Thursday, March 15, 2007

Zhongshan Park

Zhongshan Park is in Western Shanghai. A little sign outside says it was created from the estate of a resident Englishman from a century ago, and the park has an appealing hybrid English/East Asian feeling to it, with both gardens to romp around in, and purely decorative elements. When I went, it was just a little after the New Year's Holiday, the Year of the Pig Decorations were out in force at the entrance gates.

Also interesting at the gate, was a person demonstrating his calligraphy techniques! I've seen this before, the squares of the concrete are used to frame the characters, and a special kind of mop/brush is used to write the characters. The "ink" is just water with no detergent added or anything, so even on a cool day the letters dissolve away by the time he's gone a few lines down. The whole affair draws a surprisingly big crowd.

There's a lot of games at the park, with families and couples having fun. One thing that's not so common in Shanghai is a series of small wooden boats with underpowered engines, they're taken around a large pond that extends through the park. It's so crowded it comes off more like bumper cars, but I haven't seen anybody sink yet. Here's a cute picture of a little girl and her smoking grandfather.

And this is a loving black-clad couple and their pet cuckatoo. Taking birds to the park seems to be somewhat popular with older people, and my Chinese texts mention the idea over and over for some inane reason, but I don't see tropical birds all so often.

There's also an under-utilized merry-go-round, bumper cars, a weird overhead monorail track that allows people to bicycle overhead (there's a small black seatbelt if you look hard enough), and a few other carnival-esque rides.

And there were people flying kites. Shanghai's so windy, it's easy!

Kind of strangely, these people had staked out a small tent in the middle of a big grassy field, and were playing cards. The sky was overcast, maybe they were anticipating rain?

Definitely the best part of the park was a very large group of pianos, maybe fifty of them, laid out in the middle of a field. They were there as part of a ceremony dedicating a statue to Chopin. Whoever wanted to could go up and start playing. Walking past, a few people were expert, and a few people could play a simple tune, but the vast majority were just fooling around, tapping on the keys. However it was obvious everybody thought it was a lot of fun. With being able to see how differnet age groups and apparent economic classes approached the pianos, it had something of the feel of a concept art project. Unfortunately the overcast skies and fear of rain meant the pianos had to be packed up early.

There was more music to be found, with groups of instruments, mostly traditional Chinese instruments, augmented with a few Western instruments such as accordians. These groups are always led by a singer with an ampliphied microphone. They came both in groups small:

And large:

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