China has many indoor spas or hot springs where same-sex nudity is allowed, but nudism is taboo.
“Most Chinese judge it to be perverted — they consider it to be like sexual harassment or exhibitionism,” says Fang Gang, a researcher and author of the 2012 book “The Nudists”, the first book published in China on the subject.
Fang estimates that one out of every 10,000 Chinese practises nudism — or 140,000 people at most. But it is “on the rise”, he says.
– Naked walks –
The only nudist beach in China opened in 2000 on the tropical island of Hainan in the country’s south, but was closed in 2014 after holidaymakers complained.
“Normal people don’t bathe and sunbathe nude in public,” the then head of the island province Luo Baoming said.
In 2009, authorities put a stop to an outdoor nudist bath near the eastern city of Hangzhou a day before it was due to open.
At the time an online poll by state-run newspaper Global Times showed 60 percent of internet users “accepted” nudism while 57 percent judged the opening of the Hangzhou site as being “completely normal”.
“Nudism is more accepted than before,” says Zheng, 49, who works in marketing and has been nude bathing in Fangshan for the past 10 years. “Even my wife understands me.”
He proudly shows photos of himself sitting naked on a safety barrier next to a freeway or in his apartment, or wearing nothing more than a backpack.
“With other nudists we find on social networks we organise nude hikes around Beijing,” he explains.
Researcher Fang says altering attitudes towards nudism will be difficult in the absence of a federation to represent Chinese nudists’ interests.
“Without a leader, without a central theme, without claims and, more particularly, public recognition of nudism, changing mentalities in China will be difficult.”