Chinese Gymnastics Kids: Training with Tears, Sweat, & Dreams

A young Chinese girl training in gymnastics.

A young Chinese girl training in gymnastics.

From QQ:

Gymnastics Children

One movement repeated so many times, even hundreds of times. One set of movements practiced for five years. Every year, more than 30 children join the gymnastics team, but very few are able to stick with it. “Every year there are so many talented children who give up on training, which is so saddening,” says the coach. Photographed by Zhang Yuan. [click to enlarge]

Chinese children doing handstands for gymnastics training.

The little kids practice using their tender hands to stand upside-down. Coach Xia repeats over and over again the essential elements, correcting the kids’ posture one by one. “Those who do it well can come down earlier, otherwise they have to keep standing upside-down.”. Upside-down undershorts have become a characteristic sight in the gymnasium.

Little Chinese children undergoing gymnastics training.

Chain reaction: If one child utters a cry, it will prompt the entire group of children to cry, and the more they cry, the louder it gets. At this time Coach Xia will “tempt” them with snacks.

Chinese children hanging upside down on a bar, resting during gymnastics training.

Four lively “little bats” hanging there resting.

A little Chinese girl showing both of her hands covered with magnesium powder used to prevent slipping while undergoing gymnastics training.

“Look at my hands, this is called ‘magnesium powder’, which Coach Xia says can prevent slipping”, Man Ni says while raising up both of her hands.

Chinese children training their toes for toe point by walking laps on their toes.

In order to do toe point, the children must endure walking several laps with their toes bent under every day.

A Chinese girl screams in pain during muscle stretches as her toes curl up in a cramp.

Curled toes cramping, the pain of stretching muscles causes the child to cry loudly. Coach Xia says this is what a gymnast trainer must endure.

A 6-year-old Chinese girl and her mother during gymastics training.

Because 6-year-old Xuan Xuan comes from Gansu province, she can’t bear the hot humid climate of the south and has heat rashes all over her body that are both painful and itchy. Applying some floral water, the pain causes Xuan Xuan to cry out, as her mother hurries to help by blowing on her skin. Heartbroken over the suffering of her child, but wishing a bright future for her child even more, she can’t give up half way because of a moment’s weakness, especially when her child herself likes the sport and has talent. Xuan Xuan’s mother can only watch and bury her own hurt in her heart.

Little Chinese girls practicing the splits for gymnastics.

In her determined expression is also a kind of numbness, having become accustomed to training like this every day, as well as screaming from pain daily, persisting on.

Two Chinese children training to become gymnasts play shadow puppets during a break.

When break time comes, the children’s innate natures burst forth, playing games, running around chasing each other, where everything in a room with only exercise everything can be a toy, even a ray of sunlight. Two children compete to see whose eagle can fly higher.

A Chinese child practicing gymnastics.

After doing a set routine, one also has to repeat a movement many times, even hundreds of times. Just one routine needs five years of practice.

A Chinese child undergoing gymnastics training with her coach.

Pain is present every day, but the children persevere, for their own dreams of becoming champions.

Two Chinese boys in gymnastics training in China.

“Abs that one can brag about in front of their classmates are developed like this.” Boys don’t complain so much. Whatever the coach says to do, they do, and can complete their tasks very quickly.

Little boys in China undergoing gymnastics training.

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Boys are more mischievous, always liking to show off whenever they see the camera.

A Chinese boy doing a handstand during gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

A Chinese boy relaxing after gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

Several Chinese children playing around after gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

Three Chinese boys lying on a mat after gymnastics training.

Coach Xia says there aren’t many people learning gymnastics these days, that parents who don’t see achievements after one to two years of training will abandon it. “Every year there are many talented kids who give up training, which is really disappointing.”

A bright red "gold" Chinese character hangs on the wall as young children train to become gymnasts.

A giant “gold” character is hung on the wall, bright red and hot, always searing itself into the young hearts and minds of the children. “Children with this kind of dream and who can stick [with the training] are few and far between. Most parents will feel for their children, and end up burying a good seedling [wasting a child with good potential],” says Coach Xia regrettably. “A child who can successfully take this path, most should thank their parents for persevering.”

Young Chinese children training to become gymnasts.

Here, childhood is spent on balance beams, parallel bars and vaults, because in here lie their dreams. Three and a half year old Man Ni doesn’t know what this is all about, only aware that she likes walking on a balance beam, swinging on the uneven bars. Her childhood, just like that of other kids, belongs to sweat and tears.

Comments from QQ:

腾讯黑龙江省网友 含笑看蒼天:

Sports was created for the health and strength of humankind. Today, however, some sports have already become something that harms the body and heart of children. For gold medals, many athletes suffer from bone deformation, over exhaustion and severe illness. Is this the spirit of sports? Is this the meaning of sports for people? In sports, some small injuries are inevitable, but mankind should adamantly oppose those sports methods that harm the growth and development of children and harm the health and lives of people. Compared with a person’s health, what worth is a gold medal?

