The Chinese Entropy

The concept of Yin and Yang permeates the fabric of Chinese society. Its meaning is lost in the mists of time and lives constantly in the minds of these people.

The philosophy of Yin and Yang defines a balance between opposites. Good and evil, darkness and light, female and male, night and day. They are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent; one cannot exist without its exact opposite half.

It has been a few months I have been  thinking about this difficult concept that I want to haul into the daily life I’m immersed in. Shanghai is my reference sample. And it’s here where, in following with Chinese philosophy, I realized that the concept of order must coexist with its exact opposite: disorder.

I want to devote this post to what is happening on the streets of this metropolis.

Walking on the Shanghainese streets, biking on the dedicated lanes for cyclists and bikers, and being carried by public transportation, allows me to understand how chaos predominates this society where the rule is the non-rule.

It’s absolutely not a surprise (at least for those who live here) to suddenly find a car a few centimeters from your leg that from the opposite side “cut” unpredictably the generic western rule of “pedestrian right of way,” demanding its own right of transit, even if it is coming from the opposite side of the road. Trying to amble down a sidewalks turns into a complicated gymkhana between scooters and bicycles claiming their rights of existence. And you must be careful not to let them take any free road because they won’t give you their room. Thinking of crossing the street believing that respecting the traffic light colors is an objectively good rule becomes a dangerous decision, because it’s not the color that gives or negates the right to pass, but it is simply the action itself – crossing, that is necessary. You just need to do it.


Hence the traffic light becomes a simple suggestion given by a dodgy person, the stop sign corresponds to the anagram of another word and the markings between lanes are just the necessary separation between two side walks dozens of meters apart.

But in all of this, where is the order? The order becomes the balance of this disorder.

Those who live in Shanghai understand that if you don’t adjust to the disorder you will never be able to reach your destination safely.

Watching with a critical eye this illusory confusion I realized that, in the end, it works.

The definition of order does not change, but modifies itself because it’s in the perfect organization of this disorder that the machinery doesn’t jam.

People, bicycles, buses and cars are masterfully able to avoid each other and this entropic process turns into in a precise mechanism where every gear wedges into the other with admirable precision.

All the rules I have brought here with me must be put in a corner, hidden from sight and so I can adapt to the non-respect of the (western) rules, because only in this way it is possible to avoid crashing with the furious taxi heading to the airport at rush hour.

Overcoming the rules learned so far is a necessary evolution for Chinese survival.


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