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This article is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

Xi Chuan & the Contradictory Aesthetics of Revolution Stephen Procter
FOREIGN VISITORS TO CHINESE PARKS are often struck by the communal activities taking place in them. Retirees gather to practise taijiquan and traditional martial arts, they dance to folk music, and they sing patriotic songs.

It is also common for groups of dancing pensioners to gather in the public spaces in and around residential areas. While to the passing outsider this might offer a charming insight onto the national cultural life, the behaviour has come to be regarded by many Chinese people with wariness and scepticism. Clashes between the revellers and local residents, who have been driven to despair by the loud music interrupting their lives night after night, have often been reported by the media. China’s Eastern cities are so densely populated that any available piece of open ground becomes a potential meeting place, regardless of the feelings of those who live nearby. On occasion requests that the dancers move to another location have led to fights. Police called in to reason with them have been chased away. One fed-up resident resorted to shooting an air rifle into the crowd, while others have thrown excrement.

Given the huge population of China, it is surprising that disputes are not more frequent. In fact Chinese people are enormously tolerant of the actions of others in public spaces, avoiding conflicts in all but the most extreme cases. Still, the herd-like behaviour of the elderly, and their insistence on their right to enjoy themselves at the cost of others’ peace, have led ...

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