Thursday, September 01, 2005

Scoping in Fuxing Park

Fuxing Park is a little off Huaihai Road, one of the big yuppie shopping streets. It was set up by the French when there were still foreign concessions. The park was a little familiar to me even before arriving in Shanghai, because actors playing Wong Fei-hung (perhaps Jet Li or Jackie Chan) always get bug eyes when they see the sign in the park saying "No Dogs or Chinese allowed."

The park is my favorite part of Shanghai to just kick back and scope. I like how people do what they want, and others don't give them stink about it. You'd think that just through the sheer number of people doing weird things in a close space there would be some problems, but everybody is pretty cool about it.

The first thing you notice, especially if you go in the morning, is a number of people doing exercises. This is mostly going through tai-chi routines, either in a group or as an indivisual. Similarly, you often see people practice stretching, doing yoga, or practicing grappling. My favorite is the people who walk around backwards. It's supposed to be good for the health, I'm not sure on the reasoning.

You'll also see one of those weird phenomenon of Shanghai: teenagers apparently go to crowded public parks and American fast food restaurants to make out.

Another important difference from the US is that, like most other Shanghai Parks, you're only allowed on the pathways. If that seems unusual, there's more a reason to all the parks than as a place to relax. Shanghai is a heavily populated city in a warm area, so the greenery is there to keep down the pollution and heat build-up. I read that Shanghai is 35% green, and is aiming for 40%. Trees dominate many parks, and Fuxing is one of the few with such a large amount of flowers, gardens, and fields.

Heading to the center of the Park, you can see just how heavily this park is used. A number of older people just hang around in groups. They don't seem to say much, though. There's also lots of tables with people playing poker and mahjong.

Loudspeakers are set up throughout, and it's very popular for couples to practice their ballroom dancing. Different groups will have different songs playing, each with their different rhythm. It seems confusing but I didn't see any toes getting stepped on.

Right next to this is several groups of singers. It would be really cool if they were singing about the movie "2046," but that's only on the back side of the board, the front side has lyrics.

Somehow in the middle of it all, people practice their badminton, or even net-less tennis. They're actually pretty good. More intense is the people practicing their swordfighting, although it's not so common a sight.

There's a few buildings around the park. Near the south side are some restaurants, and at night there's a club that spins hip-hop and promises free drinks for women in Office Lady get-up.

There's also a jungle gym for the kids, and a small amusement park with a few carnival-type rides.

And there's the really cool statue of Marx & Engels, although I showed a picture recently and won't show it here. There's other smaller statues around, mostly classical-esque, like you might see in an English garden.

A final word: Fuxing Park isn't really atypical, but each park has its own characteristics, and Fuxing is much busier than most. Just a few minute's walk North is another much quieter park, basically empty except for a few people studying or eating on the benches.

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