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Video: Who is the man playing a string instrument in Garden City Park?

... and why is he performing in the cold?
Mr. Xue practicing the erhu on his usual bench.

Nothing is better than a walk in the park with fresh air, chirping birds — and background music?

Those who’ve been to Garden City Park this past winter have probably wondered what the soothing string music was and where it was coming from.

But if they walked towards the off-leash dog park, stopping just before Henry Anderson elementary, they would find Mr. Xue, who has been playing the erhu (like a small violin) in tandem with bird songs.

The Richmond News caught up with Xue recently at his usual spot on a bench, where he told how he began practicing the traditional Chinese string instrument in the park last September.

“We live in a townhouse, so I might disturb the neighbours. Practicing here, on the other hand, won’t disturb anyone,” he said.

Xue said he first got to play the erhu when he started elementary school, but had to put it on hold for more than 40 years while trying to make a living.

“I worked and didn’t have time to practice… I had to work to be able to eat,” he said.

Now that he’s retired and in his 60s, there’s no better time to pick up the hobby again and, for the last six months or so, he started playing again and has been practicing four hours per day at the park — weather permitting.

And enduring the cold is also part of the practice.

“The colder it gets, the more you must persevere. Warm up your hands by blowing on them and keep going,” said Xue.

“The more you practice, the more agile your fingers will get.”

Xue hopes that more people will be interested in traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu, just as how Western classical instruments such as the piano and violin are popular back home.

And it seems that showing is always better than telling, as many community members often gather to listen to Xue perform. 

“They would stand on the side and watch me practice. And when I take breaks, they would ask me about the instrument.”

Although Xue only speaks limited English, it never stops him from sharing the beauty of his favourite instrument.

“(People) would say, ‘What is this instrument? It sounds great!’ And I would tell them, ‘This is the erhu from China,’” he said.

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