‘Submerged Light’ An Introduction To Shenyang| 3 min read

In a city like Shenyang, a happy and optimistic outlook on life pays off double. This is a real city with real people. Welcome to Shenyang, hope you enjoy your stay here!

Stunning natural scenery or impressive displays of traditional Chinese architecture are quite rare here. Fortunately for us TTC interns however, that is not why most of us are in China.

The fact remains that if you want to truly get an accurate picture of how Chinese people live on a day to day basis and begin to really understand their culture, Shenyang is perfect for it. It doesn’t feebly attempt to hide its poorer areas behind gigantic squares or gates, it doesn’t sugarcoat the immense income disparity in China and it doesn’t conceal the fact that in order for China to achieve its impressive yearly economic growth, industry is a necessity. This is a real city with real people.

In a city like Shenyang, there are places of unparalleled beauty. As it happens, my school is right across from one. Bitang Park may look like a shoddy imitation of a western fairground from the outside but it’s one of the liveliest places you’re likely to see. From round about 11 am to 6 pm, it is usually filled with people engaging in a variety of typical Chinese pastimes.

One day it’s an amateur fan dance parade, another day it’s eighty year old men honing their skills on the erhu or people shouting what I guess is the equivalent of a Chinese aria into a microphone. And off course all of the usual sights of people kiting, sitting around card or board games, playing with diabolos and practicing kong-fu are omnipresent as well.  Nothing here is professional, in fact the whole point of it to get away from ‘professional’ life, if only for a little while.

After 6 pm things start to quiet down as people head home for dinner but at night too, there may be people jumping ropes to the beat of a western disco song or even gatherings of people just holding each other, dancing quietly beneath the moonlight.

There are other such surprises to be found all throughout Shenyang. You may suddenly find yourself surrounded by a group of university students on a fund raising sale, thrilled at the prospect of possibly being able to sell their toys and spread their words of love to a foreigner. If you find a bar that looks dirty and cheap on the outside but is nevertheless filled with locals, it may well turn out to have better food than most fancy restaurants. And if your sweet sleep is rudely interrupted at 6 am by music emerging from a megaphone down the street, take a look out the window at the local square and watch the happy faces of the people below you practicing tai-chi, steeling themselves for another days work.

The name ‘Shenyang’ literally means “submerged light” and it’s the most apt name for a city I’ve ever come across. There are unique and amazing experiences to be had here but you’re going to have to go through the mud and dredge them up yourself to be able to find them. When you do though, you’ll realize…life here may be hard, but it certainly doesn’t have to be unhappy. In a city like Shenyang, a happy and optimistic outlook on life pays off double. Welcome to Shenyang, hope you enjoy your stay here!

Rachel Yoon

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