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Photo of the day: Chairman Mao’s 4 Minute Workout (Video)

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Our photo theme this week is “Get Physical” — physical education and culture that spans dynasties. Kung fu, qigong, elderly square dancing, and everything in between.

We teased it in our post yesterday, but here it is in all its unbridled glory. Get ripped, get shredded, get jacked — because this is Mao Zedong’s ultimate four minute workout.

The “four minute physical fitness plan” was conceived as a way to get the country into unified, fighting shape as Mao led the charge from a collapsing dynasty to the modern era. We’ll let the party introduce it themselves:

The great leader Chairman Mao teaches us

Promote physical fitness exercises, and improve people’s physical condition

We must always be ready to protect our country

Obviously things were far from peachy during those years, but don’t forget that the whole concept of physical education was pretty new even in the US — for China, this routine was actually way ahead of its time.

In 1973, the kind and benevolent Australian educator Max Howell brought the routine to the English speaking world with a short picture book and accompanying vinyl record, and it’s been used sporadically by theatre groups and summer camps ever since. In today’s world of instant, digital gratification, photo scans and the vinyl are available together on Youtube as a kind of bootleg Communist P90X. Enjoy your newly-achieved peak physical condition.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip-hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers.

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