North of the Forbidden City
Jingshan Park is one of my favorite spots in Beijing. Not only because you have a great view at the Forbidden City but simply it is one of the “real parks” in Beijing. A public place that is not just perfectly made for all the tourists that clearly visit it every year but “normal Beijingers” also spend time at Jingshan. Usually you find people singing, dancing, eating, walking, chatting or laughing. You see young couples using the public space to make first experiences of closure. Walking through Jingshan generally gives you a lot food for thought. Personally, I just like the moments of privacy because it is one of the few places where no one cares about a “lonely” foreigner walking around. No one who asks you if you speak English, no one who wants to take a picture with you, no one – in one word – who bothers you! People who visit this park just want to visit a park, they want to play, run backwards, relax and maybe forget about their grey places at home.
I played many games but never chess. However, when I’m watching Chinese people kicking a Jianzi (shuttlecock) I think of Emanual Lasker who said, In life, matches are never won as undisputably as they are in the game; the game rewards us with satisfactions that life denies. When you watch them kicking, you can feel their satisfaction, old, young, men or women, fat, thin, they all somehow know how to play this game and they enjoy it. Chinese people laughing, being Chinese and being human. I like these moments.
Often enough I talk about China as if this country is something very vague without people who just like to do what other people also like to do. China – this big concept which is most of the times even too big for many Chinese on the street or in academics to grasp. The sentence 中国太大了always seems to be a knock-out argument. People at some point refer to it. Even at high-level conferences you probably find someone who says this with a deep intense voice and yes, how can we disagree on that. China of course is too big, too many problems, too many people, too many neighbors, too much of nearly everything. Dunking into the everyday life of the people is something that for this reason is really necessary; otherwise I simply lose the connection, in particular the perspective that Chinese people are most of the time not that different from people in my country. Grounded. Enjoying. Laughing. Sometimes sharing thoughts. Realizing that although I am already confronted with this big country every day, there is something in everyday life that is very hard to get. China is also a home. No excuse. No confusion. Jingshan Park is just worth a walk – dunking into games and satisfaction before going back to questions of assertiveness, power, and hegemony or – even worse – the idea of China creating a “parallel world order”.
Sometimes it is worth to take a detour, sit in a park, watch and listen. Probably, there will be more China around than during most expert debates about China. Enjoy!