Beijing, Music and dance at Jingshan Park


One of my favorite places in Beijing is Jingshan Park on a Sunday afternoon. It must be one of the liveliest places in Beijing at that time of the day. Hundreds of people join in and enjoy dozens of music and dance performances. This isn’t the first post about its lively atmosphere and it will not be the last. A fortnight ago the political debates in the park were subject of a post.



A few months ago we posted a video of an elegant dancer with a long beard. This time we talked with him and he introduces himself as Mr. Tian Tan. His nickname, he tells us, is “Tian Tan Beardy Dancer”. He just finished dancing on music played with three accordions. The repertoire included old songs from Vietnam and from the former Soviet Union.


Tian Tan visits the park every Sunday afternoon. He is wearing special clothes for his dancing performance. The long black coat is tailor made. While his winter outfit for dancing is all black, his summer outfit is all white, he says.

Tian Tan is retired and used to work in the field of education. When asked how old he is, he answers that his age is below one hundred years.


We made a video impression of the Sunday afternoon activities in the park.

If your Internet is censored you will not be able to see the YouTube video that is supposed to be visible below. You can click here to see the Chinese version of this post and watch a low-res version of the video on TuDou.


Mr. Liu is one of the many spectators and visits the park every Sunday. He tells that most people performing are retired, but recently more and more people in their 30s are joining. Actually, you can see similar activities everywhere in Beijing, but Jingshan Park is the most lively of all. Many of the people who perform in Jingshan Park on a Sunday, do the same in the adjacent Beihai Park on Saturdays.


The tradition of group activities in the park started 20 years ago; when the reform and the policy to open-up China started, the government began to organize dancing activities. A few years later the government stepped back and the people started to organize the activities themselves, adding all the different performances that can be seen today.



Mr. Liu used to attend a singing group in the park. Now he prefers to take photos. He takes a camera wherever he goes, in order to record every moment of his life. He also loves traveling. He repeatedly emphasizes that a man who travels far, knows more. He also believes that the more one has experienced, the more open one’s mind will be. However, since he still needs to save money for his unmarried son’s wedding, he is not able to travel.



Mr. Zeng is retired and used to be a chemical engineer at Sinopec. He had a pretty busy job. Now he has plenty of time and ever since he retired, four years ago, he makes the one hour drive to Jingshan Park on the Sunday’s to sing with others. He did not know anyone in the beginning. By now he has made many friends.




Beijing, Mr. Li Xiu’an


We talked with Mr. Li Xiu’an who is the caretaker of the CAAW (China Art Archives & Warehouse), an art gallery at CaoChangDi, Beijing.


Mr. Li tells us that Ai Weiwei the owner, or one of the owners, is of this gallery. Some research shows that Ai Weiwei has founded the gallery together with the late Dutch artist Hans van Dijk in 1997. He has curated many of the exhibitions at the gallery and was running the gallery as an artistic director together with Belgian business director Frank Uytterhaegen. Mr. Uytterhaegen, a celebrated art collector and widely respected as a pioneer of China’s contemporary art scene, died recently; on December 27, 2011. We talked with Mr. Li before that, in October 2011.


How long have you been working here as a caretaker of the gallery?

I’ve been working here for ten years.


From the start of this gallery?

This gallery is older than ten years.

I used to work for a gallery around Longzhaoshu area, close to the southern 4th ring of Beijing. That gallery belonged to a Dutch artist called Hans van Dijk.


You’ve been working as a caretaker all the time?

Yes, I’ve always been working (part-time) as a caretaker.


How did you get into the art business?

At the moment I am working for a Belgian boss. He was looking for a caretaker, so I applied.


Is there any specific art that you like most?

Many of them!


Do you prefer traditional Chinese art or modern art?

To me traditional art seems to be better.


Do you like this art?

Yes. It is quite nice.


(An exhibition by artist Mao Tongqiang in which the artist designed marble tiles, carved with characters from the West Xia language, an ancient and extinct language dating back around 1000 years; created during the Western Xia Dynasty (1032-1227 AD). The text, translated by an expert on the old West Xia language, displays Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”)


Do you find this work traditional?

It presents the West Xia language, one of the ancient languages of our country.


The presentation is quite modern.

The presentation is good. I learnt from the artist that he found that in some European countries the West Xia language is still well preserved in collections.


Is he a famous artist?

He is quite good and he is known through the introduction by Ai Weiwei.


Did he carve the characters himself?

He employed someone to carve the characters.


How many people visit this gallery on average every day?

Usually there are more visitors during the weekends.


How many visitors during a week?

Around 50 to 60 people per week.


What kind of people come to visit?

In general they are artists and foreigners and a lot of Chinese visitors. Visitors are from all walks of life.


Do you have visitors coming from abroad especially to see an exhibition?

Normally they already based in Beijing. There are also artists coming from abroad to visit exhibitions.


What was the most successful exhibition you ever had here?

There were so many fun exhibitions that I don’t really remember a specific one in detail.


What’s your job when there are no visitors?

When there are no visitors I work as a housekeeper for my Belgian boss.





Hong Kong, Cantonese Opera



Shadows on a red canvas of Cantonese Opera actors playing in an open air theater in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. Apart from the story, the singing and the acting; the movement of the actors is important. These movements turn into a dance, supported by their outfit and the attributes they are carrying.