The massed ranks of humanity that inhabit China's cities now number a staggering 622 million people. Venture on to the streets of Beijing at rush hour and it can feel like the vast majority of them are out and about at the same time.
It all goes a long way towards explaining the special place that Renmin (People's) Parks hold in the hearts of urban Chinese. These tranquil oases act as the lungs of China's increasingly polluted metropoli, but serve a more important function still, best viewed - and understood - at dawn. For it's as the sun comes up that these parks play host to thousands of locals practicing tai chi or meditating, and all trying to reconnect with their spirituality before facing another day surrounded by a sixth of the world's population.
Must visit: Tiantan Park, Beijing
If you only visit one park in China, make it Tiantan Park in Beijing - 273 hectares of greenery and home to palaces and the masterpiece that is the Temple of Heaven, one of the best Beijing attractions. The buildings are well worth visiting, but this is really all about the people watching. It's not uncommon to see sword wielding or Frisbee throwing pensioners, or real life tree-huggers completely oblivious to the perplexed stares of westerners. It all adds up to an interesting insight into the psyche of this truly fascinating people, and with their dominance of the 21st Century all but assured, that could stand us in the west in good stead.
Part of our new series 'Around the World in Travel Stories', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's Travel Stories (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.