A day in the park: Early Sunday morning at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing.


A bright Sunday morning at the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing, China. Most parks and alongside side streets have brightly-colored gyms which allow every Chinese citizen to exercise. Senior citizens are the most common users of these gyms, and it is not unusual to see the elderly performing feats of flexibility and strength usually reserved for professional athletes half their age. Parks are the best place for lessons, whether on musical instruments or in Taiji quan 太极拳, or Tai Chi, as it is better known in the west. In China, the term can mean all types of slow and fast-paced martial practices, often incorporating swords, spears, or fans and scarves.

Gongfu, the catchall term for Chinese martial arts, includes both actual techniques for self-defense and forms of art. Here we see a practitioner performing a series of Gongfu techniques. This type of individual practice is somewhat similar to Taiqi, but is also training for the more martial forms of Gongfu. A common activity in China involves groups of friends playing jiànzi (毽子): kicking a weighted shuttlecock in a circle. This is usually seen casually in the street, but professional leagues exist in- and outside China.

In China, singing is considered more of a social activity than it is in the west. Singing is something you do with someone else, or do out in public, in the same way you might go to the park to fly a kite, play chess, or have a picnic. Groups of singers can be found in both

All streets and paths leading to the temple are lined with people, even this early in the morning. Here, we can see people playing jiànzi, but you can also often find people playing badminton, public dance lessons, and newlyweds having their photos taken.

(A script for teachers designed for introducing this video to students can be found here.)


Chinese Pinyin English
天坛 Tiāntán Temple of Heaven (PN)
健身馆 jiànshēnfáng gym (N)
健身 jiànshēn to exercise (V)
毽子 jiànzi shuttlecock (N)
太极拳 tàijí quán Tai Chi (N)
钢刀 gāngdāo sword (N)
公园 gōngyuán park (N)
功夫 gōngfu kung-fu (N)
to kick (V)
唱歌 chànggē to sing (VO)
跳舞 tiàowǔ to dance (VO)
散步 sànbù to walk, stroll (V)