Two military barracks in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, opened to the public recently and offered displays of their equipment as well as wrestling, rope walking and rock climbing.
More than 3,000 people attended the events on the morning of Aug 15, part of a national plan aimed at bringing the military and citizens closer together by opening more than 600 barracks to the public.
The two barracks in Wuhan belonged to the People's Armed Police Force and the PLA Air Force's Airborne Corps.
Officers and soldiers performed demonstrations of their combat skills, such as wrestling and bayonet fighting, and displayed weapons and equipment used in training - things rarely seen, let alone touched, by members of the public.
In the barracks yard of the airborne corps, the main site of the activities, sweating participants gathered around parachute packs, waiting for a chance to wear them, even though the temperature was around 35 C.
Others took the chance to talk with soldiers, asking them how the weapons and equipment on display worked and what they were used for.
"I'm a military fan and have been considering joining the People's Liberation Army, so I wanted to learn more about their equipment," said Liu Zhenhao, a sophomore student, who learned about the open day from an announcement at his university. He had to pass a short national defense knowledge test to qualify for the visit.
Li Qian, a 65-year-old retiree, scored 92 out of 100 points in the test. A fan of both the military and photography, he took photos of the soldiers from different angles throughout their performances.
"I learned more about both the military equipment and their developments by participating in the activity," Li said. "I will share the photos and what I learned today with my family."
While not all participants were big military fans like Liu and Li, many welcomed the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge about the PLA and its equipment.
"This is my first time to take such a close look at the military, and it's really exciting," said Chen Yijun, a senior student at college who visited the barracks with his girlfriend.
Zhu Hao, 27, a soldier from the Air Force barracks, was in charge of introducing some of the equipment, which he has been training with for eight years.
"Many people have seen similar equipment in TV dramas or movies, so they were interested to know more about it. We hope people can get to know us better through activities like this," Zhu said.
The plan to open more than 600 barracks to the public, announced last month, covers four of the PLA's five branches - the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force - and the People's Armed Police Force.
To help the public better understand the achievements of China's national defense reform and developments in its military, the barracks will be opened during major festivals and on commemoration days.
"We hope the public will be able to truly see what the military and its soldiers are like," Zhu said.