More than anywhere I've traveled, in China I can't take my eyes off the people. I'm sure it's primarily because I keep wanting to figure it all out, what makes this society and its communities tick, how they really live in this jumbled up environment of old/new, rich/poor, etc., as I described in an earlier post.
The mix among generations is also appealing because, unlike in the US where we customarily are out only with our peers, I very often saw young and old together in Beijing. For example, the large Chinese restaurants with the family-size round tables for ten with the "lazy susans" in the center of the table spinning with numerous dishes are a common occurrence. All generations often dine together, noisy, deep in conversation, and small children sit quietly or move from parent to grandparent to cousin, food being the glue holding it all together but definitely not the center of attention or the main attraction. Reverence is not paid to the food (as in France, for example) but rather to the people gathered together to share the meal. All chopsticks dip into all the bowls and plates that pass by, so that even the plate itself is communal and shared.
I enjoyed watching this aspect of Chinese culture. The family unit appears to be very important. In fact, what do the Chinese do on major holidays? They don't run off to a resort for "holiday," even if they can afford to do so. Rather, they get on every available train, plane and bus until overflowing, and they go "home." Paying tribute to dead ancestors is also an important ideal and there's a holiday for that, too.
There are certainly a number of aspects to contemporary Chinese culture that are hard for this Westerner to understand and hard to accept as representing the highest standard of humanity, but one can also say the same, to a certain extent, about most countries. Love and respect for family (and children) appears to be one of the highest priorities, though, from what I perceived, and I had a super time trying to capture some images on my camera.