6 Traditional Chinese Hobbies That Will Benefit Your Life in China

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6 Traditional Chinese Hobbies That Will Benefit Your Life in China

If you’ve ever found yourself saying “I’m bored” in China, you’re probably not doing China right. Forget Netflix, the gym, and surfing the web; there are countless traditional ways to bring mental and physical well-being, as well as cultural understanding, into your daily life. Here are six traditional Chinese hobbies that will benefit your life in China.

1. Calligraphy – Turn characters into art

Even though most people in China write Chinese characters on their phones or computers these days, the art of calligraphy is still alive and well, especially among the older generation. Typically, calligraphers use a broad tipped brush and ink (or a huge brush and puddle water if you’ve ever seen the old guys in parks) to carefully write Chinese characters with style and flare. Officially, the art of calligraphy is defined as “giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner.”

Although calligraphy itself isn’t a super applicable skill, the process and the outcome both have their uses. The time spent learning about the different characters, the meditative nature of writing out each individual stroke, the benefit to your language skills, and the community of Chinese calligraphers you’ll meet will all be beneficial to your life in China.

Person trying calligraphy for chinese hobbies

2. Guqin – Way cooler than Wonderwall on a guitar

The guqin, or Chinese zither, is a Chinese plucked string instrument with more than 2,500 years of history. Although it was once the most popular instrument in China, these days, especially with people’s busy schedules, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who plays it.

Just like with any instrument, you’ll find learning to play the guzheng is both stimulating for the brain and good for your dexterity. Most importantly, however, you’ll amaze Chinese people if you can play even the simplest of songs. It might not be an easy instrument to jam around a campfire with, but the fact that you were interested in learning a traditional instrument will speak volumes in Chinese people’s minds.

2 students trying out Chinese hobbies

3. Tai Chi – Calm the mind and center the body

Ever seen those movie scenes of someone standing on a cliff moving slowly in front of the rising sun? That’s Tai Chi. Some people define it as a martial art, but I wouldn’t recommend breaking it out in a bar fight. It is, however, very useful in promoting blood circulation and serves as a great form of meditation.

The concept of Tai Chi represents the fusion of yin and yang into a single ‘ultimate’. The basic idea is that it allows your mind to focus solely on the movements and forms, providing a state of mental calm and clarity – which can be highly beneficial when dealing with the stress of life in China.

Tai Chi is a truly versatile hobby, as you can do it by yourself or join a class/club and meet likeminded people while you’re at it. Whether you enjoy solitude or group participation, Tai Chi ultimately offers you a fitness routine and some mental peace in a country that’s perpetually moving.

4. Tea ceremony – Caffeinate with grace

This might sound as one of the oddest Chinese hobbies from the list because I‘ve never met a foreigner who’s into tea ceremonies, but Chinese people seem to love them, so why not give it a try? At a very basic level, tea ceremonies are a formalized way of making tea through a process that has been refined over centuries to yield the best taste. The activity involves both the ceremonial preparation, presentation, and drinking of tea.

Similar to Tai Chi, tea ceremonies involve many different ‘moves’, and learning to do them correctly and in a specific order is said to be relaxing for the mind. The other cool aspect of tea ceremonies are the unique places you can enjoy them. There are exceptionally beautiful and relaxing teahouses in cities all over China, and those with an interest will easily find a ready community to slurp with.

Person pouring Chinese tea

5. Kung Fu – “Be water, my friend”

If Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan didn’t make you think Kung Fu is awesome, then I’m not sure who can. We’ve seen in its movies, maybe watched a competition on TV, and likely practiced a few moves at home when no-one was looking. Despite residing in the birthplace of Kung Fu, however, China expats rarely actually consider taking it up. Here’s why you should.

Learning a martial art, in general, is extremely beneficial both physically and mentally. It helps you form a routine, there’s always more to learn and improve on, it’s a great way to stay physically fit and deal stress or anger, and it may just get you out of a scrape one day. Kung Fu is just one form of Chinese martial arts, so if that isn’t your thing, try one of dozens of other styles instead.

6. Ping Pong / Badminton – The social sports

Heard of ping pong diplomacy? Maybe it’s time you built some bridges yourself. Although not usually considered the most aggressive of sports, ping pong and badminton can get pretty fast and competitive when the players know what they’re doing. And the players know what they’re doing in China.

These two sports are well worth taking up in China because you can play them year-round, inside or outside, they offer an excellent opportunity to meet people, and they are universally practiced and loved. And while racket sports are all good for your health, both ping pong and badminton are considered ‘skill sports’, so there’s always room for improvement.

There are tons of things to do in China, but the six Chinese hobbies listed above are sure to improve your mental, physical, or social health when also giving you a window into Chinese culture. Have you picked up any weird and wonderful Chinese hobbies in China? Let us know in the comments below!

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