ParkGiant Pandas! Bamboo!

Our overseers, the university’s Foreign Experts Office, hauled a busload of us to a holiday kungfu show. The performance was underwritten by the municipality of Beijing. World champs displayed snake style, drunken style, monkey style, swords, strung together with a search-for-elusive-panda plot. The stage backdrops were computer-generated, floor-to-ceiling projections of flying through a futuristic, neon Beijing…eerily emptied of cars and people.

Impossible not to think for a moment this post-neutron-bomb scenario enacted a fantasy/dream wish-fulfillment for the sponsor (city hall). It can’t be easy running this place…

Afterwards, the ritual we’ve grown accustomed to: big posed group photos, here with the martial artists–some of whom managed their gravity-defying moves in giant panda costumes. That can’t be easy, either.

Purple Bamboo Park, old bridge

Just outside the park

Bamboo grows in city as well as forest. So we learned walking in a direction we’d never gone before–sideways, on the Third Ring Road. After 15 minutes of overpasses and skyscraper vistas, we hit a scruffy, slouchy, century-old red Buddhist temple on a canal (dwarfted by modernity, a Chinese “Little Red Lighthouse”). Behind it, well hidden, was Purple Bamboo Park–lake, pavillions, bridges, and many large stands of bamboo. Bamboo, said a sign quoting a classical Chinese poem, symbolizes

“Uprightness, imperviousness to flattery, and the ability to emerge unstained from filth.”

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