Thanks to China's booming economy, more Chinese can afford gourmet tea these days, and Ye Huabin says his business is on the rise. Once a tea farmer in Fujian province, Ye now runs two tea shops in Beijing.
The group of eight assembles every Sunday morning, risking arrest.
On a Sunday morning in June, they filed into a tiny, windowless underground apartment in Beijing to attend a Christian church service in the second little room to the left of the front door. Pastor He Xian spent the next two hours leading his small flock in hymns and delivering a sermon as congregants sat attentively on plastic folding chairs about four feet away.
“You don’t need that,” Xian taxi driver Chang Xumin remarked sharply, as I reached for my passenger seatbelt. “It’s very safe, really.” He apparently took offense at the thought that I might need a seatbelt in his cab, but the prospect of riding beltless in Chinese traffic persuaded me to buckle up anyway. Chang clucked a few times and sped off, narrowly missing an old woman who was slowly crossing the street.
Huang Tonxi says the stroke he suffered 22 years ago left half his
body paralyzed. Today the 72-year-old moves almost like a ballet dancer
as he practices tai chi ball, a variation of the ancient Chinese form of self-defense, tai chi. Huang moves in circles practicing the routines he claims helped him regain mobility after his illness. His eyes, as in a trance, follow the ball that dances on the racquet. He sustains the movements for more than 15 minutes, at times slowing down only to execute yet another swirling circle.