It was a Sunday morning. Retired physics professor Gao got up very early and prepared breakfast for her husband and herself. The breakfast was simple: a cup of milk, a piece of bread with jam. Afterwards she watered the flowers in the balcony. For Professor Gao, the two-day weekends were the most enjoyable of all her time. The previous morning, their son, who is studying physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, phoned to chat with his parents as he did every Saturday.
Around 10 o'lock this morning, Professor Gao finished her lunch and left home with a bag and a parasol. She got on a bus and soon arrived at Jingshan Park after several stops. Despite the scorching sun, there were many visitors from all parts of China in the park. Noticeably there were groups of people standing in the shade of ancient trees, practicing chorus singing. These groups were of 10 to several hundred. The largest one gathered close to the east gate. More than one thousand people stood around a pavilion singing, conducted by an old man and accompanied by an amateur brass band.
It was in Jingshan Park that the first amateur chorus group was formed; today, the chorus groups there are of higher level. Even CCTV (China Central Television) produced a program on the activities, called All People Singing on the Square of Passion. On Sundays, there are usually more than 10 choirs of considerable size, including many small groups or pairs practicing by themselves in the park.
Professor Gao has been active in Jingshan Park chorus group for more than a decade, and many people in the park know her. This slender 80-year-old lady still has a melodious, sonorous voice, rare for her age. This Sunday, she went to a small chorus group of only 20 members, who greeted her and invited her to sing the song China, I Love You! Without a word, she started to sing the song to an accordion.
Birds flying in the blue sky, China, I love you!
I love the jade-like sea in the south;
I love the snow in the north.
I love the boundless forests;
I love the rolling mountains.
I love the winding streams, which flow into my dreams.
I will devote my youth, To China, my mother!
Some visitors were attracted by her singing and stopped to listen. Professor Gao loved this song because it brought her back to her youth.
At the age of 20, she left her hometown in Jiangsu Province and went to study in a college in Beijing as her parents had expected. At college, she joined the student chorus group because singing had been her hobby since elementary school. In the early 1950s when China was recovering from many years of war, the liberation had brought people pride and confidence to begin a new life. Many songs appeared during that period, eulogizing the nation, the life and the people.
China's ethnic minority areas also had remarkable changes as a result of state support for the cultural conservation and economic development of those areas. Many folk songs were discovered, revised or composed by musicians and were widely spread among the people; some even became household repertoires. The student chorus group Gao belonged to was extremely active in rehearsing and performing. After hours of studying physics and other subjects every day, this added more color to her boring life.
Gao's interest in chorus singing makes her the most energetic in her family of three physicists. She benefited a lot from the weekly chorus singing in Jingshan Park not only morally but also physically. According to her, the vocal and pneumonic exercise in singing is good for improving lung capacity and facilitating metabolism. Moreover, the melodies and lyrics of the old songs would bring people back to their youth psychologically beneficial for the aged. For physics professor Gao, chorus singing is her hobby after retirement; but for disabled worker Ge, it is a moral support after he was injured in a traffic accident. After that, he joined the singing group at the Temple of Heaven. Seven years ago, Ge had a traffic accident in which he was seriously injured with legs paralyzed and prospopospasm. Two cerebral operations left him two 10-cm-long scars and damaged half of his teeth. His arms were also partly paralyzed.
Ge was once a very talented mechanic in a factory, but the accident changed his entire life. It was extremely hard for him to know that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair though his medical expenses were covered by insurance. He was only 45 and the financial income of the family mainly depended on him. He felt more pressure on him and became depressed and bad-tempered. The atmosphere at home grew more and more tense.
Ge's wife quit her job to look after her disabled husband. She was very much worried and felt helpless in comforting her depressed and irascible husband, until one day when she wheeled her husband into the Temple of Heaven near their home.