This not-yet-opened overpass arcs between brand new apartment complexes on its way to eventually run past three big shopping malls and a subway transfer station. But one last patch of protested, illegally bulldozed píngfáng 平房 currently stands in the way.
This is one of at least four regular exercise dance groups in our neighbourhood.
This kind of mass public exercise dancing is called guǎngchǎng wǔ 广场舞, sometimes literally but confusingly translated “square dancing” (think Tiananmen ‘Square’ as in plaza, not line dancing and square dancing). In larger public spaces a block or two away, hundreds of people do this together.
Cold and darkness doesn’t stop them from snaking slow circles around the public spaces in our neighbourhood, but this night at least one of the lights was working.
I’m on my third Chinese gym in three years. The first one got kicked out by the landlord (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees). The second one operated with no electricity for over a month before the management suddenly locked the doors and disappeared (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees).
But my third and current Chinese gym has Chairman Mao speaking English:
I was sold.
It was also the cheapest by far of my remaining options.
But it turns out this quote from some calligraphy by Chairman Mao in 1952 is famous, and was used in propaganda posters:
fāzhǎn tǐyù yùndòng，zēngqiáng rénmín tǐzhì
Here’s a little collection of posters and images I scrounged from the internets (click one):
The colour qīng 青, which we’ve encountered once before, popped up again recently in a story book our daughter’s preschool teacher was reading to her class. It made characters out of each colour, and showed what new colours were created when they touched. All the usual suspects were there — red, yellow, blue, green, black, etc. — plus “qīng.” See if you can figure out how to describe it.
This is “Little Black” 小黑 xiǎo hēi：
And this is “Little Qīng” 小青 xiǎo qīng：
You can see on Little Qing’s fingers, the shirt near the fingers and the water drops, that they’ve tinged black with green and blue.
Our dictionaries aren’t super helpful, with entries like, “nature’s colour,” “green or blue,” “greenish black.” I wonder if the iridescent green of some beetles, for example, would be called qīng by my students, rather than green 绿 lǜ.
It’s curious that our daughters are growing up with a slightly different colourscape than we did.
There’s more about qīng here: Language, perception and the Chinese colour “qīng”
Sure, we cry too much about the air pollution. But this one’s darkly humourous, I promise.
I routinely ask the oldest classes, “How’s the weather?” while pointing out the windows. And they automatically take a glance and usually reply, “IT’S SUNNY!!!” (“Sunny” is their favourite. But they can do cloudy, raining, windy, snowing, hot, and cold, too.)
So today I ask them. They glance out the windows. “IT’S…” A couple weak “sunny”s peter out among the 30 students. They can’t tell if it’s sunny or cloudy.
Because even though it’s bright outside, THEY CAN’T SEE THE BLOOMIN’ SKY. There are no clouds, but it’s all grey, and where’s the sun?
Later I check, and every air quality monitoring station in the city is maxed out at 500:
Below 50 is “good”. At 100 we close all our windows and turn on all the DIY home air purifiers. At 300 the preschool cancels all its outdoor activities.
At 500… AIRPOCALYPSE! ;)
Little friends after lunch in the Muslim quarter, Qingdao, China.