What are China's young people doing during coronavirus quarantine?

From online cooking lessons to makeshift home studios, China's creative scene explains how they're staying busy at home.

by Amber Akilla
|
05 March 2020, 4:04am

While the world continues to scramble with the coronavirus crisis, people in China have been dealing with its fallout for months now. Ever since the breakout, key cities across the country have been in a state of quarantine with movements and gatherings restricted, businesses closed and many companies requiring employees to work from home.

Across China there are millions of people who are not sick but have had their plans interrupted by state and self-imposed quarantines. One particularly sensitive industry is the creative scene, where people mostly work independently or on a project-by-project basis. Now, with even less structure than usual, how exactly are people spending their time? Here, we speak with a number of China-based creatives about how they’ve been coping with the crisis and passing the hours.

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Lucy Kwok aka Warmchainss, DJ and promoter, Shenzhen

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
The first stage was when I was in Hong Kong and suspected that I was infected, so there was no agenda. In the second stage when I got back to Shenzhen, I went to an AirBnB for the sake of my family and stayed away for eight days, which was so boring that I didn't even want to watch TV and do stuff. I slept late and got up late, and I could only cook all the instant noodles I bought downstairs on the first day. Then I drank alone sometimes and sang karaoke from an app with myself. I would read a book and try to think of something positive, to stop myself from going crazy. The third stage was after half-a-month of isolation, I finally returned home, cooked with my family and got my laptop back. I got up at around 9–10am every day, watched movies, had breakfast and started to make songs. In the afternoon, I rode to the park to enjoy the sunshine when no one was there. I think it’s been really important for me to get a dose of dopamine and vitamin D, that has helped my mental health a lot.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
I just finished a sort of mini China tour before going to Hong Kong for my vacation. I was going to a different club almost every weekend so my mental and physical health were in a state of overdraft. The outbreak made me melancholic but I was also happy to have had an opportunity to recover. This epidemic has allowed me and many people to understand a Chinese word, “cherish" (珍惜 zhēnxī), cherish life as a present and in the present.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
Go to my new job ASAP [laughs].

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ENKAKO, photographer, Shanghai

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
Basically, the first half of the year's work and travel plans have all been cancelled.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
Almost every three days, I will have a conference call with my co-workers. Although there is no scheduled photo or video shoots, we brainstorm ideas and try to come up with plans for the future. Every day, I study and learn cooking. Every week, I invite my friends to come over and taste the dishes I’ve learnt to cook.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
Now I'm learning how to use my kitchen correctly [laughs]. After eating takeaway and delivery for several years, I've never seriously explored cooking for myself as part of my lifestyle, until now. It’s actually not as troublesome or inconvenient as I used to think. Even after the epidemic passes I will continue cooking.

Now you can make good use of this time to learn the skills you’ve always wanted to learn. In, this way you will be brand-new after the end of the epidemic and you can have a better life. People who shout that they are bored at home everyday will never be interesting. Try and get along with yourself, get along with loneliness, and you will become stronger.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
I actually enjoy working and look forward to being really busy! For me, entertainment and parties aren’t as important at the moment — when money is only going out of my wallet and not coming in.

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Ning, producer and model, Shanghai

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
I wasn’t planning to visit my parents during Chinese New Year since I visited them at the beginning of January. I was looking forward to enjoying the peace and quiet in Shanghai as most people leave the city to go back to their hometowns. Now it’s too quiet. All my jobs in January and February have been cancelled, and so far I don’t have any projects coming up.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
Everyday has been the same: wake up, breakfast, face massage, paint, cook and clean, paint, sometimes go to the supermarket, workout at home, dinner, watch TV while doing body massage, sleep.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
I look so much better without eating out, since I use less oil & salt to cook and mostly just boil and steam my food. I’ve been reading about psychology and let go a lot of desires, fears and concerns that stop me from being me. I’ve been trying to finish a drawing of my crush, but it’s never good enough. I made a statue of my penis, it’s been fun to embrace my sexuality and my kinks. And I created virtual characters of my best friend and my crush on Sims so we can hang out and have a life, and I need lots of money to have a good life on Sims.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
When we are allowed to go out, I want Mexican food. When it’s finally over, I need to have amazing sex.

