campus crawling

Crawling on the Ground Is All the Rage Among Chinese College Students

Amid the periodic school lockdowns in China, college students are crawling around their campuses to vent their frustration and build a sense of community

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12:03 PM HKT, Mon November 21, 2022 1 mins read

Chinese college students are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the rolling campus lockdowns that have become commonplace amid China’s hardline approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Some are venting their frustration by taking handmade cardboard ‘pets’ out for a walk (seriously, we aren’t making this shit up) or, more recently, by crawling on the ground.

Xiaoyuanpa (校园爬, crawling on campus) is a new trend among Chinese college students, including at some elite schools such as the Communication University of China (shown in the video above). According to Baidu Index, the number of searches for the term ‘crawling’ increased sixfold from November 10 to 14. Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu has even hosted a crawling competition, which has generated almost 4 million views.

Crawling pals, or payou (爬友) in Chinese, coordinate a time and location in group chats and meet up to crawl around their campus per the organizer’s instructions.

Crawling workout, Crawling exercise, campus crawling

Image via Xiaohongshu

Crawling as a form of workout is nothing new. These multi-joint movements are believed to be the ultimate total-body exercise and include many different styles — such as the bear crawl and gorilla crawl. Chinese physician Hua Tuo included similar crawling movements in his ‘Five-Animal Exercises’ over a thousand years ago.

And more recently, a group of crocodile-crawling enthusiasts went viral on the Chinese internet:

The college students embracing crawling as an exercise and method of venting their angst were inspired by a viral meme: crawling in the dark (阴暗地爬行). This is part of a more significant trend called ‘insane writing’ (发疯文学, fafeng wenxue), which has made waves on the Chinese internet, where netizens express their emotions in illogical and inconsistent words and phrases.

Netizens initially used ‘insane writing’ when arguing with ecommerce customer service staff, but the writing format soon became popular among college students. The mobile game Arknights has made it even more well-known, especially among anime-loving Gen Zers, as it uses strangely worded in-game text.

According to one expert, the crawling college students are bringing the insanity of their online text-based communications to the real world to reestablish control over their current situation (Covid-19 lockdowns and bleak job prospects) and build a sense of community.

Crawling college students in China amid lockdowns

Image via Xiaohongshu

However, the activity is viewed as disturbing to some people who are unfamiliar with the context. Criticism such as “It looks terrifying. They must have mental health problems” is not uncommon on the internet. Some schools have allegedly banned students from crawling together.

Nonetheless, many netizens have expressed their sympathy: “These students didn’t do anything harmful; this is their freedom, don’t overthink it,” or “These college students are not drinking, smoking, or committing crimes. They’re just crawling around at the end of the day; what’s wrong with that?”

Meanwhile, some medical experts have stated that crawling can be beneficial to our bodies as it improves blood circulation and core strength. However, the movements require professional guidance to prevent injuries and achieve expected outcomes.

Cover image designed by Haedi Yue

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