腾讯银川市网友 丫丫:

The children’s tears, sweat, those tender faces, the pain and the smiles, they all deeply break my heart. I really do want to go hug them. The reason Chinese gymnastics can be so strong, we have to thank these little kids, thank those “cruel” parents, and thank those trainers and coaches who quietly give their all. In comparison, should those sports or athletes that have the attention of more people pay respect to these children?

腾讯上海市网友 [email protected]:

The spirit of China’s competitive sports is way too twisted. Without any one knowing the reasons, competitive sports is raised to the national level, but the roots of competitive sports are ignored. The belief that the nation is strong as long as the civilians are strong has been abandoned. [The government] attempts to exhibit the model of a strong nation while having ignored the basic rule that the people have to be strong first. It’s not only about competitive sports, but also about the economic basis. In fact, the so-called “tighten our belts to catch up with Britain and surpass the US” policy has already made the nation lose its fundamental vitality. Many men with insight have slowed down and pondered, with the way of heaven diverging from the way of man, who is wrong? “Resenting heaven and blaming man” may not just be a derogatory saying after all!

腾讯石家庄市网友 随遇而安:

Success achieved truly through one’s sweat. Whether they succeed or not, they are worth respecting.

腾讯河北省网友 冬日阳光:

A little cruel. Though it is said “no pain, no gain”, I still think we should consider the children a bit.

腾讯北京市网友 晓风残月:

Too much of anything is as bad as too little. This is a phenomenon caused by greed. This does not accord with the principle of putting people first.

腾讯苏州市网友 wjY傲血男儿:

Those who only know how to coddle their children but don’t know how to teach children what is determination and perseverance, don’t talk out of your ass. It’s widely said that kids nowadays don’t know how to endure hardship, and isn’t it all because of how parents like you raised them? If you don’t understand, don’t talk.

腾讯网友 Me︵洃´ 冭誏:

Yes, it is very hard and tiring for the kids… choosing perseverance, success… I wish the best for this bunch of kids!

腾讯网友 air清风:

I recommend the promotion of Rhythmic Gymnastics, which can cultivate the kids’ sense of expression. Even if they don’t take the path of professional athletes, they can also pursue the modeling, dance, television, and artistic fields.

腾讯宁波市网友 loveolina:

I dare not imagine how many tears and how much sweat it takes to become successful [in gymnastics].

What do you think?

Written by Paul

Paul is an English teacher whose lupine exterior conceals the nature of a real human being. He lives in Chengdu

  • DRaY


    • DRaY

      It would be interesting to interview someone who has endured this training and see how they feel /felt about the experience. I know most western people will come in and call this cruel and whatever.
      It is really amazing what a little child is capable of , I once saw a show at some 5 star hotel in China. There was a family (mother father and 2 small daughters) performing. The 2 little girls must have been 5 and 7 and they were doing all of these amazing gymnastic moves, it was pretty bad ass… I just told the manager to put that show on earlier, because I really felt bad watching kids perform at midnight… Put the kids on at 10pm and lets see the sexy dancers after…. LoL… China is weird.

      • Taargus

        most rational people (aka westerners) are more sensitive to the psychological torture rather than the physical. of the tens of thousands of children subjected to this waste of one’s childhood for the sake of the nation, only a select handful will ever make it to the national level. even then, only one or two will go on to steroid aided olympic glory. the leftovers? sent down to trash bins with no worthwhile education. the physical pain is of little concern.

        • whichone

          Why is practicing gymnastics is a waste of one’s childhood if one does not become a national champion? How is it different from other sports say for example swimming? And do a lot of gymnasts use steroids?

          I’m afraid I don’t understand, but of course it could be that as non-European person (a.k.a. the irrational people) I am just too confused about…everything.

          • Tranxenne

            Maybe because these kids are only trained to become national champions. There is no regard for their young bodies’ health, just for performance. The first Chinese commenter (“Sports was created for the health…”) summed it up best in my opinion.

          • bomber

            Its definitely not a waste of time to participate in some kind of sport or physical activity. I think the point that was being made is that the Chinese approach to “National Glory” comes across a little bit ham-fisted. I swam for many years as a youth, for a while practicing both before and after school. It was funded exclusively by my family. And it did not come at the expense of getting an education and even participating in some other sports.

            I think that is the difference. In the USA at least, people feel pride in their gold medalists because it reassures them that they live in a society where people, using their own fortunes and initiative, can push themselves and their children to great heights. This is not to say that the government doesn’t offer higher-level athletes assistance in the form of money, trainers and facilities, but the path to get there is a personal one – a family one. Michael Phelps didn’t wake up every morning and get in the pool so that he could bring glory to America.

            I do not mean to criticize the Chinese people or their athletes. Clearly, getting to the top of your game takes years of dedication and practice. I think the difference is that when I see Michael Phelps with a bunch of Gold medals around his neck I think “Man, Michael Phelps is awesome. Good for him.” The emotional connection in the fact that he is American has nothing to do with “American Pride” – its more of a “I know where that guy is coming from, I can relate to him, his past experiences, and his success.” Whereas the emotional component for the Chinese people is “Look, Liu Xiang brought glory to the Chinese, now we have face and I can feel (collective / racial) pride for China.” Its a different approach, and like I said, the Chinese (and many other countries for that matter) take on the Olympic challenge in an inefficient and quite frankly barbaric manner.