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Victoria Jin, art director, Shenzen

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
It has affected my life immensely: this period of isolation and intense caution has put a lot of things into perspective.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
I worked from home up until a week ago. Now that we’re back to the office, I wear a mask for 10 hours a day. Needless to say, it’s a suffocating experience. When I get home, I shower straight away, wash all my clothes immediately, and then begin dinner. I haven’t cooked so much since 2016. After dinner I’ve been watching ‘Crash Landing into You’ while drawing or making collages.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
In the past few weeks I’ve realised the transformative powers of Youtube to turn anyone into a Masterchef. I’ve noticed that the bravest are those who embrace humour in a state of official uncertainty.

I’ve also been severely disappointed. I realised that the world has not changed since I grew up. Waking up everyday, not knowing if some kid was going to call me out as a 'Chinese Ching Chang Chong' on the Strassenbahn that morning [Victoria grew up in Vienna]. That kind of fear of discrimination is not something I would have expected of our world 20 years later. And it breaks my heart that people are experiencing that outside of China.

What was the first thing you did when your quarantine period was over?
I went straight back to work. Life goes on.

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Kristen Ng aka Kaishandao, musician, promoter and booker, Chengdu

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
The live music scene is at a complete standstill. Venues have been closed since Lunar New Year and events have been postponed or cancelled across the country. It’s uncertain when things will start moving again, so a lot of plans are hanging in the balance right now.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
It takes a lot of self-discipline to maintain any kind of normal routine as there’s nowhere to go and nowhere to be. My body clock is totally out of whack from being indoors all the time — somedays I’m still up at 5am tinkering with arrangements in Ableton and sleeping super late. Other days I’m down at the market buying vegetables at midday. It’s a real time warp.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
I oscillate between actively working on projects and being an absolute sloth. I’ve been learning about recording hardware to DAW and developing a workflow that mirrors my live set. My cooking has improved a lot and I’ve become kind of obsessed with this cooking channel. I’m reading a lot of fiction, I just read Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam and have just started The Plague by Albert Camus, rather apt, considering.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
Eat hot pot and go dancing.

Anything else you want to add?
Sending strength to Wuhan and all the medical workers in the struggle.

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Cheyuan, designer and stylist, Shanghai

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
A lot of the shoots I had scheduled with models for my brand and other projects have been postponed or cancelled. There are still other projects planned for 2020 so I’m focusing on brand planning and design.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
I had a Spring/Summer release planned that might have to be pushed back to Autumn/Winter. I communicate with the manufacturer online everyday to understand the local start-up time and adjust the proofing. In order to catch up to the season, adapting to the circumstances is most important at present.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
I held my brand’s first pop-up store event in Taipei. I’ve been learning a lot about the connection and distribution of brand channels. I’ve also been trying to keep fit in between work and rest.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
Shoot new photos and videos. Catching up with design and factory shipments for the next quarter. Finding new inspiration and arranging tours

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Shiyi Xiang, music producer, Wuhan and Chengdu

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
I left Wuhan the day before the lockdown and intended to spend Spring Festival with my parents in Chengdu for a week, as it’s not convenient to work on music at my parents’ home. I was monitored very closely by those around me for the first two weeks in Chengdu after coming from Wuhan.

How have you been spending the quarantine period?
When I first got back, my everyday was constantly reading the news. It’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in the news like that. I’ve started to make some music at the dining table and I’ve been watching TV series. Recently I’ve been doing live streaming on different platforms. I’ve found it’s important to keep myself from getting too emotional and staying busy. It's also been a good chance to spend time with my family.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
I want to go back to Wuhan immediately and get my cat from my friend’s place, I’m sure he won’t even know who I am by then.

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Chengxi Tian, creative consultant, Shanghai

How has the coronavirus affected your life and work?
The coronavirus actually brought the family closer together. The whole family had dinner at my grandparents’ every day for a whole week. They didn’t mind the hassle of long drives because it gave them a reason to get out of the house. My professional work on the other hand is taking a big hit. As a freelancer, I am not guaranteed stability so it was disappointing to hear two of my projects were put on hold.

What have you learnt from having all this unexpected time on your hands?
It’s been eye opening seeing the differences in media messaging between the East and the West. It’s so important to gather information from various sources and to educate yourself on what the facts are before forming an opinion. Living in China during Coronavirus has helped me see and feel the strength of a collectivist culture. Although we are not obligated to self-quarantine in Shanghai, everyone is making small sacrifices to help to end this difficult time faster together. On a personal growth level, I’ve discovered what it really means to slow down and be present. Living in such a fast paced city often distracts me from focusing on my mental health.

What will be the first thing you do when your quarantine period is over?
I want to see my friends, hug them, and tell them how thankful I am to have them.

Tagged:
china
Chengdu
Shanghai
Coronavirus
quarantine
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