Does Ben have fun?

A friend wrote to me recently:

Would be great to see some video of the Chinese students partying … not sure people here [England] know that Chinese people have fun in quite the same way as here! Don’t they just stay at home and do maths homework?

Obviously, it’s not all about the math. I’ll admit the image I’ve been presenting on this blog of the young Chinese of my generation is more homework, less partying. There’s a whole other face of China’s ‘new new youth’ out there: in clubs like D22, enjoying more freedoms than any Chinese generation before them. Just last night, I met at a party a group of 20-something Chinese hip-hop DJs and dancers (“the hip hop scene is only just beginning in China, rock has been around for longer”) – one of whom said he carried around his neck at all times a 剑玉 or ‘kendama‘, a gaming craze I’ll be keeping my eye on.

This said, the young China I’m in and around – the campuses of Peking and Tsinghua Universities – isn’t that young China. When I asked my friends on campus what they did for fun, or to relax on a Friday night, the same responses did a loop-the-loop: go out for a meal with friends; stay in the dormitory with friends; stay in the dormitory watching Youku; weekend trips to grasslands or other sights in China, a cheap train ticket away. Not discos. Not drugs. Drinking, but not drinking.

So what about Ben? He’s not a student, he’s a working guy who came to Beijing from the countryside to strike it lucky. Now his online clothes shop – one of the thousands (more?) on the Chinese eBay, Taobao – has two employees and recently got ranked in a top hundred list on Taobao. Ben himself is working so hard he’s only getting 5 to 6 hours sleep at night (“I work until midnight”).

So how does Ben relax, when he has the time? He thinks, allows himself a little smile, and says “I like to go to the zoo.” (It’s the tigers.) Sure, he drinks, and smokes, but he never drinks and smokes the night away. Doesn’t he reward himself for all his hard work with a little more than that? The day, he tells me, when he can really reward himself for accomplishing what he set out to do, is precisely what he’s working for. He takes a sip of his beer. “That day will come.”

Speaking of leisure, I am now going to run to catch my train to Inner Mongolia – where I will be too full of milk to post for a week. Happy Easter and grave-sweeping festivals…


  1. Interesting insights. Though the Chinese students I’ve met don’t go out to bars much. It’s more like the foreign students who do.

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