Founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Jack Ma and action movie star Jet Li have joined hands to promote "taiji," a branch of Chinese martial arts practiced for both fitness and self-defense.
At an entrepreneur exchange activity held Friday night in Beijing, Ma, wearing a flowing kung fu outfit, took the stage and performed taiji. Li also showed up to discuss the benefits of taiji.
Ma and Li established a company called Taiji Zen International two years ago with the aim of spreading the culture of taiji to the world.
The company, located in Xixi National Wetland Park in the city of Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province, will start providing taiji courses to the public in May. It will also start offering online courses in August.
The 48-year-old Ma has been practicing taiji since his college years.
"What I have learned most from taiji is philosophical insight, such as the notion of yin and yang, which is a theory that states that things will develop in opposite directions when they become extreme and that people should learn to be moderate," he said.
Ma has been introducing Alibaba employees to the world of taiji and he has even written a film script with a taiji them.
"Most mainstream sports in China nowadays are imported from abroad. We want to introduce the world to the legacy left by our ancestors and make taiji more fashionable," Li said.
Li said entrepreneurs can be a strong force in spreading traditional culture, adding that the efforts of entrepreneurs in Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have contributed greatly to the worldwide popularity of judo, karate, and taekwondo.
However, Ma and Li have also recognized the difficulty of popularizing taiji among young people, as its slow movements are typically viewed as more suitable for the elderly.
The Alibaba Group has served as an experimental area for Ma and Li to learn how to popularize the martial art. Taiji is part of Alibaba employee training, with about 1,500 employees learning taiji in 2012. The company's 20,000 employees also use taiji as a way to take a break from their daily work.
Galeeva Guzel, a Russian woman who works for Alibaba, said taiji can help people calm down and reduce their stress. Another employee named Xu Weijie said taiji has helped him learn to complain less when he is bothered by other people.
Ma said taiji culture can be applied to corporate management.
"Like a taiji practitioner, a company should learn to control its pace of movement and choose the right time to take action," Ma said.
Li said taiji is not only a way to stay fit, but also a cultural symbol with profound philosophical connotations.
"I don't oppose Chinese people buying foreign brands and driving fancy foreign cars, but I think we should spare some time for traditional culture and remember our Chinese identity," Li said.