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Retirees' second careers

04-26-2012 11:08 BJT

In Beijing, there are more attractions than flowers in the parks. Wang Tingting finds out more.

People, mostly retirees, join a sing-along in Yuyuantan Park in Beijing.
Huang Xiaobing / for China Daily

Walking through a typical public park in Beijing can be an enriching experience. On any given day, there will be people practicing tai chi, performing fan dances, kicking jianzi (shuttlecock) or singing songs. But what's been attracting a lot of attention is the various unique performances by retirees. The Voice of Heart, a troupe comprising mostly retirees, has performed for free in Beijing's Jingshan Park three times a week. They have been doing this since September 2010. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, troupe leader Li Chunzhi gets up early, wolfs down his breakfast and packs his audio equipment into his tricycle to take it to the park.

After transferring the equipment to a smaller cart, the 74-year-old pushes it to the troupe's regular meeting place. He is always the first to arrive and will get everything ready before his team members' arrival.

Yang Bianling is usually the second to reach the park. Yang dresses in ethnic Uygur attire for the show. The others normally trickle in soon after. Once they are done setting up the audio equipment, Li starts playing the harmonica to attract his audience.

Their highlight of the performance is the magic show by Shan Rongxu, who is the children's darling because of the candies he "creates" from his magic bag.

The troupe ends their act at about 11 am with a grand finale, where they sing Never Forget Tonight, a popular farewell folk song.

A retiree from the Art Troupe of the Beijing Armed Police Force, Li says life becomes mundane after one stops working.

"Some turn to fishing and tai chi after retiring, but the great majority just stroll in the park.

"In the '70s, most people weren't open-minded enough to perform in public. But now, they use parks as their own - staging performances to share their talents and to bring happiness to others," Li says.

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