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Summer 2009 Issue 1


Reconstructing Chinas Indigenous Physical Culture

Taijiquan: Symbol of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Culture

Shaolin Kung Fua Cultural Treasure for Humanity

Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)
Summer 2009 Issue 1
05 Editors Bios
06 Editors Foreword

Main Stories

08 Reconstructing Chinas
Indigenous Physical Culture
Ma Mingda

Shaolin Kung Fu-a Cultural
Treasure for Humanity
Shi Yongxin

Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing)

and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)

Ma Mingda

Preamble on the Origin and

Development of Hung Kuen

Lam Chun Fai

Chinas Duanbing Movement

Ma Lianzhen

Symbol of Traditional
Chinese Martial Arts Culture
Stanley Henning

84 The Archery Tradition of Chinas

Boreal Hunters
Zhao Shiqing

98 Boxing Manual and Key Principles

of Boxing Methods
Luo Zhengcheng

Next Issue Ma Fengtu Ji and Ge in ancient Chinese Archery From Ape Worship in Taijiquan: Hung Kuen
Martial Arts China - from Western Stephen Selby Ancient China to Heavenly Pattern 12 Bridges
Scholar & Zhou to End of Animal Imitation in Boxing Jesse Gooding
Warrior Warring States Period Modern Competition Wong Yuen-Ming
Ma Mingda Kenneth Blair Wushu
Ma Lianzhen
Ma Mingda is professor of history at Jinan University and holds visiting professorships at Northwestern Uni-
versity of Nationalities, Northwestern Normal University, and Guangzhou Institute of Physical Education. In an
academic career spanning over three decades, he has published extensively on ancient Chinese history, classi-
cal literature, Chinese sports history, Chinese philology, and Islamic history in China. Prof. Ma is also a pioneer
in Chinese martial studies, with decades of research and practice in classical armed traditions, such as the great
spear, two-handed sword, staff, and whip-stick. He is the editor for the Encyclopedia of Chinese Martial Arts
(1995), and his previous publications such as Shuo jian conggao and Wuxue tanzhen (2 volumes) are now
standard reference works in Chinas martial arts and sports history. Today, as head of the Tongbei system of
martial studies, he is devoted to promoting and reviving Chinas classical martial arts and indigenous sports.

Zhao Shiqing graduated from University of

Durham in Great Britain with a Bachelors degree in
Ma Ming Da
Deng Changyou, graduated from Jinan University,
majoring in History of Sino-Foreign Relations, with a
doctors degree. Personal research interests mainly focus
Philosophy in 2000. Since a young age he has been on sports culture, exchange of international sports culture
studying the martial arts and is procient in several and sports translation. Major recent publications include
disciplines. He has studied southern styles Chinese Qian Zhongshus Philosophy of Cultural Fusion and Aca-
martial arts, holds a second dan black belt in Budokan demic Methodology (Social Science in China, 2001, no.
style karate, and is a qualied instructor in kick box- 1), Deconstruction and Reconstruction the Formation
ing. Currently, he is studying the Tongbei system of and Evolution of the Pattern of Discourse of May Fourth
martial studies with Prof. Ma Mingda. In addition, Literature (Social Science in China, 2001, no. 1), On Over-
since founding the Orochen Foundation in 2004 he stepping the Original in Translation (Translatio Nouvelles
has been active in documenting, promoting, and pre- De La Newsletter, 2001, no. 1-2), Splendor of Qinghai
serving endangered minority traditions in northeast (Guangdong Travel & Tourism Press, 2006), Travel in
China, with a focus on numerically small, marginal- Beijing (Guangdong Travel & Tourism Press, 2007), Chinese
ized ethnic groups. He is also the writer and editor for Wushu Treasure Stamps Album (China National Philatelic

Zhao Shiqing
the Uncooked magazine. Corporation, 2008), Wushu and the Olympic Games Stamp
Collection Album (China National Philatelic Corporation,
2008), etc.

Deng Changyou
Stanley E. Henning served 28 years (1965-93) in the US Army in a wide variety of assignments throughout the
Asia Pacic region, and served as an interpreter in the Pentagon when the US and China established diplomatic rela-
tions in 1979. Since retiring from active military service, he taught English language and literature at Yunnan Normal
University from 1995-96, and served as a civilian China policy ofcer in the US Pacic Command between 1999 and

Stanley E. Henning
2004. In 2000 he attended the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army National Defense University International Sympo-
sium Course. Henning has written articles on Chinese defense strategy, language, and Chinese martial arts history. He
studied Yang style Taijiquan and Shanxi Che style Xingyiquan under Wu Chao-hsiang in Taiwan, and holds a Masters
degree in Overseas Operations from the University of Hawaii and a BA in History from the Virginia Military Institute.

Ma Lianzhen graduated from South China Normal University with a Doctorate degree in Education in 2008.
Currently, he is a member of the teaching staff at the Sports Science College of SCNU. As a researcher, he has been
active in martial arts related studies and practices and has published many papers and articles. In addition, as a
family member and third generation successor of Mas Tongbei martial system, he is fully devoted to continuing the

Ma Lianzhe
family tradition and the duty of preserving Chinas ancient martial heritage.

Wong Yuen-Ming graduated with a BSc. in Engineering Studies in 1987. He has been studying Daoism and Taijiquan
for almost 30 years, doing eldwork and research in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong where he currently lives. His
research work mainly focuses on Daoist Sects and practices of the Ming Dynasty, relationship between Daoism and the
Martial Arts and lesser known Taijiquan lineages.

Wong Yuen-Ming
Yuen Ming
A Word from
The Publisher

Blending Martial
and Literary Skills
Reaching the perfect balance of literary the concepts and history of Physical
skills (wen ) and martial prowess Culture in China which should help
(wu ) has been the aspiration of the reader put the whole subject into
generations of martial artists in China perspective. While Shi Yongxin takes
although sadly, in the past as well as us on a journey across Shaolin and its
in modern times, few have achieved culture, Ma Mingda again investigates
this goal. It was therefore without the prominent Bajiquan style and its
hesitation that I accepted Prof. Ma relationship with the six harmonies
PUBLISHER Mingdas proposal to be involved in spear.
Wong Yuen-Ming this project that he had been planning Lam Chun Fai talks about the origin of
publisher@martialstudies.com.hk passionately for some time, that is the popular southern style Hung Kuen and
set up and publication of a periodical Ma Lianzhen gives a detailed account
Ma Mingda specifically on Chinese Martial Studies. of Chinese short weapons (duanbing)
editor@martialstudies.com.hk with a vivid report of the important task
Our aspiration is to appeal to both the his group is trying to achieve in keeping
scholar of Chinese Studies, with a focus the tradition alive in practice.
Zhao Shiqing
on martial studies but not necessarily
EDITOR limited to that field, and to those Stanley Henning provides us with
Ma Lianzhen martial arts enthusiasts determined food for thought when he inquires
to go beyond the knowledge of into one of his favorite subjects of
Deng Changyou
Stanley E. Henning
Ma Lianzhen Reaching the perfect balance of literary skills
Wong Yuen-Ming
Zhao Shiqing
(wen ) and martial prowess (wu ) has been the
aspiration of generations of martial artists in China

DESIGN practical skills and eager to look at the Taijiquan while Zhao Shiqing presents
Asia Brand Media Ltd. theoretical and historical background of his important research into the lesser
the subject. The task and the challenge known tradition of Archery among the
Journal of Chinese Martial Studies is a semiannual we face is to become the first periodical Orochen minority.
magazine published two times a year by Three-In-One
Press, Post Office Box 71197, Kowloon Central Post
in the Martial field to approach the
Office, Hong Kong. Fax: (852) 27855682 matter from an academic point of We close this launch issue with an
view and to entice a wide range of introduction to an old boxing manual, a
Copyright 2009 Three-In-One Press. All rights reserved.
readers with correspondingly different feature we are considering to continue
The title Journal of Chinese Martial Arts Studies, backgrounds. on all future issues.
its associated logos and contents are the property of
Three-In-One Press. No part of this periodical may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written The orientation we have chosen is to We strongly believe this new
permission from the publisher, except by writers who combine the depth of scholarly research publication has great potential and can
may quote brief passages to be printed for review or

reference. Please contact the publisher for enquiries
with some easier-to-read articles, draw the attention of a wide variety
about making use of any of the materials published in to merge references and academic of readers from all walks of life. We
this journal. quotation with some elegant and value your comments and suggestions
Standard Chinese transliteration is used throughout seldom seen iconography in an attempt to improve it constantly and shall
this journal with the exception of commonly used to create a publication charming for appreciate the submission of your
transliterations that have already been adopted into
common usage
both the brain and the eye. contributions.

For enquires about subscription, advertising rates and This launch issue opens with an
other specifications, please email:
exploration by Prof. Ma Mingda on

Summer 2009 5
Martial studies is one of the oldest
At the dawn of human
disciplines in the world, but at the same time it is a new and
rapidly developing academic subject. At the dawn of human existence, the occurrence
existence, the occurrence of warfare made possible the
accumulation of combat experience and knowledge, which of warfare made possible
led to continual innovations in weapons and martial skills,
and quietly sowed the seeds of martial studies. As time
the accumulation of
went on, martial arts social functions gradually expanded, combat experience and
while political and military leaders became increasing
attuned to the importance of mastering these skills. From knowledge, which led to
hard won battle experiences different martial skills were
distinguished and classified into different theoretical
continual innovations in
frameworks, giving rise to self-containing traditions and weapons and martial skills,
spawning specialist treatises, which in time generated the
unique field of martial studies. and quietly sowed the
In China, martial studies reached maturity some time
seeds of martial studies.
between 722 BCE and 221 BCE, corresponding to the
Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, which was Generally speaking, however, as the era of cold weapons
also the era that witnessed the birth of Confucianism. drew to a close, martial skills inherited from antiquity
Confucius thinking had a profound impact on Chinese gradually fell into disuse, until some were completely lost in
martial studies. In fact, he was a keen promoter of martial the near-modern period, and we could only steal glimpses
studies, and a thinker and educator who placed equal of them from historical arms and a limited amount of extant
emphasis on literary and martial cultivation. At the time, textual data. Nonetheless, a number of martial skills survived
a specialist discipline known as jian (sword) discourse because of their social value, while others made a timely
appeared in China alongside professional martial artists transition into competitive sports, in which new guise they
who taught fencing techniques and jian discourse, as now appear in sports stadiums around the world. Out of
well as experts in unarmed combat and related literature. these the most popular and successful are various types of
In addition, skills and training in archery, charioteering, unarmed combat sports, but also include archery, fencing,
and weaponry all underwent significant development, and wrestling, and others.
produced many well-known exponents and texts. In the
same period, concepts of the dao of combat and the In the modern period martial studies throughout the world
dao of jian were expounded, which elevated discussion experienced the same neglect and transformation. However,
of military strategies and jian discourse to the lofty there has been a revival of interest in traditional martial
philosophical and moral planes of the Eternal Way and studies since the second half of last century. This is due
Confucian ethics. This suggests that Chinese martial studies in part to the popularization of sports in society, but also
had already evolved into a complete system, and had linked to the rising demand for pluralism in global culture,
achieved a high level of rationalization. particularly in the field of sports. Substantial growth in
interest in traditional martial studies has strengthened
the discipline, which eventually broke loose from the
shackles of physical education. Additionally, beside a
few traditional events such as archery, fencing, boxing,
judo, and taekwondo, which have been already accepted
as Olympics events, diverse new forms of combat sports
continue to spring up in different parts of the world, and are
boasting an increasing number and variety of tournaments
and championships. More important, the techniques and
theories related to these combat sports are growing more
vibrant, with intensified research being conducted into
understanding their principles. All the while, the academic
perspective directed to their study continues to expand, All in all, martial studies are one of the most important
involving scholars from many different disciplines, and components of traditional culture. It is at once a classical
are gradually giving shape to an interdisciplinary modern discipline and a new and challenging academic subject.
martial studies. This demonstrates that the ancient Combining motion and stillness, physical training and
discipline of martial studies is alive and continuing to bookish research, martial studies simultaneously strengthen
develop, and that in the contemporary society of growing the body and exercise the intellect. Indeed, to expand
economic and political homogenization, there is still space ones intellectual horizon and integrate diverse fields of
for martial studies a discipline founded on the basis of knowledge into a coherent system had been the lifelong
cultural pluralism to develop. goal pursuit of Ma Fengtu, perhaps the most outstanding
martial scholar in modern China. Guided by this principle,
Chinas martial studies has followed a long developmental he inherited and developed the Tongbei system of martial
path. It is steeped in the sediments of history and preserves studies, whose central philosophy is to integrate different
to the present day a large amount of textual information, aspects of knowledge in readiness for all eventualities.
technical theories, and diverse popular sporting forms, Following this precept, we would like to commemorate his
including the familiar martial arts, archery, wrestling, 120th birthday by launching the inaugural issue of Journal
dragon boat racing, equestrian sports, etc. Because of their of Chinese Martial Studies. Through this publication, we
historical relation to military activities, these sports may aim to promote international exchanges in martial studies;
rightfully be included in the domain of martial studies. to present information and research results to students
What needs to be emphasized is that China is a vast country and enthusiasts of Chinese martial studies; to disseminate
with immense cultural differences across its regions, and knowledge of historical martial arts techniques and health
that it has been a multi-ethnic country since the ancient methods; to explore with scholars and fellow martial artists
times. As a result, over the course of time Chinese martial the heritage of global martial arts cultures as well as their
studies had appropriated diverse cultural elements, giving it contemporary forms; to discuss the problems related to
a rich and exceptionally complex structure. Moreover, long understanding these cultures; and to introduce the most
before large scale import of Western culture in the modern noteworthy, reliable, and representative texts and figures in
period, Chinese culture already possessed foreign elements Chinese martial studies. In a word, we hope to make this a
and had been considerably enriched from interaction with platform for exchange, a repository of knowledge and ideas
external socio-cultural groups. In this process, overland and in martial studies, and an authoritative academic journal
maritime routes of the celebrated Silk Road provided a vital that focuses on Chinas martial heritage. This is indeed
channel for cultural exchanges between east and west. the editors statement and the common goal of everyone
The same is true of martial studies. The development of involved in this endeavor.
Chinese martial arts was profoundly influenced by cultures
of the Indian sub-continent and Western and Central Asia, At the launch of our journal we realize many aspects of
or more specifically, by Buddhism and Islam; and since the this publication still need improvement. We welcome your
Ming Dynasty, by Japans warrior tradition, particularly in criticisms, generous contributions, or the provision of
regard to the development of swordsmanship. On the other information relating to activities in martial studies around
hand, Chinese martial arts continued to spread overseas and the world.
exert influence on martial arts developments in neighboring
countries and regions. We would like to dedicate the present launch issue to the
memory of Mr. Ma Fengtu, who had made outstanding
contributions to martial studies. Indeed, to a certain extent,
the establishment of this journal was in fulfillment of his

Thank you

Summer 2009 7
Reconstructing Chinas Indigenous
Physical Culture
By Ma Mingda
Dragon boat pictures courtesy of Boston Dragon Boat Racing Club

bstract: China has been a multi-ethnic country
from ancient times, and the joint creative efforts
of diverse ethnic groups have created the Chinese
civilization, in the process giving rise to an indig-
enous physical culture. Chinese physical culture is a native
tradition distinct from Western sports and physical tradi-
tions of other countries. It is a rich, multi-layered cultural
system that has evolved through Chinas long history and
fully reflects its complex social history and multiculturalism.
However, from the end of the 19th century as China went
through the throes of modernization, its indigenous physi-
cal tradition has also been set on a difficult path. The tran-
sition from dynastic imperialism to modern nationalism was
riddled with obstacles, and in the process China endured
a prolonged period of foreign political intervention and
internal turmoil. As a result, many problems encountered
in the modernization of Chinese physical culture have not
been satisfactory dealt with, with misguidance and mis-
handling of important issues often becoming the norm in
applied situations, and a prevalent trend of superficiality
continued to seriously undermine the indigenous physical
tradition. Even today the reconstruction of Chinas physical A late Qing Dynasty newspaper drawing showing Chinese wrestlers practicing
culture into a new system according to modern, scientific princi-
ples has not been successful. Consequently, a substantial amount of theoretical research and reflection is required, great adjust-
ments need to be made, and a resolute spirit of reform is needed,
to render the theoretical and technical structures of Chinas physi-
cal culture into a mature and complete system. The author be-
lieves this is the most significant task facing contemporary Chinese
sports. At the same time, it presents an important opportunity to
exhibit Chinas indigenous physical culture to the global audience,
which, if successfully undertaken, will be integral to Chinas cul-
tural renaissance. In conclusion, China needs to have its own in-
digenous sporting event, and it further needs to organize its native
physical traditions into a viable system. Such an attempt will have
profound implications, for not only will it assist in preserving and
rescuing Chinas indigenous physical culture, but will also consti-
tute a significant step in promoting multiculturalism and breaking
the Olympics hegemonic grip on global physical culture.

