Caleb Kostreva is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A public policy and civic leadership; social science (global studies emphasis) major at Howard Payne University, he is studying abroad in Shanghai this term.
In this week's post, Caleb helps us envision a bit of peace and quiet in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Where can someone find it? Where can someone find tranquility in the midst of horns honking, people yelling, and the constant movement of Shanghai? In the midst of all of the business meetings and the masses, Shanghai is filled with oases of silence: parks. Parks in China are known to be the gathering places for early morning martial arts, evening dances, and for musicians filling the air with traditional Chinese music. When I made plans to visit Century Park – one of the more famous parks in Shanghai – I expected there to be a lot of people, but I was shocked that I was one of only a few people strolling the paths.
Many of the parks in Shanghai are frequented by many in the mornings for tai-chi, but there were few people in Century Park performing the slow, distinct movements which characterize the art. I think it is fascinating to watch people and their behaviors, and I sat for a while mesmerized by the few people practicing it when I was there.
Entrance to the park is not free (it costs 10 RMB for general admission, and 5 RMB for students), but it is a nominal fee for what lies across the water surrounding it. Century Park appears to have had some British influence, but carries with it a unique Chinese aura. Basically, the park is made up of a many-fingered lake in the center of the park, with paths meandering in the grassy and wooded areas surrounding its edges.
Since laying out a map of the park with my words would be boring, I’m instead going to attempt to take you there with them:
Imagine yourself walking through a thinly-wooded area with clearings every so often. These clearings are all different: some are splashed with colorful flowers, while others display carefully maintained topiary (plant-sculptures). You are strolling in the early morning hours, so there are fewer people than during the after-work peak hours, but as you follow the twists of the path, you will occasionally see joggers or instrumentalists. If you look closely, you will see spider webs refracting the sun’s light, and if you allow the city and its noises to disappear behind the trees, you will be immersed in the sounds of birds chirping in the trees and the sound of a flute floating faintly through the air. As the peaceful environment envelops you, the worries and stresses of life ebb away; as the silence rejuvenates you, the voices screaming in your mind demanding your time fade away. You sit on the bank of the water, content to simply watch ducks swim around or kittens chase each other through the grass. But you cannot stay there forever; everything is meant to end for the next thing to begin.
Photo: a topiary in Century Park of a robed man flanked by two horses
As I returned across the bridge leaving the park, I was reminded of the millions of people, the homework assignments due, and the baggage I carry with me each day. It is amazing how much a small amount of time in silence meditating on life (and releasing our cares) can do to strengthen us and prepare us better for the things life throws at us through the day.
Caleb's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.