Older women exercising

Taking the Field: Bringing Sports to Every Village

Village sports programs try to get all people in China exercising—with mixed results

The village auditorium in Hongxi, Zhejiang province, was packed for the fourth night in a row. While the athlete’s sneakers screeched against the waxed wooden floor, the audience, many of them elderly farmers, tracked the movement of the ball with knitted brows and mouths agape.

At intermissions, a group of middle-aged women in fluffy green dresses marched onto the court, dazzling the audience as they swirled in circles with purple fans raised in their hands. This was Hongxi’s own grassroots cheerleading team, the “Hot Mama Babies.” On that night of November 23, 2018, Hongxi beat Shanghai’s Fumin village with a score of 74 – 73, winning the 11th China Basketball Village Championship by a hair.

“Every time we play, our villagers always shout in unison, ‘Go, Hongxi Village! Go, Hongxi Village!’” Chen Liqin, the village’s party secretary, reminisces fondly as she talks to TWOC over the phone. Organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the China Basketball Village Championship is a series of competitions between village basketball teams from all over the country. It was the fifth time Hongxi hosted had the match. “Activities like this put the hearts of the whole village in the same place,” declares Chen.

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author Siyi Chu (褚司怡)

Siyi is the Culture Editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about arts, culture, and society, and is ever-curious about the minds, hearts, and souls inside all of these spheres. Before joining TWOC, she was a freelance writer with some additional work experience in independent filmmaking and the field of education.

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