physical fitness and sports clubs

physical fitness and sports clubs
The Mandarin Chinese word tiyu, commonly translated as physical culture, physical education or sports, was a Japanese invention of the mid to late nineteenth century. Western notions of physical fitness arrived in China via Japan, mainly in association with plans for developing national military strength, an association that continued into the PRC. It gained iconical status from a slogan penned by Chairman Mao in 1952: ‘Develop physical culture and sports, strengthen the people’s physiques’. The central government attempted to organize all fitness activities through its various organs, such as schools, factories, neighbourhood associations and state-supported sports teams. Not until the reform era did the link between physical fitness and national military strength come into question.
In the late 1980s, the first fitness clubs appeared that offered access to any individual who paid an admission fee. Although they increased rapidly in large cities, they were too expensive for the vast majority of the populace. Until the late 1990s, the patrons of the upscale fitness clubs located in luxury hotels or multi-functional recreational clubs tended to be the nouveaux riches or state officials making dubious use of state funds.
The commercialization of physical fitness caused a shift away from the collective, militarized notion of tiyu towards an individual, recreational notion of ‘fitness’ (jianshen) pursued for personal health and enjoyment. The change in language was officially reflected in the 1995 Sports Law, which dropped the old ‘mass physical culture’ (qunzhong tiyu) for the new ‘fitness for all’ (quanmin jianshen).
Reekie, Shirley (1999). ‘Mass Fitness’. In James Riordan and Robin Jones (eds), Sport and Physical Education in China. New York: E. and F.N.Spon, 243–54.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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