Chinese physical culture is a native tradition distinct

from Western sports and physical traditions of other
countries. It is a rich, multi-layered cultural system that
has evolved through Chinas long history and fully re-
flects its complex social history and multiculturalism.
A 1950s or 60s magazine drawing of a traditonal Chinese archer

hina has been a multi-ethnic and unfitting for gentlemanly conduct.
country since antiquity, and the Subsequent dynasties saw an intensification
joint creative efforts of diverse of this attitude, and after the Song and
ethnic groups helped create the Chinese Yuan periods the majority of Confucian
civilization, giving rise to an indigenous scholar-bureaucrats opposed all forms of
physical culture. The indigenous physical physical competitions philosophers of
tradition in China is a rich, multi-layered the Li school in particular espoused the
cultural system that has evolved through notion that action should be replaced
its long history, and is a veritable mine by stillness (yi dong bu ru yi jing
containing a wealth of cultural treasures. ), and regarded young men
In ancient times, as a result of repeated engaging in physical activities as a sign
conflicts and cultural intercourse among of deviancy. Social prejudices, combined A dragon boat race in the Pearl River, photograph
diverse ethnic groups, Chinas indigenous with official intervention and prohibition, taken in the 1940s

physical culture was subjected to a led to proscription of all kinds of physical

concatenation of reconstruction and competitions including dragon-boat racing,
re-creation. In the process, several which was at one stage patronized by
distinct developmental stages may be the Song court, and extended to all types
discerned. In respect of specific events of contact sports such as wrestling and
in physical culture, some have retained grappling (zhengjiao ), bare-handed
a fairly consistent form and displayed martial arts (shoubo ), staff-fighting
a discernible developmental pattern (dabang), and football (tiqiu ).
through the millennia, whose fundamental In time, espousal for civility and literary
structure was unaffected by the changes cultivation became dislocated and evolved
that had occurred; others were subject into a cultural prejudice against all martial
to fluctuations and trends to a much and physical activities. Lacking support from
greater degree, and went through cycles official authorities and local magnates,
of development and decline, with major popular physical culture was relegated to
changes in contents and formal expressions a subsistence zone and appeared in public
over diverse periods. Still others vanished only as festive entertainment.
altogether after enjoying a short period of
popularity, so that we could only conjecture By comparison, physical culture was valued
about their historical forms through textual to a much greater degree in non-Han
records and archaeological data. societies, where aspects of physical culture
had evolved out of productive activities in
Chinas most important educator, herding, hunting, and fishing, and steadily
Confucius, advocated both literary and developed as their skills and traditions were
martial cultivations, and was himself passed down the generations. In these
proficient in the arts of charioting and societies, individuals were not restricted in
archery, which he incorporated as two of their behavior with such severity by feudal
the six arts in his curriculum.i Further, conventions and ritual etiquette, while
the ritualized activities he promoted riding, archery, wrestling, and trials of Etched figures of Chinese wrestlers in the Qing
period, original copy in the National Palace Museum
contained important aspects of physical strength were part and parcel of everyday
education, including ritualized competitions life in production and war, and provided
which were in reality ancient prototypes their chief mains of entertainment. In this
of sports events. However, after the Han way, the minority ethnic groups played a
and Wei Dynasties physical activities were vital role in the development of Chinas
increasingly frowned upon by Confucian indigenous physical culture, particularly in
scholars, who regarded them as lowly periodic episodes when China was overrun

Summer 2009 9
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

Illustrations of Chinese body exercises from the text, Health Practices of the Thirteen Taibao

and conquered by alien hosts. In each Fortunately, after several millennia of

instance, dynamic clash of cultures and uneven development and in the aftermath
values gradually gave way to a fusion of Western sports forceful introduction
between Chinese and the barbarians (hua into China, a number of ancient exercises
yi hun yi ), which injected vitality manage to survive and occupy important
and diversity into Chinas physical tradition, positions in popular culture. Some of
and in time became one of its defining them are practiced for health reasons and
characteristics. On the other hand, Han entertainment value, while others have
populations continued to hold an absolute transcended local origins to become national
numerical advantage over other ethnic pastimes. In particular, in remote areas
groups in the social order, and anti-martial where modern sports facilities are absent,
sentiments as represented by the popular traditional exercises provide a welcome
phrase applauding literary cultivation means for body training and relaxation,
while belittling martial attainment (zhong and allow unnamed multitudes to enjoy the
wen qing wu ) continued to benefits of physical and mental exercise.
affect the denouement of indigenous
physical culture and hindered its technical In many ways, Chinas indigenous physical
and theoretical developments. Therefore, culture is an important medium through
in spite of ancient Chinas extraordinarily which its cultural values and humanist spirit
diverse physical culture, in the vast ocean are channeled, as for instance the spirit of
of historical texts and literature there is a humility (xierang jinsheng ), ii the
dearth of writings that deal meaningfully stress on maintaining balance and harmony,
with the subject, with perhaps the and the dual goals of cultivating physical
exceptions of martial arts and archery. As and mental wellbeing through exercise.
a historian and a Chinese philologist, this Indeed, such traditional values continue
phenomenon has deeply impressed upon to have significant, pragmatic relevance
my mind and is a constant cause of regret for todays rapidly changing Chinese
in moments of reflection.
society, and significantly contribute to the and a prevalent trend of superficiality
undiminished vitality of Chinas indigenous continued to seriously undermine the
physical culture. development of indigenous sports. An
example of this was the creation of
Over the last century China has undergone competition wushu, which was supported
a painful process of modernization, and and monopolized by the official governing
its indigenous physical culture has likewise body. In significant ways, however, China

Chinas most been set on a twisted road laden with

took a positive approach in meeting the

important educator,
Confucius, advocated From the late Qing onwards, against the
onset of Western imperialism and modern
both literary and sports, a generation of Chinese pioneers
endeavored to construct a national
martial cultivations, physical regime. It is true there were
and was himself many setbacks along the way, but in the
end, through untiring experimentations
proficient in the arts and after overcoming many failures, they

of charioting and managed to achieve concrete results.

However, as the country was beleaguered
archery, which he by external invasion and internal turmoil,

incorporated as two and experienced political upheaval over

a protracted period, many problems
of the six arts in his encountered in Chinese physical cultures
modernizing process were not satisfactory
curriculum. dealt with. Misguidance and mishandling
of important issues often became the norm
Figure from a martial arts manual published during
the Qing Dynasty

Summer 2009 11
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

challenge and actively copied the model an inadequate theoretical framework.

of Western competitive sports. Moreover, Furthermore, longterm planning and
tremendous efforts were exerted to a consistent policy were absent in the
guide physical education in China toward organization of events. In this way, several
international standards, incorporating many decades have passed without any significant
new elements that did not previously exist reforms, and Chinas indigenous physical
in China. But at the same time we have culture has largely remained stagnant, a
to admit that we never successfully found non-descript jumbled heap which is neither
a middle ground between indigenous ancient nor modern, neither indigenous nor
and Western physical cultures, giving Western, which continues to play second
insufficient thought to the proper relation fiddle to mainstream sports, and has failed
between the two, and failed to find a way to develop into a cohesive system.
to fuse disparate cultural elements into an
organic whole. Instead, a general trend All in all, even though China has achieved
of Westernization prevailed in society, outstanding results on the stage of
and indigenous culture was often hastily international sports under the current
brushed aside to make way for new centralized system, its indigenous physical
foreign elements, with irreparable cultural culture remains in a very unsatisfactory
losses. Serious research was lacking for condition with a worrying prospect for the
the evaluation, dissemination, and creative future. Even today we cannot present a
development of indigenous physical complete image of Chinas native physical
culture, and the academic discipline culture to the world. On the other hand,
specifically created for its study suffered that such an ancient civilization has nothing
many weaknesses, including superficiality, to show for our physical heritage, which
lack of interdisciplinary perspective, and remains obscure, seems to have largely
eluded researchers attention. In this
regard we lag behind Japan, and even
Korea. Hitherto, none of the signature
competitive events in Chinas physical
traditions, such as wrestling, archery,
dragon-boat racing, martial arts, etc., has
been included in the Olympics. In fact,
some of them are not even included in the
National Games. Indeed, given how little
we value our indigenous physical tradition,
it is unsurprising that others have given it
such scant attention. There is not a single
Chinese event in the Olympics to this day.
Although this need not be our goal it
necessarily remains a regret, particularly as
our Eastern neighbors, Japan and Korea,
have succeeded where we have failed.
We can affect equanimity and continue
to ignore the facts while our press keeps
silent on the subject, but I personally feel
this is far more distressing than the fact our
national soccer team has failed to make an
impact beyond Asia.

The fact the reconstruction of Chinas

indigenous physical culture remains
incomplete to this day, and continues to
subsist in a state of fragmentation and
confusion, signifies it has not truly made
the transition into modernity. Substantial
Tang Dynasty xiangpu wrestlers, from a mural painting in one of the scripture-ghrottos in Dunhuang
theoretical research and reflection is
required, great adjustments need to be
made, and a resolute spirit of reform
is needed, to mould its theoretical and
technical structures into a mature and
complete system. I believe this is the most
urgent task facing contemporary Chinese
sports, whose fulfillment will go some
way to answering the call for diversity in
global physical culture, and will represent a
significant step forward in reviving Chinas
national heritage.

One Traditional Structure of Chinas

Indigenous Physical Culture

The so-called indigenous physical culture

of China refers to the native physical and
sports tradition in China which are clearly
distinct from Western sports and the physical
traditions of other countries.iii In the first half
of the twentieth century (1911-1949) when
Western sports were being introduced into
China, some people referred to the original
physical culture that existed in China as
indigenous physical education (tu tiyu

Chinas indigenous physical culture is often

referred to as a dense cultural system
with a complex structure because it is
the crystallized product of a long process
of exchange between different societies
and cultures. Of all these activities, the
most significant were inter-ethnic cultural
exchanges, but also included regional
cultural exchanges within China as well
as intercourse between China and foreign
states. These exchanges took many forms
and often occurred through military conflict.
Over the course of several millennia, the
fusion of cultures may be compared to
diverse rivers and streams converging into
a single confluence that finally enters the
sea. In such a way, a multitude of cultural
streams poured into the ocean that is the
Chinese civilization. Therefore, even though
Chinese culture and in particular its
physical tradition may appear prima facie
to be the product of a single society, upon
closer examination it reveals its complex and
multiple cultural origins, whose marks can
readily be found in such classical physical
events as polo, archery, and wrestling.
In many ways, inter-ethnic cultural exchange
Competitions at the 8th National Minority Games, held in Guangzhou in 2007 is a familiar notion whereas the idea of
Top; Jianzi (shuttlecock)

Summer 2009 13
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

intercourse between China and foreign

states is rather less so, as the latter is seldom
mentioned by Chinese scholars. In fact,
long before Western sports propagated into
China, Chinas indigenous physical culture
already contained foreign elements, and
bore evidence to an on-going process of
cultural exchange and cross-fertilization.
Despite the closed-door policy pursued over
extended periods, the flow of information
and material goods between China and
the outside world was never completely
cut off and persisted through diverse
channels. Taking for example the native
martial arts heritage, which is commonly
regarded as guocui (the national arts
of China)1, its development was shaped
by diverse cultural influences from the
Indian sub-continent, Asia Minor, as well as
Central Asia more specifically, Chinese
martial arts were influenced by Buddhist
and Islamic cultures. The Ming Dynasty
witnessed large-scale popularization of the
martial arts and a concomitant blossoming
of different schools and styles. Indeed, it
was during this period that martial arts
made an incipient transition into a sport.
During this period, both military and popular
martial arts absorbed elements of Japanese
swordsmanship, as well as sword techniques
imported from Egypt.iv Later, Western sports
transmission into China brought about a
wave of exchanges between China and the
West in physical culture, which appeared
on the surface to be a one way commerce.
In reality, however, incremental numbers of
Chinese migrants brought their indigenous
physical traditions to foreign countries,
and in the process of setting up overseas
Chinese communities they created a global A Chinese archer of the Republic period, photograph taken in October 1935 at the Jiangwan Stadium
platform to showcase Chinas physical
heritage. In time, martial arts, dragon-dance,
lion-dance, dragon-boat racing, walking
on stilts (caigaoqiao ), etc., came
to symbolize Chinese culture. Gradually,
foreigners started to take part in these
Over the last century China has undergone
events and appreciated Chinese culture
through direct participation. Conversely,
a painful process of modernization, and
Western sports were also transformed in its indigenous physical culture has
the process of indigenization and spawned
hybrid events that combined indigenous and likewise been set on a twisted road laden
Western elements. To give an example, my
native province of Gansu is relatively remote
with obstacles.
and obscure, but old photographs show
that around the year 1906, towards the end

Guo-cui literally means the quintessence of Chinese culture, however, in this context, it has the same meaning as the National Arts (guo-shu).
of the Qing Dynasty, the city of Liangzhou can basically be divided into two main
(todays Wuwei city) in western Gansu categories: to the first category belong
already had a soccer team. Of course, this those which were jointly created by
in itself does not signify that soccer was different ethnic and cultural groups in
widespread. However, until the 1940s China, whereas the second category
and 1950s I know that a type of small, includes the remaining events which have
compact soccer ball made of sheep-wool a more localized identity. The former
called maodan (literally furry egg) are national in nature and belong to the
was played in local primary schools, and Chinese nation as a whole, while the latter
competitions in maodan were often held are local and often limited in dissemination.
between different classes. Although the ball
was a lot smaller than a standard soccer ball Over the millennia, in the process of
and the field was also smaller than a soccer exchange, conflict, and amalgamation
pitch, the rules were basically the same among diverse ethnic groups, a number
as the English game, and the judge even of major competitive events in physical
used English terms. In the interior of China, culture gradually took shape in China,v
sports events similar to maodan can still be which were created by the joint efforts of
found in many places. It is very difficult to Chinas multifarious societies and cultures,
ascertain how they came into being, but containing their wisdom and exhibiting
what is certain is that they were adapted their cultural features. In ancient China,
from Western sports and indigenized political ties and diplomacy between
according to local conditions. different social and ethnic groups were
often enforced and conducted through
There are many extant events in Chinas physical competition, particularly between
indigenous physical traditions, but they

Lion dance

Summer 2009 15
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

the polities of agrarian Chinese and the

nomads, which in the long run served to
gravitate disparate cultures and societies
closer together. In this connection,
examples abound which illustrate the
historical import of physical culture in
mediating political diplomacy, particularly
through the medium of archery rituals and

Many ethnic and cultural groups that

had participated in the creation of these
competitive events had long ago vanished
from history, lost in the crucible of Chinese
civilization, while others continue to be
represented in Chinas multi-ethnic state to
the present day, proudly preserving their
cultural distinctiveness and an independent
identity. Indeed, at different temporal
junctures in the course of history, many of
these events have disappeared. This is a
very regrettable loss. However, those that
have survived tend to be deeply rooted
in Chinas history and possess condensed
cultural substance. It is not difficult to see
from such events as wrestling, archery,
and dragon-boat racing whether in
respect of the selection of athletes, the
training methods they used, the rules and
regulations formulated for competitions,
A nobleman on horseback holding a bow for shooting pellets, hand-scroll painting by Qian Xuan and their educational and entertainment
values that long before Western
sports were introduced into China,
indigenous physical (sporting) activities had
independently attained a very high level of
development comparable and could easily
be accepted in the world of international

Of the surviving competitive events in

Chinas physical heritage, which ones
belong to the category of being jointly
created by its different ethnic and cultural
groups? I believe there are four main
activities as well as a number of smaller
ones. By the four main activities I mean
martial arts, archery, wrestling, and dragon-
boat racing.

It needs to be pointed out here that China

historically had a rich and varied tradition
of ball games, which included cuju
, polo , chuiwan 3 , etc. Taking
cuju as an example, it was a popular game
with a solid social foundation in the Song
Jianzi (shuttlecock)
period, and attained a relatively mature level jianshen huodong), new methods of body
of development. We could even glimpse training are continually being created
aspects of how it was played from related throughout the country, as for example
literature. Unfortunately, it was banned in the rapidly developing Mulanquan ,
the early Ming Dynasty, and even though it Taiji ruoqiu 7, etc., which are fast
was revived subsequently, it had by that time becoming nationwide phenomena and are
transformed into a minor pastime played even beginning to spread overseas.
only in the courtyard, until it disappeared
from history altogether. If cuju that is to At this point, it is necessary to give further
say, Chinese-style soccer still existed, it explanations on the four main competitive
would represent the fifth main activity in events I mentioned earlier.
the schema of Chinas indigenous physical
culture. Additionally, the insignificant jianzi I will begin with archery. China has one of
(shuttlecock) is also played by people of the oldest archery traditions in the world.
all ages across the expanse of China, with a Around 28,000 years BCE early inhabitants
trend of growing popularity in recent years. of China already knew how to manufacture
Jianzi has a long history and a popular basis, and use bows and arrows, and through this
it can be played solo or in a group, and has acquisition had made the first momentous
an innate competitiveness built into the technological leap in remote prehistory.
game. It is therefore a pity that jianzi lacks In historical times, archery became an
proper social organization and continues activity of even greater socio-cultural
to exist as an isolated event in the popular import, whose significance far extended
tradition. beyond a purely military role. Archery
served multiple functions in ancient China,
There are other activities and events in and beside its utility for war and hunting,
indigenous physical culture which have a archery was very early on incorporated as
smaller radius of dissemination and a more part of the official education and given a
limited audience-base. Even so, it should be pedagogic function. Indeed, archery was
pointed out that the majority of these events the earliest form of exercise to partake of
and activities are still owned in common by the nature of sport in China. Different
Chinas diverse cultures and ethnic groups, types and practices of archery rites and
and evolved out of a long history of cultural touhu (tossing arrows into a vase) in
change. They include the equestrian sports, the Western Zhou period, various methods
tug of war, weightlifting, pellet shooting of archery contest such as boshe and
, gangzi (Chinese-style weight- lifting) dushe popular from the Han and Wei
, ice-skating (binxi ), swing (qiuqian) Dynasties onwards, diverse competitive
, and skipping. In 1982, the National archery activities such as willow shooting
Minority Games (shaoshu minzu yundonghui (sheliu ) in the Song, Liao, Jin, Yuan,
) was inaugurated, where and Ming Dynasties, and various styles of
a number of erstwhile little known archery competitions such as yuanshe
competitive events made their appearance, , pingshe , tongshe , zhunshe
which included extensions and recreations , etc, all exhibited typical sports
of traditional events, such as crossbow characteristics. In the Three Kingdoms
archery, qiuqian, jianzi, etc., as well as period, the emperor of Wei, Cao Pei, was
events culled from the traditions of other
ethnic groups, such as qianghuapao 4
, zhenzhuqiu5 , muqiu 6 , etc.
After developments over two decades and
six meets of the National Minority Games,
It needs to be pointed out here that
some of these competitive events gradually China historically had a rich and varied
approach maturity and are in the process of
developing into national competitive events. tradition of ball games
In addition, under the National Physical
Exercise Movement ( quanmin

Cu-ju was a style of football game popular mainly during the Song dynasty.
Chui-wan was a popular ball game in ancient China during the Song, Jin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties, Many scholars in China believe the modern golf game is derived from chui-wan..
Qiang-hua-pao is a type of ball-game originating in the physical traditions of the Dong and Zhuang nationalities, and is one of the most representative competitive events in the Minority Games. It is also
known as Chinese-style rugby and its rules are based on the modern English game.
Zheng-zhu-qiu, literally pearl-game, originated as a Manchu game and is also a representative event in the Minority Games. Summer 2009 17
A type of ball game popular in Islamic communities in northwest China which has been incorporated into the Minority Games.
A type of ball game inspired by Taiji-quan.
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

fond of archery and riding in his youth, n the history of Chinese archery, a Chinese-style archery finally took shape
whose passion remained undiminished [to division occurred early on between in the Qing Dynasty, as represented by
the end of his life], chasing wild beasts barbarian methods (hushe ) and horseback and foot-archery practices in
over tens of li, and frequently practiced Chinese methods (hanshe ); and after martial examinations of the Qing period.
at shooting targets from over a hundred the appearance of the crossbow, a further Therefore, Chinese-style archery has not
paces, in order to maintain his health and distinction may be drawn between northern only been a major component in Chinas
keep up his spirits.vii It is worth remarking and southern styles (in respect of both physical tradition since ancient times,
that the reference here to maintain his equipment and techniques), which reflect it embodies the very process of cultural
health and keep up his spirits (ri duo inter-ethnic and inter-regional cultural intercourse and fusion among Chinas
ti jian, xin mei bu yan differences. On the other hand, not only diverse ethnic groups, and that its practices
)makes a claim about the value of was a clear boundary impossible to draw in particular, the notion of she bu zhu
archery for bodily and mental health, between barbarian and Chinese techniques, pi (archery practice whose aim
and shows in the clearest possible way the two maintained constant interaction is not to hit the target) and the tradition
that the ancient Chinese understood and and continued to influence each other to she yi guan de (observe
recognized the value of physical exercise. throughout Chinese history, absorbing the virtue through archery practice)ix made
Eventually, the health (sport) element in best features from each others tradition manifest the archetypal humanist spirit in
archery practice extended to other forms until they finally merged into one. Beginning the Eastern physical (sporting) traditions.
of physical exercise. On this basis, I believe with King Zhao Wulins reform to wear
archery is the leading competitive event in barbarian clothes and practice riding and It is regrettable that from 1959, after
the realm of Chinas traditional sports, archery in the Warring States Period, viii to China accepted the international standards
which for several thousand years walked developments after the Tang Dynasty when of archery practice and competition,
at the forefront of Chinas indigenous standards for horseback and foot-archery competitive events in Chinese-style
physical culture, and continued to extend became increasingly refined in official martial archery came to a complete halt. After
the scope of its activity and influence until examinations, activities in archery exchange several decades of desuetude Chinas
it finally formed an independent discipline between China and its barbarian neighbors ancient tradition of archery studies has
archery studies (shexue ). never ceased, until an ultimate model of basically discontinued, archery rituals
have disappeared, and the craft of making

