Sweeping the nation

Fall has arrived in Shanghai. Or rather, it has been below 20 degrees the past few weeks, a couple of times under 10 and generally around 15. Most importantly, the weather has turned the leaves a different color. Preferably yellow, but mostly brown.

I just did a search to make sure I had not written about this yet. Leaves are a big deal in China, and larger parts of Asia (and according to an American I met, apparently also in some Western places). Meaning in this case that it is important enough to generate its own terms. Looking at them in this case. I remember when learning the words “looking at red leaves” in Chinese, everyone in class was quite giggly about it. Is this something we have to learn? Is this actually an activity people say they are going to do during the weekend?

Well, yes it turns out to be that way. Although, to be fair I do not think I have ever heard anyone actually say they are going to ‘look at red leaves’ over the weekend. However, there is a “looking at red leaves season” and there are certainly “looking at red leaves places”.

As I read quite recently and fittingly in a column last week, some things are only worth it for the pictures. That is certainly the case with these leaves. Although fall might be a season reminiscent of melancholy and chestnuts the right leaves make for a lasting impression. I think that actually the only time I have Chinese actively sitting on the ground or encouraging one and another to do so, is below yellow-leaved Ginko trees, even going so far as to picking them up the ground and throwing them in the air.

While the general public goes crazy for the right-colored leaves, many others do not have such luck. This is also the season where all the not-pretty-enough-leaves are being swept up by the countless people sweeping the streets (hidden unemployment very much). These are the times when it seems that non-biological material only gets swept up if it is in a huge pile of leaves. What would they do with all the leaves they collect? Perhaps they do organize special “looking at leaves events” for these experts. Who knows, it might even make road cleaner become a much more wanted job.

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