For people in the west many things are only worth something when they possess a certain exclusivity. So, one is proud when one does tai chi, instead of leaping into the air in an aerobics exercise set to the music of Britney Spears. One takes a very conscious decision to attend a tango course and one knows precisely why one does not go juggling with a rubber ball. And a person who does not find pronouncing Qinggong a tongue-twister is quite unlikely to drag himself through the neighbourhood with dumb-bells in his hands. Our hobbies endow us with a certain social distinction, therefore we allow ourselves to participate in them in a very specific environment.
In China, things are somewhat different, as a morning visit to a park or public garden will show you. In the misty air of the early morning all sorts of things take place here at the same time: one can observe a Kung Fu dancer performing an elegant kick at one moment and, a second later, gyrating unabashedly to disco music. Even a person who appears to be in meditation can suddenly burst out laughing and swerve on a scooter onto a tree – and even someone simply trying to fly a kite does not retain the spikes on his crown for very long. Everything’s mixed up in this place, or so it appears to the western gaze, quite in the manner that the city seems to merge with nothingness in the smog.
First Publication: 11-2-2012