This article was first published 6 years ago at Magic City under a different title. During the last 6 years not only have some of the photographs been changed because of server problems, but the city of Hong Hu has changed. In reediting this article in 2011, I realize that many of the statements made in it are no longer correct. The city has changed that much. It is now extremely developed and modern looking and still continuing to change. If you ever get the chance to visit Hong Hu on the banks of the Yangtze River - then do so. R.P. BenDedek March 29th, 2011
|Dancing is always both a popular sport and a public spectacle, whether it be in Lotus park (top) or People's Square (bottom).|
Entertainment in Hong Hu City Hubei China
China is a country comprised of 56 nations, each of which (potentially) has different culture and customs from the others.
During the last century a lot of heritage was lost for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Some customs and practices however are now returning. This article however, is not about such things.
This article is about the everyday lifestyles of ordinary Chinese citizens, and the ways in which they amuse themselves and pass their free time.
Hong Hu is a little place, but it does have its own attractions. One can for instance go roller skating, play billiards, go to internet cafes, attend public functions, or find other ways to pass the time.
There are two particular public places dedicated to cultural and entertainment activities of which the oldest is the very famous (in Hong Hu at least) Lotus Park.
|A daytime view of Lotus Park taken from the top of the Levee. Those white squares in the foreground are patches of 'Drying Rice'. It is quite a different scene at night.|
The more recent public cultural place is 'People's Square'. Depending on what is planned, sometimes both places are packed in the evenings. While Lotus Park is a block 'away' from the CBD, People's Square is right in the thick of it all, and has a variety of new stores opening onto it. It has two supermarkets to its left, and to its right, a bridal shop, two hairdressers, a 'backstreet restaurant', a new clothing store, and some small 'stalls'. It is often turned into an advertising display gallery for anything from art to health products. At night, it often becomes a brightly light center stage for one or other cultural activities.
|People's Square just after it's opening. That back building is the only modern building in that street. One of my boarders is afraid to walk in that street because it is full of 'ruffians'. The new supermarket behind Long Keduo is to the left of the Monument and had not yet opened.|
One might from time to time in People's Square, encounter the visiting Shaolin Monks drumming up business for a 'Show'. The first time I encountered them my camera was new, and not knowing the best photographic techniques, most of my shots were blurred. The next time I saw them I had no time to fetch my camera, but I can tell you that they are amazing people.
I have witnessed the old monk (bottom left corner) destroy a glass coke bottle by just waving his hands at it. The bottle was placed on an uncovered 'folding' table, and there was not a gun or detonator in sight. But when he finally lashed out his hands at it from two metres away, it exploded.
|The Shaolin visit HongHu|
I have witnessed Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations, and they are quite good, but it is their other activities which intrigue me. I have seen a monk dislocate his bones to force his body through a small metal ring; a monk that was placed over two blades and had a slab of stone that was laying on his stomach smashed to bits with a sledge hammer; I have seen a monk with a metal rod placed between his throat and a board held by five volunteers, knock the men off their feet. On his second go they added two more people, and in his effort to knock them over, he caused the rod to bend.
The meager entrance fees are offset by the knick knacks for sale, and the lucrative massage and healing services backstage. During the intermission, such was the interest in the foreigners standing in the aisle against the wall, that I was asked to return to my seat as the onlookers were preventing potential customers from reaching the monks.
People's Square became the venue for the celebration of 'Children's Day' this year. A series of children's performances was organized and while I would have loved to have stayed for the whole show, it was difficult to be a bystander with so many kids and parents badgering me for a few words in English and the obligatory photograph. I actually had to keep leaving and coming back and while there I had to keep moving.
|June 1st is Children's Day in China and People's Square became a venue for a huge theatrical production involving a variety of different age groups.|
While the Children's Day event was a celebration of children, quite often, what appears to be a celebration or entertainment occasion, turns out to be nothing more than an advertising campaign with some company introducing new products. To attract the crowds, they either organize some activity for young children, or put on musical performances. It's not hard to get people's attention. People will stick their noses into anything that is causing a commotion, whether it be someone singing or someone arguing.
