I often hear people talk about how Chinese are slimmer than Americans. People usually cite the vegetable-laden diet and plenty of walking as items that keep the Chinese fit. While those features exist, we should also note that Chinese are ever-active. This is particularly true of older Chinese, especially after retirement. Chinese value, respect, and honor the aged. Retirees are commonly found practicing morning tai chi, especially in public parks.
Yesterday we visited the Temple of Heaven, at which the emperor would seek the likes of good harvests from the heavens. A large space located within Beijiing, the Temple hosts not only some interesting buildings, but also gardens and open spaces that double as a public park. We arrived in late morning and found an astounding number of people—most elderly—not just exercising, but also engaging in panoramic play.
This guy was playing with a popular toy that is apparently hard to master. One uses a string to get the plastic "gyro" rotating, then one carries out a set of acrobatic tricks with it. The toy makes a sort of low whirring sound; hearing a bunch of them at once creates an interesting ambience. Maggie, our guide, is to our left, while Carol and Father observe.
He's going at it. The movements are artful.
This guy was nearby. People were even playing "volleyball" with the toy!
Nearby was an outdoor gym with hundreds of people in it. Folks were stretching, lifting, and doing isometrics.
And then, the ultimate: a random woman chided Father into playing a Chinese version of hackeysack. Though she later sold the "shuttlecock" to Father, she clearly enjoyed teaching and playing with him.
When the game got tough, Father ripped off his jacket and got down!
This may have been Father's greatest joy from the trip.
You cannot tell from here, but the park was filled with sounds from dozens of boomboxes and makeshift PA systems. This couple was randomly dancing along the walkway.
These folks were doing a sort of line dance to traditional music…
…while these, along with many others, played cards. This entire surface continued for hundreds of feet, with all sorts of activity taking place. For example, the man in the background was part of a throng of people enjoying Karaoke, which is immensely popular here. Karaoke bars are common, and they feature private rooms that allow groups of friends to have their own Karaoke party. The one near the Beijing Center is called: "Party World"!
This guy is working his pipes out on the lawn.
I cannot recall what was going on in here, but it was attractive. You can see here how the older Chinese indeed get out…and get involved.
Here, Carol (my spouse) and Father Roberto Ribeiro, Director of the Beijing Center, go through another park—this one, the Temple of the Earth, opposite the Temple of Heaven, geographically, on the way to a lunch with Carol's Beijing colleagues. Though Beijing is bustling beyond belief, it indeed features locations of respite.
At the end of the day, we gathered with the Beijing Center's Jesuits for Mass in Father Anton's room. Father Anton is at the right, with Francisco and Chris at the left and middle. (I do not recall their last names.)
Here, Father is with Father Gene Geinzer, formerly the Rector at Loyola.
Last but not least, the masters of the East: Chen and Father Ribeiro.
And: as promised, here we are with Loyola's very own—students and alumni!
See you back home!