Postcard from... Beijing


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The Independent Online

Beijing is quiet this week, as people take three days off to mark Dragon Boat Festival, and the weather finally cleared on Monday after days of a soupy rain-and-smog combination.

According to research released this week, Beijing, Shanghai and the eastern province of Jiangsu were the three happiest places in China last year.

Students from Nankai University, in Tianjin, evaluated China’s 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in an effort to “investigate the relationship between residents’ happiness and the fiscal expenditure in livelihood”, the China Daily reports. “Public service is crucial for people’s happiness and this research will help governments adjust and optimise the distribution of their fiscal expenditures,” droned Yang Ming, a member of the research team.

One thing that is clearly making people in all of those three places miserable is chronically foul air pollution. But people are trying to cheer up. China’s version of eBay, Taobao, is seeing major demand for fashion face-masks to keep pollution at bay, the South China Morning Post reports. In scenes reminiscent of the Sars epidemic 10 years ago, Beijing residents are taking to customised face-masks.

Young people prefer colourful masks, retailers say, with panda designs, Burberry-style plaid and other designs a big hit. Men like black, functional-looking masks.

With masks becoming so popular, it’s hard to know how the researchers will be able to tell how happy Beijingers are in next year’s survey.