I think all of Beijing could be found strolling through the Liulichang New Year’s fair this afternoon. More accurately, they pushed, bumped and negotiated, albeit a bit akwardly, their way down the thronged, smoke-plumed street. There must have been thousands of fair-goers hidden beneath layers of hats and scarves and those ubiquitous government-issue coats usually seen on security guards and city employees. I’ve begun to suspect that people here are imbued with a quiet determination — a way of being that lacks outright aggression but belies a willpower of steel. Silent but persuasive hands on your shoulder, imploring you to move faster. Strolling interrupted by brusque elbows to the ribcage, a child’s surprisingly strong forehead pressed to your lower back, a toe grazing your heel. Guiding you forward, always.
The ferocity of competition hides beneath an exterior of stoic eyes and chapped lips. Foreheads creased, the geriatric couple to your left surges past you with a silent, terrifically strong purposefulness. No need for “excuse me” or “sorry” or even an absentminded grunt of apology, because they know you know it’s not personal and that the last thing one should be offended by is someone cutting you in line.