8th September
written by Hope

One thing you have to give the Chinese credit for: they don’t hide anything. Part of it is that so much of their lives are lived outdoors. Just walk around the city, and you’ll see so many little intimate moments that are a part of everyday life around here.

naptime in the heat, beijing
A nap in the shade.

what time am i off? tiananmen square
How many more minutes until the end of my shift?

groucho brothers, beijing
Two brothers square off in Groucho glasses.

One thing that really impressed us here at 12FOOT3: Chinese people really know how to use public spaces. Everywhere you look in Beijing, there are people hanging out, talking, sitting in the shade, playing with the grandkids. I mentioned in our last post that we were charmed by a Sunday spent in the Temple of Heaven Park watching hundreds of people mingling about, doing their Sunday thing (which included ballroom dancing, playing games, singing, hacky sack, calligraphy, and more).

dancers in temple of heaven park (tian tan), beijing
Women ballroom dancing in the park. How cute is it that the two on the right are wearing matching skirts?

practicing calligraphy, temple of heaven park (tian tan), beijing
Practicing calligraphy in the park.

Playing “catch-the-ring.” You play the game in pairs—your partner throws three soft rings from about 100 yards away, and your objective is to catch them around your neck.

singers in temple of heaven park (tian tan), beijing
As far as we could tell, it seemed like this woman just showed up in the park with a full band, and people wandering through the park spontaneously gathered around them to sing traditional Chinese songs (I even recognized a few from my Dad’s karaoke hits!).

singers, temple of heaven park (tian tan), beijing
A more intimate version of the big brass band pictured above: just one musician and his dedicated singer.

The other reason why it’s all on display in Beijing is that Chinese people just have different notions of privacy than we do in the west.

split pants, tiananmen square
Yes, kids are still wearing the split pants around Beijing. Though I saw a LOT fewer kids wearing these in Beijing than I did in 2000.

big belly at the army of terra cotta soldiers, xian
OK, this particular photo was actually taken in Xian, but you see these big Buddha belly guys walking around EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere—museums, hotel lobbies, fancy restaurants…

we don't know what is going on here either...
Um, we don’t really know what’s going on here either.

Things HAVE changed around here since the Olympics. For one, people don’t stare…as much (don’t worry, they still stare). I guess they got their fill of wai guo ren’s in 2008. And it does seem that things are a little less raw around the capital city than they were in 2000. There are public bathrooms every two blocks, and they are clean! But the important thing is: the Beijing flavor is still there, and it seems that the Olympics just served to elevate this beautiful city to a more international/cosmopolitan level.

acrobats at the summer palace, beijing
Chinese acrobat at the Summer Palace.

kooky costume guy, temple of heaven park (tian tan), beijing
Funky guy at the Temple of Heaven Park.

pooped! the forbidden city, beijing
Chilling out in the shade at the Forbidden City.



  1. Laurie Hermann

    Oh, Hope and Jeremy…I love all your entries for so many reasons, but this one was so cute…seeing such intimate moments in a big city life…Thank you for sharing….xo me

  2. Bunny

    I agree with Laurie. I especially liked the “funky guy’s” hat. It made me laugh out loud. I also like the ladies dancing and the band.

  3. 11/09/2009

    I wonder if everyone is outside because they’re all cramped indoors normally with so many people?? I know Germans at least love the open spaces in the summer because everything is packed (though not to the extent in China!)

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