          • Alan

            take on the Olympic challenge in an inefficient and quite frankly barbaric manner

            Barbaric is the key word here. Look at how animals are treated, a disdain for the poor, unethical doctors, fake drugs…quite heartless overall!

    • ZlsetrdX

      All this harsh training is unnecessary. The US wins gold medals in gymnastics and the training is obviously not as severe. I think this is more like the Chinese idea that no success is complete without enduring suffering first.

      • Rick in China

        I wouldn’t say the training isn’t “as severe”, I would say that children are encouraged to train harder, not forced to train harder, and if they have the self-drive to push themselves that hard they take it on and make themselves do everything they can rather than require it to be as seemingly ‘forced upon them’.

  • Cardaver

    Makes me think of “Memoirs of a Geisha”

    Hope none of them end up homeless like that other guy

  • 平凡人

    Does wining a gold medal really matters so much? Another “face” issue? What if they get hurt and become disabled in the process? Who will look after them when they grow up? What is the objective of having sports and competition like Olympics? I think they have forgotten the fundamental objectives of sports.

    • DRaY

      Sport teaches discipline. Olympics are for fun, and you get to show “The World” (Craig) that you are very good at something, Possibly even the best at something, better than anyone else in all recorded History…. Sounds pretty bad ass to me!!!
      The fundamental objective of sports is to WIN. oh sorry I was born almost 40 years ago.. The Fundamental Objective of sports now is to give every loser ass kid a trophy so they don’t feel bad about sucking. …. Haha …Maybe your kids will grow up to hide in the closet while their wife is being raped…. hahah…..

      • 平凡人

        I guess you must have been yearning for a victory or trophy all your life, my sympathy. Hope your kids grow up and break this “loser” spell cast on you or maybe they will carry on the legacy left behind by their dear old dad.

      • Misia

        “The fundamental objective of sports is to WIN”

        …and outside America there’s neither wheel nor electricity, just child-eating Commies, obscurity and sheer Evil.

        • moop

          yep, pretty much

      • whichone

        who is Craig?

      • David

        haha what a moron. 40 years didn’t teach you shit.

    • coala banana

      i think they know very well the fundamental objectives of sport, they just don’t care about it. What they have forgotten and what they like to ignore very much are the CONSEQUENCES of their own actions. They just don’t care, even they witness what happen to others, they will most likely do it anyway, cause they consider them smarter then the next one. Personal greed and the ignorance about the misfortune of the neighbor are much stronger then in western countries. While most of us westerners also doesn’t give a shit about others, we (at least most of us) still carry even a bit of social responsibility with us, for our surrounding and environment. While i wouldn’t feel comfortable living a luxury life when my neighbors struggle for life, I am ready to pay my share to the society to make life for everyone less miserable and to offer at least the same chances to each and every member of the society.

      China is too big and too many people which are just not ready (and probably will never be) for social understanding. While in other countries a few rotten apples can cause ignorance amongst the majority, in china the majority are rotten apples ready to explode at any given time, which makes it understandable that the rich isolate themselves from the poor more and more. You just can’t expect appreciation from a rotten apple in case you are willing do some good. As hard as it sounds, but after 7 years here, I personally think that this is the best they can get and as corrupt as their leaders are, its still the best way to govern them. The ordinary citizen is not angry cause his life is miserable, he/she is just angry cause he has no chance to get part of the cake and no opportunity to play in the corruption game.

      If you have a country full of selfish ignorant citizens, you will get selfish ignorant leaders as a result of your own ignorant simple minded weakness.

      While some of you guys care that the fundamental of objectives of the sport might be forgotten, I care less about that then the consequences and the collective acceptance of child abuse by selfish parents and party leaders. Either this children will be successful or not, fact is that they will anyway left behind, successful or not, and there are no millions to earn from gymnastics. Its poor peoples mentality at its best what you can see in the pictures. I very much count that any of this kids are from rich and good standing families, they are from parents which think about their own fake fame, not cause they have no other choice, its out of selfish and ignorant convenience.

      • DRaY

        @ Coala Banana
        1-“Personal greed and the ignorance about the misfortune of the neighbor are much stronger then in western countries.”
        Actually this quote is wrong, we just had a major financial crisis, which was all the result of greedy bankers and investors… It crippled the country if this inst the biggest example of greed then what the fuck is. And don’t let me get int0 King George the 2nd who also ruled America during this time who mislead the entire country with his lies. …. so your point is moot.

        2- “The ordinary citizen is not angry cause his life is miserable, he/she is just angry cause he has no chance to get part of the cake and no opportunity to play in the corruption game.”
        The people are angry because they don’t have enough mindless reality TV. American television programing was a huge social experiment. You can look it up . It is the reason we had Soap Operas during the day for stay at home moms and now Jerry Springer and mindless talk shows about losers, and Sports on the weekends for the Dads. China, needs to work on ways to distract the populace. Just as Rome had is Gladiator matches.. the people want to see something to make them feel better about their futile existence.

