From the Stretch-A-Leg Blog

Beijing Youth – with Katrina

Beijing Youth

While the elderly are playing chess, and parents are cooking, what is the youth of Beijing up to? Studying, playing, eating ice cream or perhaps causing a little mischief here and there? Katrina, one of the expert guides at Stretch-A-Leg tells us more.


Starting primary school is always a fresh start to every kid. It's a day filled with excitement and fun because you’re going to join a new and big family away from your small family at home. You’re going to meet a lot of new friends and teachers. Fun times are ahead!

Of course there will also be schedules, and studying. And then there's the homework you receive at the end of the day. Finish them all before watching TV, we were told. Every day the pile of homework got bigger and bigger until some day you don’t have any time for TV at all. This is the typical Chinese way of education, which is quite different from the west.

While other kids at my school had their parents send them to school everyday, I walked to the school by myself or with my friends. Besides studying, there were still fun things the school would arrange for us, like a spring outing, movie afternoon or tree planting. In the case of spring outings, our parents would go out the day before and buy lot of snacks for us. Perhaps eating all our great snacks together was even more exciting than the outing itself.

There was also an embarrassing moment that I will never forget. That day after school our classroom was used by the principal to hold a meeting with teachers. I was caught by the principle carving a doll figure on my new desk. The next day my dad was called to school and told to replace the desk. As a child you sometimes forget the consequences. Before my dad was called in I was even proud of my work and showed my carving skills to all my friends. Unbelievable!


- Did you have to carry a lot in your school bag every day you went to school?

It was not that heavy in the beginning but then it got heavier and heavier each year. Luckily we could keep many of our books in our desk so we didn't have to carry them home. Usually I would just carry my homework related books back home.

- How did you go to school every day? Did you go by bike, bus or car?

My school was really close to my home, so I walked to school by myself or with some friends. My parents never needed to send me to the school. I was always very independent and trusted by my parents.

- These days scenes of hundreds of parents waiting at the gates is very common. Was this similar back then as well?

Yes, of course. For those kids who don’t live nearby, their parents would definitely be there waiting for them to get them home. Mostly by bike because there weren't enough buses by then and very few people could afford a car.

Beijing Youth


Parents and grandparents eagerly wait for their little ones

Class is off!!!

"Year 2 Class 5 coming through!"

Kids on the street

"There is my kid, in the yellow hat."

Kids in the Hutong

Suitcases and backpacks being dragged home through the hutongs

- Did you have school lunches or did you bring our own lunch?

I went home for lunch every day as I lived close by. However, we also had places near the school called “Xiao Fan Zhuo” (little lunch table) offering lunch to students who can’t go home. They make you freshly cooked food, so it’s much better than bringing your own lunch to school. Back then we didn't have microwaves or other equipment to warm up the lunch boxes at our school so the Xiao Fan Zhuo was quite popular.

- After all this talk about school, what did you do for fun after school was over?

Everyday after school we had to finish our homework first and then we can either go out to play with friends or watch some TV at home. I usually went out to play “rubber band skipping”(跳皮筋) or “throwing beanbags”(丢沙包) with my friends while my mum prepared dinner.

Kids on the street

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