Illustrations of jiaodi, a form of ancient

wrestling in a tomb painting from the
Weijin period
Montreal mixed team at the 2008 Boston Dragon Boat Festival, picture provided by the Dragon Boat Committee

traditional bow and arrows and other of cultural and demographic influx in the types of wrestling in the world, Chinese-
supplementary equipment is all but lost. Song and Yuan Dynasties, a distinctive new style wrestling has the longest history and
Today, it would be no mean task to recover style of wrestling known as zhengjiao attained the most mature development.
this ancient system of physical culture and appeared. Finally, under Manchu rulers It is a product of cultural intercourse over
re-discover its traditional ritual formulas.x patronage and promotion in the Qing an extended period, which manifests
Dynasty, a team of professional wrestlers distinctive characteristics of the Chinese
Next, let us discuss Chinese-style wrestling. in the imperial service the shanpu ying civilization, and is stylistically representative
camp created a complete system of East Asias physical culture.
Wrestling and barehanded combat is of wrestling which became the basis for
humans most primitive and universal urge Chinese-style wrestling.xi As most historical Xiangpu of ancient China transmitted to
to exercise, and represents our ancestors records about wrestling techniques tend to Japan in the east and is preserved there
earliest and most important means to be crude and unclear, and because ancient today as a living national monument.
express vitality and fullness of life. Ancient writers were wont to employ fancy phrases Wrestling techniques of the Qing court
exercises in wrestling and grappling existed of obscure meaning and often used different also had a profound influence on Chinas
in every society throughout the world names for the same techniques, it is difficult neighbours: it is a well-known fact that
and came in a variety of forms. In China, to make sense of the primary sources, which Japans judo, which has become an
wrestling developed through a long and often leaves the reader with the feeling Olympics sport, owes its development to
complex process, beginning with jiaoli he is gazing at a flower through the mist. Chinese-style wrestling.
in the pre-Qin period, to jiaodi during However, in reality one needs only carefully
the Qin and Han Dynasties, and gradually examine the documents and compare textual Third, let us turn our attention to dragon-
took shape as xiangpu between records with surviving iconography and boat racing.
Wei-Jin and Tang-Song Dynasties, whose archaeological data, to gain a clearer view
form is preserved in the sumo tradition of the developmental pattern of Chinese In ancient times dragon-boat racing was
of Japan today. Then, after a new wave wrestling. In my opinion, of all the different called jingdu (literally, competition

Summer 2009 19
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

Chinese martial artists performing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

in crossing) and was known under a host dragon-boat racing as an official Olympics
of different names. Various hypotheses event in place of competition wushu (jingji
have also been put forward for its genesis wushu ), and in certain ways the
but these speculations need not concern representative value of dragon-boat racing
us here. Dragon-boat racing is the longest is greater. Unfortunately, this idea obviously
living water sport with the widest scope of did not occur to those in charge.
dissemination in China. Nowadays, dragon-
boat racing has spread to different corners Finally we should consider the martial arts.
of the world, including Germany, and As the most popular and widely practiced
participation is no longer limited to Chinese form of exercise in China, the reason I have
competitors but include athletes from chosen to talk about it last is because its
many countries. From the point of view of present condition is disappointing in many
dragon-boat racings international influence ways.
and recognition, it is undoubtedly the most
successful sport in all of Chinas indigenous Wushu has a huge support-base in China.
sports. And the esprit de corps expressed For a long time it received the greatest
in a dragon-boat race, as well as the joy attention from the government and has
and festive atmosphere of the occasion, been a regular event in both the National
powerfully conveys Chinas distinctive Games and the Asian Games. Over the
sporting spirit. For these reasons, dragon- last few years, Chinese from all over the
boat racing has been embraced globally world had hoped with great anxiety and
and is now one of the most visible symbols anticipation that wushu would be accepted
for Chinese national sports. Indeed, I into the holy Olympics sanctuary, to
believe China would have had a better remedy Chinese sports regrettable absence
chance of success if it had chosen to apply from the biggest international stage of
sports all these years. Unfortunately, the modern wushus development. Since n any case, archery, wrestling, dragon-
applications to enter wushu as a formal antiquity Chinese martial arts have placed boat racing, and martial arts are the
event and as an exhibition in the 2008 an equal demand on set-performance four pillars of Chinas indigenous
Beijing Olympics were both turned down by and combat training and emphasized the physical culture, which have stood the
the International Olympics Committee, and integral relationship between the two, test of time and retained a strong vitality.
thus the international wushu competition stressing that one should xian zi wu, hou One of the most salient characteristics of
organized by the Chinese governing body bi shi (first dance on his these four activities is that they have long
during the summer games had no relation own, then engage in competitive matches), ago developed into complete systems,
whatsoever with the actual Olympic Games. which included matches in both empty- which combine performance aspects with
This represents a major setback for the handed and armed martial arts. Generally competitive elements, exhibit rich and
international development of Chinese speaking, the competitor would first varied modes of expression, with mature
martial arts, for the last time they were perform a routine set, and would progress theoretical and technical frameworks, and
exhibited on the greatest global stage was to an agonistic match if he passed here possess a rich literary tradition that has
back in 1936 at the 11th Berlin Olympics. too, different grades were given to set formed the basis for present-day research.
performance, but that was point scoring Some of these activities are popular in China
As I have always maintained, martial arts and not a competitive match, for the latter and overseas communities, and are receiving
are priceless gems in Chinas physical could only be resolved by victory or defeat. increasing attention from international
cultural heritage, which were created Throughout the course of Chinese history scholars in sports science and other related
through the sustained efforts of diverse competitive martial arts matches never took disciplines. However, some of these events
ethnic groups over many centuries. the form of set-performance, for it was have been neglected or marginalized, while
However, with a little care we would deemed too abstract and could not truly others have been set on the wrong path in
discover that the current competition determine the difference in skills between the process of development and promotion.
wushu only came into being in the 1950s, practitioners. Competition wushus Nonetheless, looking at it in a long-term
when traditional forms of martial arts monopoly over an extended period has perspective, these physical activities have
competition were rejected in a social inadvertently led to Chinese martial arts deep-rooted foundations and I believe in
environment dominated by extreme left being bifurcated into two disjointed parts time they will again shine with true colors,
winged politics. At the time, the historical competition wushu and traditional and contribute to enriching the international
name of changquan was borrowed for its martial arts and later spawned a third sports scene.
use, although in reality this new type of component of sanda (which should not
martial arts performance bears no relation be confused with sanshou), which is an Two Reviewing the Guoshu
whatever with the historical changquan, extension of competition wushu, but is Experiment
and is in fact a standardized form which utterly unrelated to the purely performance-
integrated popular martial arts styles based wushu. In the end, competition The Qing Dynasty was the last feudal
(principally huaquan). As for the so called wushu and sanda went separate ways and Dynasty in China, and it was under Manchu
competition, the outcome is determined engendered a second partition in Chinese rule that Chinas indigenous physical culture
through an adjudication process of set- martial arts. The contemporary situation of reached its ultimate form. Most of the
performance, in lieu of traditional agonistic Chinese martial arts is extremely confusing, surviving native physical traditions in China,
competition. This type of competition which is facing a shrinking market and an as well as the framework of traditional
is modeled on gymnastics, but without encroaching threat posed by mysticism. Chinese physical culture, were completed
the same stringent guidelines for point- No ready solution is available to solve this during the Qing period. In significant ways,
scoring based on rigorous scientific criteria. quandary, and we can only put our faith in therefore, the Qing Dynasty represents a
As a result, many problems exist in the time, hoping that the governing body will key stage in the development of Chinas
adjudication process, which has elicited introduce reforms that will address these indigenous physical culture when many of its
strong criticisms from an early stage in issues at root levels.

it should be pointed out that the majority of these

events and activities are still owned in common by
Chinas diverse cultures and ethnic groups, and
evolved out of a long history of cultural change

Summer 2009 21
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

aspects reached maturation and completion. such as the Mongols who had a strong zi, shi dun zi8 () became
Let us consider a few examples. tradition in wrestling. The shanpu ying popular forms of physical exercise in urban
camp was composed of the best athletes centers in Qing-period China. For a while
As mentioned above, Chinese-style wrestling from different cultural and ethnic groups, shepu (archery ground ), gongjianfang
has a long history with many guises and and likewise techniques in Chinese-style (archery chamber ), bashifang
forms in diverse dynastic periods, which wrestling were multicultural in origin, (trainers chamber ) and other arenas
finally developed into a homogeneous as manifest in the synonymous name of for martial practice were set up throughout
system in the Qing Dynasty. The shanpu jiaoban (). Towards the end of Qing, the empire and many professional martial
ying () camp was established in the shanpu ying camp was disbanded, and over artists made their living from teaching these
Qing period as early as the emperor Kangxis a hundred boke wrestlers were scattered skills. All in all, Chinese-style archery has a
reign, together with the boke system and into society, which had a significant impact long and complex history and, like Chinese-
a series of important tournaments, which on popularizing wrestling. From that point style wrestling, took a definitive form and
often took place under the emperors direct on, wrestling descended from the imperial acquired the characteristics of sport in the
supervision . This system integrated the court to the popular domain, transmitting to Qing Dynasty.
techniques and traditions of different ethnic southern parts of China during the Republic,
and regional wrestling styles, including and subsequently diffused to overseas Beside wrestling and archery, the same
Mongolian-style wrestling, Manchu-style communities. xiii also holds true for martial arts and
wrestling, as well as various wrestling styles dragon-boat racing, as well as a host

As I have always maintained, martial arts

are priceless gems in Chinas physical
cultural heritage, which were created
through the sustained efforts of diverse
ethnic groups over many centuries.
We should also consider the example of other physical activities such as the
of archery. Historically, archery has equestrian sports, ice skating, swimming,
taken many different forms and styles and weightlifting, which underwent a
from ritual, costume, personal fundamental transformation during the
practiced by the Han Chinese, to create an adornments, related gifts, training Qing period into sports. In Qing Dynasty,
ultimate form of Chinese-style wrestling. methods, examination, competition, and the most important representatives of
performance, its contents have changed Chinas indigenous sports were the martial
Many different terms were used during the significantly over time. However, only arts, archery, wrestling, and dragon-boat
Qing period, such as liaojiao (), liaojiao in the Qing Dynasty did a united form racing, which embodied the spirit of Chinas
(), guanjiao (), shuaijiao (), of Chinese-style archery with distinctive physical culture. These events promoted
and shuaijiao (), but the fundamental competitive features finally emerge, which traditional values through competition,
skills and competition rules were the same. became an important part of court culture espoused the precept to yangshen jianti
More important, a distinctive wrestling and a popular form of exercise among ( improve mental and bodily
culture developed under court patronage the upper social classes. This undoubtedly health), promoted the idea of relaxation
which embraced different aspects of has to do with the fact the Manchus and pleasure through exercise, and extolled
wrestling, including costume, rituals, were ethnic minorities who originated the ideal of harmony and humility, by
selection of athletes, techniques, teaching from the northern hinterland, and that stressing the importance of spirit rather
methods, equipment, and competition archery played a decisive role in their than focusing on the results. In particular,
regulations. Wrestling matches and conquest of the Middle Kingdom. But the creation of Taijiquan led to a new
performance made up an integral part of an even more significant factor was the model of martial arts competition that
important court celebrations, and served strict implementation of official martial emphasizes aspects of leisure and health .
vital political functions in Qing rulers examinations in the Qing period. As a This indeed represents a leap in martial arts
diplomatic relationship with various ethnic result of the martial examinations, archery development and a physical extension of
groups, particularly the northern peoples and weightlifting including the wielding Eastern Daoist philosophy.
of a heavy sword (dadao ), shi zhi

They are both types of stone-weight used for body conditioning.
Ritual archery in the Ming court from Yangzheng tujie (Ming Dynasty)

Summer 2009 23
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

hen Western sports started to filter promulgations on education policies in education. This led to the so-called battle
into China from the end of the 1902 and 1903, namely, Imperial Decreed between indigenous and Western sports.
Qing Dynasty, they first established Charter for Schools (popularly known as the Representatives of the indigenous
a foothold in the coastal cities and later 1902 School Regime) and Regulations physical tradition undoubtedly included
spread to the interior. Around the year 1900, Governing Higher Education, the Qing conservative elements who voiced narrow
competitive Western sports such as track government laid down clear guidelines for jingoistic views, but we should also
and field, gymnastics, and ball games, were the development of physical education at acknowledge their dedicated commitment to
played in missionary schools throughout different levels, which signified physical espousing the cause of indigenous physical
the country. Under their influence, many education had already officially been culture. Under Western sports dominance,
public and private schools gradually adopted incorporated into the domain of education. indigenous traditions fell into increasing
Western sports in their curriculum. In On the eve of the 1911 Revolution, many neglect and marginalization, and faced
this process, the Young Mens Christian competitive events in Western sports had a very real threat of discontinuation. At
Association (YMCA), whose first branch in already entered China, and theories and this time, a number of farsighted pioneers
China was established in 1876 in Shanghai, ideas about Western physical culture and proposed to reform indigenous sports
played a particularly significant part in competition, particularly in respect of based on the Western model, taking lessons
subsequent promotion and dissemination of physical education and physical education from Japans experience in protecting and
Western sports. Its contributions included based on militarism were well known and developing native sports, in order to select
building the first modern stadium in China, widely disseminated in China. xiv representative competitive events in Chinas
and organizing some of the earliest sports indigenous tradition and re-organize them
tournaments in the country, such as in In the 1920s and 1930s when Western into a complete system, which could be put
Tianjin and Shanghai in 1902; and even sports had come to successfully dominate on the same track as international modern
more noteworthy, YMCA was responsible for mainstream physical culture in China, a sports. However, restricted by contemporary
creating Chinas first National Games, which number of pioneers, led by martial artists, circumstances and the reformers own
was held under the old regime in Shanghai attempted to counteract this trend by limitations, particularly their lack of
in 1910. Further, in a series of public constructing their own system of physical theoretical training and knowledge, major

Hanging scroll painting Four items of Performance at the Royal Dinner preserved at the Palace Museum, Beijing
obstacles stood in the way of development, Japanese martial arts, he restructured the
leading to a series of miscalculations and chaotic popular martial arts competitions
mistakes, and the reform in indigenous into a framework of yipin sanbi
physical culture stagnated for a time in (one performance and three matches),
the quagmire of nationalism. However, which included one set-performance
overall these explorations were meaningful (and point-scoring) and a series of three
exercises that remain valuable as case competitive matches in sanshou
studies and points of reference. Personally, (barehanded combat), duanbing
I believe that among the many different (short weapon), and changbing (long
experimental models adopted in private weapon). Under this new system, athletes
and official initiatives, the national arts could enter a single or multiple events . It
(guoshu) project directed by Mr. Zhang is true that many flaws were still present
Zhijiang achieved the most outstanding in this system of martial arts competition
results and had the most far-reaching known as the guoshu examination
influence.xvi Today, we should review this (guoshu kaoshi ) as experience
historical precedent with due respect and was lacking, and considerable problems
try to learn from its experience. existed in respect of regulation, safety
facilities, and the standard of training.
The construction of Zhang Zhijiangs guoshu However, I am inclined to think that it was
system revolved around a central precept, heading in the right general direction, as
that practice and agonistic competitions it was anchored in the ancient tradition to
should exist side by side, and technical first [engage in] solo dance [practice] and
knowledge should be acquired at the same afterwards a competitive match (xian zi
time as rational understanding (lianda wu, hou bi shi ), and drew
bingzhong, shuxue jianbei ideas from the successful experience of
). This provided a concrete guideline Western sports. If it had been supported by
to developing a new system of indigenous adequate funds, and was given sufficient
sports and martial arts competition the time to develop and evolve, I strongly
so-called guoshu system with martial believe that the guoshu system would have The Qing Dynasty
arts at its core and surrounded by other
sports competitions. Although constrained
been a success.
represents a
by contemporary circumstances, Zhang was
wholeheartedly devoted to the project,
The guoshu proposed by Zhang Zhijiang
belongs to the same category as national
key stage in the
and no effort was spared in constructing
the guoshu system. In the end he failed
painting (guohua ), national
medicine (guoyi ), and national
development of
to attain the lofty goals set forth at the music (guoyue ), which emphasize Chinas indigenous
beginning, but we must admit that some
measures of success were achieved the
their indigenousness and are conceptually
distinct from martial arts (wushu ) physical culture
term guoshu has been etched in peoples
hearts, and his efforts left in indelible broad
or new martial arts (xin wushu ).
As stated above, the principal distinction
when many of its
strokes an important chapter in the history
of Chinas indigenous physical culture.
between the national arts (guoshu )
and martial arts (wushu) lies in the fact the
aspects reached
However, his most significant contribution former is not a single sport, but a system maturation and
was the creation of a preliminary system
of indigenous sports with national
of sports with agonistic competitions in
bare-handed and weapon- fighting in completion.
examinations (guokao ) in its center. its core. From technical classification to
management principles, from theoretical
The Central Guoshu Institute founded structure to competition rules, it forms
by Zhang Zhijiang was the first official a preliminary, self-containing system.
organization in China to regulate and Even though certain flaws may be found
control indigenous sports. He brought in within this system, and certain problems
talents from around the nation and formed had appeared during implementation,
a team of experts in indigenous physical we must acknowledge that under the
culture. With their support and based on conditions of the time, it was a structure
the models of Western sports and reformed that best represented Chinese sports and

Summer 2009 25
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

their principal expression in the Republican

period. (guokao) only occurred twice. Nevertheless, survived in the popular domain. There
it cannot be denied that the guoshu were performances in a variety of empty
It is a well known fact that the guoshu examination made significant contributions handed and weapon styles, agonistic
examination was one of the main activities to promoting indigenous physical culture. matches in unarmed and weapon combat,

organized by the Central Guoshu Institute, wrestling events which had enjoyed a
and represented the most important form he first national examinations complementary relation with the martial
of competition in guoshu. Regulations for (guokao ) held in Nanjing in arts since antiquity as well as other
National Arts Examinations (guoshu kaoshi October in the seventeenth year competitive activities that are intimately
tiaoli ) and Detailed Rules of the Republic (1928) was experimental related to traditional martial arts such as
(xize ) specified that examinations at in many ways. Participants had to archery, pellet-shooting (dangong), jianzi,
the national, provincial, and county levels first go through a preliminary round and weight-lifting. These events were
be divided into separate academic and of competition, which consisted of integral parts of the Central Institutes
technical examinations, and thereby upheld performance in routine sets in dao training and dissemination at different
the Confucian tradition of placing equal (single-edged sword), qiang (spear), jian levels, and were incorporated into the
emphasis on literary and martial cultivation. (double-edged sword), gun (staff) national arts activities at schools. At
For our purpose, it is unnecessary to and quan (boxing), and were allowed to the sixth National Games in Shanghai in
dilate further on the academic aspect. The engage in agonistic matches only after they the twenty-fourth year of the Republic
technical examination, on the other hand, had passed the first round. Agonistic events (1935), guoshu was included in the official
was in reality an open guoshu competition included sanshou, duanbing, changbing, competitions, and was represented by six
and was divided into the preliminary and and wrestling, etc. By the second national individual events including sanshou,
official stages. The official examination examinations in Nanjing in the twenty- weapons, wrestling, archery, pellet-
was further separated into preliminary, second year of the Republic (1933), the shooting, and tijian which were selected
second, and final rounds. There were five competitive procedure followed closely the on the basis of practical considerations.
weight categories in the preliminary test, guidelines set forth in the Regulations and Limited by the standard of the guoshu
and participants were matched up by draw Detailed Rules. Beside the two national at the time, the majority of athletes only
to engage in examinations in four different examinations, many provincial cities also entered a single or two competitive events,
subjects, comprising empty-handed combat, held local competitions, with adjustments though a few athletes did enter multiple
wrestling, and bayonet competition, and in competitive events across regions, but events, such as Yang Weibu from Qingdao
progressed by elimination into the second fundamentally following the regulations of who competed in wrestling, weightlifting,
and final rounds, with three competitors the Central Guoshu Institute. archery, and boxing, and Wang Zhi, a
remaining in the last phase of competition. member of the Zhejiang team, who took
For various reasons, the development of the The structural composition of guoshu was part in boxing, weapons, wrestling, and
guoshu examination was very uneven across varied and included many independent archery competitions. It is also worth
the country and national level examinations events in traditional martial arts that had mentioning that a number of well known

The construction of Zhang Zhijiangs guoshu system revolved

around a central precept, that practice and agonistic
competitions should exist side by side.
contemporary martial artists such as Tong had happened. A few years later, those of the obstacles that come in its way it
Zhongyi, Wang Ziping, Jiang Rongjiao, who had been in charge at the governing continues to pertinaciously develop and
and Wu Junshan were both martial arts body silently departed from the scene and grow. xviii This is the case everywhere in the
and wrestling judges at the sixth National were taken over by new officials. For a time world. For this reason, the only way to
Games, as many accomplished martial we eagerly awaited reforms and changes truly inherit and develop traditional culture
artists at the time were also skilled in which many believed were sure to come. In to is treat its history with respect, and to
wrestling. The following year a team the end, nothing changed. All efforts and continue to learn from our predecessors
of Chinese martial artists attended the attention were focused on getting wushu experience. To blindly reject the past, and
eleventh Olympics at Berlin in Germany, into the Olympics as an official competition to follow the so called political standards
where they performed jianzi and feicha event, or else they flew the banner of when making cultural evaluations such
beside martial arts demonstrations. traditional martial arts as a way of getting simplistic and crude ways of thinking had
out of financial straits. Everything else is led to grievous mistakes being committed
About seven or eight years ago, I put considered secondary and not given much in my country, and caused irreparable
forward the proposal to review guoshu, xvii thought to. I made a statement at the time, losses in traditional culture and great
which I hoped would persuade the which I wish to recite below to conclude suffering to my nation and its people.
governing body in China to discard old this section: Indeed, the lessons learned in respect of
prejudices and convince them of the need martial arts heritage and development
to broaden their horizon, carefully consider Traditional culture is an important have been particularly heavy and grave,
the successes and failures that had occurred medium through which to instill a sense and are worthy of profound reflection.
in the development of contemporary martial of national pride. Among the diverse and
arts, and seriously consider whether there variegated fields of traditional culture, Three Reconstructing Chinas
is anything worthy of study and emulation physical culture has the greatest ability to Indigenous Games
in the guoshu experiment. Regretfully, convey national spirit and character, for
I did not receive any response, neither it possesses to an extraordinary degree Not long after the founding of the new
affirmation nor refutation, as if nothing vitality and continuity, and regardless China, in November 1953, National


Photographs taken during the proceedings of the 2nd National Examination (1933)
a) A female boxer b) Ladies changbing c) Wrestling match d) Ladies duanbing

Summer 2009 27
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

Indigenous-style Games and Exhibition was directed at agonistic competitions

(quanguo minzu xingshi tiyu biaoyan ji until they were completely abandoned.
jingsai dahui Without the restriction and guidance of
) was held in Tianjin which had competitive matches, set performance
over 400 competitive events (including developed into a choreographic dance which
individual martial arts performance) and was placed ever greater emphasis on technical
attended by 396 athletes representing ten embellishments, and was distinguished by
ethnic groups. In the same period similar being high, difficult, new, and pretty. In
games were held in many cities across the reality, competition wushu progressively
nation, and for a while indigenous sports lost its original spiritual characteristics and
became a popular trend. In many ways, the became dislocated from its cultural origin,
indigenous sports movement was both until it transformed into a protean Chinese-
innovative and meaningful, and style gymnastics, or perhaps one should say
laid a firm foundation for its a form of martial dance. In the foregoing
development in the new China, it has been stated that Chinese-style archery
where indigenous physical had vanished from the sports scene since
culture would be given the 1959, and continued to be practiced only
proper attention and position in isolated places in remote mountains and
it deserved. A series of plains. A direct consequence of long period
ideas put forward at of neglect is that the traditional craft in
the time, such as to making Chinese-style composite bows is
confer greater value almost completely lost. Today, a descendant
on indigenous sports of a traditional bowyer silently carries on
through scientific this craft in Beijing, but we cannot say we
research and re- have rediscovered our lost heritage, for what
organization, and has been preserved is but fragments and
using indigenous we cannot realistically hope to reconstruct
sports as a path to Chinese archery from mere ruins within a
national health,xix short period of time. According to a news
addressed key issues report, a member of the national archery
in the development team did not even recognize an unstrung
of indigenous physical Chinese bow. Hearing thus I cannot help
culture and had significant lament the fate of traditional archery!
value as policy directives. But perhaps the most pitiable of all is the
situation of Chinese-style wrestling. Prior
Regrettably, competitions and tournaments to the Cultural Revolution Chinese-style
for indigenous-style sports (minzu shi wrestling was a popular sport which boasted
tiyu) only had a transient existence and a host of excellent coaches and athletes, with
soon disappeared from the official scene. well established national tournaments and
Even the idea of indigenous-style sports inter-city competitions, and was in addition
became increasingly distant until it ceased an official event in the National Games.
to be mentioned altogether. The eagerly Chinese-style wrestling was suddenly banned
anticipated scientific system of indigenous in the midst of the Cultural Revolution and
sports never developed to any significant thereafter fell into sharp decline. It was
degree, and in any case only applied to de-listed in the National Games and was
a limited number of competitive events. practiced only by scattered groups in the
Soon after, official authorities spent three popular domain. Only in recent years is there
years re-organizing popular martial arts, a revival of popular interest in Chinese-style
until in 1957 a brand new style of martial wrestling, with a slight upturn in its fortunes.
arts competition competition wushu
based on a system of point scoring Under the patronage and promotion of
on set-performance, was installed as the overseas Chinese communities, dragon-boat
official format for martial arts competition. racing has been embraced by many nations
Thereafter, a great deal of criticism with international competitions in different
parts of the world. In certain countries, sporting traditions, and the majority of Unquestionably, the organization of
the enthusiasm for dragon-boat racing participants were athletes with minority the National Minority Games shows
seems to have even eclipsed its popularity background from various provinces and that the Chinese state is aware of the
in China. Indeed, its unparalleled success autonomous regions. The games were importance to protect and develop the
offers important hints and fully demonstrates held thereafter once every four years heritage of indigenous physical culture.
that the arena of international sports can and were designated as national-level Correspondingly, the direct participation
accommodate Chinese sports; the key to sports events on par with the National of the National Bureau of Ethnic Affairs
success is rather to be found in proper Games, the University Students Games, in its organization, and the vast monetary
organization and promotion. and the National Games of Peasants. The and human resources invested in its
games have been held seven times since development and promotion, have led to
In the post-reform period the Chinese the inaugural event in 1982. Later, the outstanding achievements and generated
government inaugurated the National authorities recognized the 1953 Tianjin much interest in indigenous physical
Traditional Games of Ethnic Minorities of National Indigenous-style Games and culture. This sporting event has served
Peoples Republic of China (zhongguo Exhibition as the first meet of the National to bring about a closer unity among the
shaoshu minzu chuantong tiyu yundonghui Traditional Games of Ethnic Minorities of nationalities, significantly contributed to
) at Holhot in Peoples Republic of China. According to building a harmonious social order, and
September 1982. The competitive events this ordering, the latest and eighth meet fully demonstrated the partys and the
were selected from the ethnic minorities was held in Guangzhou in 2007. states commitment to preserving and
promoting minority culture its political

Contemporary bke wrestling in Inner Mongolia today

Summer 2009 29
Reconstructing the Indigenous Physical Culture in China

The structural composition of guoshu was varied and

included many independent events in traditional martial arts
that had survived in the popular domain.

significance is clearly beyond doubt. minzu tiyu ), the latter has

However, I should point out that minority a rather more restricted meaning and can
physical culture (shaoshu minzu tiyu neither subsume nor replace indigenous
) and indigenous physical culture physical culture. After the experiences of
(minzu tiyu ) are two distinct the past decades, and on the basis of a solid
concepts: there are fifty five official ethnic foundation laid by previous occasions of
minority groups in China, representing the Minority Games, I personally suggest
nearly 8.4% of the entire population, and we should revert its name to Chinese-style
the National Minority Games are organized Indigenous Sports Games (zhongguo shi
for these ethnic groups, which is why all minzu yundong hui) or Chinas Games in
the participating athletes have to belong Traditional Indigenous Sports (zhongguo
to the ethnic minorities. This type of minzu chuantong yundonghui
event is clearly different in nature from the ). Further in-depth studies may be
indigenous-style sports games in 1953 conducted to determine the component
and it is illogical to string them together. events of the games, but the fundamental
I personally attended the Minority Games principles are clear: the games must neither
on two occasions in Xinjiang in 1986 overlap with the Olympics nor be subsumed
and in Ningxia in 2003 and discovered a under similar games, and the individual
certain confusion in media reports, which sporting events must be indigenous to China.

sometimes referred to the event as the
Minority Games, but more often directly n sum, we need to have our own
called it Peoples Games (minyun hui indigenous sports games, in order
) or Indigenous Sports (minzu yundong to protect and rescue Chinas physical
). This inconsistency reflects a lack culture from its present predicament. Such
of conceptual clarity. an event will also represent a significant step
in advancing the cause of multiculturalism
Indigenous physical culture, indigenous- and breaking the Olympics hegemony
style physical culture or native physical on global physical culture. As a scholar I
culture refers to an embracing concept of am wont to give expression to my ideas,
Chinese physical tradition, with Han culture which, though long considered and sincerely
in the core but is owned in common by expressed, I fear may not necessarily be
the fifty six official nationalities. As stated correct. Nonetheless, I hope the relevant
above, many phenomena in this domain authorities will seriously consider my words,
have been jointly created by different ethnic for there is a great urgency to act with little
groups, whereas others are specific to time to lose. I hope we will seize the present
certain group(s) with localized dissemination. opportunity to bring to life a complete
Moreover, whereas indigenous physical system of Chinas indigenous physical
culture is an encompassing concept that culture, long in the making, which is nothing
contains minority physical culture (shaoshu less than our historical responsibility.
Guocui literally means the quintessence of Chinese culture, vi
jiu shiqi shidai wanqi wenhua: Zhiyu Site in Suoxian county, in
however, in this context, it has the same meaning as the National xin zhongguo de kaogu faxian he yanjiu (Archaeological Finds
Arts (guosh). and Studies in New China), edited by the Institute of Archaeology,
Chinas Institute of Social Science, In 1963 a stone arrow-head
Cuju was a style of football game popular mainly during the Song was discovered, which was made of a piece of long and very thin
dynasty. rectangular rock. It is very evenly shaped and has a sharp, tapering
point. On the basis of past discoveries at Salawusuan River,
Chuiwan was a popular ball game in ancient China during the Shuidonggou sites, which yielded similar stone arrow-heads, we
Song, Jin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties, Many scholars in China believe may deduce that the use of bows and arrows could be traced back
the modern golf game is derived from chui-wan.. to the late palaeolithic period. Beijing: Cultural Relics Publications,
1984, p. 20. In addition, according to Yanghong, zhongguo gu binqi
Qiang hua pao is a type of ball-game originating in the physical
luncong (Essays on Ancient Weapons in China), part eight, gong yu
traditions of the Dong and Zhuang nationalities, and is one of the
nu (Bows and Cross-bows), p. 190, carbon-dating techniques have
most representative competitive events in the Minority Games. It is
dated Zhiyu Site to 28,945 years ago.
also known as Chinese-style rugby and its rules are based on the
modern English game. vii
Chen, Shou, sanguo zhi: weishu (Annals of the Three Kingdoms:
History of Wei), chapter 2, wendi ji dier (Records of Emperor Wendi,
Zheng zhu qiu, literally pearl-game, originated as a Manchu game
part two), Beijing: Zhonghua Press, 1963, p. 89.
and is also a representative event in the Minority Games.

See Yang, Kuan, zhanguo shi (History of the Warring States),
A type of ball game popular in Islamic communities in northwest
chapter 8 part 3, zhao wulin wang hufu qishe (King Zhao Wulin
China which has been incorporated into the Minority Games.
espoused barbarian customs), Shanghai Peoples Publications,
1980, p. 335.
A type of ball game inspired by Taijiquan.

shebu zhupi is an important principle in Confucian archery rites,
They are both types of stone-weight used for body conditioning.
which means that hitting the target is not the only or chief aim in
archery rituals, see lunyu (Analects), baqiao. sheyi guande (observing
virtue through archery practice) is an important tenet early
Confucius, lunyu (Analects), zi han dijiu, Someone from Da xiang Confucian philosophy, which means archery training and contests
dan said, Confucius is a great man, so learned in every respect that are avenues to observe a persons virtues and moral education, see
he cannot be praised in any particular. Confucius heard and said li-ji: she-yi (Book of Rites: Significance of Archery Practice) and other
to his students, In what area do I excel? Charioteering, or archery? pre-Qin literature.
I believe I am better in charioteering. Also, Zheng, Xuan (Han),
Annotations on Book of Rites, chapter 62, sheyi, Confucius practiced
Ma, Mingda, and Ma, Lianzhen, zui xun shiluo de shexue (Searching
archery in Jue xiangs garden, and attracted so many spectators that for the Lost Archery Studies), in tiyu wenhua daokan (Journal of
they resembled a wall. Sports Culture), 2004, vol. 6.

liji zhu shu (Annotations on Book of Rites), chapter 62, sheyi,
See, Zhou, Shibin (et el), shuaijiao jifa yu shuaijiao shiliao
Confucius once said that a gentleman has no quarrels with anyone, (Wrestling Techniques and Wrestling History), Xuelin Publications,
but if he is forced to compete how about an archery contest? Before 2001.
the contest proper etiquette should be observed, and afterwards the xii
See Ma, Mingda, Wuxue tanzheng (Examination of Truth in Martial
contestants should have a drink together, such is the way of contest
Studies), 2 vols., Taipei: Lion Publications, 2003.
between gentlemen.
Zhou, Shibin (et el), op. cit.
iii Zhang, Zhijian (et el), tu tiyu yu yang tiyu (Indigenous sports
and Western Sports), Taiwan International Research Association in
See the standard textbook in higher education, tiyu shi (History of
Physical Education: zhongwai tiyu wenxian xunji (Selected Writings
Sports), 2nd edition, Beijing: Higher Education Publications, 1997.
on Physical Education in China and Overseas), Taipei: 1969. See
Cui Lequan, xifang jindai tiyu yinxiang xia de chuangtong tiyu xv
Zhang, Zhijian (et el), op. cit. See also Cui Le-quan, op. cit., p. 49.
(Traditional Sports under the Influence of Western Sports in Early
Modern Times), in zhongguo jindai tiyu shihua (History of Sports in About Zhang, Zhijiangs life, see Zhang, Rensu, zhang zhi jiang

Early Modern China), Beijing: Zhong-hua Press, 1998, p. 49. zhuanlue (A Short Biography of Zhang Zhijiang), Shanghai: Xuelin
Publications, 1994.
Ma, Mingda, lishi shang zhong ri chao jian dao wuyi jiaoliu kao
(An Examination into the Historical Exchanges between China, xvii
Ma, Mingda, yingai chongxin shenshi guoshu (The need to re-
Japan, and Korea in Classical Swordsmanship), mixi dao xiao kao evaluate the national arts project), tiyu wenshi (The Cultural History
(Preliminary Examination into mixi-dao), both in shuojian conggao of Sports), 1999, vol. 5.
(Manuscripts on Sword-discourse), Lanzhou: Lanzhou University
Press, 2000. xviii

See Ma, Mingda, songdai de yujinyuan yanshe (Archery rites at the xix
xin tiyu (New Sports) 1953, vol. 12, Discussion: ba minzu xingshi
Banquet of Yujin Garden in the Song Dynasty), in xibei minzu yanjiu tiyu yinxiang gen jiankang de renmin de daolu (To set Indigenous-
(Studies of Northwestern Nationalities), 2006 vol. 2, p. 13. style Sports on the Path of Improving Peoples Health).

Summer 2009 31
2009 World Guoshu

Guoshu is a clearly defined concept similar to Guohua
(National Chinese Painting) and Guoyi (National Chinese
Medicine). It is a system of indigenous sports with barehanded
and armed martial arts competition at its core, but which
includes other independent events in traditional sports,
encompassing set-performance of boxing and weapon
routines, agonistic matches in unarmed combat and long and
short range weapons, indigenous styles of wrestling, as well
as archery, pellet-shooting, shuttlecock, and weight-lifting,
all of which are closely related to traditional martial practices.
For this reason, besides competitions in unarmed and weapon
set-performance, there will also be agonistic events in
sanshou (Chinese kick-boxing), duanbing (Chinese fencing),
Shuaijiao(Chinese wrestling), Wing Chun sticking hands,
Taiji push-hands, Boji, Xinquan, as well as demonstrations
in shuttlecock (jianzi), changbing, and Chinese archery.
It is hoped that the unique concept and occasion of the
Competition will re-introduce Chinas indigenous sports
Guoshu to the global audience in a modern, competitive

This event is organized by International Guoshu Association

Ltd. and supported by a team of experts and professionals.
Professor Ma Mingda, a leading authority on Chinese martial
studies and the sole martial arts adviser to Songshan Shaolin
Temple, will serve as the chief adviser. Prof. Mas participation
and guidance will ensure the event will remain faithful to its
cultural roots to the greatest extent possible, and be informed
by the most up-to-date academic research. The competition
will also receive guidance from Abbot Yong Xin, chief abbot
The first World Guoshu Competition will be held in of the Songshan Shaolin Temple in Henan province, as well
the international metropolis of Hong Kong in July 2009. as from other renowned masters in Chinese martial arts, such
The event will be a celebration of Chinas martial culture as Ma Xianda, Shen Shaosan, Yang Ziming, Xia Baihua, Yang
and will serve as an international arena of exchange to Zhengduo, Liang Mintao, Lam Chun Fai, Zheng Baolin and
promote Chinas indigenous sports. Our aim is to construct a Ma Linda. Without exaggeration, World Guoshu Competition
global platform for practitioners and enthusiasts of Chinese has the strongest team in Chinese martial culture in the world
sports and martial arts to engage in dynamic dialog, and to today.
facilitate global development of traditional Chinese culture
through promotion of Chinas sports and martial heritage. It is projected that between 3,000 and 4,000 athletes will
The World Guoshu Competition also aims to correct endemic participate in this Competition, with teams representing
misunderstandings surrounding Chinese sports and martial different nationalities and regions in China and around
arts and restore them to their proper place in Chinese culture, the world. It will be a celebration of five thousand years of
by reviving etiquette and rituals traditionally associated with Chinese martial culture, whose aim is to protect, promote,
Chinese sports. and develop the unique heritage of Guoshu.