        3-“If you have a country full of selfish ignorant citizens, you will get selfish ignorant leaders as a result of your own ignorant simple minded weakness. ”
        I would think you are referring to the west. I mean how many people are injured on Black Friday sales in America just so they can have a new Flat Screen TV that they cannot afford? Not everyone loves their neighbor, we just play nice in public. Their are nice people in and Fucked up people in every country… I think the people in China for the most part are pretty nice, especially if you show them kindness first.

        Chinese aren’t the only ones that push their kids to do things that they don’t want to do… there are tons of kids in America and I’m sure in Europe as well who’s parents send them to Ballet, Soccer, Little League, Karate, Golf, Tennis… etc, just to get them out of the house, but some with hopes that their kid will be good at it and make some money… It the reason people pimp their kids out at baby beauty pageants and take them on acting auditions….. Please stop being a closet racist!! If a white person does it it must be right, if a Chinese or non white person does it, then it is wrong and terrible…. People are people…

        • bomber

          To be honest bud, you are picking at low hanging fruit here. Any generalization one makes about China can immediately and easily be refuted with counter-examples. It is an impossible place to quantify. That being said, I agree with the spirit and theme of Coala Banana’s post. Another problem is that your entire argument is a red-herring. This is the favored debate fallacy of Chinese interlocutors:

          party A states: Country X gives me this feeling and has problems 1, 2, and 3.

          Party B states: Country Y has examples of similar behavior, hence your argument is invalid.

          This does not work. Everyone sees through it and the for a culture so obsessed with face, I would encourage you to take argument seriously by understanding its rules and precepts, otherwise you LOSE face when you do this.

          Back to the original point: China’s problem is simple: Chinese culture. It has many redeeming qualities, but also a lot of bad ones (and YES, the same can be said for western culture, too, ok?) Chinese people need to step up and look their own preconceived notions in the face and start trying to decide which ones are good and which ones aren’t.

        • coala banana

          1. i was talking about ordinary citizens and not about bankers and brokers.

          2. who cares about senseless american tv shows and soap operas. In the 7 years i live and work with chinese I made the observation that their main anger comes from their own incapability. They are just pissed about the official cause THEY are not the official.

          Your points doesn’t make much sense my friend. How you can compare the success and money one can earn with playing soccer, golf and tennis in western countries, with gymnasts in china ?

          Fact is china and chinese will do ANYTHING necessary to succeed. Here you can be sure that you can get away with basically everything. In western countries (at least in most european countries) children are well protected and taken care of, in case parents do not. Of course, this doesn’t include the catholic church though….

          Who are you to call someone else a racist ? Try a simple self test first my friend…..would you like to be a soccer player/tennis player/golf player in europe/USA or one of the kids in the pictures ?

          Yeah, thought so !

        • moop

          greedy bankers didnt cause the crisis. the government created the situation and the environment. they created the moral hazards leading to the crisis. what is happening to these children is abuse. if this wasn’t for the glory of china, you’d probably feel the same way too. but you’re either a ccp apologist or a chicom turd, so reasoning with you won’t do any good

  • AnHonestObserver

    Why are they training topless? I would want my daughter to wear the proper uniform to train in.

    • Because they don’t know shame; are you trying to make them feel ashamed of their bodies?

      Anyways, they’ll never need to use a bra in their lives, and a shirt is just one more thing to wash. You have to start thinking like a champion.

      • AnHonestObserver

        What was I thinking? To them they are already over-dressed for the situation.

    • donscarletti

      If I had the abs of that boy reaching up to the pommel horse, I would only wear a shirt at job interviews and funerals, otherwise it would be a waste.

      • GodsHammer

        Roger that! I had a nice set of abs last summer…was busy this fall and ate pretty poorly. I want mine back WAHHH!!!!
        It’s amazing how nice abs make your life easier… ;)

  • dim mak


    I’d respect them more if they whipped their kids into hard academics. How many people become star gymnasts? How long does a gymnastic career last, 10 years tops? Does it make money compared to a university degree? I have no idea why people think this is admirable but if you try to be become a singer or entertainer, traditional parents chew you out.

  • eattot

    its too cruel for kids. i would not send my kid to do this then latter change into an idiot.

  • coala banana

    all for the “glory” of the country ? What is the target ? to make the ordinary foolish citizen proud in his own nationalistic ignorance ?

    However, i think about if such “natural selection” at such a young age is really necessary when the chances to succeed are really small, judging by the amount of competition. And even the ones which succeed, its still a questionable success, cause they will soon be left behind after they accomplished the desired results.

    And as a side note, what this should tell us about the competition from other countries, which with lesser effort can achieve similar results ? Guess with that amount of training they would surpass them easily. I would prefer the silver medal or bronze medal in exchange for part of my childhood, if that is the price me or my child have to pay. Success and to be number one is great, but people should put the price tag into careful consideration.

