Victor Paul Borg is from Malta. He has lived in six countries on three continents and spent much of the past 12 years in Asia. He currently spends his time in Europe and China. His travel articles and photographs have been published around the world.
There is a saying in Chinese that if you go for a stroll after dinner you will live for 100 years (after a meal walk one hundred steps, live to be ninety-nine). This saying is aptly on display in Sichuan's cities on summery evenings as people descend on parks or riverfronts or other walkways for the daily after-dinner walk. The strollers form part of a merry, bustling scene - aerobic dancers, impromptu instrumental bands, peddlers selling stuff, teenagers cavorting, and all manners of people meeting and chattering.
Watching the stream of strollers is like watching Sichuanese society on display. Here are couples in elegant evening wear, shuffling groups of middle-aged men engaged in staccato chatter, leisurely-crooning groups of young women adorned by funky dresses and handbags, the occasional power walker in sporty walking gear, and here are also a scatter of elder people in pyjamas and house shoes. And here are also some young people on the prowl, sidling up to other young people in courtship manoeuvres. It's a wholly Chinese scene, it's an occasion for seeing and meeting China.
All parks - those open during daytime hours only, as well as those open later into the evenings - have certain features. There are usually a pond or water features (this is common to parks everywhere in the world), as well as two other elements that's common in Chinese parks: groves of trees and outgrowths of bamboo, and recreated features like waterfalls.
In fact parks in Chengdu are excellent birdwatching spots, and the top two parks for birdwatching are Huanhuaxi and Du Fu Thanched Cottage Museum. Around a hundred of species of birds have been recorded in these parks, and among them are birds distinctive for their trills, such as the vinous-throated parrotbill, the white-browed laughing thrush, the Chinese blackbird, rufous-faced warbler, and the light-vented bulbul, as well as waterbirds including the Chinese pond heron.
Most interesting of course are the aerobic dancers - the practice of guǎngchǎngwǔ (literal translation: public square dance) - The dancers create merriment and buzz, and remind us that people are happiest in community-organised events. The dancing remain a ritual that organically arises from communities. For visitors to China, these dances are a representation of China at its most joyful, festive, and spontaneous.
Excerpted from HELLO Chengdu May Issue
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