Shanghai's Green Mouths & Taiji

Whether it is Central Park in NYC, or Duff Park in Murrysville, PA, a park gives visitors a serene place to relax and exercise after a long day of work or on a sunny weekend afternoon.  When you visit a metropolis like Shanghai, going to a park may be the last thing on your mind, but the green spaces offer a decent escape that few can match.  On an area of over 6,340.50 km2 or 2,448.1 sq m, with a population of 20 million, Shanghai has over 100 parks (Pinyin: Gong Yuan).  Those green mouths of the city are full of characters, often perfectly manicured, and great places to shade you from the loud, the crowded, the frenetic traffic nearby or simply a few very enthusiastic street vendors. 

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Each park has its personality.  Some, like Changfeng Park, act like a beautiful lady with long sleeves flowing over her face, who is about to meet her romantic lover under the golden rays over the lake or in the flirting wind behind the rainfall; others, like Zhongshan Park, behave more like a handsome man, who is straight forward and has nothing to hide.  For forested views with hills, streams and bamboos, go to the Gongqing Forest Park. If you are interested in architecture with pavilions, rockeries, ponds, carved halls and cloisters, Yuyuan Garden may be the way to go, which was built over four hundred years ago in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  If you are into plants, you may want to take a trip to Shanghai Botanic Garden located in southwest part of the city.  With Two hundred acres of land nurturing thousands of plants, tropical plants, medicinal plants, and the most significantly, the Penjing Yuan (BonsaiGarden) with hundreds of bonsai scenically displayed as well as a few children’s play areas, Shanghai Botanic Garden is considered the best of its kind in China .

Other popular parks include but are not limited to Hongkou, Fuxing, Jingan in Puxi, and Century Park (Shiji Gongyuan), Lujiazui Central Green (Lujiazui Ludi) and Riverside Promenade (Binjiang Da Dao) in Pudong.  Featuring an abundance of green lawns, flower beds, and tree-lined walkways, those parks, from morning to night, attract people from all ages.  Some sing, dance, and even dance a type of outdoor ballroom dancing; others play instruments, wave fans or swords, and practice the art of calligraphy; still others play badmintons, cards, mahjong, Chinese poker or chess.  Most parks have children’s play grounds with swings and slides, and a river for boating.  Some holds annual festivals like a kite festival or flower shows.   Those parks also make an ideal place to learn and observe the culture.  

The most noticeable activities in the parks, especially in the morning, is that people practice slow motion exercises or stand-still meditation, such as Taiji Quan (or Tai Chi Chuan) and Qigong (Chi Kung), which have been practiced for thousands of years. Whether engaging in the solo form or pushing hands (or tui shou), people usually practice in groups in the park.  There are different styles in Taiji, and the popular ones are Yang, Chen, Sun and Wu style, in short or long forms.  Taiji is all about the balance of Yin and Yang.  In Taiji, yin is represented by slow, repetitive, meditative and low impact motions.  Gradually, when Yang kicks in, this motion becomes more realistic, active, even fast and high impact.  You move slowly before the quick and strong kick.  You bent low in order to stand tall.  Toughness is demonstrated through softness.  Yin and Yang are not opposites in an absolute term, and they are only relative.  They are interdependent, but one can not exist without the other.  Yin in Yang, and Yang in Yin, and at times, Yin becomes Yang, and Yang becomes Yin.  The gentle, slow motion generates heat, stimulate circulation, and burns calories more than you think.  Due to its slow nature, the misperception is Taiji is for the elderly.  It has become increasingly popular among the young and middle-aged.  Today in the parks of modern Shanghai, these traditional forms of exercise hold solid positions among old and young because Taiji’s many health benefits can not be neglected.  

The overview of Shanghai’s parks will not complete without mentioning People’s Park.  Once built on the site of an old horse-racing track, People’s Park has the newly built Museum of Contemporary Art inside and People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang) to the south, where is the locations for the central subway station with an underground shopping arcade, the Shanghai Museum, the Grand Theatre, the Municipal Hall as well as the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall.  Most parks are free or with a minimum entrance charge.  Some charge fees or extra fees for particular activities or a particular portion of the park.  Visitor can also get a monthly pass that will allow entry to most of the parks in Shanghai. 

Shanghai People's Park or Rinmin Gong Yuanone of Shanghai's green mouths, People's Park or Renmin Gong Yuan