Benny and Olga wouldn’t tell me what the deal with People’s Park was, so I had to find out for myself. It was a short walk from Lazybones, located in the center of the city.
People’s Park is huge. It took a couple of visits to explore the whole thing. What made it so unique? Well…
In the States I’d seen parks and public recreation areas that had unfortunately been taken over by gangs, rowdy teenagers, etc. But I can tell you now, that is nothing compared to the horror, the ungodly terror that arises when senior citizens take over a park.
And make no mistake, People’s Park belongs to the seniors. There may be people of all ages there, but you are on their turf.
The first thing I noticed was the music. If you think young people play their music loud, take a trip to People’s Park in Chengdu. The soft, soothing, traditional Chinese songs were blaring out of PA systems so loud even the deafest of listeners could enjoy. PA’s were set up every few yards, competing with each other, each one surrounded by groups of citizens practicing their synchronized dancing. I had seen synchronized dancing all around China but never so many different groups practicing simultaneously to different songs, to provide the passing spectator with a level of orchestral discordance usually associated with “A Day in the Life”.
The dancers were of all ages, but like the park itself, this was the seniors’ show.
I also passed by older performers playing instruments, solo and in small groups. Singing in one enclave was a performer, who with her wide smile, sparkling eyes, and tall forehead could have passed for the Chinese Reese Witherspoon, were she not in her 60s. She danced and performed songs that you could just tell she had been singing since she was 16.
Making my way through the park, I found a section with hundreds of papers posted up on the fence. The writing was in Chinese so I could only make out the numbers. Where they ages? Birth dates? Death dates? I had seen signs for a memorial monument in the park. But China hadn’t fought a war in decades. Still scores of people were here reading them, possibly paying tribute to loved ones. I asked a young woman what these papers said. She only hurried away.
I later found out these were personal ads, plastered all over the fences. Sort of the eHarmony of China. It may speak to the cultural differences of the West and East that I couldn’t distinguish between people mourning the dead and those looking for a mate. Of course, one time in Dali, we wandered past a courtyard and were invited to have some food and join what looked like a cross between a musical performance and a celebration, only to find it was a funeral.
Not my video. This is a funeral, taken by the Linden Centre, at one of the villages near Dali.
I eventually found the memorial monument in People’s Park. It was dedicated to the victims of the Railway Protection Movement, which I later looked up. The Railway Protection Movement…
“was a political protest movement that erupted in 1911 in the late Qing China against the Qing government’s plan to nationalize local railway development projects and transfer control to foreign banks.” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Protection_Movement
I spent quite some time searching for the mysterious Doorway for Composing Poems. I did find a door with some pencil scratches on it. Perhaps that was it. Or perhaps the door’s conspicuous absence was a metaphor for…for…I don’t know what, we’ll let the poets decide.
The park had a few places to sit down and relax. Tea houses. At one, men in white played an unusual musical instrument, like a tuning fork. Wait, he’s putting that tuning fork in someone’s ear. Ah, these were the famous “ear massages” I’d heard about. There was also a sign for ear wax removal. Maybe they’re one and the same.
The best place to be alone was in a boat on the lake. I saw a few young couples taking solace there, perhaps looking forward to the day when they would rule People’s Park…
We fought to make this park
A place for youth to play.
Came the day we won
We were old and gray.
Doorway for Composing Poems here I come! Now if only I could find it…