One of the most fascinating pieces by the young Mao is ‘A Study of Physical Education’ (1917). After his theoretical considerations, he comes to the nub of the matter: what is one to do? He does nothing less than propose his own gym routine. To begin with:

The best way is to exercise twice a day – on getting up and before going to bed – in the nude … Too much clothing impedes movement … Exercise should be savage and rude.

Once in this condition, undertake the following (a selection):

a) Arm exercises. Squatting position.

Extend the fingers, bend the elbow, and make a piercing movement forward. Left and right successively, three times.

b. Leg exercises. Squatting position.

Make fists, and hold the arms straight out in front of you. Extend one leg to the side and bend the other forward. The extended leg can be moved around, while you stand on the toes of the bent leg, with the heel touching the buttocks. Left and right successively, three times.

Make fists, and let the left and right arms hang at the sides. Supporting yourself with one leg, kick forward with the other. Left and right successively, three times.

Make fists, and let the left and right arms hang at the sides. Bend one leg forward and extend the other to the rear. The bent leg remains in its original position, while the extended leg moves so that both are more or less in a straight line. Left and right successively, three times.

d. Head exercises, sitting position.

Keeping the head in more or less the same position, concentrate on moving the skin and lower jaw. Five times.

e. Striking exercises. No fixed position. (Striking exercises consist in using the fists to hit the body all over. Thus the circulation of the blood is speeded up. The main object of this exercise is to strengthen the muscles and the flesh.)

Arm exercise. The right hand is used to strike the left arm, and the left hand the right arm.

[Do the same with:] The shoulders. The chest. The sides. The back. The abdomen. The buttocks. The legs. Upper leg, lower leg.

f. Harmonizing movements. No fixed position.

Deep breathing. Three times.