The Social Context of Collective Physical Training among Chinese Elderly: An Anthropological Case Study in a Park in Beijing


  • Yeori Park Seoul National University



aging, China, health, old age, public dance


This study analyzes the social context in China where the elderly participate in collective physical training, a cultural activity specific to the country. For this study, senior citizens aged 60 or above who participated in collective physical training in a park in Beijing were observed for five months. Research results found that collective physical training enables formation of social networks providing mutual caring and support. On the other hand, the participants conform to the self-disciplined modern discourse to survive in the post-Mao society. They do collective physical training due to their social conditions, such as the poorly established welfare system for the aged, severance pay that is too low to cover medical expenses. Although the participants seem to autonomously choose collective physical training based on their own preferences, the context of Chinese society, including hidden government intentions, leads the elderly to participate in training activities.


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Harvard University Press.

Brownell, Susan. 1995. Training the body for China: Sports in the moral order of the People's Republic. University of Chicago Press.

Chen, Nancy N. 2003. Breathing spaces: Qigong, psychiatry, and healing in China. Columbia University Press.

Cohen, Lawrence. 1998. No aging in India: Alzheimer's, the bad family, and other modern things. University of California Press.

Farquhar, Judith, and Qicheng Zhang. 2012. Ten thousand things: Nurturing life in contemporary Beijing. MIT Press.

Foucault, Michel. 2007. Security, territory, population. Springer.

Goffman, Erving. 2009. Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Simon and Schuster.

Morris, Andrew D. 2004. Marrow of the nation: A history of sport and physical culture in republican china. Vol. 10. University of California Press.

Powell, Jason L. 2012. “China and the bio-medicalization of aging: Implications and possibilities.” In Aging in China, 11-22. Springer.

Stalp, Marybeth C, Rachel Williams, Annette Lynch, and M Elise

Radina. 2008. “Conspicuously consuming: The red hat society and midlife women's identity.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 38(2): 225-253.

Turner, Victor. 1995. The ritual process: Structure and anti-structure. Transaction Publishers.

Yan, Yunxiang. 2009. “The Good Samaritan's new trouble: A study of the changing moral landscape in contemporary China.” Social Anthropology 17 (1): 9-24.

Yang, Xiaohui. 2006. “Dusk without sunset: Actively aging in traditional chinese medicine.” University of Pittsburgh.

Zhang, Everett Yuehong. 2011. “Introduction: Governmentality in China.” In Governance of life in Chinese moral experience, edited by Everett Yuehong Zhang, Arthur Kleinman and Tu Weiming. Routledge.

Zhang, Hong. 2009. “The new realities of aging in contemporary China: Coping with the decline in family care.” In The Cultural context of aging: Worldwide perspectives, edited by Jay Sokolovsky. ABC-CLIO.

金, 欽昌. 1994. “实际出发积极发展我国群众性体育事业谈谈我国全民健身计划的实施.” 浙江体育科学16(6).

新, 佟. 2007. “我国的老龄化、性别和养老政策.” 华中科技大学学报.

哀, 丽. 2014.“前中小城市群众性健身舞蹈的现状与思考以湖南益阳市群众健身舞蹈现状调查为例.”黃河之聲4.

胡, 莎莎. 2014. “中國養老地產現狀及前景研究.” 城市住宅 58-60.

김, 병철. 2010. “개혁개방 전후 중국의 노인복지제도 비교: 양로보험제도를 중심으로.”국제보건복지정책동향 1.

이, 경아. 2006. “중국사회 가족구조의 변화와 현대적 적응.” 중국학연구33.

이, 응철. 2011. “상하이(上海) 화이트칼라 ‘바링허우(80後)’의 소비행위와 태도: 소비의 사회적 속성과 새로운 관계의 형성.” 한국문화인류학 44(2): 139-177.

“北京等四市试点以房养老: 保监会宣布7月1日正式启动,60周岁以上拥有房屋完全独立产权可申请.” 新京报. June 24.

杨, 羽.2015. “如何长命百岁?长寿老人的四字养生秘诀.” 新华网.April 22.

半, 月谈. 2009. “中国“独子养老”时代来临“421”家庭遇养老困境.” 新华网. November 25.

杨, 建蓉. 2014. ““421家庭”养老不能等.” 新疆都市报. October 29.

彭, 晓芸. “广场舞之争背后的代际冲突.” 南方日报(广州).May 27.