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People-peeping in parks

Updated: 2012-12-25 15:40 By CJ Henderson

Just last weekend, on a trip around the Temple of Heaven Park I spied with my little eyes a huge group of Chinese amateur ballroom dancers, doing a jig on an otherwise empty square of pavement. They danced to music that came from an old cassette player, hung from a branch in one of the trees that bordered the square. The couples varied in level of skill, but each and every one of them held a look of genuine mirth on their faces. One very old man (rocking a white baseball cap and a bright orange polo shirt) danced by himself in the center of the square. With very precise movements he twirled around living his hands up like a ballerina, even reaching up on his tip-toes, before gracefully descending to begin his elegant pattern again. I spent a full ten minutes watching him.

Chinese people like to build communities, to be a part of a larger group. Going to a park is just another group activity – another way of creating groups of people with similar interest. Often, it is the older, retired Chinese people who spend their days in parks.

While you will probably feel the urge to simply snap a photo and move on, the best way to experience this charming component of Chinese culture is to join in. Follow along with the old ladies doing aerobics, get tips from the kite flyers on how they get their kites so high, and try your hand (or should I say foot) at jianzi (a kind of Chinese hacky-sack).

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