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The Rise of Parkour in China: A Look Back at Kunming’s Pioneers

Last Updated on 2023/02/12

Parkour in China: Celebrating the Skills and Spirit of Early Chinese Freerunners Through the Lens of a Photographer

Parkour freestyle is a discipline that involves overcoming physical obstacles in an urban environment using movements that are fluid, efficient, and acrobatic. It originated in France in the late 1980s and has since spread worldwide, becoming a popular form of fitness and self-expression for people of all ages.

The pictures shot in Kunming, Yunnan, China are a testament to the growth and popularity of parkour, especially in Asia. In 2008, when these pictures were taken, parkour was not widely known or practiced in China. However, today it has become a popular sport, with enthusiasts and practitioners all over the country.


Matteo Damiani was the photographer who captured these beautiful images of parkour freestyle in Kunming. He was there to document the passion and skill of Shen Yiliu, a local freerunner who was at the forefront of the parkour movement in China. During that summer, Matteo Damiani and Shen Yiliu became friends and collaborated to create this incredible photo session on the outskirts of Kunming.

Shen Yiliu was not only a talented freerunner but also a true pioneer of parkour in China. He was one of the first people in the country to embrace this discipline and helped to popularize it among young people. With the help of photographers like Matteo Damiani, Shen Yiliu was able to showcase his incredible skills and bring parkour to the forefront of popular culture in China.


Today, parkour has become a widely recognized sport and a popular form of fitness and self-expression in China. The images captured by Matteo Damiani in Kunming capture the energy, spirit, and passion of the early parkour movement in China and are a testament to the incredible skills and determination of the freerunners who made it all possible.

Freerunner: Shen Yiliu
Photographer: Matteo Damiani

Images of parkour, Kunming, Yunnan, China


Originally published in Sep 18, 2009.

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