In Lotus Park on a Friday or Saturday night you might find inflatable castles for the kids to play in, or dodgem cars, rifle ranges, ballroom dancing, dance practicing, kids roller skating or throwing luminescent frisbees (they hurt when they hit you in the face - I know!), or people just strolling about eating ice cream and taking in the sights.
|Lotus Park on a Friday night in Hong Hu is a safe place to leave the kids, or you could get them to perform in People's Square on 'Children's Day June First.|
If you are a foreigner, you will often become the star attraction, and should you have a camera you will have every man and his dog pleading for you to take their photo or else jumping in front of you as you try to take a photo of something else.
One can often make a dozen attempts to get a clear shot of some interesting sight, and sometimes it is necessary to make a retreat to get free of the crowds.
While children are highly prized, (and often at the expense of discipline), you as a westerner would be shocked at the 'unsafe' activities in which the children will partake.
I have yet to get a clear photo of someone speeding along on their motorbike with a tiny tot standing in the front of the scooter or sitting on the back of the motorbike hanging onto mum (or not!). I have at times counted as many as 5 people on the one motorbike (and the same on bicycles).
And forget the feminist concern for 'masculine violence' and the banning of toy guns etc. Kiddy cars are made to look like tanks, and kids of any age can sit and use 'slug guns' to shoot balloons and win prizes. It's a good philosophy actually. Train 'em while they are young!
Despite the apparent barrier of tires you see in this photo, this is just to stop the kids going down into the other areas. This is an unrestricted zone with kids & kids and kids & parents driving all over the place.
'Dodgem' by the way refers not to the kids in the cars but to the pedestrians walking through this area. You gotta keep your eyes open. Most kids on these nights are done up in the finest clothing, which in the case of the tiniest of them, means those wonderful little trousers that have a 'split' in the crotch, so that they can go to the toilet where ever the urge takes them. Watch where you walk!
As a foreigner I have to beware of the littlies, because they often cry when they see me. Yeah! Maybe IT IS just my face. The older ones will run around telling everyone that a foreigner is here, and they gather to say 'Hello!'. One gets so tired of saying 'hello' a million times in one night.
Apart from the public squares, roller skating rink, local cinema and the many back street pool halls, there is not in fact a great deal to do in Hong Hu. Mind you, given the opening hours of businesses, the lengthy school days, and the long hours that farmers and workers put in, one suspects that it is only the retired and the richer elements of society that have spare time. Generally speaking, people pass away their spare time playing cards, checkers, or mahjong (and its' variants), all of which involve gambling of some type, despite its illegality.
There are no pleasure cruises on the river or amusement parks as can be found in the larger cities. Chibi park and museum is not that far away but the costs involved make it a special occasion activity, as is also taking a trip out to or on Hong Hu lake.
|Sleeping or playing pool, what a hard choice. Each has its attractions, although my hairdresser did not have the option of playing pool|
Young people spend a lot of time in internet cafes (illegal for under 18's - ah! but it doesn't matter!), watching TV, playing ping pong, or hiring VCD's and DVD's, all of which are pirated and completely crappy to watch AND frustrating when it finally claps out as you get to the climax of the movie (even when I can't make head nor tail of what the movie is about).
The boys in my home recently hired a two CD movie only to discover that the ending of the movie was missing. When they went back next day to complain, the proprietor told them that there were only 2 CD's in the set. As for the ending, you can just imagine it anyway you please.
Sleeping, whether at work or school or when there is nothing else to do is quite popular, and from experience I can tell you that the average Chinese person can drop off to sleep at the drop of a hat, and won't wake even if a bomb goes off.
Nothing disturbs a sleeping Chinaman unless you shake him and call his name. In the markets when a vendor is sleeping, another one will come and serve you, take the money, give you the change and go back to their own stall. "It doesn't matter!"
Basketball is extremely popular in Hong Hu, and even the girls can tell you all about the NBA. The Chinese are sports crazy - 'it is good for your health!' - and all are eagerly awaiting the Olympic Games in 2008.
This particular photo was taken in the residential complex where teams of teachers will play against each other. Two different games at the same time on the same court mind you.
There is a little boy about 6 years old who frequently practices with his father and who is going to be a great player one day, judging by his skills.
There are several courts within the school grounds, and it is not uncommon for students to completely 'forget' to go to class if they are caught up in a good game.
Hong Hu city is 'a small city', the government of which has yet to realize its' full entertainment and tourist potential. Sitting on the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) river, with its' own 'famous' lake and so close to Chibi, it does in fact have potential.
|Dancing in the park next to the Qing Chuan Hotel at HanYang Wuhan overlooking the Yangtze River|
As far as western style 'Sunday outing' type venues go however, it is sadly lacking.
