China on my mind

7 October 2012

My summer’s travels stretched as far as China this year, a first visit to this amazing country. For anyone interested in the minutiae of daily life, as I am, China offers a fascinating range of customs and cultural differences. I think I was most struck by the warmth of the women (foreign women seem invisible to Chinese men), who would come right up to me in the street and want to be photographed with me, and by the way that the Chinese seem refreshingly free of the ‘demons of self-regarding’ that plague many in the Western world. Wherever we went in China we came across people old and young out in the streets, courtyards and parks doing whatever they like to do best: singing in a choir, taking ballroom or traditional dancing lessons, practising Tai Chi or gymnastics. All levels were welcomed, with no shame attached or felt by those who weren’t that good at it. Quite a lesson for the rest of us to pluck up our courage and go for it!

Chinese Ribbon Dance

Chinese ribbon dance, Harbin

Women playing mahjong, Harbin

Women playing mahjong, Harbin

As for the food, it was wonderful everywhere we went. I fell in love with the vegetable cookery: silky sweet aubergines, Lilliputian cucumbers small enough for a doll’s house with their own miniscule flowers attached, and bitter greens dressed with scented jasmine blossoms. Beijing can rightly claim Peking duck as its own: the wood-oven version is far superior to anything I’ve had in the West…so many new foods to try and enjoy: I look forward to going back soon.

Traditional dance lessons, Harbin

Traditional dance lessons, Harbin

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