Friday, October 05, 2007


It began raining in Beijing late in the afternoon on Thursday, and continued without pause until late morning on Friday. At some point early on Saturday morning it began again. And it's looking like it might well rain all day.

I like rain in Beijing.

Partly for the novelty value - we really don't have that many days of rain here in the year. (Well, not outside of the summer months, anyway; and I usually contrive to be away for a good portion of them.)

But even more, I like the transformation of the aural landscape. A lot of the usual frenetic activity in this city is stilled for a while. The construction sites all seem to fall silent (they probably don't, but their sounds are masked by the rain). There is less traffic. There are fewer people on the streets.

I don't hear shouted arguments in the street every few minutes any more. I don't even seem to hear any spitting. I don't hear the canned music from my local park or the muezzin from the nearby mosque. About the only familiar sound I do still hear occasionally is the automated announcements on the No. 27 bus that passes outside my building.

The rumble of traffic on the nearby 2nd Ringroad is muted to a soothing swoosh-swoosh-swoosh as cars and trucks splash through the puddles.

And then there's the sound of the rain itself. I've always liked the sound of rain; but it seems to have a unique quality here in Beijing (somehow both light and heavy at the same time - small droplet size but high volume, I think), a gentle but incessant whoosh, as uncannily restful as whale song or the rhythmic whoop and rattle of frogs, lizards, and insects in the tropical night. It's very therapeutic for me - just what I need.

There are three elements to the rain noise, actually. There's the background susurration of the rain itself, the periodic puddle-sploshing of the traffic, and then the louder, higher-pitched pitter-patter of water spilling out of gutters into the courtyard out the back of my apartment building.

Together, these sounds are quite lovely. I could sit and listen to them for hours.

And I probably will, since there's nothing else for me to do.

1 comment:

fg said...

A lovely post, thats is just what it feels like. Different to the effect of a snowy fall has but similarly peaceful, somehow makes one feel more centered.

Quiet in a noisy city is such a relief.