Midday siesta

Siesta

This photo was taken last April behind the Huguang Guild Hall in Chongqing. Huguang Guild Hall is located in Chaotianmen, an old neighbourhood at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers, which used to be the landing place for boats travelling on both rivers. Now this neighbourhood awaits its demolition. The guild hall, built during the reign of Qianlong, will remain standing while witnessing the high-speed modernization of the neighbourhood. The photo was taken just after lunch, the time of the siesta, a sacred custom in China.

The Chinese treasure the siesta, and devote at least half an hour a day for resting after lunch no matter where they are or what they are doing: white-collars take their pillows to their office and have no qualms falling asleep at desks; university students vanish as they go to their dorms to take a nap just after lunch and before afternoon classes resume. The siesta is regarded as a healthy activity according to Chinese medicine. This is an interesting philosophy when contrasted with the West, where it has almost become a synonym of laziness. Ever since I was a kid, whenever I went abroad, foreigners would tell me about the Spanish “easy” approach to work, something that was apparently related to our devotion to the siesta. In Spain, people have grown increasingly polarized about this topic, and most office workers said adiós to siesta a long time ago. The Chinese, on the contrary, seem to have got away with keeping it, and their reputation as tough workers remains intact despite adhering to this tradition. Also, they all seem to agree on the benefits of a good siesta.

Looking at this lady resting at the entrance of the temple enjoying the coolness provided by the stone walls, one feels inspired to make the best use of the idle afternoons of this summer interlude.


Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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