Celestial forest bath: Trial nude program in Guangdong park sparks debate
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Although local authorities have not yet clearly voiced any opposition, developers of an outdoor nude bathing activity in Guangdong Province are beginning to worry that their tourist attraction may be short-lived following an explosive backlash from the media and public.
Trial nude program in Guangdong park stirs debate. Starting on February 19, the program is touted as a "celestial forest bath." It offers tourists a stretch of trail, secured by guards in Nandan Mountain park in Foshan, to walk naked in the woods while "enjoying the smell of flowers and sounds of birds."
So far, about 60 people, mostly young, have come to experience the nude sunbathing, according to the park.
"It's only a trial program to encourage tourists to get closer to nature," Han Jiucheng, deputy general manager of the park, told the Global Times. "We don't want to challenge any social norms."
This is not the first time a nude resort has opened in China. Although scantily clad girls and even nude "art shows" are no longer taboo, inviting citizens to gather at a public place without any clothing remains controversial.
Inspired by a tourist who told him that the fragrance of a flower common to the area had health benefits, especially when people absorb it in the nude, Han began his nude bathing plan.
The park does not charge any extra fee beyond the usual 45 yuan ($7.15) entrance fee.
Han admitted that his idea was opposed by the park's board of directors at first, mainly because of the controversy that surrounded previous programs like this, such as nude beaches. They eventually relented.
The response from local authorities has been vague. They said the program was a marketing measure and was tolerable as long as it was not against the law.
However, the government "will not advocate such a program, and will give proper guidance to prevent it from going astray," a press officer from the Foshan Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times.
Even though many people support the idea, seeing it as a matter of personal choice, others have criticized the plan, referring to it as "visual pollution" or "a disgrace to morality."
Xia Xueluan, a sociologist at Peking University, said that nude swimming or bathing was "extreme behavior."
"Nude beaches have been around for years in Western countries, but China has a different culture. It is impossible to put up with such things now," he said.
Without any cultural background, it is easy for others to get a licentious idea about the subject, he said.
Real nudists stay low
Li Jisheng, member of the Bainiao Swimming Association formed by many nude swimming enthusiasts in Yuxi, Yunnan Province, said that Foshan's program may be just a way to promote the scenic spot.
"They are so eager to make the public know that, which is different from us. As real enthusiasts of nude swimming, we don't want to expose any information about our secret swimming location, since China has not been so open to the practice," he told the Global Times.
In 2005, about 10 keen swimmers started swimming nude in a reservoir in suburban Yuxi, and the news spread rapidly but quietly among enthusiasts.