Shànghăi Rénmín Găngyuăn (People’s Park) — People, Photos, Marriage Board, and More on Scams
On the first sunny Saturday, Barry and I headed to the Shànghăi Rénmín Găngyuăn (People’s Park) adjacent to Rénmín Square to see what we could see.
When we left People’s Park Metro, exit 18, Barry and I sat on a wall to watch the passing stream of life.
Thousands of people enjoyed being outside. Small vendors set up shop everywhere: huge (and small) stuffed animals, snacks of all kinds from popcorn to skewers of lamb, and Barry was offered new iPhones too.
We had fun watching people, especially the children.
One section of the park has an amusement park with a small roller coaster, swings that fly way out, and a horrible looking one that had people strapped in seats to go way up in the air—and then down.
Kids had bubble guns; everyone looked happy. Young couples smooched behind trees. Older people sat on benches.
The really interesting section for us was the marriage arrangement area. On long white sheets of paper that hang from string between trees, parents (and marriage agents) post descriptions and information about possible mates.
Birth dates and weight and height are listed. Some had photos and education and job descriptions. Contact information is included. Some mention house or apartment.
Another posting showed a guy in a U.S. Navy uniform; he now works in a factory in L.A. and is looking for a wife.
It’s not just for young people. One woman on the marriage board is 45 years old.
We asked two girls who were perusing the lists if they had seen anyone interesting. They giggled, “No.” However, they were looking.
I told them I had a great son, but he is too young.
Some parents looked bored. One nice farmer–looking guy with wrinkled skin, few teeth, and a clouded eye spoke to me in English. He has a son. I wished him luck.
Some of the parents were in animated conversations with other parents. There was much looking at photos and taking down phone numbers.
One youngish guy took a photo with his cell phone of one information sheet. Hundreds and hundreds of people thronged the area.
There were so many people that the strings between the trees didn’t offer enough space, so some parents used umbrellas to display their child’s information.
For most parents, the child is their only one, and his or her marriage is crucial to the family.
Barry and I had fun circulating. So if you or someone you know would like us to be your representatives, we would be happy to go to People’s Square on a Saturday or Sunday. I’m sure we would find some good possibilities.
Most of the young people, however, seemed to be off making their own arrangements.
We also had the repeated experience of VERY friendly groups of two, three, and even one of four people stopping to speak to us. After chatting with us for awhile, they all seemed to know a good tea house where we would be able to see a wonderful tea ceremony. We were already quite alert to this scam.
Pat asks, “What is the scam?” Our Lonely Planet China says, “Con artists are not just increasingly widespread in China—their methods are becoming ever more audacious. Well-dressed girls flock along Shànghăi’s East Nanjing Rd and Bĕijīng’s Wangfujing Dajie, dragging single men to expensive cafes or Chinese tea houses and making them foot monstrous bills. ‘Poor’ art students haunt similar neighborhoods press-ganging foreigners into art exhibitions where they are coerced into buying trashy art. Just say no” (946).
In Bĕijīng’s Tiananmen Square one lovely evening, two women tried to pick Barry up—and he was with me! Also in Bĕijīng, we had a very friendly ”art student” and his “teacher” try to get us to their exhibit.
All along Shànghăi’s East Nanjing Road, a pedestrian street, men and women flash pictures of brand name goods; they encourage us to follow them: “Purses, luggage, watches—cheap.” We don’t go. Would we get good value if we followed them? Perhaps. The “Puma” watch Barry bought for under $2.00 over a week ago looks good and is keeping good time.
Several years ago, we did go with a very convincing guy (actually a tag-team of four) who got us to go to a jewelry store for their “once-a-year, very special sale” in Bangkok. When we realized we had been led on, we were miles from where we had started and the tuck tuck that had taken us and the helpful guy had disappeared. That jewelry store may have offered good value, but I’m not really interested beyond the few meaningful pieces I already have, and if we were tricked into going to the store, and we were, how could we trust the quality of the merchandise?
The tea ceremony scheme is a bit complicated. The Chinese know tea and value tea ceremonies. Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin’an offers a two-year degree in tea culture. Barry and I experienced several lovely tea ceremonies last year when I taught at the school.
The varieties of teas available here are extensive and wonderful. According to a China Daily, March 23, 2012, article, “a pre-sale of the first batch of West Lake Longjing – a renowned roasted green tea – drew a bid of 180,000 yuan (US$28,500) for 500 grammes [17.63 ounces or 1.125 pounds] at an auction in Hangzhou, according to China National Radio. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province and the origin of the tea, which is also known as “dragon well tea”. . . tea experts estimate that top-quality Longjing will be sold at 40,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan ($6,348 to $7,935) per 500 grammes this year, about 25 per cent higher than last year.”
This tea costs more per ounce than the cost of gold. Many Chinese value their tea as the French value their wine. So when you come to China, you might want to see a tea ceremony or spend an afternoon at a tea house on a lake in the summer. It is fun to try different teas.
However, if you are like most Westerners and see tea as a Lipton tea bag once in awhile, unless you are in China on an unlimited budget, don’t let yourself get lured into a tea house by a group of “friendly” Chinese who will get a cut of what you will be charged. Although you are likely to see a lovely tea ceremony and get the best of teas, you will be expected to pay, and the bill will be a huge surprise. We’ve heard that if you protest, the tea house owner will threaten to call the police unless you pay. So be aware. Most Chinese are honest and friendly. Be aware of those who are very friendly and want you to go somewhere.
For those I suspect of doing a scam, I’ve started asking to take their photos. On this Saturday at People’s Park, the main talker in the group of four said, “Oh, no. I’m Buddhist and my mom says don’t get your picture taken.” She volunteered her assistants though, so I got a photo of scammers in training.
It’s sad that these young people who really do speak good English feel they have to resort to scams to make money. The “Buddhist girl” isn’t following “Right livelihood.” We wonder how much money they can earn for luring tourists into tea shops. Anyway, sad from my point of view, but they must see themselves as a type of entrepreneur.
Shànghăi People’s Park offered a good time to everyone there on this beautiful spring day.
Come spent time in the Shànghăi People’s Park, Rénmín Găngyuăn. You’re sure to have a good time too.
Aloha and zaì jiàn, Renée