On Monday, a set of photos of the 2013 “Annual Ma Yuehan Bodybuilding Contest” posted on Renren.com (the Chinese equivalent of Facebook) showed Tsinghua students, who have a reputation for academic excellence, showing off their muscles. Since then the photos have been trending all over social media, attracting far more attention than Tsinghua’s press conference on Tuesday announcing an important scientific discovery.
Each year on April 16, Tsinghua hosts its annual “Ma Yuehan Cup”, the school’s largest sporting event. “The bodybuilding contest, which has been taking place annually for more than ten years, is a part of the major event,” contest judge Ju Lining said. “Every year, undergraduate and graduate students participate. This year we had foreign students as well.”
“Each year’s winner becomes very popular on campus,” Ju said.
From the photos, it can be seen that the contestants painted their bodies a deep tan, and imitated poses from professional bodybuilding contests, showing off their pectorals, biceps and other muscles. However, from their glasses and uniform crew cuts, it is not hard to see how they usually look.
“In high school under intense pressure to study, students are usually too thin because they don’t have time to exercise. Some students begin to build up their physiques in college,” Ju said. “In fact, incoming college students in China have never been in great shape, because their priority in high school was to study and do well on their college entrance exam.”
These bodybuilding pictures generated media attention precisely because they broke with public’s traditional view of college students as weak and studious.
To contact the editor, e-mail: