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West Meets East

July 30, 2012
July 30, 2012

Table of Contents
July 30, 2012

LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
PENN STATE
GOLF
PRO BASKETBALL
  • Just five months after Jeremy Lin became an overnight global icon in New York City, the Knicks decided not to keep him, clearing the way for him to go back to Houston—where things promise to be significantly more relaxed

PRO FOOTBALL
THE BUNDY PROJECT
  • THE ORIOLES HAVE THE GAME'S BEST PITCHING PROSPECT, A 19-YEAR-OLD NATURAL WITH THE STUFF—AND THE WORK ETHIC—TO WEAKEN THE KNEES. NOW COMES THE HARD PART: TURNING DYLAN BUNDY INTO AN ACE, AND KEEPING HIM HEALTHY ENOUGH TO STAY ONE

POINT AFTER
Departments

West Meets East

A documentary explores the opportunity offered by a once-banned sport in post-Mao China

By Bryan Armen Graham

Boxing has a long tradition of drawing enlistees from hardscrabble places that offer little hope of a future. China wasn't always one of these however; the sport was banned by Chairman Mao in 1959 for being "too Western," too brutal, and was not reinstated until '87.

This is an article from the July 30, 2012 issue

China Heavyweight, a remarkable new documentary (now in limited release) by Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang, takes a revealing look at the opportunities this Western sport offers to young Chinese men today, even as boxing remains a point of contention between younger and older generations. Chang spent nearly two years following Qi Moxiang, a former pro boxer turned state coach who identifies and develops talent among rural teens in the impoverished Sichuan province, promoting boxing as a healthy alternative to Confucian modesty. The vérité-style documentary concentrates at first on Qi's two most promising students: one cocksure, the other burdened by self-doubt. Midway through, it refocuses on the charismatic coach, who resumes fighting professionally after years away from the ring.

Enhanced by gorgeous handheld camera work and extraordinary access to the subjects' families, China Heavyweight lays bare elemental truths of the sweet science that also function as life lessons in a fiercely competitive society. "In the end you have to fight with perseverance," Qi teaches. "When two boxers are equal, the brave one wins."

The film also explores an age-old cultural dilemma: How can earning personal glory in the most individual of sports be reconciled with the collectivist philosophy underpinning China's state-run training? Chang mines metaphorical meaning from a compelling personal drama, and he underscores how filial piety and the hypnotic rhythms of the gym are truly universal.

THEY SAID IT

"They say the girls are prettier, the air is fresher, the toilet paper is thicker...."

T.J. MOE

Missouri wide receiver, on the differences between the Big 12 conference, in which the Tigers played last year, and the SEC, which they join this fall.

PHOTOSCOTT KANE/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM (MOE)PHOTOSHAOGUANG SUN/©ZEITGEIST FILMS/EVERETT COLLECTION (HEAVYWEIGHT)