    Love this country somehow, but they lack imagination and own ideas big time. This copy mentality which is not just executed on products, but also on the former success of a super tiny small minority of other chinese, is kinda sick. Nothing against dreams, but when i would be a chinese and would see that 10s of millions of kids are send and put under pressure to learn to play piano, just cause LangLang had some success with it, knowing that so many share the very same “copy dream”, doesn’t that discredit MY dream? Or lets all go and buy Warren Buffets or Bill Gates book, cause they explain how they became super rich.

    I think this kind of simple minded shortcuts can just end up in a tragedy. Instead of developing your own mind in a healthy way, they all seem to choose the unhealthy shortcut to “success”, not knowing that the very few which made it, made it cause of the love and devotion to what they are doing, for the feeling of satisfaction when looking behind after the job is done. Money and status just comes as a not preventable byproduct.

    Anyway, in a country where people stomp over each other to buy salt and where its sold out in a couple of hours in every supermarket in the country, just cause a myth and the understanding that it can make them immune against radioactivity which might come from japan, it doesn’t surprise me at all when i see pics of children in their own underwear pushed by their parents and trainers towards a possible gold medal, not thinking about the harm which is done to the child and thinking about what comes afterwards.

  • Meh

    At this age I don’t think these children are dreaming to become champions. It’s most likely their parents dream for them.

  • Fman

    Meh…. it’s a form of child abuse IMHO

  • Rod

    The guy “[email protected]” had it right. Does training a 5 year old child in gymnastics give a nation pride? No I think it just makes it look all the more desperate and sad. Does winning The Olympics make you a great Nation? No.

    But I don’t know how it compares to Western training. Maybe the whole world is messed up.

    And why are they training in their underwear? You’d think they could get these kids some decent training clothes.

    • AnHonestObserver

      My sentiments exactly.

  • Foreign Devil

    More lost childhoods in China. . more regressed adults with “Micheal jackson” or “peter pan” complex. . desperately trying to reclaim their lost childhood. It’s not just gymnastics. . it’s the 24-7 soul destroying studying and rote learning as well.

  • Song of the Article

    Lament for a Toy Factory
    -Doctor Steel

    fcuk you
    keep it real!

  • Capt. WED


  • Capt. WED

    I feel pretty sad for these kids.

  • Jess

    I did gymnastics as a child (in Australia), and the training techniques were similarly “harsh.” The main difference was that none of the kids started that early — I think the absolute youngest was six or seven or so. Of course, there was also a large discrepancy between those who did it for fun with their friends, and those whose mothers pushed them into it. You could tell, because the “elite” gymnasts trained before school, and the hobby gymnasts trained after. But in any country, and in any sport, if you want to be an elite athlete, you have to be pushing yourself this hard. And these kids aren’t hobbyists. They’re training to be the best.

    If I had to go through this at such a young age, though, I don’t think I would have continued with gymnastics. The thing is, gymnastics is actually a nice sport to watch. And it’s something kids want to emulate. You don’t really have to force children into it. So, this seems a bit misguided to me.

    On the other hand, China produces some of the best specialist gymnasts in the world, so I guess I’m not in a position to criticise.

  • typingfromwork

    I wish the best for these kids, and hope their every success. It takes hard work and perseverence to climb to the top.

    Remember Zhan Ziyi? She was trained from a very small age to be a dancer. She says she cried frequently during training and was so eager to be able to do the splits that she trained even in her bunk at night. She was chosen for enrolement at a prestigious dance accademy at the age of 10 because at her interview she was able to kicked her leg above her head perfectly without any warmup. And the rest was apparently history- plus more blood, sweat, and tears.

    I can only imagine what pain these kids go through. I sympathise with them. And that’s why I hope on their every success.

    • GodsHammer

      I hear that similar contortions were performed along the way to stardom at various “interviews”.

  • Stinky

    Take thousands of children from poor families with few options and train them relentlessly for years on end. Casually discard (i.e., send them back to the countryside or third rate town they were found in) the ones who burn out, break down, or otherwise disappoint. Is it any wonder that China does so well at winning gold medals in single-athlete sports such as gymnastics, diving, weight-lifting, pistol shooting, etc.? A country so desperate to win medals can have them.

    Middle class Chinese parents understand the brutality of the Chinese training system. Very few would allow their children to participate in such training.

  • Jesus

    communist training is crap! They should learn the proper way and not using brute force. Down with communists!

    • donscarletti

      No, this is the correct way to win in gymnastics, just like the correct way to win in war is kill the other side’s people and blow up their infrastructure. It might not be nice but it is still correct.

  • Dan Danger

    And most importantly one must not exclude the training of officials whose job it will be later to forge and alter birth records and documents later to make sure underage children are able to participate in the events and glorify the motherland. Sieg Heil!

    • whichone

      Good thing there were some finger pointing to create controversy, this way people can feel better about losing to those godless communists. Who cares that two months later investigation will confirm gymnasts’ eligibility, by then we would have moved on.

      Germans refer to homeland as vaterland (fatherland), but facts will not stand in the way of emotional triumph!

  • gabriel

    only true champions train in their underpants

  • FYIADragoon

    The fun part is how useless every single one of these kids becomes after they pass their very early prime in gymnastics. Gymnasts in other nations can actually do productive work for society after their career as a gymnast ends.

