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English>>Life & Culture

Celebrating age and wisdom

By Liu Zhihua  (China Daily)

10:43, October 24, 2012

Senior residents present a show of tai chi in Dongxiang county, Jiangxi province, to celebrate the Chongyang Festival. The age-old practice is considered one of the secrets of longevity. (China Daily)

On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Chinese celebrate Chongyang, a festival where filial piety and respect for the elderly are recognized. Liu Zhihua takes note to look at how the elderly in China live better and longer.

>>>Read more: Golden oldies of Hong Kong

Aging is part of life. In China, where the philosophies of Confucius and Mencius prevailed for thousands of years, aging also means an increase in wisdom, rather than the absolute decline of body.

On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, which fell on Tuesday this year, Chinese across the country celebrated the Chongyang Festival, that one day in the year that is specially reserved for the elderly.

For the Chinese, it means a day out with the family, climbing the hills, appreciating the seasonal chrysanthemums, drinking chrysanthemum wine and eating the cakes specially made for Chongyang.

It is a day dedicated to the old, who have always had a special place in Chinese culture and in modern China.

Apart from the respect and care owed to them from younger generations, the gray generation also draws benefits from the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which is not just about treating illness but, rather, is about the holistic approach of maintaining body, mind and spirit.

"The essence of TCM is to keep a balance within the body and between the body and mind, and then to achieve harmony with the outer world," says Wang Weigang, an experienced TCM practitioner with China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.

"When such balance is achieved, people will not have physical or mental problems."

Wang goes on to give an example of how it works.

TCM believes that springtime and the liver share the same property of mu (the element of wood). So, in that season, the liver tends to get overactive, creating discomfort.

The stomach and spleen share the properties of tu (the element of earth), which is the opposite of mu. If opposition between these two elements becomes too strong, the body will become uncomfortable.

By the same principles, fish, pork, duck, lotus root, Chinese yam, asparagus, lettuce, lotus seed, apples and bananas are good foods for spring, while chicken, mutton, beef and oranges should be avoided.

All this is to calm the liver, and reduce the burden on stomach and spleen, Wang says.

For thousands years, TCM has taught the Chinese to eat, exercise, dress and rest in certain formulas of harmony, conforming with the changes in seasons and hours of the day. It also advises people to keep emotions stable and diminish desires to help keep the body at optimum health, Wang says.

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