Yoga fever on Sunday gripped China ahead of the third International Day of Yoga as thousands of enthusiasts performed 'asanas' in the Communist nation where scores of events have been lined up to organise the second biggest celebrations of the day in the world after India.
Though yoga, which originated in India, has become immensely popular over the years in China vying with ancient indigenous physical fitness martial art form Tai Chi, it got an official sanction when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi here in 2015 at a joint event during the latter's visit.
Beijing's iconic Great Wall as well as numerous parks, lakes and resorts across China have become venues for the both official and unofficial yoga events being held with active support of the Chinese government.
A first yoga college has come up outside India with joint collaboration of India and China in Yunnan Minzu (Nationalities) University in Kunming, which has also lined up several yoga events.
"Since UN declared yoga day, June 21 has become a yoga festival day in all big and small cities in China," Manmohan Singh Bhandari, an Indian yoga expert who along with his Chinese wife Yin Yan runs a yoga training school Yogi Yoga, told PTI here.
Yoga now has become a trend with people practicing in parks. During this time of the year, yoga is being taught free all over China, said Bhandari who hails from Rishikesh.
His Yoga Yogi school has centres all over the country.
The Indian Embassy here which has yoga specialist Umesh Babu besides Indian Consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou will organise dozens of events. The main event would be held at the Great Wall on June 20.
"In terms of the quality of participation of Yoga practitioners from India, the number of events at different locations in China and the expected outreach to Chinese Yoga lovers, the series of events planned for this year are poised to reach new heights," the embassy said.
For the first time ever, the Embassy, in collaboration with the Ministry of AYUSH and the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), has invited a group of 20 young Yoga ambassadors with expertise in performing advanced routines in 'Hatha Yoga'.
These young Yoga ambassadors - 10 girls and 10 boys between 22 and 30 years of age - will capture the imagination of Chinese Yoga lovers with their dexterity and poise in demonstrating advance Yoga techniques. The yoga ambassadors will enable a direct connect with the younger population in China attracted to yoga, the embassy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Wenzhou today became the sixth city in China's eastern region to host the celebrations jointly organised by Consulate General of India, Shanghai along with Wenzhou Municipal People's Government.
The celebrations were held at the scenic Dongtou Wanghai Pavilion and more than 1,000 yoga lovers from all over Wenzhou participated in the Yoga session.
Yoga celebrations would be held across 12 cities in eastern China from June 17 to 25.
In his inaugural address, Vice Mayor of Wenzhou Wang Chi, recalled the close association that Wenzhou city has had with India, including the recent establishment of the sister city relationship between Wenzhou and Lucknow on April 24.
Given the natural sea side beauty of Dongtou county, he said that it would provide a natural platform to the long term and sustainable practice of Yoga.
Consulate General of India, Shanghai arranged through Krishnamachari Yoga Mandiram a leading Indian Yoga teacher who conducted the Yoga session for over 1,000 Yoga practitioners, based on the Common Yoga Protocol sent by the Department of AYUSH.
The event was extremely well received by the large number of Yoga follower community in Wenzhou, and was supported by the India China Economic Culture Center of Wenzhou.
A delegation of Uttar Pradesh government officials who had participated in the India China (Wenzhou) Leather Dialogue Forum on June 17 also attended the celebrations.
In the eastern China region of Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, yoga celebrations are being organised by Consulate General of India, Shanghai from June 17 to 25, one day each across 12 cities with theme of "Ten cities, Ten Days, Bringing together 20,000 Yoga Lovers closer to India - promoting healthy and harmonious lifestyles".
A special demonstration of yoga has also been held at the Opening Ceremony of BRICS Sports Meet in Guangzhou.
Over a thousand people have taken part in the curtain raiser events in the Eastern China Region organised by the Indian Consulate in Shanghai.
Officials said that as compared to the last year, participation has doubled with youngsters showing more enthusiasm.
The Indian Consulate in Guangzhou organised two big yoga festivals with Yoga Gurus from India. Other events included a five-day camp in Chengdu, India-China Yoga College, cities of Dongguan, Zhongshan and Foshan.