So You Think You Can Dance (China Parks & Rec Edition)

Reflecting on my trips to parks in Houston, I think of running loops and trails at Memorial Park, watching shows at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, countless leisurely strolls walking Lou dog, as well as eating amazing grilled cheese sandwiches at the Pinewood Cafe in Hermann Park. Plus, there were always  great events like the Bayou City Arts Festival and Houston Half Marathon. I love parks!

I also love the gōng yuán in China (that would be parks in Pǔtōnghuà (which is Mandarin in Mandarin Chinese)). Gōng yuán, however, seem to have multiple personalities.

First, there is the good son personality of the gōng yuán (in my family, that’s me). I think of the absolute peace and harmony with quiet teahouses in parks such as the People’s Park in Chengdu and Zhongshan Park in Beijing. I remember the views from the Temple of Heaven and Jingshan Park in Beijing, as well as the grandness of Da Fo in Leshan.

Then, there is the perhaps-a-little-crazy-and-unruly-but-definitely-super-fun brother personality (that’s my brother Eddie). This other brother gōng yuán personality can be a heckuva lot of fun, but can also be a bit of an exuberant ruckus!

To provide some examples…

There’s the good son gōng yuán:

  • Temples, history and spiritual awakening.
  • Sipping jasmine tea and chatting with the locals.
  • Quiet goldfish ponds stocked with hundreds of beautiful, massive fish.
  • Elderly gentlemen meticulously transitioning between their tai chi poses.

And the other brother gōng yuán (often with a huge crowd of Chinese looking on):

  • Individuals and groups practicing their Chinese opera singing. Usually several groups are all near one another, all amplified, all with ridiculous amounts of reverb. It can be loud.
  • Older Chinese (usually groups of women, but also large co-ed groups too) performing line dance style jazzercize routines. This music is also amplified, and usually this is not so far from the opera.
  • Lively games of ping pong, badminton (without nets), hacky-sack (usually older folks as well), Chinese chess, and mah-jong. All of these are distinctly Chinese versions of what we may know.
  • Vendors and salesmen and saleswomen hawking all manner of wares, and EVERY purchase is a negotiation. And you better negotiate, because their starting price for a foreigner is at least 2X what it would be for a local.

And if there’s opera and line dance style jazzercize (see above). There must be some plain old dancing too, right?

Well, Emily posted previously about being hooked on bargaining. It seems like she’s  got some other talents: She can boogie!

Part 1: “How does this always happen to me?”


Part 2: She’s become an old China hand! She been assimilated.


Part 3: All good things come to an end. Zàijiàn! (Adios!)


Naturally, this was all just getting jiggy wit’ it with Chinese characteristics. =)


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