Elderly people here in China tend to catch a lot of weird looks from foreigners. For using the strange pulley-based exercise machines in the neighborhood park, for coming out at odd hours of the night to walk around backwards, and for showing up in massive groups to take over public spaces with their ubiquitous square-dancing. But we’re about to break a crucial story, and it’s a doozy.
It’s called Chan Wu — “a mix of tai chi and dancing.”
According to the Chan Wu-lovers in the video, they used to have an instructor to guide them in their practice, but now they just meet up and do it on their own. The result is this bizarrely freeform, slow-mo yoga groove that you lowkey kind of want to try.
Peep the man in gray get down with his bad self at 0:13. Check out that textbook crane stance from green lady at 0:39. And shout out to that stroller pilot, who gazes into the face of death with nothing more than a cold steely resolve before managing to push his way through the maelstrom.
It looks kinda silly, but really it makes sense. Chan Wu hits all the key points elderly Chinese folk love — slow moving, not overly-exertive, and communal. Exercise has been a group activity since the beginnings of the modern Chinese state, and kids today still participate in school-wide aerobic warm-up routines. Old people are no different, which explains their love for early morning tai chi by the subway, and late night guanchang wu (aerobic square-dancing) by the local KFC.
But we can’t really knock the grandmas and grandpas. In traditional Chinese medicine, one thing to always avoid is stagnation. Blood, qi, and the breath can all be affected by this idea of stagnation, where your body’s functions get blocked up, and things aren’t flowing smoothly. All they’re trying to do is get their blood circulating, and get their body working in a nice state of homeostasis. Sure it looks weird, but when you consider the health problems facing old and young Americans caused by our sedentary lifestyles, maybe we could learn to swallow our chuckles and take a page out of their book. We’ll leave you with an outdated 80’s pop reference: everybody, Chan Wu tonight.
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