Summer 2009 33
Summer 2009 35
Shaolin Kung Fua Cultural Treasure
for Humanity
By Shi Yongxin
haolin kung fu was created at the Shaolin Temple, Mount
Songshan, in China. For generations, the techniques and
knowledge of Shaolin kung fu were handed down and
preserved by guardian warrior-monks known as the Sangha.
Today, Shaolin kung fu is recognized as an invaluable and
unique cultural heritage not only in China but for the whole of

In general, Shaolin kung fu, as transmitted and taught by

the Sangha, refers to ancient martial practices created under
specific cultural conditions at Songshan Shaolin Temple, and
embedded in the temples long historical development. At the
core of Shaolin kung fu is the tenet of protecting the Buddhist
dharma, which permeates every aspect of Shaolin Sanghas daily
activities and religious life, and the belief of using martial arts
as a vehicle to understand and practice Chan (Zen) Buddhism. In
time, guided by the principles and spirituality of Chan teachings,
Shaolin kung fu evolved into a spiritual activity to cognize the
fundamental principles of Mahayana Buddhism and cultivate
instinctive wisdom.

Shaolin Temple has been the center of Chan Buddhism since

the Wei Dynasty (5th century AD). Through a prolonged and
dynamic process of development and exchange, Buddhism
absorbed Confucian and Daoist ideas into its doctrines, and
finally transformed to a new orthodoxy known as Chan.
Strongly imbued with Chinese ethical values and philosophical
notions, the concept of the unity of man and Heaven lies
at the very heart of Chan Buddhism, and its practice focuses
on the pursuit of esoteric, transcendent knowledge through
meditation. In important ways, therefore, Chan Buddhism was
a syncretic belief system born out of cultural exchanges among
different religions and philosophies. In turn, Chan Buddhism
was to exert an enormous and lasting influence on Chinese
culture and spiritual life.

Summer 2009 37
Shaolin Kung Fua Cultural Treasure for Humanity
uring the political turmoil at the end of the Sui Dynasty
(AD581681), Shaolin monks began to organize militia
units for self-defense, thus inaugurating the emergence of
Shaolin Temple as a military force. The perfect utilization of body
movements in Chinese martial arts, together with the threefold
notions of spiritual harmony (of inner being), social harmony
(between man and society), and cosmic harmony (between man
and nature), coalesced to develop the unique culture of Chan
Buddhism at Shaolin. On the one hand, Chan Buddhism elevated
martial arts into a spiritual endeavor and a vehicle of cultivating
awareness, whereas on the other, meditation provided a gateway
to empowerment for martial artists, by opening the door to self-
knowledge. This combination laid down the foundation for a system
of knowledge that incorporated the duality of Chan Buddhism and
martial arts, in consonance with human progression towards greater
spiritual peace and social harmony. Indeed, the continuing relevance
and value of this philosophy and unique way of life is recognized
not only within the temple, but acknowledged and practised by
people hailing from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Over
the past millennium, this fusion of Chan spirituality and martial
arts became the cornerstone of Shaolin kung fu, which in time
blossomed and spread to every corner of the world.

Summer 2009 39
Shaolin Kung Fua Cultural Treasure for Humanity

For generations, the

techniques and knowledge
of Shaolin kung fu were
handed down and preserved
by guardian warrior-monks
known as the Sangha.
Shaolin kung fu is the most outstanding representative of respect the sanctity of life. In this way, the unity of Chan Buddhism
traditional Chinese martial arts. It includes 708 sets of empty- and martial arts makes Shaolin kung fu a unique, life giving form
handed and armed martial arts routines and 156 sets of qigong of martial arts, and allows Shaolin kung fu to play an active role
breathing exercises, some of which are preserved and documented in promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and respect among
in historical martial arts manuals. Within this system, Shaolin individuals and communities.
kung fu is divided into several coherently related classes, whose
techniques are based on an intimate understanding of the human For hundreds of years, Shaolin Sangha have practiced martial
anatomy and scientific principles of body movements. It stresses the arts as a vehicle of observing and intuiting the principles of Chan
dynamic intercourse between motion and stillness, quick and slow Buddhism. In this process, Shaolin kung fu has been imbued with
movements, the importance of proper breathing, and puts into the spirit of justice, harmony, and peace, and thus become an
martial practice traditional philosophical concepts about yin and important heritage of traditional Chinese culture.
yang, the equilibrium between hardness and softness, and unity

between man and Heaven. Moreover, for Sangha warrior-monks fter the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and
who follow the martial way, Shaolin kung fu is an indispensable Intangible Heritage of Humanity in November 1997 and
means to cultivate Chan Buddhism, to realize the nirvana state of adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of
all things but one mind, and to perceive the Buddha nature in the Intangible Cultural Heritage in October 2003, Shaolin kung
oneself with an enlightened heart. That is why Shaolin kung fu, fu was listed as a cultural item under municipal, provincial and
qua a vital channel of Chan Buddhism, puts special emphasis on state protection; and since 2004 it has been short listed by the
moral training, and seeks to instill virtues of self-restraint, discipline Chinese government for submission to UNESCO as a masterpiece
and peace through a regime of physical training. Combat is open to of intangible heritage. If this application is approved, Shaolin
the Sangha warrior only as a last recourse, who is taught to strike Sangha may assume the duty of passing on their knowledge with
at the eight vital spots that may immobilize without causing fatal a strengthened sense of identity and purpose; while the Chinese
injury to the opponent, in accordance with Buddhas teaching to state, and the public at large, will work together towards providing

Summer 2009 41
Shaolin Kung Fua Cultural Treasure for Humanity

Shaolin kung fu is recognized as

an invaluable and unique cultural
heritage not only in China but
for the whole of humanity.
a better environment for the future development of Shaolin kung by the of Law of Cultural Relics of the Peoples Republic of China,
fu. Indeed, the value of Shaolin kung fu is increasingly appreciated initiated a thorough clean-up of the surrounding environment and
and recognized through both public and private efforts to protect, restoration of its historical architecture and related facilities. Areas
promote and perpetuate it as an intangible cultural heritage. Today, where Shaolin kung fu is practiced, such as the meditation halls,
Shaolin kung fu has an immense global following in excess of commandment altar, and martial arts training halls have either
1,000,000 students, while literature, films, TV programs and stage been restored or rebuilt. As a result, the space for transmitting
performances based and inspired by Shaolin kung fu afford popular Shaolin kung fu has been fully restored and upgraded in recent
entertainment to the peoples, societies, and nations around the years. Further, in order to promote scientific research and greater
world. understanding of Shaolin kung fu, in 1999 the Shaolin Temple
established the Shaolin Cultural Research Institute. To date, three
Right now, we are doing everything in our power to safeguard the international symposiums have been held, while dozens of books
heritage of Shaolin kung fu and the Temple. Firstly, the Shaolin on the study of Shaolin kung fu have been published. In addition,
Temple has actively participated in the process to nominate Shaolin to oversee and more closely supervise research projects directly
kung fu as an intangible cultural heritage at different administrative related to the Temple and its culture, we founded the Shaolin Press,
levels in China. Secondly, as custodians of Shaolin kung fu, we which includes Chan Lu among its publications, a quarterly journal
have taken legal measures to register and protect its trademarks, with research papers and reports pertaining to the study of Chan
in order to prevent further damage to Shaolin kung fus public Buddhism. We have also launched an official website (www.shao-
reputation by unauthorized and illegal use of its name and image. lin.org.cn) in bilingual (Chinese and English) versions. Last but not
Thirdly, the Shaolin Temple has endeavored to improve its system of least, the Shaolin Temple has organized Shaolin kung fu perform-
teaching and dissemination. Over the past few years, the temples ance teams to promulgate Shaolin kung fu and conduct cultural
ancient patriarchal clan system has been fully restored, a wide exchanges worldwide.
range of materials about Shaolin kung fu has been collected, and a
concerted effort has been made to comprehensively document the What we are doing is not only for the preservation of Shaolins
heritage of Shaolin kung fu. martial tradition; but in so far as Shaolin kung fu is an integral
part of Chinas martial culture, to preserve, promote, and revitalize

t the same time, acknowledging the fact that the Shaolin Chinas classical martial arts heritage, which is increasingly
Temple is where Shaolin kung fu is practiced, maintained, pressurized by the economic and cultural forces of globalization.
and taught, the Temple and its principal affiliated struc- It is our duty to protect this cultural treasure, and to ensure that it
tures have been recognized as key cultural monuments under state continues to develop and play an active role for the betterment of
and provincial protection. From 2001, the Shaolin Temple, directed humanity and world peace.

Summer 2009 43
Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe
daqiang (Six Harmony Spear) 1

By Ma Mingda

In this short paper I will discuss the relationship between Bajiquan

and Liuhe daqiang

My late father Ma Fengtu composed a treatise called Bajiquan Three Character Stanzas
(Bajiquan sanzi jing ) back in November 1953, which opens with the following

[The art of] Bajiquan,

Was passed down by Wu Zhong;
He was known as King of the Spear,
He lived in Zhuangke Village, Qingyun County;
He set the standard.
Taught by Master Zhang,
With exemplary courtesy.

Ma Mingdas calligraphy

In one sense, liuhe or six harmony refers to the different spatial directions and may be taken to embrace the entire universe; it can also mean under the heaven, or be equated with the phenomenal world of
experience. In martial arts nomenclature, and in particular when the term is used in the context of spear practice, liuhe traditionally means six combined methods of combat.
he Bajiquan referred to above is an integrated concept,
which represents both a martial arts style (liupai ) and
a school (menpai ), and should not be understood to
stand for a form of boxing alone. Just like Taijiquan, we should not
understand Baji as merely designating a form of empty-handed
martial arts: when we say Taiji or Baji, we commonly refer to
the entire system of martial arts subsumed under that name,
which beside boxing techniques also include other weapon forms
and practices such as Taijiqiang (Taiji spear) and Taijijian
(Taiji double-edged sword). Indeed, one of Bajis most
salient characteristics is its intimate link to Liuhe daqiang, which
complements and is in many ways inseparable from Bajiquan. This
is the reason why when my late father wrote the Bajiquan Three
Character Stanzas, he clearly set forth Liuhe daqiangs position in
the Baji system in the opening stanzas, stating that the Baji master
Wu Zhong was known as king of the spear in Zhuangke village in
Qingyun county, which tacitly conveys the inseparable relationship
between quan ( boxing) and qiang ( spear) within the Baji

Liuhe qiang represents the mainstream spear form in China since

the Ming Dynasty. Diverse spear forms have been practiced from
the Ming period onwards, but if we look carefully into their origins
we will discover that they invariably stemmed from Liuhe. In a
word, Liuhe constitutes the core of spear techniques in China.
Amongst the rest of the spear forms, some of them are branches
that grew from its trunk, others are localized techniques known
only within a limited geographical area, while yet others are spear
techniques that have lost all applied functions and are useful only
on the stage. In any case, the historical genesis of Liuhe qiang is
fundamentally clear, and in spite of the complexities involved in
its dissemination and inheritance in the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
enough evidence survives to guide a devoted inquirer through this
entangled web of relationships. Naturally, this is a specialist issue
and does not concern us in the present paper.Nevertheless, it is
worthwhile to consider the following questions:-

When did Bajiquan become so closely bound up with Liuhe qiang?

And how did the two come to form such an inseparable alliance?

The first Bajiquan master in the Cangzhou area was Wu Zhong,

who was famous for his mastery of the spear and bore the
epithet divine spear Wu Zhong (shengqiang Wu Zhong
). From Wu down all subsequent Baji masters liked to advertise
their expertise with the spear and were commonly known as the
divine spears. In particular, Luo Tuans Baji branch in Cangzhou
boasted consecutively such luminaries as divine spear Zhang
Keming, divine spear Li Dazhong, divine spear Zhang Jinxing,
and the celebrated divine spear Li Shuwen. Similarly, my father
Figure with a great spear; part of Mianzhou tu by Li Gonglin of
Ma Fengtu, shishu 2 Han Huacheng, and uncle Ma Yingtu all Song Dynasty
set much store by their skills with the spear, and were wellknown

Shi shu is an honorific title for a person who studied with the same teacher of ones master.

Summer 2009 45
Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)

Ma Mingda practising Bajiquan

in contemporary circles for their expertise in this weapon. Thus in

a certain way Bajiquans renown was won with the point of the
spear and not with the thrust of the elbow. In olden days, when
Baji masters held a contest with martial artists of other schools, they
commonly fought with a spear rather than engaged in unarmed
combat, which they perceived as a lowly, plebeian art. In this way
those who dabble in Bajiquan are necessarily conversant with Liuhe
daqiang. As to Baji practitioners who do not know the use of the
spear, or those who have not been taught its proper techniques,
who incessantly make violent leaps and sudden thrusts [with their
elbows] ( benghan tuji) are in reality shallow in their
understanding who have given up the ends to pursue the means.

To return to our main subject, if indeed the great spear occupied

such an exalted position in the Baji system, when did the fusion
between Liuhe daqiang and Baji occur? During his life my late
father often talked about this problem and offered a number of
hypotheses, although he was unable to come to any conclusion
due to a lack of reliable historical sources. According to accounts
he heard in his native village in his youth, Wu Zhong learned the
principles of Liuhe from a certain Mr. Zhang from Yueshang. Before
this encounter Wu Zhong already knew the use of the spear, but
did not understand the principles of Liuhe spear, particularly the
combined combat methods of advance and retreat (
jintui hezhan zhi fa). After he received the teaching from Zhang,
he devoted his efforts to studying and mastering Liuhe spear.
Eventually, while visiting Beijing and Tianjin he managed to defeat
a number of well known spear masters, and earned the nickname
divine spear. Thus, my late father points out very clearly in the
Three Character Stanzas that when Mr. Zhang from Yueshang
taught Wu Zhong Baji, his teachings included the principles of Liuhe
daqiang, and Wu Zhong treated Master Zhang with exemplary
reverence and courtesy, and afterwards set up in Zhuangke village,
in Qingyun county, a paradigm school for teaching Baji and Liuhe.

A rare photograph of Bajiquan practice in the late Qing period; picture of

In fact, with a little care we will also discover that the ancient terms
Qiang Rei
liuhe (six harmonies) and baji (eight cardinals) have a clear and
discernible relationship, especially when they appear in the same
The Bajiquan referred to above is an
integrated concept, which represents
both a martial arts style (liupai) and
a school (menpai) [...] when we say
Taiji or Baji, we commonly refer
to the entire system of martial arts
subsumed under that name.

martial arts school. Indeed, the founder who originally conferred

the name Baji on his school of martial arts must have first
considered its resonance with Liuhe, as the latter term appeared
much earlier in martial arts nomenclature and was already well-
established by that time. In this way, by conceptually fusing
Baji and Liuhe and ascertaining their complementary character,
he successfully elevated an established and well recognized
technical term to a higher philosophical plane. The denomination
of Bajiquan was an instance of this transformation, as were the
subsequent Taiji, Xingyi, Tongbei, and Bagua. This phenomenon
represents a significant stage in the development of
classical Chinese martial arts, where a high degree
of rationalization occurred. In this connection, I need to point out
that the six harmony (liuhe) in spear techniques originally meant
six combinations of combat, which refer to six combinations in
training that systematically integrate different techniques into
fixed routines. To counterpoise liuhe with baji connotes a sense of
interdependence between the two terms, and is indeed a touch of
genius. On the other hand, the popular interpretation of liuhe Illustrated figures in the martial arts text Shaolin Staff Techniques

current in martial arts circles as a combination of hands, elbows,

shoulders, feet, knees, and hips is rather strained and probably
only arose in recent times, which has deviated from the original
sense of liuhe in Ming Dynasty spear use.

oreover, the fusion of Baji and Liuhe extends beyond the
conceptual domain to the technical level. In many ways,
the two have an interdependent and complementary
character. Simply put, to practise Bajiquan, to study the methods
of generating force ( jingdao) in Baji, and to receive the special
zhuang kaojing () training in Bajiquan, etc., are most ben-
eficial to spear practice, to generating the type of power closest to
spear use, which may directly assist in understanding the applica-
tion of spear techniques and their adaptations in certain antago-
nistic situations. In this respect my late father once advanced the
remark that from Baji liuhe, its power transmits directly without
obstacles, and was fond to use the adage zhulian pihe (
literally, united pearls and merged jade) to describe the twos Make violent leaps and sudden thrusts - calligraphy by Ma Mingda

Summer 2009 47
Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)

relationship. He also liked to cite Confucius teaching, without

learning poetry, one lacks the words for language, to stress Bajis
importance for spear practice, saying that without knowledge of
Baji one lacks the foundation for spear practice, and that if one
does not study the use of the spear after mastering Baji he is akin
to riding on an empty saddle and pretending to be on a horse. In
addition, my father often said that between the end of Qing and
the beginning of the Republic of China era, he met Li Shuwen on
three occasions in Beijing and Tianjin, and in their conversations Li
only spoke about spear and never raised a word about boxing, even
though he also trained in the latter and that his Bada zhao (
Eight great techniques) and Jingang bashi ( Nryana
eight movements) which he learnt from Li Ruidong were very
strong and well practised. My father said that it was not Lis custom
to demonstrate Baji in front of an audience, and in public he only
performed with the great spear. In a certain sense, therefore, Baji
training lays the foundation and is the best preparation for great
spear practice.

s a traditional martial art that has preserved a considerable
degree of classical character, the most distinctive feature
about Bajiquan is its simplicity and absence of embellish-
ments. Its simplicity is made manifest in two principal ways. First,
Baji have a simple structure with only three main sets: Baji xiaojia
( Baji small set), Bajiquan ( Baji set), and Baji duijie
( Baji sparring form). The three are learned sequentially
with each focusing on specific aspects of Baji training, and the rela-
tion among them is very clear. There is a further Liu zhou tou (
Six elbows) which is a basic training method used for enhanc-
ing hitting and resistance abilities. The Six openings ( Liukai)
and Eight techniques ( Bazhao) used in closed-door training
are also simple, clean, and direct, without unnecessary flowery
embellishments. Second, the force employed in Baji (jingdao) is
likewise simple, clean, and direct, drawing a clear line between
movements and still postures, empty feints and concrete strikes,
and is devoid of complicated twists and turns and their accompa-
nying exegesis: so long as a vigorous youth applies his efforts, he
will grasp the principles of Baji and reap the benefits of training,
and will not be befuddled by empty mysticism. Unfortunately, the
development of Chinese martial arts has fallen under the shadow
of superficiality in recent years. In this atmosphere, and pushed on
by personal ambition and greed, certain individuals have taken the
initiative to transform the gems in classical Chinese martial arts
(including Bajiquan) for their own gain, freely adding branches and
leaves and foisting theories from other martial arts styles on to Baji,
about which they have not a single sensible word to say, and merely
adding froth and theatrics in order to enhance their weak tech-
niques, even going as far as to invent secret ancestral formulas. It
has eluded them that unembellished simplicity is the most sublime
form of beauty between heaven and earth! This is particularly true
for such a fine specimen of classical martial arts as Baji, whose
structure gradually took shape through several centuries of develop-
ment. In the process it has received improvements by past masters,
and has changed here and there in minor details, but in general a
single principle has prevailed, which is that the utmost care must Artists impression of Leopard-headed Lin Chong (figure on the left)

be taken not to facilely introduce changes, and thereby be guilty of

adding feet while drawing a snake. Whoever is guilty of such an

the Baji master Wu act is also guilty of destroying a valuable national cultural heritage,
guilty of offending our predecessors who have faithfully preserved

Zhong was known as and passed on Baji, and should be punished for his crime.

king of the spear in Indeed, it is under the premise of simplicity that Baji accomplished
its fusion with Liuhe daqiang. Anyone with a rudimentary
Zhuangke village in knowledge of the martial arts knows that the daqiang (great spear)
has to have a certain length. If the spear shaft is too thin it becomes
Qingyun county, which soft and cannot be properly wielded, which means it must possess
a certain thickness, and requirements of length and thickness
tacitly conveys the necessitate a certain weight. I will not burden my readers here

inseparable relationship with the manufacturing standard of the daqiang, for those who
are interested I refer their attention to Qi Jiguangs New Book on

between quan (boxing) Military Discipline ( jixiao xinshu) and Cheng Chongdous
Selected Readings on Long Spear Techniques ( changqiang

and qiang (spear) faxuan). In the Baji tradition, long shafts not lighter than four or
five jin are customarily used for spear practice, while some of the
within the Baji system past masters, such as Mr. Zhang Gongcheng and Mr. Li Shuwen,
used shafts weighing up to eight jin for daily practice; and my late
father employed a wooden staff of about five to six jin even into his
seventies. Such long and weighty staffs can scarcely be held without
adequate strength in the arms, let alone employing techniques of
lan, na , quan , zha and move up and down with it while
making advancing and retreating movements. Of course, staffs
used for performance and competition tend to be much lighter, for
too great a weight impedes free use of techniques, and without
techniques one is no better than a clumsy man tamping a wall, or a
labourer chopping fire-wood as the old saying goes. On the other
hand, it is a well-recognized principle that one should always use
heavy equipment in training.

