Social media and video clips
Food-related Yangsheng short videos among the retired population in Shanghai
by Xinyuan WANG 王心遠 and Vivienne LO 羅維前
(From V. Lo, C. Berry & Guo Liping eds 2020, Film and the Chinese Medical Humanities)
Millions of retired people in China have enthusiastically adopted social media video clips (duan shipin 短视频) as a way of (among other things) sharing information about healthy living and recipes for healthy eating. As part of a long-term research project among the retired population in Shanghai, ethnographer Xinyuan Wang and medical historian Vivienne Lo investigated this phenomenon, its current and potential influence on everyday health and self-care, and its significance for the self-care practices known as yangsheng 养生 as a living tradition.
In order to carry out participant observation, Dr Wang moved into an ordinary residential compound in Shanghai called ForeverGood, where the average age is around 60.
Yangsheng 养生, variously translated as ‘nourishing life’, ‘nurturing life’, or ‘cultivating life’, refers to a broad range of ever-changing practices that have been taught and practised in domestic, religious, and educational contexts over more than two millennia.These practices aim to promote well-being in individuals and communities, and to generate strength and resilience, as well as an acuity of the sensory or spiritual faculties among practitioners.
Many activities are attributed with yangsheng qualities: martial arts, sexual regimens, singing, calligraphy, and even the keeping of song birds or other pet animals, as well as food and diet.
This essay was published shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic; it takes on additional relevance in the current climate.