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    Posted December 10, 2012 by
    Chongqing, China
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Life in China

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    Dancing With 2,000 Friends

    There are many inexplicable surprises in China and more than a few of them in my adopted hometown of Chongqing, a city bigger than a country, with nineteen Districts, each as big as a mid-sized city.

    One of these surprises can be found in the area known as Guanyinqiao, which is in the Jiangbei District, a district which is being developed at a rapid pace. Guanyinqiao has a walking street of massive shopping malls, offices, hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters called Paradise Walk with open plazas as big as an airport. On most evenings you will hear the pounding of music on portable speakers and come upon the sight of several groups of people—some nearly a thousand in number—dancing in unison together under the bright glow of the surrounding high rises. This public group dancing is called Ba ba wu and is apparently a Chongqing thing. Here, and in other Chinese cities, I have seen smaller groups of mainly older people doing traditional dances or tai chi in the morning in public parks and squares, but nothing quite like this.

    It is almost impossible to describe the overall effect. One photo cannot do it justice because the sight, sound, and feeling are too overwhelming. Guanyinqiao is one of many relatively newly-developed areas in Chongqing and as is the case elsewhere, the enormous buildings tower overhead and their exteriors are illuminated with a rainbow of lights that run from top to bottom, sometimes in changing colors and patterns. Paradise Walk is almost bright enough at night to read. The sight of that many people moving together like a human wave of motion in this setting is stunning enough, but when you add the music and the visceral power of the sheer scope of it all, the experience is quite powerful. To me, it captures the essence of Chongqing: big, rough, energetic, spontaneous, and united by a common feeling.

    Trying to describe Chongqing in a few words is impossible, of course. And like most foreigners who live in China, when I hear comments about China from people who have never lived here, I just roll my eyes—most of all, when I hear generalizations about the country from “experts” who think the people are “brainwashed” by the government. It reminds me of a silly comment made to me by a student here from the Czech Republic that his friends back home thought the US had “staged the fake 911 attack.” I asked him if any of these brilliant thinkers had ever been to the US or even knew any Americans personally and of course he said “No.”

    I think the world is full of folks with opinions about people in other countries that they know nothing about. Some of these are harmless and merely stupid. They only become dangerous when they become part of government policy. As for trying to get an understanding of China, I think what people do in their daily lives is a lot more relevant to our understanding than what we hear on the news about their government.

    So to instead of reading the news to learn about China, I think Ill keep on talking to regular people. And one of these nights, Ill try dancing under the lights of Guanyinqiao. Im sure it will be, illuminating…
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