Village nightlife minus the nightclub

Accompanied by music from India, Tibet, and the Middle East, as well as Chinese pop music and sometimes a four-piece brass band, women from Xiejiaqiao gather nightly to dance in the open. Photo by Lizzie Chen

Accompanied by music from India, Tibet, and the Middle East, as well as Chinese pop music and sometimes a four-piece brass band, women from Xiejiaqiao village gather nightly to dance in the open. Photo by Lizzie Chen.

While Beijing’s 21 million residents have many nighttime entertainment options, as described in my last blog, for the 801 inhabitants of Xiejiaqiao village in Zhejiang Province such options are limited but spirited, nevertheless.

I had a taste of this a during a 4 day visit to the village, the purpose of which was  to compare the way of life in rural china to that found in the cities–despite its unparalleled pace of urbanization, approximately 53 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people still live in the countryside.

For the first half of the year, people are too busy raising tea to dance. In May, the dancing begins, explained Qian Baorong, a 63-year-old trombone player with the village band that sometimes accompanies the dancing. Come August, when the harvesting of nuts starts, the dancing ends.

We visited in June during the height of the dancing season, so to speak, and found the music typically featured a funky mixture from India, Tibet, the Middle East, as well as Chinese pop music. Moths fluttered in the streetlights’ glow, as dancers, their movements casting long shadows, stepped in time to songs like “The Road to the Sky” and “Why Are Flowers so Red?”

Though the street dance-floor lacked the sophistication of a modern nightclub in Beijing or Shanghai, and didn’t manage to draw much of the village’s male contingent most of whom preferred to spend evenings playing poker, going fishing in the local river or hunting wild pigs in the surrounding hills, it achieved something often missing from within a city’s bright lights: a sense of community.

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