The magician's garden

TK  Your blog is sounding a bit dreary, RL, wouldn’t you prefer a little old-school banter with yours truly?

RL  Alright then Tania.

TK  How was the ‘company lunch’?

RL  Getting the hang of it now. Large leg of bird today, dripping with dark sticky sauces. Was hoping for more of the exquisite tofu, but this is a set menu after all.

TK  Where are you now?

RL  Back at Shanghai E Arts. They’ve been laying a stone floor in the corridor outside my room. Bit of an early start on it this morning.

TK  Sounds plush.

RL  It will be. There’s this tremendous piece of contemporary Chinese sculpture in the lobby downstairs. Have a feeling I’ve seen it before. It’s a massive wooden multi-facetted carved piece, including two Buddha faces. I like it a lot, and wonder why they put chairs around it.

TK  Did you get the bike from Felix?

RL  Yes. It’s not ideal. A bit small and wobbly, a Chinese low-budget copy of the Brampton folding bike, called Shuangzulong. I was just getting used to it when the pedal fell off. It took a while to find a mechanic, not that they aren’t everywhere, but I was half way to the Botanic Gardens when it happened. My sign language must be improving, although I suppose it was pretty obvious what the problem was. A spanner was handed over.

TK  This is beginning to sound like ‘The Day of the Moped’ back in Skyros.

RL  I thought you might say that. There were some parallels. The perception of everything here is different from a bike. And I felt much more invisible.

TK  With your nose?

RL  I said I ‘felt’ more invisible. People were still giving me the sideways look. I mean I am the only Westerner around, or ‘foreigner’ as they say here, even at Immigration.

TK  Are you saying you thought you blended in more or something? Was there something subtly performative about it?

RL  Yes. It’s contradictory I realise. And part of the reason for wanting to ride a bike across the Square Mile is that I imagine you don’t see Westerners on bikes in Shanghai, unless they’re doing some cool sporting thing. The bike here is not about fashion or status, people ride absolutely anything, completely unselfconsciously. I’m getting big on this bike theme, really.

TK  Steady on, we’re still in research mode, remember? So how did you get on at the Botanics?

RL  Not so good. The main garden is closed it seems, for this major refurbishment. The only section still open is where I was on Friday, other side of the road, the destination of the major soil excavation from the main site. But, although petite, it’s still a huge asset to the project. I saw a strange white bird with a dark head in there this morning.

TK  Mirroring perhaps?

RL  What?

TK  You must be a bit of a strange white bird yourself.

RL  Oh, the performative aspect. The market was heaving this morning. It’s right on the edge of the Square Mile. I parked up with the other bikes and walked through, consciously not being a tourist, if that’s possible.

TK  You’re in research mode.

RL  Yep. In terms of local culture it spoke loudly. This is the place to shop. People of all ages on rusty bikes and mopeds make a beeline for a mass of foodstuffs that are presumably much cheaper and fresher than in the supermarkets. And it could be locally sourced. I was reminded of Talking to Tania in Barcelona where the market experience there was perceptual and subtly performative through wielding a camera.

TK  So we may return here with a camera?

RL  I think so. Will need to check it out with Haoyun Guo in terms of etiquette and maybe he will come along. Am meeting him tomorrow.

TK  So what was the highlight?

RL  No. Following the ‘company lunch’ I made it through the 30mph bitterly cold wind to the northern end of the Square Mile and there it was, Kanglian Park, boasting 44 amenities and a welcoming notice board with a fine English translation:

Kangjian Park

Located on No 128 Kangjian Road, Kangjian Park covers an area of 95676 sq m. it was once a private farm and was built in 1937 by Bao Qinxuan, a magician (stage name: Ke Tianying) in Shanghai. The park was opened to the public on April 1, 1953 and was called Kangjian Farm in 1956 and was renamed Kangjian Park in 1958. In September, 1984, it was changed into a park for publicizing scientific knowledge with various recreational apparatus and was renamed Science Publicizing Park on May 4, 1985. It was once again renamed Kangjian Park on January 1, 1990, and two expansion were conducted in 1987 and 2000 respectively.

A Japanese-style layout is adopted for Kangjian Park: cleverly-designed landscaping, tailored ponds, vivid artificial hills and pavilions which are in picturesque disorder. You will be presented with various delightful sceneries: water and artificial hills that form delightful contrast, floating canoes on the lake, luxuriant and green woods, standing stalagmite, gorgeous peony, brilliant cherry blossom, elegant hibiscus and Japanese cabins. Sailing a canoe or driving a car on the paths, you can have a feast on your eyes with the panorama of Kangjian Park. Various flowers are contending in beauty and fascination every season, such as hibiscus, cherry blossom, peony, sweet osmanthus, banana shrub, magnolia and crape myrtle. In particular, the century-old peony is attracting many visitors from home and abroad every year!

TK  No doubt the magician has seduced you.

RL  Yes. But it was also how the park was being used. People were dancing, singing, playing the flute and the sanxian (lute), flying kites, reading the daily paper, laid out behind glass at eye level, drinking tea at ‘Charles’ Tea House’, practising Tai Chi and Xi Gong. It was a cultural feast of exemplary park usage. It made me think of how London parks might have been two centuries ago, like the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens maybe, places where people felt free to enjoy their pleasures and express themselves.


Charles' Business Club

Charles' Business Club

The kite fliers

The kite fliers

Reading the newspaper

Reading the newspaper

The 44 amenities

The 44 amenities



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