Naturists tread with care on the path to acceptance
Updated: 2014-03-21 07:51
By Zhang Lei (China Daily)
A new debate has been triggered over a law on public nudity in China, reports Zhang Lei in Beijing.
Wang Min, a naturist from Chongqing, has a ready answer when asked why he became a nudist.
There are moments in life when you need to "think outside the box" and achieve things beyond what you feel you are normally capable of, he says.
"I love being free. The moment I take off my clothes is magical and it feels as if I have nothing to fear any more," he said.
Wang's fascination with baring his body in a natural setting began when he took a lakeside stroll five years ago.
While taking off his clothes in a secluded environment, aspects of nature became apparent to him that he hadn't noticed when clothed. He felt enveloped by nature in a way he had never been before; the tension in his body eased and he felt his skin sensing minute changes in his surroundings.
While there are others who would like to cast off their clothes and throw their cares to the wind, finding a serene and secluded place is a difficult task for many naturists.
Three years ago, when Wang took a trip to East Spring Valley, one of China's best-known outdoor nudist bathhouses in a forest park in Sichuan province, he never thought it would be such a depressing experience.
When he arrived at the park's front gate, several men speaking in the local dialect approached and asked if he was there for the nudist bathhouse and if he wanted to experience some other "services" afterwards.
Having purchased tickets for the forest park and the bathhouse, Wang entered the 70-square-meter bathing terrace surrounded by iron railings. However, to his discomfort, several tourists were watching him and laughing.
"I felt uneasy. When you know there are many people looking at you like that, it is as if you are a caged animal. Bathing in the center of the valley, I could clearly hear someone laughing because the echoes magnified the sound. And the fact that men and women bathed in different places gave me the feeling this is more like a tourist spot rather than a real place for nudists to relax," Wang said.
But the practice of separating men and women at the baths is not without reason. Wang Yang, who has been a naturist for more than 10 years and has organized several nudist excursions to the Beijing suburbs, said men inquiring about becoming a naturist often ask him first whether there are women participating in the activities.
"Their intentions are clear. I don't think they are true naturists. They are voyeurs, who want to spy on the opposite sex," Wang Yang said. He believes China's fast-growing economy has revealed a darker side to society, a business-driven social culture that sells the peculiar and the strange, and this is not what true naturism is about. He said the true purpose of naturism is to escape from the world's hustle and bustle for a while, staying as close as possible to Mother Nature, and it is not at all about sex.