tal­ents of oth­ers. The en­ter­tain­ment is de­rived from the ran­dom and un­ex­pected en­coun­ters, which flour­ish in this lively en­vi­ron­ment. It is a con­trast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to my child­hood ad­ven­tures spent wan­der­ing through the lo­cal green­ery. Vis­it­ing a park in my home­town in Aus­tralia, usu­ally in­volves pack­ing the car with the es­sen­tial sun­screen and snacks, as well as an over-ex­cited dog whose bound­less en­ergy for life is let loose as soon as she touches the end­less green grass await­ing at our des­ti­na­tion. En­joy­ment is found in the in­ter­ac­tions with al­ready well-ac­quainted friends and fam­ily, through shar­ing a pic­nic meal, kick­ing a soc­cer ball around, or play­ing games with the fam­ily dog. Per­haps next time I find my­self at a park back home I will grab a speaker and wel­come strangers to dance along to the mu­sic to­gether.

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