Table tennis, basketball and soccer are the most popular sports in China. National teams and athletes are known for their excellence and have won numerous Olympic medals, particularly in gymnastics, women's volleyball and table tennis. China placed third in overall total medals awarded at the 2000 Olympics. In 2008, China will host the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Most people spend leisure time with family and friends. Watching television is a favourite pastime everywhere. Most urban Chinese households own their own sets, though some villages have a communal set in the town hall, while more remote areas may not even have electricity.

In warm weather, Chinese like to relax outdoors by playing games, flying kites, reading or practising musical instruments. Mahjong, a game of skill played with small tiles, is making a comeback. Tiaoqi (Chinese checkers) uses marbles on a star-shaped board and is popular with children, whereas xian gi (Chinese chess) is widely played by adults.

Many seniors keep birds as a hobby, and travelling has become common for retired urban dwellers with good pensions. Chinese operas are also much loved by the older generation. Young people in cities frequent discos with live bands playing Western music. Many cafeterias and restaurants now offer karaoke, which is singing to a taped accompaniment.

China has developed dozens of movement-based arts, many of which have become popular worldwide. Tai-chi-chuan or tai chi is an ancient form of exercise. The basic style, called Yang is extremely popular with elderly Chinese for its ability to enhance circulation, muscle tone and balance. Younger people may try one of the more strenuous and martial styles of tai chi. Other movement arts include qigong, which is used to promote health and healing, and many forms of boxing.

  Did you know?
Hong Kong people love spending leisure time dining out with family and friends. Hong Kong has the world's highest ratio of restaurants: one for every 20 persons. The largest Hong Kong restaurant can seat 6,000 diners.

  Did you know?
Wang Zhizhi recently joined the Dallas Mavericks and is the first Chinese man to be drafted by the National Basketball Association in United States.