Chongqing comes to life at night — and it's better entertainment than TV. (Jock Lauterer photos)
Chongqing comes to life at night — and it’s better entertainment than TV. (Jock Lauterer photos)

After the sweltering Chongqing sun goes town, my neighborhood of Huixing comes to life, with the streets filled with vendors, hawkers, dancers, loud speakers blaring recorded sales pitches, grandparents with babies, sidewalk cafes, couples strolling arm in arm — a very public after-dinner promenade that reminds one of Italy — but on steroids.

It’s better than TV.

An shopper makes her purchase from a local farmer as Huixing nightlife flows past on the busy sidewalks.
A shopper makes her purchase from a local farmer as Huixing nightlife flows past on the busy sidewalks.

In fact, now that I think about it, there is very little TV to be seen here, from my casual observation. The big deal is cards and mah-jong, and one can see intense very competitive matches going on all over town, under trees, on park benches, even on ping-pong tables! These people are serious gamers.

But to the night and the organic outpouring of public life — I’ve never seen the likes of it in the U.S. The sidewalk sales, the back-alley chefs, the dancing grannies — none of it seems organized or coordinated over overseen — this outpouring of humanity of all ages and all classes, from well-dressed men to drop-dead gorgeous girls in flowing silks, to college hipsters to sun-darkened and shabbily dressed migrants from the rural villages and poor countryside.

All together here at night, enjoying the cool, the sensory blitz and the free show that is Chinese public nightlife.

So-called "Damcing Grannies" materialize on summer nights in public squares, moving to a throbbing mix of Chinese pop music.
So-called “Dancing Grannies” materialize on summer nights in public squares, moving to a throbbing mix of Chinese pop music.
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