Baji is a powerful form of boxing effective in close range combat.

Long periods of training in Baji, coupled with other supplementary
training methods, are conducive to increasing muscular strength
in the arms. Baji lays particular emphasis on the use of explosive
force which can be employed in short and sudden attacks and
overwhelming the opponent with strong attacking movements. This
use of force may be adapted to spear practice, and is suitable for
wielding a spear both in training and in applied combat situations.
Daqiang stresses long motion with quick rhythm (
shichang jieduan), as exemplified by the dynamics of crossbow,
whose arrow lies pregnant with energy while sitting in the
mechanism. The parallel here is self-evident and I need not dwell
further on this point.

One of the salient and most impressive aspects of Baji performance

is daduozi , which is also called zhengjiao ( stamping).
Youthful performers often stamp their feet with a great deal of
force, which has led some observers to comment that Baji can cause
concussion. For example, Mr. Xu Zheng (Zhedong) wrote in the
introduction to Bajiquan, authored by Liao Jinjie, that I have often
seen Baji performers apply too great a force when stamping their
feet, which can damage the brain, so I advised them not to stamp
so fiercely. Even though Baji practitioners insisted on the importance
of stamping, I strongly advised against it. In the 1950s, when
Mr. Xu Zheng was teaching at the Northwestern Institute for

Summer 2009 49
Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)

Ma Fengtu practising great spear in his backyard in Lanzhou

Nationalities in Lanzhou he frequently visited my house. The an ancient adage which says that whenever a momentous event
institute was not far from my home, and Mr. Xu liked to walk occurs one must always manifest a still qi, this also holds true for
over after dinner to watch me and my brothers train in the open use of the spear. Lone practice requires stillness, a two-person set
courtyard. On those occasions he was always excited and spoke practice requires stillness, and agonistic practice involving real at-
much, only he had a heavy southern accent and we could barely tack and defence requires even more stillness, for proper techniques
understand what he said. He once broached this subject with my cannot be employed when stillness is absent, and when ones hand
late father, who just smiled in return and added a few short notes does not follow his heart he is likely to suffer losses. In the past
by way of explanation. Afterwards he said to me that Mr. Xu was when people practiced with spears, it often happened that one of
a literati who had taken to the martial arts, specializing in Taiji, but the antagonists lost as soon as he made a movement with his spear.
was too small and slight of built to wield a daqiang, and did not There are many reasons for this but the most important is impa-
understand the use of duozi, so what purpose would it serve to talk tience and too great a desire for victory.
about it? Mr. Xu was a learned scholar with a keen sense of inquiry,
but he was not physically very strong. In fact, to a very large There are many other technical similarities between Bajiquan and
extent duozi is a necessary method in the training of daqiang, and Liuhe daqiang that cannot be exhausted in this short paper. I
represents a stepping movement that is employed in some of the believe to truly inherit a traditional martial art, the most important
most important techniques in the Liuhe spear such as white bull criterion is to clarify its basic principles, to understand its integral
drilling its horns ( bainiu zhuangjiao), white ape hoisting structure, and progress step by step through devoted study and
a sword ( baiyuan tuodao), etc. To put it simply, in certain practice. During this process it is most important to simultaneously
situations duozi helps to make sudden adjustments in the use deepen ones cultivation, understanding, and techniques. Only then
of force, changing in an instant the spatial relationship between can one hope to slowly penetrate into the depths of its core until
the protagonist and his opponent, and helps to psychologically he finally attains its essence. If one becomes filled with pride after
threaten the antagonist with an unexpected jolting movement. This learning only a few sets, and starts making up new combinations in
is a crucial technique in daqiang practice and must be rehearsed order to flaunt his knowledge, or deludes himself into thinking he
repetitiously over a long period, so that it may be spontaneously
employed in combat situations. There is an ancient saying that a
thousand ounces of gold cannot buy a sudden commotion, and a
sudden commotion sends one to the king of the underworld! (
qianjin nanmai yi sheng xiang,
yi sheng xiang chujian yanwang) This proverb is hard on the ear
but its rationale is unquestionably correct. Naturally, some of the
practitioners have not grasped the true principles of Baji and falsely
believe they demonstrate their prowess by forcefully da duozi in
performance. Obviously, this is incorrect practice and I would like to
take this opportunity to point out this mistake to Baji practitioners
among my readers.

ore important, Baji stresses the need to draw slow
postures ( jiazi) and hit quick punches (
man la jiazi, kuai daquan). In a broad sense the
jiazi here refers to all the postures, but more specifically it means
the Baji xiaojia set. Xiaojia has a rather small number of movements
but its structure is extremely taut; it demands the practitioner not
to rush through the motion and to execute each movement with
great clarity, which has to be slowly and patiently drawn out. Each
movement should be executed with the proper power, and each
posture should be made with precision, circulating ones breath as
one goes through the routine, so that the qi is complete and full
force is manifest, like a cloudless blue sky or a spotless window,
or sitting down leisurely to read Liu Gongquns calligraphy, such
as shence junbei . Undoubtedly, as far as spear practice is
concerned, this is an extremely important method of training that
is beneficial to both physical and mental wellbeing. There are many
important elements in spear practice, but as Mr. Ma Fengtu said
there is none more important than stillness: Once the daqiang
Prof. Ma Mingda with an antique spear
is held in the hand, the first thing to do is to still ones qi. There is

Summer 2009 51
Bajiquan (Eight Cardinal Boxing) and Liuhe daqiang (Six Harmony Spear)

Illustrated figures of Water Margins heroes; Lin Chong and Xu Ning

has mastered the art, I believe this is symptomatic of lack of true sets which are deemed to be good. In this way Chinese martial
understanding or at best a very superficial understanding and arts have become a jigsaw puzzle that can be assembled and
has grossly underestimated the value and profundity of historical dissembled according to ones wishes, or a pliable pile of mud which
martial arts. Traditional martial arts share common features with can be freely manipulated into any shape. With the help of an
any other type of traditional culture, one of which is that martial anachronistic name and a cover of mysticism, any garbled creations
arts sets were created under particular historical circumstances may be elevated to the pedestal of traditional martial arts. At
and possess a certain formulaic quality. Such quality is in itself a present, although there is a revival in interest in traditional martial
cultural heritage and should be regarded as a manifestation of a arts, their future is besieged by a host of problems, and they are yet
given societys inner cultural pattern. As inheritors of culture we to be rescued from the on-going crisis. From my personal point of
are not at liberty to introduce changes, and must not add or delete view, to protect and pass on our true martial arts heritage, the first
according to our whims, for doing so would create confusion thing we need to do is address this problem, by imposing restrictive
and lead to the art becoming deformed, falling into decline, and measures to prevent counterfeits from posing as authentic
finally condemned to death all but in name. The misfortune of historical martial arts, and raising the relevant departments ability
contemporary Chinese martial arts lies in the fact that the official to verify the genuine articles, which in addition should be cautioned
body openly promotes self-selected sets, and determines the to proceed with care. Otherwise, the future of traditional martial
standard of such superficial creations of purely performative value arts is bleak and worrying, and Bajiquans present predicament is a
on the basis of regulations, even giving additional scores to those case in point.

In one sense, liuhe or six harmony refers Qi Jiguang. Yang family style Liuhe-spear is harmony); one such explanation divides six
to the different spatial directions and may be also called Pear blossom spear ( lihua harmony into inner three harmony (nei
taken to embrace the entire universe; it can qiang), whose name is frequently met with in sanhe ) and outer three harmony (wai
also mean under the heaven, or be equated Chinese popular culture. The various spear sanhe ), and some martial artists even
with the phenomenal world of experience. In techniques contained in Selected Readings on named the style(s) they practiced Liuhe.
martial arts nomenclature, and in particular Long Spear Techniques ( Changqiang Looking at it within a temporal framework,
when the term is used in the context of spear faxuan), written by the Anhui native Cheng it seems quite clear that all subsequent
practice, liuhe traditionally means six com- Chongdou in the late Ming, and Records of use of liuhe derived from Liuhe daqiang,
bined methods of combat. Arms Shoubei lu ), composed by Wu and its increasing use in lay martial arts
Shu in the late Ming and early Qing period, circle should be seen as a result of the
Shi shu is an honorific title for a person are basically similar in contents, and may be popularization of military martial arts.
who studied with the same teacher of ones identified as falling under the Liuhe-spear
master. umbrella. The Liuhe-spear preserved in the

Confucius made the statement without

Baji system belongs to the Yang-family style. learning poetry, one lacks the words for
Wu Zhong, also known as Hongsheng, was
Even though some of its techniques and language ( bu xue shi, wu yi
a Muslim from Zhuangke village, Qingyun
terms have changed over time, in principle yan) while educating his son, Kong Li. The
county, who lived during the emperors
it has remained faithful to the original sense of it is that without a good command
Kangxi and Yong Zhens reigns. He was
teachings. Among traditional martial arts of poetry one does not know how to speak.
the first person to teach Bajiquan in Hebei
schools and styles in China, the Liuhe qiang See Yang, Bojun, lun yu zhe zhu: ji shi bian
and Shandong provinces. Wu Zhong learnt
in the Baji system is the most complete form di shi liu , Zhonghua
Bajiquan and liuhe daqiang from Zhang
and has best preserved the characteristics Publication, 1965, p. 185. Ma Fengtu used
Yueshan, who was a private martial artist
of classical martial arts. However, most this paradigm to stress the importance
from jiaozuo yueshan Monastery in
contemporary practitioners of Bajiquan tend of Bajiquan training as a foundation for
Henan, and is alluded to as Master Zhang in
to focus on bare-handed techniques and learning Liuhe daqiang.
the Three Character Stanzas. Qingyun county
know very little about the use of the spear,
was originally part of Cangzhou city in Hebei
sometimes even making up new methods and Xu Zheng (1898-1967), aka. Zhe Dong, was
province, but is now part of Dezhou city in
skills which have no bearing to the historical a native of Changzhou in Jiangsu province.
Shandong province.
Liuhe techniques. He was a well-known author who published
widely on topics related to martial arts

Many different styles of Liuhe spear

The six combinations of combat refer history and the study of Taijiquan, including
were practiced in the Ming Dynasty, the
to six routines in spear practice which Taijiquan kaoxin lu ( Records of
most famous being the Yang family, the
integrates various offence and defence Inquiries into Taijiquan), guoji lunlue (
Sha family, and the Ma family styles, which
techniques. These methods were employed On the National Techniques), etc. See Xu
display distinct technical characteristics
in military training in the Ming period, which Zheng die wen ji: Xu Zheng jianjie (
and have different specifications for the
incorporate the principal elements in attack Xu Zhengs Selected Writings:
dimension and material of the spear. Of the
and defence in spear-use. For the sequence Brief Introduction to Xu Zheng), Shanxi
extant historic spear manuals the best known
of these combinations I refer the readers Scientific Technology Publication (shanxi
and most complete is the Yang family spear
attention to Chapter 10 in New Book in kexue jishu chubanshe), 2006.
manual preserved in the tenth chapter On
Military Discipline ( Qi Jiguang).
the short methods of long weapons (
Quoted from Ma, Fengtu, Recorded Sayings
changbin duanyong shuo) of New Book
Private martial artists have different on Martial Arts: On Spear (Quan yu lu: lun
on Military Discipline ( jixiao xinshu),
interpretations of the term Liuhe (six qiang), unpublished manuscript.
which was written by the celebrated general

Summer 2009 53
Preamble on the Origin and
Development of Hung Kuen
By Lam Chun Fai

Lam Sai Wing

ung Kuen () is one of the

H most important and representative

martial arts styles from southern
China. Many theories and hypotheses
surround the origin of Hung Kuen but
most deal with legends and have little
factual basis. From my father I have heard
many anecdotes about Hung Kuens
early history, particularly apropos the life
and times of Lam Sai Wing (), but
being of pragmatic rather than theoretical
disposition and not having made any
in-depth investigation, I can only offer
my own interpretations and personal

According to popular tradition, the origin

of Hung Kuen is related to the destruction
of the Southern Shaolin Temple during
the Qing Dynasty. In some editions of the
martial arts manual Gung Ji Fuk Fu Kuen (
), written by Master Lam Sai Wing
during the early 20th century, it is said
Lam Sai Wing; Iron Wire Boxing that the Buddhist monk Ji Seem ()
Hungg Kuen
ue is one of the most important and
pre ta
representative martial arts styles from southern

founded Hung Kuen after escaping from ranks
ank of officialdom
ldom and rewards
rew on the
the destruction of Shaolin: mo
monks. However, being ascetics they
accepted only paddy fields and grains
During Emperor Yongzhens reign of as reward. Then it suddenly occurred to
the Qing Dynasty the Japanese invaded the Qing government that if the temple
and occupied Taiwan. The Qing state harbored men of such extraordinary
was shaken by the news, but in spite talent and ability, it could easily threaten
of repeated attempts by civil and the state if it decided to take up the
military officials throughout the domain revolutionary cause. Goaded by a mixture
to recapture Taiwan, the Japanese of caution and jealousy, secret orders
repulsed every effort. It happened that were dispatched to use the grains as
a group of Shaolin monks from Fujian incendiary, and in the course of the night
province came upon the battle scene. the temple was set on fire. As soon as
Fighting courageously, they defeated the monks realized what was happening
the Japanese and retook Taiwan. Upon they fled from the temple and scattered
hearing the news, the Qing court was to other provinces. Ji Seem alone fled to
greatly pleased and wished to confer Guangdong province where he settled at
Lam Chun Fai (left) and Lam Jo (centre)
Nam Hoi Zhong Temple in Guangdong .
From then on he started to teach martial
skills inside the temple. 1

Master Lam Sai Wings book is among the

earliest martial arts manuals to be published
in Guangdong. It is a seminal work for
popular martial arts in Guangdong and a
major contribution to the development of
southern Chinese martial arts.

ven though the origin story recorded

E here cannot directly explain Hung

Kuens historical genesis, it offers
valuable clues to understanding its early
development. In the Brief Introduction to
Gung Ji Fok Fu Kuen Master Lam Sai Wing
makes several significant claims: (1) Hung
Kuen started in Fujian but developed in
Guangdong; (2) for an extended period
Hung Kuen was suppressed by the Qing
government; (3) its early development
and dissemination was to a large extent
Lam Sai Wing; Tiger and Crane Boxing

75 Lam, Sai Wing, Gung ji fuk fu kuen, Seventy fifth year of the Chinese Republic, Taibei: Hualian Press

Summer 2009 55
Preamble on the Origin and Development of Hung Kuen

Lam Chun Fai with students

conducted underground and only became

legal around Master Lam Sai Wings lifetime
during the early Republic of China era.
What is noteworthy is that Hung Kuens
origin story is fundamentally the same
as the Hong Men Societys foundation
myth; the earliest information on the
destruction of the southern Shaolin comes
from Hong Mens surviving texts. Indeed,
Fujians specific socio-historical and cultural
background made it a breeding ground for
secret societies in the late Qing Dynasty,
notably Hong Men, and according to
contemporary historical research, secret
societies often used local temples as
centers for their activities, towards which
the state pursued a steadfast policy of
persecution and suppression, and regularly
destroyed illicit temples. The precise
relationship between Hung Kuen and Hong
Men is scholars specialist domain, and
their underlying relationship awaits further
Lam Chun Fai and Lam Jo at Lam Jos Birthday Banquet historical research. But I am certain is that it
is not purely accidental that Hung Kuen and
Hong Men share a common origin myth.
When did Hung Kuen become an
independent martial arts style? This is a
difficult question but from the early 20th What is noteworthy is that Hung
century at the latest, five family-styles,
consisting of Hung, Lau, Choy, Lei, Mok Kuens origin story is fundamentally
( , , , , ), were acknowledged
as the leading martial arts styles in the same as the Hong Men Societys
Guangdong. That Hung Kuen is listed at the
head of the five families says much about foundation myth; the earliest
its prestige and influence at the time. A
hundred years ago Guangdong abounded information on the destruction of
with martial arts schools and organizations,
and the social position of a given martial the southern Shaolin comes from
arts teacher depended directly on his
pugilistic abilities and martial prowess. Hong Mens surviving texts.
Unquestionably, a significant reason for
Hung Kuens status as the premier martial
arts family in Guangdong boils down to and passed on by Master Lam Sai Wing ) Gung character Crouching Tiger
Master Lam Sai Wings unparalleled skills represent the entire Hung Kuen repertoire Boxing (Gung ji fuk fu kuen), Tiger and
as a martial artist. According to my father, in Guangdong at the time. However, Crane Boxing (Fu hok sheung ying kuen
back in those days any martial artist who popular martial arts had suffered grievous ), Iron Wire Boxing (Tit sin kuen
wished to open a school in Guangdong losses during the catastrophic decade of ), Ng Long Eight Trigram Staff (
had to first pay a courtesy call to Lam Sai the Cultural Revolution, and it is impossible Ng long ba gua gwan), etc. but
Wing and obtain his approval. This indicates to gage either the extent of damage or the also includes Hung Kuen techniques passed
he held a position of great prestige in nature of these losses. All I can say is that down within the Lam family, such as War
Guangdong martial circles. Indeed, such Master Lam Sai Wing laid the foundation Palm (Jin zhern ) and Che Chong
was the extent of his influence that most for the Lam Family Hung Kuen, and that Double Broadsword , as well as
of the Hung Kuen practiced today descends most contemporary Hung Kuen styles have unarmed and weapon techniques and sets
directly from Lam Sai Wings teaching derived from this system. absorbed from extraneous styles, including
an eloquent testimony to the unique Plum Blossom Spear ( Mui fa ying
contributions he has made to traditional Master Lam Sai Wings Hung Kuen system chern), Commanders Broadsword (
Chinese martial arts. Naturally, this is not to has diverse sources, the core of which Ji fai dou), Yus Family Great Fork (
say that the techniques and sets preserved descends from Master Wong Fei Hung ( Yu gar tai pa), etc. During the 1920s
and 1930s, under the patronage of the
Republican Government, traditional Chinese
martial arts became the national symbol
for New China and a burgeoning Self-
strengthening Movement; by the end of
the war, martial arts development entered
a golden period of growth and popularity,
which saw a blossoming of schools from
around the country with an unprecedented
exchange between the North and the
South. For a time a strong martial spirit
infused the whole nation, and Hung Kuen
became the symbol for a relentless self-
strengthening spirit in southern China.

ollowing Lam Sai Wing the second

F Hung Kuen grandmaster to emerge

is his nephew, Master Lam Jo, who
not only inherited Master Lam Sai Wings
teachings, but introduced important
innovations and reforms to the inherited

Lam Chun Fai performing Juchong Double Jao

Summer 2009 57
Preamble on the Origin and Development of Hung Kuen

Lam Chun Fai performing Yu gar tai pa

techniques. His reforms mainly concern two such as Lau Family Boxing ( Lau gar
aspects, in respect of contents and sam fa kuen), Bang bou , etc., as well as sets
( body positioning and movement). in weapon training, such as Lau Family Staff
Regarding the former, the repertoire of ( Lau gar gwan), Butterfly Double
todays Lam Family Hung Kuen is almost Broadsword ( Wu dip sheung dou),
twice as large as the original corpus. etc. Concerning the latter, Master Lam
The reason for this is that Master Lam Jo Jos innovations transformed Hung Kuen
composed a number of two-person sets stylistically and technically from the hard
based on existing routines, such as Tiger bridge and stance ( ngan kiu ngan
and Crane Two Person Set ( ma) of old into a more agile and flexible
Fu hok sheung ying dui cha), Single style; greater emphasis was placed on
Broadsword versus Spear ( dan control over distancing and positioning, to
dou dui chern), Double Broadsword versus avoid and neutralize attack through skillful
Spear ( sheung dou dui chern), body movements, and to maximize power
Double-ended Staff Two-person Set ( by utilizing body momentum. Conversely,
sheung tao gwan dui cha), Master Lam Sai Wing was exceptionally
Great Broadsword versus Spear well-built and possessed enormous physical
dai dou dui chern), etc. At the same strength; and added to this, years of hard
time, he integrated a number of sets from training, the fighting style of hard bridge
other martial arts styles and schools into and hard stance was well suited to maximize
the repertoire. These include boxing sets, his body advantage.

