If a man swims naked in a pond and there are no women there to see him is he acting immorally? A group of men in Yuxi who use a local reservoir as a nude swimming social club say the answer is "no".
Swimming enthusiast Zhang Jingping discovered the secluded Shengli reservoir located a few kilometers outside of Yuxi five years ago. He then started the "One Hundred Birds" (百鸟) clothing-optional swimming club with the reservoir as its home.
Now the club has 60 permanent members and Zhang claims that up to 1,000 men visit the reservoir on busy days for au naturel swimming. Zhang says that the activity helps people escape the grind of urban life and "be in tune with nature and feel free."
Local women reportedly know that the site is a hangout for male naturist swimmers and stay away, leaving the men shielded behind thick foliage.
But after Kunming Information Hub broke the Hundred Birds story last week, club members say they are afraid their swimming hole may face the same fate as nude swimming areas in Zhejiang and Sichuan that were shut down several years ago after public outcries condemned the practice.
Pundits such as Southern Daily columnist Ao Tianma say that the legality of nude swimming is open to interpretation. The law stipulates that public exposure must be flagrant in order to be a crime, and it is unclear if that label applies to such a secluded area.
Even if the law can't offer a clear answer there are some signs that the general Chinese public has become more receptive to naturism and the One Hundred Birds could be allowed to continue. Since the Zhejiang nude swimming area was shut down in 2004, other areas have sprung up in the provinces of Hainan and Heilongjiang.
Also working in favor of the Yuxi swimmers is the fact that their swimming area is single-sex, which seems to make it more palatable to internet commentators, despite the fact that it failed to save the segregated men and women's nude swimming areas in Zhejiang.
For their part the One Hundred Birds simply want the recent media attention to go away. A club member surnamed Yang was quoted as saying, "We just want to keep the place and go about our swimming quietly."
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