Chinese hooked on making friends in a new city -- but only for a day

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The Independent Online

Li Xu is like many of his 20-something Chinese compatriots. He has a good job, money to spend and sometimes he has spare time on his hands. But not a lot.

And that's how the Liuzhou-based banker came up with the idea of "shanwan'' - or "flash play'' - a practice which is taking China by storm.

Through the nation's massively popular networking websites, young Chinese can meet up with a complete stranger, in a strange town, spend one day together - and then go their separate ways.

The concept is based on the "flash mob'' phenomenon, in which groups of people would meet in a public space, perform a designated act, and then disperse.

And since starting his first flash-play group on the douban.com wesbite last year, Li and others have opened links on social networking websites such as bbs.oyesgo.com and zhidao.baidu.com and on the QQ instant messaging service, which has an estimated 300 million users nationwide.

The rules of the game are simple.

The meeting has to only last for one day, it is preferred that you both use an airplane to get to the destination (normally flying after work on Friday, hooking up with the stranger on Saturday, and returning home on Sunday), and you have to choose a destination that is unfamiliar to you both.

Li says his first flash play experience was with a young woman from Shantou - in the southern Guangdong province - and that they met last year in Guangzhou.

They visited a museum in the morning, enjoyed dim sum for lunch, went to a park in the afternoon - and then went their separate ways.

The motto of Li's group is "To meet a stranger, in a strange city for coffee.'' And he says the limited time people of his generation have to relax means they are trying to cram everything into short periods of time.

"Because of my high-pressure work, I use weekends to adjust my life,'' Li told the China Daily newspaper. "The fun of a trip will be ultimately realized when you get to know a strange city and strangers.''

Others seem to agree. Tang Yao, a 23-year-old clerk in Beijing, met up with a stranger for a day in Tianjin and was pleased with the results.

"I have a lot of pressure at work and the occasional short trip to another city refreshes me,'' she said. "Life should be like this.''

MS

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