Master Lam Sai Wings Hung Kuen system has

diverse sources, the core of which descends from
Master Wong Fei Hung
Martial arts from southern China are is rich in southern flavor but not limited by with a sense of worry and anxiety. On the one
commonly perceived as belonging to the the techniques of traditional short-range hand, in both China and Hong Kong, fewer
system of short-range striking () striking. and fewer people are taking up traditional
suitable for close-range combat only. martial arts, such that the martial spirit in the
Actually, this is not completely correct; ssentially, martial arts are a days of my youth has all but vanished. This
take Hung Kuen for example, even
though its methods and principles possess
characteristics of duanda, they also contain
E dynamic cultural phenomenon. As
conceptions and understanding of
the human body evolve through time, or
probably has to do with the Westernization
of society over the past half-century, and
the impact of globalization on indigenous
techniques typical of Northern style long- as ones body condition alters, changes sports. On the other hand, traditional martial
range striking (), and thus may be more necessarily occur in martial practice and arts (including Hung Kuen) have maintained
appropriately seen as a combination of performance. Today, living in a society a vital role in the cultural life of overseas
Northern and Southern martial arts. Hung increasingly governed by the rule of law, Chinese communities; and in the wake of
Kuen also possesses techniques that involve martial arts are largely separated from the transnational kung fu movement in recent
big swinging arm movements, which are not reality of combat and needs of self-defense, decades, Chinese martial arts are attracting
seen in more conservative southern martial and have transformed into a cultural a rising following in the west, whose interest
arts, as for instance the combination of Seoi activity to cultivate the mind and the body, and devotion to the martial arts exceeds
long paau ceoi and Ling wan za a way to enrich ones physical and spiritual even that in China and Hong Kong. What I
ngo , which are reminiscent of wellbeing, and a channel to experience find regrettable is that on the evidence of
Northern Pigua sequences. Nonetheless, and rejoice in traditional culture. At the this contemporary trend, traditional southern
fundamentally Hung Kuen has retained same time, reviewing the development of martial arts are slowly becoming an overseas
salient features of southern style martial traditional martial arts, particularly southern Kung Fu Culture.
arts firm, immovable stances and low style Chinese martial arts over the past
Please note that some transliterations based on Cantonese
kicks not higher than the waist and in my decades, I have mixed feelings about their pronunciation have been used in this article in order to avoid
opinion represents a style of martial arts that future, commingling hope and optimism confusing those that are already accustomed to their usage.

Lam Chun Fai performing Yu gar tai pa 1970s

Summer 2009 59
Chinas Duanbing Movement

By Ma Lianzhen Pictures courtesy of Maximilian Piers Holland

Han period sword fighting with shield

I. Duanbings Origin in Ancient Jijian

ian ( double-edged sword) was one of the most important reserved for various uses of jian, such as shuojian (
weapons in ancient China and enjoyed a golden age of over a discussion of sword), jijian ( fencing), wujian ( sword
thousand years from the Western Zhou Dynasty to the end of dance), xiangjian ( sword appreciation), and lunjian (
the Han period. During this period, jian was venerated, served to sword discourse), which refer to specific, well defined activities,
symbolize a persons social position and dignity, and, possessing a fully reflecting the richness of jian culture in ancient China. In my
ritualistic attribute comparable to jade, was instrumental in honing opinion, however, irrespective of the enormous spectrum of jian
a gentlemans morality. culture, it must still center around jijian, for fencing practice is
fundamental to improving swordsmanship skills and raising the
After the eclipse of the Han Dynasty, jians military function level of swordplay, and offers a significant avenue to nurture and
gradually declined and its position in the arena of warfare was hone moral character. What was referred to as jijian in ancient
replaced by dao (single-edged sword). Thenceforth, even though China is in fact a competitive, agonistic sport in jian use, or a form
jian continued to exist and to be beloved by some military officers, of friendly fencing contest. For thousands of years, it was a highly
it was no longer the principal weapon for soldiers. Instead, its respected and popular sport, one of the longest living competitive
developmental space transferred from the military to a domain events in Chinas sports history, and a vital component in Chinas
beyond it, which eventually came to depend on the patronage of classical martial arts system.
private martial artists, and even became the plaything for men of
letters. However, the former glory of jian culture is undiminished, It is not difficult to imagine that the earliest form of jijian must
as jian continues to command veneration and respect, and its image have been a cruel sport, as corroborated by records in ancient texts,
continues to serve as the symbol for Chinas ancient martial culture. not dissimilar to gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome. However,
any sport that seriously maims and puts human lives at risk is
What does jian culture encompass? And where do we draw its unlikely to enjoy popularity for long, and even in imperfect feudal
boundaries? This is indeed a complex and thought provoking regimes such sports were often deemed too harmful to be legally
question. In the pre-Han period, there were a number of terms sanctioned. Therefore, long ago our forefathers began to search
for a safer method of fencing representing the sportization of
fencing in ancient China culminating in jijian, which remained
popular over an immense temporal span. Not many historical
materials that deal with jijian have been preserved, but enough
survive to permit a glimpse into its ancient form.

In the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, there are
records of swordsmen vying their skills with canes ( zhang).
In the famous fable about Yuenu and Yuangongs fencing match,
where the two contested their skills with bamboo canes, we are
given a faithful portraiture of everyday fencing practice in ancient
China. In this way, cane became a by-word for sword in ancient
discourse. Likewise, the fencing match between Cao Pei, Emperor
Wen of the Wei Kingdom, and General Deng Zhan, in the Three
Kingdoms period, which made use of surrogate canes, is among
the best known and most talked about historical anecdotes. After
the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the use of bamboo and wooden
canes in military training and fencing contests abounds in historical
records, and Yan Yuans and Li Mutians fencing method, which
had been referred to by Mao Zedong, also made use of a bamboo
cane as a replacement for dao. In sum, in order to minimize
bodily injury and increase its value as a sport, and as a result of
strict laws against the wearing of arms, which prohibited civilians
from carrying or engaging in matches with real weapons, not only
was the use of bamboo and wooden canes required for fencing
One of the very few duanbing fighting photos remaining
activities in the private domain, they were also used for military
training, as clearly recorded in Qi Jiguangs Truthful Records of
Military Training ( Lianbin Shiji).

It is not difficult to Jijian is a heritage of Chinas sports culture that best conveys its
humanist spirit. Indeed, in both the Orient and the West, through
imagine that the earliest diverse forms and guises, the sport of fencing is seen to represent
the quintessential qualities of traditional sports, symbolizing
form of jijian must have courage, dignity, and moral integrity. For this reason, people from
both sides of the world have devoted efforts to transform ancient
been a cruel sport, as fencing into modern sports.

corroborated by records
in ancient texts, not
dissimilar to gladiatorial
combat in ancient

Ma Xianda (Right) the first national Duanbing champion post-1949

Summer 2009 61
Chinas Duanbing Movement

The attempt in the West has met with

great success. The threefold structure of
modern fencing, comprised of foil, espe,
and saber, is among the earliest events
to be included in the Olympic Games.
Today, it is practised throughout the world
and has a large following. For over half a
century, through the channel of the former
Soviet Union, fencing gradually developed
and expanded in China, with a steady rise
in the level of skills, and in time gave rise
to some outstanding athletes such as Luan

Japan has also successfully transformed its

indigenous style of fencing into a modern
sport. As is widely known, kendo is a
cultural heritage much treasured by the
Japanese people. Today, it is a popular Duanbing training in a Taiwanese Guoshu Center
sport with a well organized schooling
system and has been designated a
national art ( guoji) in Japan. Kendo is looked upon as an lag far behind Japan, and also other neighboring countries such as
important tool for nurturing the national spirit, and many kendo Korea
dojos have been established in primary and secondary schools
throughout Japan, where it is taught as a mandatory course. In The creation and disappearance of duanbing is a thought-provoking
addition, kendo instructors are frequently highly respected figures historical phenomenon that is worthy of serious reflection.
in academic institutions, on account of their moral strength and
personal integrity. Today, kendo has developed into a global sport II. Duanbings Rules and
with many international organizations and competitions. Regulations
Starting from an early date, kendo transmitted and was known in In the sixteenth year of the Republic, Zhang Zhijiang founded
China; by the Ming Dynasty at the latest Japanese swordsmanship the Central National Arts Institute and formally established the
skills and manuals had diffused to China, which were greatly Guoshu Examination system. Ma Mingda said on numerous
valued by Chinese martial artists. Further, towards the end of the occasions before, guoshu was a project in indigenous sports
Qing Dynasty, during the popular wave to study in Japan, a large whose aim was to transform popular martial arts into modern
number of Chinese students received instruction in kendo, while sports, and to complete a competition structure for the martial arts.
some Japanese coaches also taught kendo in China, which exerted
a significant influence on fencing developments in my country.
Indeed, the creation of duanbing in China was to a certain extent
inspired and catalyzed by Japans kendo.

Pioneers in Chinas indigenous sports also endeavored to

transform Chinese fencing into a sport, and devoted efforts to
merge swordsmanship skills in dao and jian into an integrated
competitive form, which eventually gave rise to duanbing
(short range weapon) under the Republic of China government.
Regretfully, duanbing fell into obscurity soon after its appearance,
and remained an unfinished project with only a beginning. Today,
few know anything about duanbing even within professional
martial arts circles, let alone the average enthusiast. Ironically,
Chinese martial arts, which have often flaunted their breadth and
depth under the motto bodajinshen , have only two
competitive forms set-performance and sanshou without
competitions in either long-range or short-range weapons, which Duanbing training in a Taiwanese Guoshu Center
Pioneers in Chinas of martial artists to design a competitive sport that integrated the
techniques and styles of all the short-range weapons.
indigenous sports also
As stated above, the development of duanbing resulted from
endeavored to transform the collective effort of a group of guoshu masters under Mr.
Zhang Zhijiangs leadership. It was created under specific historical
Chinese fencing into circumstances and suffers from the limitations of its time. Due to

a sport, and devoted dearth of information, we know very little about its background,
which awaits deeper and more intense research in the future. The
efforts to merge earliest rules for duanbing competition we can find today are the
Detailed Principles in Fencing Competition published in the twentieth
swordsmanship skills in year of the Republic of China (1931), which is collected in the
Regulations for Guoshu Competition (published in April 1935) in
dao and jian into an the fourth chapter of the book. As certain facts about duanbing
competitions in the Republic of China may be gleaned from a
integrated competitive perusal of Detailed Principles, which may in addition assist in further
understanding the developmental process of the duanbing sport, I
form, which eventually think it is necessary to take a closer look at the book.

gave rise to duanbing Regulations for Guoshu Competition was part of the materials the
Central Guoshu Institute prepared for the National Games, in the
Endemic corruption within the Republican administration, the hope guoshu would be included in the event. For this reason, the
poverty and weakness of the nation, insufficient attention book was published under the title, the National Games in the
from the party-nation, and lack of funds to support this Twentieth Year of the Republic, which refers to the Fourth National
type of non-urgent duty, meant that the guoshu project was Games held in Hanzhou in 1931. In fact, guoshu did not enter the
besieged by problems and difficulties and never attained the goal Fourth National Games but was included for the first time in 1933,
set by Mr. Zhang Zhijiang. This project had crystallized the efforts, and only became a formal event in 1935 at the Sixth National
thoughts, talents, and wisdom of an elite group of contemporary Games. Regulations for Guoshu Competition addresses three events,
martial artists, and left behind a legacy worthy of our study and namely combat ( boji), wrestling ( shuaijiao), and fencing
emulation. Indeed, it should be said that the guoshu project (jijian), and besides laying down the general regulations it includes
is an invaluable cultural resource for indigenous sports. In this only scanty information concerning the rules for individual events. In
connection, the development of duanbing, which was a constituent the Regulations, what is referred to as boji is the same as sanshou,
part of the system of guoshu and martial arts competition at the and jijian may be equated with duanbing.
time, was an attempt by Zhang Zhijiang and a surrounding group

A Duanbing team in South China Normal University

Summer 2009 63
Chinas Duanbing Movement

Detailed Rules specifies that both male and female athletes may the editorial board, were both graduates and instructors in the
compete in duanbing competition, which has five weight divisions. former National Arts Institute and thus familiar with duanbing,
With the exception of the back of the head, ears, abdomen, and my guess is that they wrote this section. Mr. Ma Xianda was
and groin, any other parts of the body are considered legitimate added to the editorial team for the 1983 version. He is an expert in
targets for attack. The body is further divided into primary duanbing and I am inclined to question whether some amendments
and secondary targets, with score on the primary target being were also made at his instigation. By inference, the competition
awarded a full point, while a half-point is awarded for score on methods outlined in Wushu are probably adopted from the rules
the secondary target. The match has three rounds with each round introduced in the twentieth year of the Republic and enforced
delimited by three scores, and the first to score two points or more (with amendments) until 1953, and thus represent an exceptionally
is awarded the round, while the match is decided by the winner precious resource for the present movement to revive duanbing
of two rounds. There is no time limit for the match. Of the rules competition.
that deal with illegitimate strikes, the most important concerns
the application of boji and wrestling methods on the opponent, Wushu contains clear specifications for venue and equipment for
whereas the rest forbid attack on certain parts of the body. duanbing competition, which provides important guidance to
private efforts to develop this sport. As most people are unfamiliar
The passages above describe the first formal rules and regulations with duanbing today, I will take this opportunity to introduce the
for duanbing competition. In general, such rules tend to be rather specifications, which I hope will assist my readers to understand
crude and are problematic for implementation; at the same time, more about duanbing.
there are no concrete rules and guideline in respect of competition
venue, equipment, protective gear, and etiquette, which indicates Equipment: duanbing measures three feet long with a
that the Detailed Rules were drafted at a time when competition diameter of one inch. In making the equipment, find a
experience was lacking, and that duanbing competition was still in bamboo stick with a half-inch diameter, or four pieces of
its incipient, experimental stage. bamboo slips tied together with iron wires, wrap a layer of

After the twentieth year of the Republic, duanbing

competition became more frequent and
improvements were made to the rules
and regulations.

After the twentieth year of the Republic, duanbing competition evenly spread cotton around it, wrap it over again with a piece
became more frequent and improvements were made to the of cloth to tighten the bundle, then finally fit a soft leather
rules and regulations, but in this regard we have not found coat over it. The body of duanbing is now ready. Afterwards,
any contemporary information and cannot say for certain what stitch together two pieces of thick, hard leather, to fashion a
these changes were. The competition rules at the 1953 Tianjin flat, round hand-guard with a three-inch diameter. Cut out
Indigenous-style Games were likely based on the amended rules, a circular hole an inch in diameter, insert the duanbing, and
but even these cannot be found. Fortunately, Wushu, published fasten the hand-guard to a position six inches from the end.
in 1961 by Peoples Sports Publication and originally written for Thus the duanbing is made. (see figure)
a bachelors course at the Sports Institute, which after numerous
amendments continues to be used to the present day, contains a Venue: clearly mark out a white circle measuring sixteen feet
section on duanbing (including the 1983 edition), which includes in diameter on a flat ground, lawn, or floor, and the space
aspects of technical training and competition rules. within the circle is the competition space.

The information on duanbing in the 1961 and 1983 editions Regarding the competition rules, quite a few changes were made to
remains fairly crude in respect of technical training and leaves many the Detailed Rules. As a case in point, whereas Detailed Rules admit
gaps in the rules, but it is a clear improvement on the Detailed both male and female competitors and has five weight divisions,
Rules published in the twentieth year of the Republic. I am not Wushu specifies that duanbing competition is suitable only for
certain who wrote the duanbing section for the 1961 edition, but adult male athletes and has no weight divisions. In my opinion,
Mr. Zhang Wenguang and the late Mr. Wen Jinming, who sat on this is where Wushu is at fault while making adjustments to the
Training of the Duanbing team in South China Normal University

may be made in the future given sufficient research and investment.

Advances in science have also made available such technologies as
electronic scoring aids which were not possible in the past. In my
opinion, the most difficult part lies rather in establishing the rules
and a proper training program, which are urgent tasks that demand
immediate attention. The former requires much experimentation
and meticulous research, whereas the latter needs a well-designed
curriculum, which is prerequisite for any meaningful training

Rules and regulations serve to guide technical developments,

which is a common principle in all sports. I believe the success of
rules. The removal of weight divisions is clearly unreasonable, and duanbings revival will depend to a large extent on the development
to limit participants to men represents a conceptual regression. of techniques, which in turn is largely circumscribed by the rules
Other adjustments made in Wushu are more logical, for example, and regulations. Therefore, a conference with participants from
Wushu regulates that there are three two-minute rounds in each diverse background should be organized as soon as possible, in
match, with a minute of break in between, and the outcome being order to discuss, research, and finalize the rules. Partially influenced
determined by the score at the end of the match. This makes more by Prof. Ma Mingdas personal efforts to promote duanbing in
sense than the Detailed Rules where the outcome is decided by the recent years, many regional and national teams have been set
winner of two rounds. In sum, however, many flaws still exist in the up in overseas countries, which are intensifying their training
rules contained in Wushu, which pose considerable difficulties for and endeavoring to improve the rules through trial and error. A
implementation. demonstrative competition is due to be held in the United States of
America in the near future which, though small in scale, is already
Duanbing competition was halted for nearly half a century, and attracting some public attention. Furthermore, duanbing training is
reviving it today naturally involves many problems and difficulties, also underway in Canada, Japan, and Macau, where the drafting of
not least in respect of equipment, protective gear, as well as the new rules and regulations is being eagerly discussed.
materials for their manufacture, which require an experimental
process of trial and error. Nonetheless, the question of equipment I sincerely hope that more and more people will participate in
does not pose insurmountable problems, for newly available duanbing and that it will again become a popular sport in the not-
materials means that better and higher quality duanbing equipment too-distant future.

