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Freeing the Mind through the Body: Women's Thoughts on Physical Education in Late Qing and Early Republican China

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Physical education (tiyu/ticao) was an important topic in China at the turn of the nineteenth century. Healthy citizens were to provide the foundations of a healthy China, one that could find its rightful place among the strong nations of the world and no longer be considered the "sick man of Asia." Many texts dealt with the kind of physical education that was perceived as necessary, and the physique was an issue in both educational regulations, school curricula and general reform demands. However, as elsewhere in the world, there was a clear distinction made between what was felt appropriate and necessary for men and women. Moreover, as the present article shows, there was also a clear gender line in the manner in which physical training and culture were functionalized by individual writers. By highlighting some of the different approaches to and interpretations of the concept of tiyu/ticao, the present text seeks to demonstrate how it could be used to maintain the status quo by simply remolding the subordinate female role but also to seek a real autonomous realm for female development.

Affiliations: 1: University of Copenhagen


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