Many of the public gardens, historic houses, or Buddhist temples I visited in China, had lovely water features. There is something about the sound, sight and presence of water in a green landscape that speaks a universal language, evoking in us all a certain charm and heightened sense of relaxation. The Chinese gardens I visited often had large scale lakes full of families cruising around on paddle boats, lagoons filled with water lilies, bulrushes and turtles, and hidden places criss-crossed with narrow but quick flowing streams complete with weeping willows and hungry koi.
Whatever the configuration the Chinese people love their gardens and they are well frequented in the day and late into the night. One reason is that many Chinese live in dense housing situations and really value going ‘outside’. Here families can connect with nature, dance together, practice tai chi, play games, enjoy traditional music and gossip.
While volunteering as an ESL teacher at Ronggui in Guangdong Province I stayed in a small apartment in a 25 storey high rise, surrounded on all sides by other 25 storey high rise apartment blocks.
The blocks were interspersed with gardens and every night the sound of music, children and laughter floated up to my rooms as the apartment dwellers flocked outside.
The Chinese people I came in contact with worked long hours (though the pace was slower than at home and there is a long break in the middle of the day) but many of them work 6 days a week so the evenings are often their social and family times. In a crowded city with hectic traffic, air pollution and concrete skylines, it is easy to appreciate why sitting under a tree, mucking about in a paddleboat, or simply watching koi slide past, are valued pastimes.