Tai chi, tango clash at Luxun Park, but police prevent a ballroom blitz
By Yang Jian
VARIOUS groups of people rushed into Luxun Park before dawn yesterday to stake their claim to plots of land on which to do their morning exercises.
The popular green space had been closed for 12 months for renovation.
On the stroke of 5am, a group of tai chi boxers picked a vacant spot, only for a band of ballroom dancers to do exactly the same. The dancers quickly created a perimeter on the ground using clothes and bags, and stared fiercely at the boxers.
But Tai chi master Liu, 65, was nonplussed, and he and his group began practicing their art alongside the dancing ladies, most of whom were over 60.
“We had to find a place to do our morning exercises, as our former spot is no longer there,” said Liu, who has taught the martial art in the park for the past 20 years.
The dancers retaliated by turning up the volume of their music in a bid to disturb the rhythm of the boxers.
But it was all in vain, as Liu, a former Shanghai tai chi boxing champion, and his group moved to the rhythm of their inner peace.
More than 13,000 people, mostly groups looking for a place to exercise or socialize, entered the century-old park in Hongkou District between 5am and 7am yesterday.
By 10am, the number had risen to about 30,000 and by the end of the day the total was 100,000, park officials said.
For decades the park has been home to more than 50 exercise and social groups, all of which lay claim to specific sites on certain days and times. As a result of the renovation, several spots no longer exist, leaving some groups “homeless.”
“We will fight for every inch of land, but I have told my students that we must never use our fists,” Liu told Shanghai Daily.
Despite some minor disagreements between the groups, there were no major conflicts yesterday, thanks in part to about 150 security guards and volunteers, said Zhang Xinhua, the park’s Party chief.
The presence of police officers and SWAT teams also contributed to the calm atmosphere.
“We will keep the peacekeeping force for at least a week,” Zhang said, adding that anyone who tries to enter the park before the official opening time will be reported to police and refused from holding classes in the future.
Luxun Park is one of the most popular in the city for morning exercise, said Fang Yan, deputy director of the greenery and urban management bureau.
Though there is 5 percent more land for groups since the renovation, it’s hard to meet the demands of all the local residents, he said, adding that he hopes the various groups can all work together.
Luxun Park was created by a British garden designer in 1896. Years later it was dedicated to the famous Chinese writer Lu Xun, and to this day is home to his tomb and a museum about his life.