Mao Zedong always stressed the need for physical education and sports. As one of his sayings goes, "Develop sports, strengthen the people's physique". After the founding of the PRC, a stress on physical culture could be found in the Common Program and in the Constitution, which replaced it in 1954.
In the propaganda of the early 1950s, the strong and healthy bodies of the workers functioned as metaphors for the strong and healthy working class the state propagated. Training the body, or taking part in sports, was not merely seen as promoting the people’s health, national defense and production, but also as inspiring the collective work spirit necessary for the national unity which was considered a prerequisite to national construction. To achieve this, everybody had to participate in physical education. This mass participation, moreover, added a political component to sports, which explains why ideological training and political study became part and parcel of the training program of Chinese athletes.
This series, from 1954, illustrates the achievements of students, soldiers, cadres, peasants, women, and members of minority groups in China's drive to improve physical fitness and, in time, to compete in international sports events.