  • Mel

    This brings up a fundamental difference in the cultures as to child-rearing. American children are often left to their own natural impulses, which means they are more likely to engage in play . . . aimless fun play. It’s sort of a ‘trust the child’ sort of thing.

    Chinese parents, OTOH, know what’s best for the child, and the child won’t have much say in the matter. Chinese ‘know’ that children will engage in aimless fun if left to themselves, and so impose discipline.

    Sooo, which is best? I guess it depends on what you want. I would say this. The Chinese way produces children who are less spontaneous, but who can focus better, and understand the value of discipline … of grinding it out … better. The American way has one big advantage that I see, and that is that Americans do not try to fit a square peg into a round hole by ‘knowing what’s best for a child’. In leaving a child’s interest to that child’s natural impulses, you’re more likely to get a few children that are really doing the thing that they love. This is a recipe for extreme success for those few that find that love early in life. I think the Chinese way kills that in too many.

    So both ways of bringing up a child have pros and cons. There is no right way.

    • jon

      The worst thing is a dumb tiger mother. Sending a kid to a Weekend school to become smarter, but the school has the worst teachers and the kids doesnt learn a thing, waste of time and money. But at least the “Tiger Mother” can brag that their child goes the extra mile, even though they don’t. Appearance trumphs results and never listen to a kid.

    • whichone

      I agree, U.S. education system is one where a few genius are free to rise out of a mountain of idiots, whereas Chinese education system produce an ocean of mediocre yes men.

      • Rod

        I sometimes try to convey this point to some of my Chinese students who ask about American education.

        “Freedom” and “individuality” can make some very creative people, and some very happy children.

        But for people who don’t know what to do with that freedom, it can mean trouble. How many kids take machine guys and shoot up their school in China. How many kids become drug addicts before they’re 18? How many teen pregnancies do you see happen?

        I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I think that the strict education in China does keep some of the ‘loose screws’ in order. Unfortunately it also limits others.

    • Rick in China

      That’s a pretty apt analysis, but it’s missing one key point. It’s not which way is best, it’s like learning – everyone learns more effectively in a different way. Some people are hands on, some people are more book-learned and like to sit down and read analysis, some people need to communicate orally and discuss… everyone picks things up better, not because any particular _way_ is better – but because it’s better _for that person_. Raising a child is the same.

      No method is universally “best”. Each parent should spend time and try different things with their children. The more you understand your child, the more you can understand what they need to help guide them along their journey of finding who they are. Sometimes it may mean extreme strictness, sometimes it may mean a lot more freedom… it’s a matter of properly learning _your child_ before you force upon them any teachings.

    • MagicD

      Actually Mel there is a right way to treat children. Physical abuse as seen in these photos is not good. China is a mess and the international community knows it.

  • Berry Halls

    These children will be honored by their families for generations. They will dream of being honored by their Country.

    • MagicD

      NO Berry. These children are being abused. That’s all that’s happening here. There is no glory.

    • E Puff

      don’t forget about the olympic athelete who is homeless and living on the streets in china.

  • andywattbulb

    Is this North Korea?

    • Berry Halls

      In DPRK all of the children died of starvation or are too malnourished to participate in such a program.

      • andywattbulb

        North Korea has the world’s largest gymnastic shows far more superior than that of China but one can only imagine how they drill their kids.

        • Rick in China

          Tasteless, but you left it out there: In DPRK I wouldn’t be surprised if they drill their kids frequently and without shame.

  • lonetrey

    my only hope for them is that become China’s future Batmen.

  • Karen H

    What is more cruel: this or overfeeding your child and allowing him/her to do no physical activity so that he/she becomes obese by age 12 and faces a life of emotional pain and serious health problems, as so many American parents do??

    • coala banana

      just realized while reading comments on this forum for a while now, that chinese and americans have quite a lot in common.

      1. there is us, and there is the rest of the world.
      2. many chinese still think that all westerners/foreigners speak english in their countries.
      3. the time i spend in the US let me to believe that for the average american its hard to believe that there is a world outside the US.
      4. many chinese and americans think that europe is a country.

      your argument isn’t about choices. While your example explains ONE reason why underaged children in the US become fat, it has to do very much with parents laziness and passiveness. Pushing a 3 year old into high volume gymnastic training which includes tears and pain can’t be compared with feeding a child with cheeseburgers and fries.

      When your argument is: what is the lesser of the 2 evil ?

      then you still wouldn’t have a point by comparing 2 extremes, when on the other side the overwhelming choices of healthy middle ways remains unnoticed by you. Especially not when you see how many fat chinese kids floating around these days.

      I stay by the facts, that i very much doubt that this children come out of middle class chinese families. This are poor kids from lower class families, and the only reason they are put into such “schools” is for the “glory” of china, to help to develop brainwashed thinking of the average nationalistic citizen to make him feel proud about his “countries” achievements. After one out of a million of this kids makes it to gold in the olympics, he will soon after left behind, cause the system has no use for losers, or even winners after they have done their job.

      While we have similar systems in different western countries which also includes a lot of irresponsibleness, china is a whole different chapter, bringing it to whole new levels when it comes to irresponsible actions and behaviors.

