SZ Futian as a gateway to Chinese culture
2014-June-13 Source: Szdaily web edition
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Futian was my introduction to China and Chinese culture. It was the place where I ate my first dumplings, saw my first Spring Festival fireworks, and had my first conversation in Mandarin.

It is a split between modernity and the old-fashioned: its identity exists somewhere between grandmothers caring for children in courtyards and young men toiling away in the skyscrapers above them, between rickshaws and BMWs, taichi in the park and treadmills at the gym, fancy coffee shops and fried noodles on the street.

I came to Futian to learn about a new culture. I stayed because I saw the potential to be a part of that culture in the world’s fastest-growing city.

I grew up playing drums; now I’ve played for almost 15 years. Since moving to Futian, I have been able to form two bands that perform on a regular basis at various clubs and bars around Futian, such as Brown Sugar Jar and Rapscallions.

In fact, although I performed music quite often back in the U.S., I’ve never received so much financial support from venues for playing. In the U.S., it’s quite normal for musicians to play for free, but in Futian they pay well, which makes the time-consuming, somewhat expensive hobby of being in a band all the more worth it. My bandmates come from far-flung places, and it’s great to be able to collaborate with local Chinese musicians as well.

Aside from starting bands, I’ve been able to learn about a great sport little-known outside China: jianzi. In Lianhua Hill Park, a group of Chinese people play jianzi almost every day. My friends and I frequently join them and have a wonderful time.

We practice with them, compete alongside them, listen to their advice and learn. It combines language practice (because we speak Chinese with them) and physical fitness — two birds with one stone. They are still much better than us, but we’re getting there. Sometimes we even set up impromptu jianzi games at various spots around Futian after dark.

What distinguishes a Chinese city is changing, and Futian is at the forefront, demonstrating how reform can be a springboard for prosperity.

Getting used to a place so far from my home was made easier by Futian’s friendliness. Had I opted for a city like Shanghai or Beijing, I feel I would have been passed off as just another person, blending into the masses of people who are stuck in the mindset that only those traditionally important cities can offer a rich and rewarding cultural experience.

Instead, I became a migrant in a migrant city, where the culture is being written every day.

Just like everyone around me, I came here to seek out new opportunities. There are no locals to look down on you for coming to their territory, as is the case in most of the world’s large cities — there are just people who want to find their path to success like you.

I think in sheer quantity, no other city in the world has so many people from humble beginnings looking for opportunity. Ask a taxi driver where they’re from, you’re liable to hear Hunan, Hubei, Fujian, Jiangxi, or Zhejiang. And there is something comforting about that, knowing that this place — in all its grandeur — is new to both you and everyone else.

Futian is literally for the taking. We are all immigrants here, in search of opportunity. Nothing is inherently yours or mine, but if we strive, it could be either of ours.

Kevin Pinner is a copy editor and contributor at Shenzhen Daily. He has lived in China for one and a half years, all of that time in Shenzhen. In 2012, he graduated from Florida State University with a B.A. in creative writing. A lifelong musician, he regularly performs in Shenzhen with his bands The Friendly Cannons and Pokemon Dad.

Editor: 王凯
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