Blog
February 19, 2015

In Cometh the Wood Goat: A Chinese New Year at Guanshuyuan

Posted from: Beijing

I’ve never really been able to capture Chinese New Year on camera. I’ve tried. But silly little SLRs don’t do continuity well, and it really is the continuity that’s so beautifully overwhelming. Imagine putting a hundred bags of popcorn in microwave, and imagine that some of the popcorn was actually thunder, and then imagine the explosions lasting for a week, until the noise became almost comforting, a low-level thread in the static that makes up your earspace.

The year of the goat came down, and we saw the city in panorama from the rooftop balconies at Guanshuyuan apartments. Years of rotating roommates, Airbnb renters, subletters and temporary artists-in-residence: no one really knows who lives in that flat anymore. “Who threw this party, anyway?” I ask Emma. “Joint effort,” she said. Isn’t it always.

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This year, everyone said, seemed quieter than years before. Part of that was due to an unusually strong no-fireworks-inside-the-5th-ring-road policy, followed up with We-Really-Mean-It citywide police presence at the most traditionally lively intersections. Kyle pointed out, on the walk home through the abandoned drifts of firework sawdust, that it’s been interesting to watch the tenor of Spring Festivals evolve over the course of a decade. We both remember 2008, the year they lifted the inner-city ban, and the every street turned into a melee that was, from the inside, indistinguishable from throwing Molotovs with the Black Bloc. They never report on anyone blowing their own fingers off, but it must happen a lot. Maybe it’s just not news. The pulse is there to put a finger on, though, a collectivist display of disposition that either wraps up the previous 12 months or heralds the next – hard to say.

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WTF IS A KENDRA SCHAEFER?
american tech writer living in beijing. chinese user interface consultant. crafter of pretty digital things. haver of nebulous ideas.
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