BEIJING , China — The story that I have to share is one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen in my travels. In Beijing there is a place called the Temple of Heaven . It is an ancient temple that thousands of tourists visit, located in a park that is the size of Central Park in New York. It is huge.
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Photos courtesy of Dian Thomas.
It would take days to cover all the interesting places to see and gardens to visit at this site. This was my fifth time back, and I am still making new discoveries.
When you go to visit this sacred temple, you are greeted by the most incredible sight. There are not hundreds of seniors out exercising; there are thousands.
People exercise alone or in groups at the grounds of The Temple of Heaven.
When I came last year, I said that I wanted to come back and have some time to spend discovering all of the activities that the senior Chinese people are participating to keep them fit and young. I have even thought it would be interesting to come to Beijing for a month and go and play in the park with all the fit and ready people that come to play and exercise every day.
The author exercises on playground equipment that is designed for adults.
For the most part, everything is done in groups or along with someone just like it was at recess when I was in grade school. Today I spent five hours walking, stopping to play, and watching all the activities that go on between 6 AM and noon. Here is just a sample of what you will see:
* Dancing with partners as well ans group and theme dancing.
* Tai Chi Ball (Tai Chi Ball is a game played with a racquet and a ball that is weighted with sand)
* Ribbon twirling (this is where they take long ribbons and keep then circling in patterns).
* Group Singing (usually done in small groups of 30 to 40)
* Musical band (I saw more than 70 people playing their small instruments together)
* Small groups or individual playing their instruments in the park
* Group playing Chinese games
Calisthenics are done on brightly painted bars.
The thing that impressed me the most was they all seemed to be there because it was the place to be. Everyone seemed so happy to be there, having fun with their friends. If I could not have seen their ages, I would have thought that I was at an elementary school watching kids play — and loving it.
Senior citizens playing Tai Chi Ball.
Nowadays when I go to the gym, I usually go to work out — not to socialize with my work out. The machines and activities are not set up to participate as well as socialize. But here things are set up to get both at the same time, and the participants seem to love every minute.
People play musical instruments as individuals and in groups.
Although I do not speak a word of Chinese and they do not speak a work of English, we both used the international languages of smiling and gestures. As I played and exercised with them, one message came though loud and clear: If I could just get my thighs thinner, I could move a lot better.
Rarely do you see a Chinese person that has one extra pound. They are a nation of health conscious. The one area in the health realm that the Chinese do not seem to get is smoking. There is a lot of smoking here. In the park I did not see them smoking — just having a great time and enjoying every minute.
If you want to go and enjoy recess again like we used to as kids, take a trip to Beijing and be sure to spend a lot of time at the Temple of Heaven . It has been created for both the body and the soul.