      While we are all together one and the same species, we developed into different directions based on our environments, history and laws.

      This leads me to the conclusion that (and let me ref raise your question): IF i had the choice between being a gymnast in china or the US (i chose the US and china, since most people seem to think this are the only 2 countries on this planet), the i would chose the US.

      On the other side, if i had to chose between being a 12 year old fat ass in china or the US, then I would chose china. Cause the chances that a fat child comes from a low income family are bigger in the US. That makes my chances to be a fat ass kid from middle/high income family, bigger when i would be a chinese kid.

      In addition to that, chances to get a good looking wife are much higher for a fat, rich, small penis, spitting and nose drilling chinese male, then there is for a fat, small penis, farting, dirty foot american.

      • Rick in China

        Much truth in your post..even tho a lot of it is sad. :D

    • dim mak

      Both are shit parenting only for different reasons

      Thankfully most people anywhere don’t fit into such hyperboles right?

      Hold on a sec, I’m sensing something else here: You don’t actually give a shit what happens on either side because you’re out to make sooth your hurt feelings by making extreme comparisons.

      What do I win, Pat?

      • coala banana

        sounds reasonable !

    • Xiongmao

      Keep the fucking ad hominem in primary school where they belong. How the fuck old are you not being able to figure out that two wrongs don’t make a right?

    • Tom

      This may be a bit exaggerated don’t you think?

  • (facepalm) It does not which major country you go to, there are always these sorts of ‘factories’ to supply the pro and ‘ametuer’ teams with fodder.

  • human

    That is sick, i hope the teacher have more human sense a bit.

  • Berry Halls

    Do the parents have the choice not to have the child participate in the program?

    • Xiongmao

      Of course, but ambitious parents with low income and no information about the 99 of 100 sacrificing their childhood and education never making it even to the national championships. For every Weng Meng there are at least a thousands Average Lis. (and those numbers are only for those really trying).

      This kind of thing should be illegal.

    • liz

      parents should put in jail if this happen in normal western society this is call chad abuse
      it is all about face and show off in here make me so sad to see innocent children crying in pain parents grow brains and this ugly bitch whit stick she need to be put true some pain

  • Alwin

    This is too sad for words… what a retard society where everything has to bow for prestige…

  • A-Dog

    I’ve spoken with a girl who was chosen as a young child to train as an ice skater in the National Program. The truth of these programs is as grim as many of these commenters describe. Their bodies are sacrificed with training methods that, outside of North Korea, wouldn’t even be thought of in other countries. They RARELY get a chance to be in a true competition, where the enjoyment of most sports actually comes about. They train and train and train and train. The parents go along with it because the government promises them and their families money, glory, and fame IF they are to succeed. They aren’t told how many children are in this same program across the country so they have no idea what microscopically slim odds they have to get anything at all out of it. They have no knowledge of safe training techniques. They are told that this is the process that ALL athletes in the world go through to reach the Olympics. They are just told to bring their children and listen to the trainers. Period. Not to mention, their ACTUAL education is not a primary, secondary, or even tertiary goal. So when the child suffers some debilitating injury, as the girl I spoke to did to her knee at the age of 14, the government pays for the initial medical attention needed, but nothing long-term. And the child and the family are removed from the program with no benefits whatsoever. By that time most of the children’s test scores are MUCH lower than the average student due to a nearly non-existent education up until then, so they do NOT get into the good schools which they couldn’t afford now anyways. The education system as it is in China requires that children are extensively taught early and often, so these discarded athletes are never given a fair chance to compete with their new classmates. They didn’t have a childhood. They didn’t enjoy the beauty of the sport they participated in. They didn’t get an education. And now many of them have lifelong health problems due to their ignorant trainers.

    But hey, those medals with the jade inlaid are really cool!

  • crystal

    it is complicaed to say ,the system of china education is on the way,it is a long way to change it, both the educater and educatee should try their best.

  • dawei

    A child this young cannot choose; they only wish to make their elders happy. It is adults that choose such a painful path for these children, adults who expect them to succeed for the glory of family and country.

    If the parents would just feel proud of their children, irregardless, then the children would be happy. This extends to everything, from athletics to academics.

    Really, it is not the children who are competing. It is the parents, the coaches, the whole damned country. The children are just tools.

    That is why this is truly heartbreaking. They’d rob a child of their childhood just for their own pride.

  • Rick in China


    I can’t view the photos. I scrolled a little, but uh… totally NSFW.

    Little kids in their underwear all over the place? No thanks.

    • dawei


      Huh. You think kids in their underwear is sexual in some way?

      • Rick in China

        Personally, no.

        But if I look over at someone else’s screen and see a scattering of photos of little girls crying in their skivvies doing splits and shit, I’d most definitely be cautious of him/her. Uncomfortable to look at that in any situation, definitely not interested in having it pop onto my screen at work – just seems very inappropriate.

        • Scared of rick in china

          Normal people don’t look at children in a sexual way. How did that even enter your mind as something sexual? Really disturbing what you said.

