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I sought to discover through Fu what a Chinese workingman does with his leisure time. I hoped to compare his life with that of an American worker with his bowling alleys, televised pro football, pinball machines and softball leagues. So I asked Fu what he was doing on vacation. He replied, "I take my leisurely hours walking at the lake, resting and reading Chairman Mao's works. I go to the park and practice my wu shu and I visit with friends here. I have taken a particular liking to wu shu, although I am very much an amateur at it. My level is not high at all. I do it for Chairman Mao and to increase production because we younger workers have to play an active part in production and we have the best opportunity to stay in good condition."
Fu then excused himself for a few moments to work out with his sword. In the warm noon sun he leaped, whirled, grunted, jabbed with his sword, slashed, stabbed, sliced the air gracefully. Then he returned to talk for a time. A layer of perspiration had collected on his face, and his girl friend gave him a kerchief to mop himself. Fu then said, "I do wu shu almost every day, although when I work the night shift I do not always have time or the will for it. I also play basketball and volleyball and do some swimming, but I am an amateur. I am not on any teams in my foundry. I watch television sometimes with others in my dormitory. I live in a barracks in a room with four other men. We have a radio which we listen to at times. I am paid 75 yuan [$37.50] a month. My girl friend also works in the foundry. We walk in the parks in Shanghai. It is in the parks there that I first learned wu shu."
Fu excused himself once more and returned to the sunny sidewalk, this time swinging his nine-jointed spike. He threw himself into an astonishingly strenuous exhibition, spinning and springing high off the ground, manipulating the menacing, macelike thing expertly, swinging it around his head like a lariat, feinting with it, whirling it, twisting both ends with his wrists. He was slightly breathless when he returned to our conversation and I asked him why wu shu?
Fu replied, "The major aim of my practice of wu shu is for the sake of the defense of the motherland and to promote production. But it is good for me, too. When I first was learning wu shu I found I was very tense in mind. But as I mastered it more and more I became very calm. I find a calm mind and a well-conditioned body are helpful to my part in advancing the socialist revolution."
I thanked Fu and offered him two tickets for the U.S.- China basketball game, which was to be played that night in the Hangchow Stadium. Fu's face lighted up and he said, "That is a pure treasure. I can tell you that for these games between your country and mine there is no stadium in China that would be too large for the people who wish to watch. Thank you, thank you." Then Fu cradled his sword in one arm, picked up his nine-jointed spike in the other hand and, with his small silent girl friend at his side, walked away over the hill.
Sport on Chinese television is a sometime thing, technically backward and nearly always an ordeal to watch—full of propaganda. No one we met in China owned his own TV set. Only one person even knew where sets could be purchased, and those were enormously technical assemble-it-yourself kits that cost $75 each. In order to watch TV, people are required to get together in some public place, a school, a commune meeting center or a factory political education room. There, as a rule, they bunch around, some perhaps 15 yards away from the 14-inch black and white set. Players look no bigger than crickets. Still, it is all they have, and the Chinese say they love it.
One sunny morning after the first U.S.- China basketball game in Peking, a contest that was televised all over China, Cooke and I were ushered through a commune residence for retired workers, a whitewashed set of tiny houses with 6-foot sunflowers sprouting all around. It was called Home of Respect for the Aged and the residents were a fairly spry old crowd, some happily playing Chinese chess in the sunshine, some doing bits of wu shu. One tiny old lady with wispy hair and a wrinkled smile performed a brief agile dance for us. I asked her if she and her friends had watched the game on TV the night before. She curtsied and said, "Oh, yes, of course. We gathered on the benches of the dining room. We sat in silence and respect for the great players from the beginning to the end. When it was over we stood up, all of us, and clapped and clapped. None of the players seemed able to hear us, however."
A locomotive was hooting and grinding in the switching yard across the street. The kids continued their swimming sprints in the aquamarine waters of the pool. This was the spare-time sports school for the Hung Kow district of Shanghai, impressively located at the 40,000-seat stadium, with facilities that were among the best we were to see in China. The spare-time school system in China is the spine of the athletic organization, and even though the physical plant here was outstanding, the function of the school was typical. The deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Committee said that the school had 450 students perfecting their skill at eight different sports with 50 coaches and part-time teachers available. The students were age nine to 16 and came to the school four or five afternoons a week for about three hours. Except for one session when they did "physical labor" (i.e., cleaning and fixing their facilities) they concentrated entirely on their own special sport.