In Shanghai the parks are their own ecosystem, their own city. You almost need a map to read them. Dancing lessons are in one corner, with couples in neat rows showing off their carefully practiced steps. In a nearby field adults determinedly practice spinning metal wheels on string, using two handles to maintain a precarious balance. Near the entrance is the gambling—men crowded tightly around each other, whispering bets in serious tones—and along the walkways are karaoke stands, where groups of 10-12 sing loud and proud as they read lyrics off of scrolls hanging from clotheslines.

Everywhere in between there’s Tai Chi and endless varieties of exercise; whether it’s sword fighting or walking backwards or just standing in place doing high kicks.

The park by my house is lucky to see a few dog walkers on a sunny Saturday; on an average Tuesday the parks in Shanghai look like full-blown gym meets.

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