A Soundscape of Beijing

After arriving at the train station, I got a taxi into town. I checked in to my hotel in the Baochao hutong in the Dongcheng district of Beijing, found a restaurant where I had an actual Neapolitan calzone with lemon tart for dessert. Fulfilled and feeling pretty fine, I turned in for the night.

The next day, I had one full day in Beijing: 1 September.

The day on which Greece decided they no longer needed a coronavirus test from me (I cancelled the appointment at the hospital that had been so much work to make). The day on which Hungary closed its borders to the rest of the world, thereby cancelling my main travel plans for September: to spend more than two weeks in Bedepuszta with my Dutch taiji teacher Nanda, to learn all of the Yang style 108 Form and attend the taiji retreat that I had enjoyed so much last year. Instead, Orbán freed up my schedule, which is nice, I suppose, in a way.

So on 1 September, in the morning, after breakfast and the phone call to the hospital, I decided to go and see the Forbidden City. Choosing a route with trees and lakes rather than cars and exhaust fumes, I sauntered down through public parks. As I was walking at a leisurely pace, it was the many sounds of the city that struck me even more than its sights. Here was a man coughing profusely, there creaked an oar in a rowing boat; a splash where some elderly citizens plunged into a lake, and a drip-drip-drip of a drain over an empty bucket. That day and the next morning, all the way to the airport, I paid attention to the sounds of the city.

Using my phone, I recorded some of these sounds. 

What I heard: trees being pruned; enchanting music from a loudspeaker attached to a pole with about five surveillance cameras attached to it; Beijing grannies doing their Beijing granny dance exercises; elderly folks chit-chatting on a bench; a park pagoda with water feature and traditional tea ceremony music; a loudspeaker belonging to a Public Security officer outside Mao Ze Dong Memorial Hall at Tiananmen Square; hand-dryers echoing in a public toilet; a speech being delivered from a man’s fisherman’s waistcoat pocket; elderly people having fun in a game of kick-shuttlecock; the brush of a street sweeper’s broom and the clunk of her dustpan; airport terminal incessant easy-listening auditory wallpaper; a loudspeaker attracting customers while a trolleybus zooms by; a cicada singing loudly in a monumental park; a lady singing along with her phone near the Forbidden City wall; the fall of my feet on the steps leading up to the Hall of Pearl of Wisdom; Beijing grannies twirling ribbons while dancing joyfully; a metro pulling in to the station.

Yes, the elderly of China don’t sit at home watching life pass by their window. They are out and about, dancing and swimming, twirling ribbon streamers, practising taiji with swords and all, playing intricate card games, seeing sites, meeting for chats and laughs. Forever young.

Back to the soundscape! What I recorded: all of the above, minus two. One I did hear but did not record, the other one I just made up entirely.

In list form:

A) pruning

B) camera pole music

C) dancing grannies

D) bench chatter

E) pagoda with traditional music

F) public toilet

G) waistcoat speech

H kick-shuttlecock joy

I) street sweeper

J airport elevator music

K) loudspeaker & trolleybus

L) park cicada

M) lady’s Forbidden City karaoke

N) footsteps on stairs

O) ribbon twirling grannies

P) policeman’s loudspeaker @ Tiananmen

Q) metro arriving at platform

The recording:

This list of descriptions has been randomized. In the audio file above, I have put the sounds in the order in which I actually encountered them. There are five seconds of silence between each clip. Take your time to read the descriptions and to listen to the sounds carefully. Can you identify which description (letter) belongs to which sound (number)? If you get them all right, you will have shared with me these moments from the soundscape of this all too brief visit to Beijing.

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  
  9.  
  10.  
  11.  
  12.  
  13.  
  14.  
  15.  

The two redundant descriptions (not in the recording):

  1.  
  2.  

You can publish your list in the comments section below, if you feel like sharing it. Or keep it to yourself. All good. The correct list I will include in a next post!

Have fun. 😀

Some images from that September morn in Beijing:

2 comments On A Soundscape of Beijing

  • Avatar

    1 B
    2 E
    3 D
    4 H
    5 I
    6 F
    7 C
    8 A
    9 G
    10 N
    11 M
    12 K
    13 P
    14 L
    15 J

    R1 O
    R2 Q

  • Avatar

    Beste Eli,
    Wel een heel bijzondere impressie van de stad, ingenieus. Ik kon niet alles thuisbrengen maat dat geeft niet.
    Inmiddels zit je weer vlakbij huis, relatief dan.
    Hoop dat je daar kunt genieten van de vertrouwdere (?) omgeving.
    Veel plezier en ik wens je weinig obstakels voor de rest van je plannen.
    Hier gaat het zijn gangetje, beslist luxe maar wel wat saai.
    Hartelijke groet,
    Han

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