By what turned out to be the midpoint of my hikes, I was truly beginning to feel at home. More and more I was mapping the city in a unique way, increasing conscious of where I was without looking at a map. I had not yet begun to ask why I need to escape from my job and home, hiking long and far on every second day.
Today I was determined to make it further south, to the massive Yuyuantan (Jade Lake) Park. First established by the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), it obviously has a long history and is well known across China.
I opted to take the metro there and walk the seven or so kilometres back home. Easier said than done, since the path from the metro station (Baiduizi) was a winding one indeed. After a few wrong turns, backtracking and asking questions, I finally found one of the north gates. Given the size of the park and its popularity, I also had to pay a small fee to enter.
By now, spring was in full blossom, so the park was teeming. The day was a little later than usual, the sky blue and the low sun through the trees and over the water stunning.
Ultimately, it was less the setting itself that drew me in than the communist art and sculpture thereabouts – or rather, socialist realist art. The first was espied at a little distance, over the lake. A grand red star, atop a Stalin baroque monument towered into the sky: I found out later that it is the Chinese People’s Revolutionary Army monument. The star and its mount are merely the tip of a much larger monument celebrating the liberation of China.
The second was more immediate and less obvious, but a pure delight. In am area where children and older people were playing and exercising were more reminders of the role of the Red Army: a shining sculpture of a red flag, and then a series of metal sculptures. The latter depicted characteristic scenes from socialist realism: young and strong people, engaged in scientific pursuits, sporting activities and surrounded by the plenty of nature. These images would, of course, come to fruition with Deng Xiaoping’s daring effort to liberate the forces of production. The result was the Reform and Opening Up, which only last year had celebrated not only 40 years but a remarkable rejuvenation of China.
But I still had to get home and the sun was setting. Straight north along Suzhou Street it was, with a good 14 kilometres done by the time I staggered into my apartment.