For these you need to go to some place like Wuhan, the provincial capital. It too has a series of lakes, sits on the Chang Jiang river, and has places of historic significance.
I don't claim to be an expert on all that Wuhan has to offer, but I have so far discovered three particular places of interest. ZhongShan park in Hankou, right in the middle of the main shopping area. HongShan park in the main area of WuChang, and MoShan Park on the East lake.
ZhongShan park (703 /519 Bus Route) is located right on the main street (JieFang Dadao) at Hankou, but so vast is it in size, that once you enter it, you can easily forget the hustle and bustle of the city.
On my first trip there I was accompanied by one of my boarders. We had checked out of the hotel and were on our way to the Bus Depot, when I made the detour to check it out. As my camera was 'stowed away' I took no photos.
|Young or old there is a ride for everyone at ZhongShan park Wuhan|
My second visit occurred during May Day holidays while killing time before catching my flight to ShenZhen. The park was so crowded that I could not find my bearings. Finally in June I was able to take some photographs.
One whole section is devoted to amusement rides. The rest of it is crisscrossed by canals and gardens. Every possible convenience is provided, from public toilets to refreshment stands. There are varieties of pagodas, rock gardens, statues, rock sculptures, bridges, public entertainment areas, and the more secluded little places for those who want to be alone.
One can also find plenty of places in which to partake in modern or traditional karaoke, or if you wish something more sedate, you can sit and relax listening to groups of musicians and/or singers entertaining the onlookers.
It is a popular place in which to have wedding photos taken, and judging by the number of couples canoodling in the wooded areas, it is also as popular for the as yet unmarried couples. No need to worry about hanky panky though. Once darkness falls, the bicycle police are out in force.
|Two scenic views in ZhongShan Park|
It is truly a place for all the family. If you are not into the rides, you can just sit and relax, or spin tops, or stroll, or lay down and take the ever popular snooze.
By 'you' I mean the 'Chinese you', because if you are a foreigner you will never be alone for long if you actually stand still. You will soon attract a crowd of people wanting to say 'hello', and when you reply with 'hello!', they will all run off giggling.
There are of course those who will want to practice their English by asking a series of unrelated questions, never stopping long enough to hear let alone understand your answers. And then there are the ones I love the most.
The really friendly Chinese person who will talk and talk and talk in Chinese, and no matter what you say, they just can't get it through their heads that you haven't a clue what they are saying. Oh Well. It doesn't matter!
|From the sedate and tranquil setting and music to the screams of the joy rides, there is lots to do in ZhongShan park in Wuhan|
MOSHAN PARK ON THE EAST LAKE
I am not going to write anything here about MoShan park, as I have already done that at KingsCalendar.com. It is mainly photographic with much bigger pictures than presented here.
I will say that MoShan Park is a very big mountain park that cannot really be totally enjoyed in just one day. There are a variety of fees associated with the visit, but well worth the expense and it is accessible by local bus.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on Entertainment in China. For those of you who have realized that I have not provided anything on HongShan park, rest assured it will be covered during the next two articles which are both about Wuhan City.
|MoShan park on Wuhan's East Lake offers Cable car rides with spectacular views|
|The temple on the hill in Moshan offers regular musical entertainment for visitors. It is a multi-tiered structure with lots of facinating features.|
|Top Photo is of Moshan park. This is the fortress overlooking the lake with the Chu Village on the other side. Bottom Photo is of the TV tower and No 1 bridge in HanYang Wuhan.|
|From Parasailing to cable car rides, to visiting old temples and reconstructions of historic villages, there is loads to do at MoShan park on the East lake in Wuhan.|
|The Bonsai gardens at Moshan park offers a tranquil romantic spot for those who like to be alone|
|If you don't live in ShenZhen or somewhere else close to the ocean, you can always find a park to take a stroll|
Additional and Larger Photos.
- In 2010 at Magic City Morning Star News I published 19 Chapters of my book 'Finding Myself in China'. They are listed at the above link.
R.P. BenDedek is the pseudonym of an Australian who has been teaching in China since 2003. In addition to contributing to Magic City Morning Star News as a columnist, he is also currently assisting the Editor of this Newspaper.
2004 Stories from China
Additionally, BenDedek is the author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' at www.kingscalendar.com