Changing China

Giant on the move

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Temple of Heaven

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China's elderly find life and joy in exercise

By Grace Liang and Lucy Hornby

BEIJING - Gao Mingyuan has found joy at age 66.

Joy, in his case, consists of bending himself double and hooking his legs around a pole that runs behind his shoulders, in a Chinese meditative martial arts tradition.

Gao is one of many Chinese seniors, freed from the rigors of work and raising children, who are turning to martial arts such as tai chi, bopping to trendy beats or singing patriotic songs as they seek health and friends in parks across the country.

"We forget all our troubles when we practice," he said as he contorted himself at the Temple of Heaven, where seniors exercise beneath the gnarled trees at dawn.

China has over 140 million people over the age of 60. Many lost out on an education, thanks to the Cultural Revolution, and have retired early as state-owned factories went bust or to help care for grandchildren.

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