      • Scared of rick in china

        I’m glad I wasn’t the only one bothered by his comments

    • Scared of Rick in china

      Not work safe its young children taking part in sports, how that became sexual to you is beyond me.

  • Cherry

    It’s their perants’ fault, the little girl looks like 4,5year old, she wouldn’t understand the full minning of a champions, is their parent want them become one! I wouldn’t dream to let my little girl to suffer for my choise.

    • AChinese

      Sometime parents has no say if the government official coach see potentials in your kids, they just snatch your kids and make property of the nation. If you are lucky, the parents may be able to see their kids once a year.

  • Xiongmao

    “The reason Chinese gymnastics can be so strong, we have to thank these little kids, thank those “cruel” parents, and thank those trainers and coaches who quietly give their all.”

    I want to punch this retarded moron.

  • liz

    you are seek Chinese people what are you doing to kids oh my god you touched this babies i would like to see how you like this happen to you and this bitch whit stick hurting Innocent children should be put in jail this is child abuse grow the brains .. which i think you missing …i never in this world see so many brainless people i travel world see many places but never this craziness people

  • White Phosphorus

    From a psychological point of view, children are actually quite resilient.

    • MagicD

      Resilient means “Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.”

      Obviously that’s not what’s happening in these photos.

      • Here Loosers

        The photos are rigged…propaganda that began in the 2008 when Chinese little girls kicked Americas rich spoiled kid’s ass…so American’s began “it was not fair how they train” because Americans are sore losers, narrow minded and think they should always win…if they do not..: enter the fantasy world of fabricated excuses. The pics could just as easily show american children at Bella Karoyli’s school in Houstan where “winner ” parents pay $60K per year to see their child a champion.

  • MagicD

    The fact that photographer Zhang Yuan could stand to be around this suffering without intervening on behalf of these children is pathetic and cruel.
    Shame on you Zhang Yuan!!

  • Dr SUN

    Big fat ugly woman and party slaves torturing young children

  • human

    its very hard to digest, for what they are killing these kids ?
    don’t punish them on the name of sports there are so many ways for to get
    fame for your country.

  • Momma Fishbone

    The problem is…there is no joy in watching the Chinese perform. They might be technical machines, but they are lifeless, joyless, creatures. Sure give them the gold so they don’t get killed or discarded, because they are expendable. Sure, some of you have to justify abusing babies, toddlers, for their non-Western beliefs and over-abundant population. But for those of us who like to watch people who LOVE the sport they are doing, watching Asians crank it out is just, well, boring. Not to mention a strange participation mystique into the “pain” that they suffer to get where they get. So strange, and on some levels, kind of disgusting.

    • Gabe

      I think this comment is completely inappropriate and racist!

      There are names for why people do things differently based on where they come from – it’s called culture! They even have names for different kinds of culture – warm cultures tend to focus on relationships over task, and cold cultures tend to focus more on tasks than relationships… I think that other cultures have much to learn from the discipline and dedication that the Chinese culture values. I also agree that along with this incredible strength can come the weakness of losing innovation and creativity. But by no stretch of the imagination do I think that these cultural differences and values justify saying that what Chinese gymnasts accomplish at the end of the day are not worth watching.

      Food for thought – my pastor friend officiated a wedding where the couple did not smile at all. He was very worried that this couple who reunited after a long time away from each other, did not actually want to be together – because during the wedding they didn’t look excited at all. Afterwards he learned that this was a cultural thing – the couple was to take the wedding very seriously. The next day he saw them together and they were beaming. Moral of the story: when we look at someone and judge them based off of our standards and our understanding, we may forget that what you see is not always what you get!

      • children are ment to have fun, laugh and enjoy life while they can children are not ment to suffer cry for a country that doesnt even value them this form of training is barbaric and should not be

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  • Avinash Patil

    we are hate chinese for cruelty with kids now the worlds do somthing and save these kids Childhood.

  • Gabe

    This is so weird – am I the only one who noticed that this article seems kind of sexist??

    The pictures of the girls keep showing them crying and enduring “suffering”… and then the pictures of the boys have comments like:

    “Boys don’t complain so much. Whatever the coach says to do, they do, and can complete their tasks very quickly.”… or that they like showing off their abs. And they’re all smiling… Or even lounging on a mat (the three boys on the green mat)…

    How odd!

    • Tom

      Welcome to China. Be thankful you don’t live there.

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  • Michael

    Sorry, but anyone who has set foot in an American elite gym will see exactly the same thing happening to any young gymnast there.

    In China, you can leave gymnastics if you want. If you are not pushing yourself the way these kids are, they will tell you there is no point staying. There is no way you can push yourself like this unless the motivation is intrinsic. All champion gymnasts probably went through this, it’s just that in the states, most of the kids being trained will not have the capabilities to be a champion, so you won’t see the coach (or the kid) pushing so hard.

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  • A person who does reseach

    Technically this isn’t anything bad. Its just like kids in america doing gymnastics. They just have other ways of training plus the kids are very young so their bones are still maturing so they are actually quite flexible at this age and they reason it hurts is because of repatition.

  • Tom

    Oh yeah sure their “own dreams”. This is child abuse. There is no way you can argue against that.