Upon my arrival to Zhengzhou in 2016, my senses were awash with so many new things! The smells of the city from the delightful street food aroma to the beautiful smell throughout the malls as if there was a subtle mist of air freshener being dispensed are so distinct. There is a constant smell in all cities of what I've come to know as “Chinese medicine” wafting through the air, everywhere.
The feel of the air in Zhengzhou is amazing to me; mostly from the grit generated from the abundant construction happening throughout this large city. This coupled with the humidity and the heat that first fall I arrived could oft times be oppressive. And then the surprisingly cold, freezing temperatures my first winter were unexpected.
The sites of the city are a constant amusement. From the incredible colors of the neon lighted signs, to storefront signage, and the crazily colored bike umbrellas shading e-bikes around the city, you'll see it all. The People's Square park is a plethora of beautiful sites. Most pleasing though, are the beautiful tree lined streets. Truly an amazing sight as their branches stretch across the boulevards providing shade and a canopy from the rains.
One of the most intriguing and unusual things I spotted around the city were the discarded chairs! Yes, seriously. I asked my local friends why there were so many chairs around and I received various answers.
The elderly set up tables and chairs in corners of parks to play a tile game called Mahjong. This is a site to behold the many tables of foursomes, with the hum of chatter and the clicking of the tiles. Storing these chairs and tables typically means haphazardly leaning and stacking them against a nearby building.
During the hot nights from late spring to early autumn, families can be found sitting round a low slung table on small chairs eating their evening meal. These were usually business owners and their families in the fronts of their shops. Always a joy to see happy faces, and to hear what one could imagine was the chatter about the events of the days.
The ones that intrigued me the most were the odd, and random chair just ‘there' on the street, with seemingly no use. Sometimes I would see what appeared to be a perfectly good, fancy chair just randomly on the street. Other times, one could spot that the chair was in need of some sort of repair, like sporting only three legs instead of the necessary four! Or with the tear in the upholstery exposing the bones of the chair. These curious find kept me on the look-out for them round the city, and I was rarely left disappointed. I figured these were discards and the city was trying to figure out how to collect them.
In any case, there was story behind these chairs - the haphazardly stacked chairs and game tables... the family dinner table and chairs alongside business fronts... especially the well-worn chairs from a home silently left at the side of the road, as if offering respite for a weary soul or awaiting the garbage haulers truck. As I've traveled throughout China, I haven't sighted the odd and curious chair as frequently as I spotted them around Zhengzhou.