The role of public space can vary greatly from city to city, with no one right approach to its use. Culture, history and tradition may all play a role in how the space is interpreted and enjoyed. In Beijing, public space focuses on health and community, a reflection of Chinese beliefs in balance, prevention and longevity dating back thousands of years.
“It’s something we feel we need to do for our health,” shares a 60-year-old Beijing local on his daily visit to Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park. “We’re all retired and can’t just sit at home all day. Not everyone does the same activities, some can only take a few laps around the park, but we all come and do what we can to stay healthy.”
Public exercise equipment is available for use in parks and apartment complexes throughout the city, a symbol of the connection between health, home and public space in daily activities.
Community and health come together in public spaces across Beijing with group dance, tai chi, and stretching exercises. Participation is free and open to everyone, with groups forming organically around common preferences and schedules. Solo exercise is also common, with many individuals using the space to do their own thing.
Near the heart of Beijing’s CBD, Ritan Park provides a secluded setting for practicing traditional Chinese and Western instruments. “We believe in balance, in our bodies and in nature. That’s why I come here, to maintain that balance and keep my mind and heart healthy,” says Beijing local, Lao Zhou.
On weekends, people of all ages flock to Beijing’s parks for rest and recreation, while the majority of weekday park goers consist of toddlers and retirees. “Young people are too busy working to visit parks during the week. For us older folks, the issues of prevention and longevity are more pressing,” Lao Zhou explains. Above left, families and friends gather in Chaoyang Park for picnics, kite flying, and Frisbee games. Above right, grandparents and grandchildren pass an afternoon in Ritan Park.
Pedestrians enjoy a stroll while retirees gather for a game of cards in Temple of Heaven Park.