A small series of Xinhua propaganda photographs depicting the pervasive extent of physical fitness programs during the Cultural Revolution. These programs were aimed not only at improving the physical body, but were seen in union with moral and intellectual eduction (德育, 智育, 体育). Thus mandatory mass sport assumed a political (and often a militaristic) dimension which gave it a nation-building quality with a specific mandate to create a strong mind in a strong body (锻炼身体, 锻炼意志), the prerogatives for social order. Individual achievement of the athlete was subsumed by the masses' totality and the collective's revolutionary spirit - unlike today, with athletes like Yao Ming achieving superstar status.
Note that the photographs here are gender-neutral. In fact women perhaps played a larger role and were statistically speaking (looking at the medal count of the era) more successful in the construction of the physical body of modern China than men, being deemed better suited to harsh training regiments and repetitive exercises.
Recommended reading: Brownell, Susan (1995): Training the Body for China - Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic; U of Chicago Press.
Scanned on the Epson 4990, individually processed in Photoshop.
Thomas H. Hahn
© Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images