YINCHUAN, China – No one could have expected that slow-moving qigong would become ultra-trendy among young people in China.
In the past couple of years, video clips of young Chinese doing traditional fitness qigong have flooded video-sharing websites. Among these many clips, an instructional video for baduanjin, a form of fitness qigong, has been played more than 10 million times and received more than 6,000 comments on Bilibili, a video-sharing platform targeting young people.
“I have been doing baduanjin for about four months, which helps me sleep well and get stronger. I owe big thanks to baduanjin since it gives me a much healthier lifestyle,” a young netizen said in the comments section under the video.
Compared with more physically demanding activities such as ball games, swimming or gym workouts, forms of traditional fitness qigong like taiji or baduanjin are slow and usually accompanied by soothing music, so they used to be considered as activities for the elderly.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, many young people came to realise the charm of traditional Chinese qigong, which helped relieve the neck and back pain they had after working long hours at home. They also found that the exercises did not require much effort, time and space.
“Compared with other sports, baduanjin needs less space and no tools, is less energy-consuming and is easy to learn. So it has become a new favourite for young people,” said Vice-Professor Gao Tao of the School of Physical Education at Ningxia University, in north-west China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Ms Sun Yuxuan, a student of Prof Gao’s who is majoring in martial arts, has also noticed the rising popularity of baduanjin.
The 21-year-old has been teaching baduanjin to other students in the university’s martial arts association for about three years. The group started with 20 members in 2019 and has 45 members now.
“Every member in the group is enthusiastic. I didn’t expect the ‘elders’ exercise’ would attract so many young people. I guess that’s because they receive real benefits from the sport,” Ms Sun said.
Since 2022, after some students were infected by Covid-19, the school has made qigong exercise an optional course to help students recover from illness.
“All the classes are full, and one can see the students are really serious about learning the sport,” said Prof Gao.
He said fitness qigong embodies the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy such as Taoism, so it can be beneficial for both physical and mental health.
Ms Jiang Xi, a fashion designer working in Shanghai, said: “Living in a metropolis alone makes me feel anxious. When I do baduanjin, all my attention is focused on my body and soul, and the slow movements gradually help me relax physically and mentally. Then I get respite from a day’s hard work.”
She began to share video clips of herself doing baduanjin on social media in 2022, and within five months, she gained more than 10,000 followers aged between 20 and 30.
Influenced by Ms Jiang, her elder brother Jiang Nan has also become a baduanjin blogger.