Summer 2009 65
Chinas Duanbing Movement Movement Sequence
Summer 2009 67
Chinas Duanbing Movement Basic Techniques
Summer 2009 69
Chinas Duanbing Movement Basic Techniques 2
Summer 2009 71
Chinas Duanbing Movement Basic Techniques
Summer 2009 73
Chinas Duanbing Movement Basic Techniques
Chinas Duanbing Movement Basic Techniques (slow motion)

Summer 2009 75
Taijiquan: Symbol of Traditional
Chinese Martial Arts Culture
By Stanley E. Henning

Morning Taiji practice; 1980s

studied Taijiquan and Xingyiquan in Taiwan between 1970-72,
and during that time I became deeply interested in Chinese
martial arts history, culture, and theory; and especially where
Taijiquan fits into this complex and fascinating study. Taijiquan
was treated as somehow different from other martial arts; often
hailed as the crowning example of an Internal martial art. But
what does this really mean? I quickly discovered that understanding
this was no easy task as no reliable text on Chinese martial arts
history was available in English at the time; making it hard to place
Taijiquan in its proper perspective. The 1930s saw the beginnings of
various attempts to apply serious, scholarly research into the origin
of Taijiquan, and we are greatly indebted to both Tang Hao and Xu
Zhen for their pioneering contributions. Building on these efforts,
in 1991 Shen Shou published Taijiquan Manual () through
the Chinese Martial Arts Association, the official governing body for
martial arts in the Peoples Republic of China, which tried to lay the
issue to rest once and for all by offering the official account. It does
so by arbitrarily attributing Taijiquans foundation and development
to the enigmatic Wang Zongyue () and others. However,
in spite of this pronouncement Taijiquans genesis remains open
to debate, and the subject continues to fuel new speculations and
spawn alternative origin myths. The latest episode in this ongoing
saga revolves around a genealogical register recently discovered in
Henan, which proves that the Li family village of Tang Cun, rather
than Chenjiagou, is Taijiquans real birthplace.

In this article, however, I will not indulge in further speculations on

Taijiquans putative origin, or discuss the continuing struggles to
try and identify it with the so-called internal school of martial arts
and the legendary Daoist hermit Zhang Sanfeng (). Instead, I
will attempt to objectively compare the basic principles espoused in
Taijiquan Theory () and other key writings by Wu Yuxiang
(, 1812-1880) with martial arts concepts expounded in
classical Chinese texts and historical manuals, including the Story
of the Maiden of Yue (, c.100 CE), Tang Shunzhis (
, 1507-1560) Martial Compendium (), Qi Jiguangs (
1528-1587) Boxing Classic in the New Book of Effective Discipline
() , Yu Dayous (, 1503-1579) Sword
Treatise (), and other well known Ming-Qing period martial arts
writings, including Chang Naizhous (1724-1783, known as
the Scholar-Boxer ) Martial Arts Book () and Boxing
Classic: Essentials of Boxing (1784, ), which contains
writings possibly passed on by a Ming period Shaolin Monk named
Xuan Ji (, Profound Opportunity). I think this comparison will in
turn help determine Taijiquans proper place in traditional Chinese
martial arts culture irrespective of its origins.

I will not indulge in further

speculations on Taijiquans
putative origin, or discuss
the continuing struggles to
try and identify it with the
so-called internal school
of martial arts and the
legendary Daoist hermit
Zhang Sanfeng. A statue of Zhang Sanfeng

Summer 2009 77
Taijiquan: Symbol of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Culture

Crush with the weight of Mount Tai, one of 12 illustrations from Secretly Transmitted Short Hitting Methods, an addendum to New Book of Military Preparedness
(1630). This form is listed in a Sparring routine recorded in Chenjiagou Village (Note 1). Illustration courtesy Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library, Ichimura Collection

I will begin by referring to the Story of the Maiden of Yue in the Spring
and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue (, , circa 100
AD), which offers the earliest and most succinct description of Chinese
martial arts theory. The crux of the theory concerns the interaction of
yin and yang in martial practice, and the interrelation between inner
concentration and external calm. In fact, the dynamic application
of the yin and yang principle were later developed to a much more
significant degree in the martial arts systems that collectively came
to be known as Taijiquan. Similar to the Story of the Maiden of Yue,
Taijiquans central principle, described at the beginning of Taijiquan
Theory, is adherence to the principle of yin and yang, which is now
couched in terms of Taiji, or the unifying Supreme Ultimate concept.
It was in the Song period, about 900 years after the Story of the
Maiden of Yue was written, that the philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017-
1073) created the Taiji symbol, which translated the principle of the
yin and yang interaction into a graphic medium, and thereby indelibly
imprinted the concept on peoples minds. Later, the philosopher Zhu
Twisted and Lean Seizing Method, another of the 12 illustrations from Secretly Transmitted Short Hitting Methods (1630), the earliest known illustration of applying
a winding technique similar to that stressed in Chen Family Taijiquan. Illustration courtesy Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library, Ichimura Collection

Xi (1130-1200) incorporated the Taiji concept into what came to

be known as Neo-Confucianism, which became the most influential
school of thought in China until the introduction of Western science.
If one subscribed to the view that Taijiquan Theory was written by
Wang Zongyue, as the martial arts historian Tang Hao claimed, then
the name Taijiquan may be traced to the 1790s. However, Tang
based this claim on papers he found in a used bookstall in Beijing in
1935. Prior to this it was only known that Wu Yuxiang claimed to
have obtained Wang Zongyues Taijiquan Theory between 1852-1854.
While the name Taijiquan may only be safely traced to the mid-19th
century, Taiji as a martial arts concept is used in earlier writings,
including Wang Yuyous (1615-1684) Thirteen Broadsword
Methods () (late 1600s), Chang Naizhous Martial Arts Book
(late 1700s), and Boxing Classic: Essentials of Boxing (1784). Indeed,
yin and yang and its associated opposites hard and soft, empty and
full, movement and rest appear in all five of the Ming-Qing period
sources I consulted (see chart below for comparisons).

Summer 2009 79
Taijiquan: Symbol of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Culture

The second important concept in Taijiquan Theory that is described

in all referenced materials is that of knowing ones opponent
while hiding from him ones intentions. This might be described as
managing the element of surprise, or as Boxing Classic: Essentials
of Boxing puts it, taking advantage of profound opportunity (
xuanji). It also involves a combination of careful observation of ones
opponent with a swift spontaneous response which attempts to mask
ones own techniques, or as a famous Daoist thinker Ge Hong (
284-363) once said, all the martial arts have secret formulas to
describe important techniques and have secret mysterious methods to
overcome an opponent. If an opponent is kept unaware of these then
one could defeat him at will.

The third major concept in Taijiquan Theory is actually of Confucian

origin and expounded in Mencius writings to give up ones views
and follow others. This concept is expressed in various forms in
three of the five Ming-Qing period writings I referenced, but perhaps
best encapsulated in Yu Dayous laconic, pragmatic phrase: I quietly
await while the opponent is busy, I keep cadence and allow him
to contest. (Sword Treatise) That Yu called his staff manual Sword
Treatise may seem strange at first, until one realizes that he may be
alluding to the Story of the Maiden of Yue, where Yuenu describes
her sword technique as applicable to all forms of combat. Ones
attitude, a crucial psycho-physiological factor in hand-to-hand
combat, is described in the Maiden of Yue Story as strengthen[ing]
the spirit within, [while] appear[ing] calm without. One can tell that
both Taijiquan proponents, Wu Yuxiang and Chang Naizhou, quoted
this passage from memory, while it is described in more layman terms
in Shaolin Duanda Techniques Combined Boxing Manual, in Boxing
Classic: Essentials of Boxing, which appears to be a manual within the
manual. This section or portions thereof may have been copied from
a military manual left in the monastery during the Ming period, this is
likely because martial arts trained monks from the Shaolin Monastry
were commonly incorporated into militia groups during the Ming
period. General Yu Dayou, mentioned above, insisted on observing
Woodblock depiction of General Yue Fei
the monks staff fighting skills, he was not impressed with what he
saw and took two monks along with him on his mid-16th century
anti-Japanese pirate campaigns to give them practical training in
The action of linking hopes that that at least one of them might use this experience to
improve the staff fighting skills in the monastery.
circles and spiral
motions, which is core Shifting attention now away from the theory of Taijiquan to the
practice of Taijiquan I would like to compare source references on the

to the winding hands key elements of qi ( vital energy) and jin ( power/force) and the
evolution of Taijiquans forms and techniques.
techniques and key to Looking at the key elements of qi (vital energy) and jin (
generating force in Taiji power/force) in martial arts practice, the Story of the Maiden of Yue
describes qi at two levels first, mental alertness and calmness; and
application, clearly shares second, physical coordination of breathing and movement. Taijiquan
Theory describes the interaction of energy and power as key to
some commonality with effective practice as does Boxing Classic: Essentials of Boxing, while

traditional Ming-dynasty discussion of the role and different aspects of qi occupies a large part
of Chang Naizhous Changs Martial Arts Book, particularly in the

spear techniques. opening chapter, entitled Discussion of Central Qi (), where

he discusses the Taiji concept and he identifies martial preparedness
with what he calls central qi.
Taijiquan Comparison Chart

Principles/ Maiden of Taijiquan theory Boxing Changs Sword Martial New Book of
Concepts Yue story and Insights on Classic: Martial Arts Classic Compendium Effective
executing the Essentials book Discipline
Thirteen Forms of Boxing

Yin and Yang


Hard and Soft


Empty and Full


Movement and Rest


Opponent does not

know me but I
know him

Internally alert,
externally calm X X X X

Yield oneself and

follow the opponent

Energy and Force


Term Taiji
mentioned X X (1) X (2)

1. Plum Flower Five Steps = Taiji

2. Central Qi = martial preparedness ones central equilibrium is called Taiji

Summer 2009 81
Taijiquan: Symbol of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Culture

a famous Daoist thinker Ge

Hong (284-363) once said,
all the martial arts have
secret formulas to describe
important techniques and
have secret mysterious
methods to overcome an
opponent. If an opponent is
kept unaware of these then
one could defeat him at will.

Secondly, one discovers that with rare exceptions the thirty-two

forms (most references claim twenty-nine out of the thirty-two
forms) illustrated in General Qi Jiguangs Boxing Manual are
found in the sets practised in the Chen Family Taijiquan system.
An additional technique, taishan yading (Crush With
the Weight of Mount Tai) is used in sparring practice (sanshou
), which related to a routine titled Short Hitting (duanda )
( Xu Zhen ,13). This
discovery is very interesting as it hints at a deeper connection
between Taijiquan and Qi Jiguang, with a potential connection
to materials not included in New Book of Effective Discipline, but
later published in Secretly Transmitted Short Hitting Methods (
) in New Book of Military Preparedness (, 1630). Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073)
Taijiquans techniques clearly owe much to General Qi Jiguangs
thirty-two boxing forms and other Ming period sets. This is
particularly true of Chen Family training practice, which has several a description of winding hands, as that of Shaolin Yinshou Staff
important contact training routines: pushing hands / tuishou (), (). In either case, one uses this technique to deflect, push
expanded / diagonal dalu () and the all-encompassing winding away, and neutralize an opponents blow in an alternating helical
hands / chanshou () technique or more commonly know as silk drill shaft motion which facilitates the issue of various modes of
reeling energy/force () in modern Chen manuals. force, including punching, seizing, twisting, pulling, pushing, and
even throwing an opponent to the ground. Indeed, we may easily
The action of linking circles and spiral motions, which is core to interpret Tang Shunzhis phrase hand palm-down covers and
the winding hands techniques and key to generating force in hand palm-up lifts () from a Shaolin Yinshou Staff (
Taiji application, clearly shares some commonality with traditional ) manual as a description of winding hands.
Ming-dynasty spear techniques that also require the linking
and sticking circular work to control and gain advantage over As the foregoing discussion reveals, Taijiquan is a traditional
the opponent. I exhort my readers to compare the technique of Chinese martial art in both form and theory, which integrates the
winding hands to descriptions in contemporary spear manuals, concepts of yin and yang, taiji, etc. into its practice, and developed
particularly Meng Lu Tang Spear Method (Meng Lu Tang Qiangfa, from historical forms in unarmed and spear martial arts. Indeed, the
, purportedly written by the Shaolin Monk Hong Zhuan very name Taiji connotes the unity of internal and external forces,
, in Wu Shus (, 1611-1695) Record of the Arm ). which is a key concept lying at the heart of Chinese thinking,
Indeed, we may as easily interpret Tang Shunzhis phrase hand thus making it an ideal symbol for mainstream traditional Chinese
palm-down covers and hand palm-up lifts () as martial culture.

Xu Zhen13.
Davis, Barbara, The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation, Including a Commentry by Chen Weiming,
Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2004.
Fung, Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962.
Henning, Stanley E., Chinese Boxing: The Internal Versus External Schools in the Light of History and Theory,
Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1997, 10-19.
_____, Chinese Boxings Ironic Odyssey, Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1999, 8-17.
_____, The Maiden of Yue: Fount of Chinese Martial Arts Theory, Journal of Asian Martial Arts ,
Vol. 16, No. 3, 2007, 26-29.
______, Ge Hong: Famous Daoist Thinker & Practical Martial Artist, Journal of Asian Martial Arts,
Vol. 16, No. 3, 2007, 22-25.
Kennedy, Brian L. Taijiquan Wrestling, Classical Fighting Arts, Vol. 2, No. 13, 44-50.
and Elizabeth Guo,
Shahar, Meir, The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts, Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, 2008.
Wells, Marnix, Scholar Boxer: Chang Naizhous Theory of Internal Martial Arts and the Evolution of Taijiquan,
Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2005.
Wile, Douglas, Tai Chis Ancestors: The Making of an Internal Martial Art, New York: Sweet Chi Press, 1999.

Chang Naizhou . 1936. 1973.
Gu Liuxin , , , 2006.
Li Kerong , , 2006-4-18.
Ma Li 2006. ,,
Qi Jiguang , , , 1988.
Shen Jiazhen 1968.
Shen Shou 1991
Tang Hao .1936, , Hong Kong: Unicorn Press, 1969.
_____, . 1936, , Hong Kong: Unicorn Press,1969.
Wang Xingya, Li Libing, ,200574.

Wang Zongyue, etc., 1995.

Wu Wenhan , 2001.
Xie, Sanbin . 1630. 16a-28b. .
Xu Zhen , 1935, , 1965.
_____. , ed., 1936, : , 1973.
_____. , 1936, , 1965.
Zhang Ruan , , No. 4, 1988, 28-30.
Zhao Ye , , 1994.

Summer 2009 83
The Archery Tradition of
Chinas Boreal Hunters
Pictures courtesy of the Orochen Foundation, Leipzig & Guan Xiaoyun
By Zhao Shiqing

Orochen children with toy bow and

arrows; photograph taken at Tuohe
in the early 1960s by Song Zhaolin

he Orochen are one of the smallest ethnic groups in China
with a population of just over 8,000. On the eve of Communist
Liberation in 1949, Orochen bands ranged over a vast land
covering the entire Great and Small Khingan Mountains, stretching
from the edge of Hulun Buir plains to the Russian fort of Khabarovsk
along a west-east axis. Their hunting grounds were bounded by the
river Amur in the north, beyond which lay the taiga of the Russian
Far East and Siberia, with a contracting border to the south, as the
boreal forest steadily retreated before the northward progression of Bone arrow collected by the German
ethnographer Walther Stotzner
agrarian settlements. They were part of an extensive ethno-linguistic when he conducted research among
family which the Soviet anthropologist Shirokogoroff christened the Orochen hunters in the Great
Khingan Mountains in the late
northern Tungusic complex and are last of a long line of hunter- 1920s. Courtesy of Dresden State
gatherers who subsisted in the forested hinterland of northeastern Museum of Ethnology

China, representing an archaic way of life that had held sway in this
remote corner of Asia since antiquity. When the Orochen moved into
settlements under the Socialist civilizing campaign in the 1950s, the
final chapter had closed on the history of Chinas northern nomadic

This is not to suggest that the Orochen were unchanging in

their customs and lived in an ahistorical bubble of stagnant
ethnographic present up to the fateful moment of Socialist
Liberation. Indeed, quite the contrary. Between the mid-sixteenth
century when Manchus from the White Mountains and Black
River founded the Qing empire and the mid-twentieth century
when the Communist Party inaugurated a new era of socialism
in China, important changes took place which significantly
altered Orochen society and culture. These included technological
innovations such as introduction of horse and firearms which
re-molded fundamental aspects of their culture, as well as Qing period pictures of an Imperial Tribute showing the Orochen with reindeer

transformations in their social order, which came about both as a

result of internal structural changes as well as external pressure.
The catalyst for these changes was the incorporation of Orochen
groups into the Qing empire, as the conquering Manchus sought
to bring frontier groups living in the margins within the ambit
of imperial administration and economy. We know from Qing
records that formerly dispersed Orochen bands were organized
into administrative units called lu (literally, roads) beginning
in Kangxis reign, and hereditary chiefs were created among the
Orochen to rule over these units, under the overall command of
the general of Heilongjiang.i At the same time, they were subject
to an annual taxation payable in the form of sable pelt tributeii
and served in the imperial armies, both as patrols in the Amur
region along the Russian border, and fought in campaigns in the
northwest and southwest. In the thirty-fourth year of Emperor
Qianlongs reign, for example, three hundred Orochen cavalrymen
were sent to fight in the war in Yunnan, of whom a hundred and
thirty-seven perished by disease and war. iii However, it appears
many of the reforms were quite superficial and in spite of sustained Orochen riders photograph taken in Alihe Orochen Autonmous Banner
efforts to organize Orochen huntsmen into administrative- Inner Mongolia in the early 1960s

territorial units, the success of these policies was at best qualified.

Throughout the Qing Dynasty, reports to the imperial court
constantly complained of the difficulty of reforming the habits of
wild Orochen who resisted the Manchu rulers civilizing efforts
with recalcitrance and stubbornly clung on to the old ways.

No other aspect of Orochen culture from the beginning of the

Qing period to the dawn of Socialism was more enduring than the
practice of hunting and gathering. Undoubtedly hunting methods
evolved as new technologies were made available through contacts
with other ethnic groups, particularly as the bands living on the
western margins of the Manchurian forest slowly moved into the
Hulun Buir grassland, and began to intrude upon the land occupied

Summer 2009 85
The Archery Tradition of Chinas Boreal Hunters

by Mongolian pastoralists, following a well trodden, ancient migratory route in the footsteps
of Solon Evenk, who had moved along the same path a century earlier. During this period,
one of the most crucial changes was the adoption of the horse: whereas the Orochen first
appeared on the historical stage as reindeer herders, by the late Qing period many Orochen
bands were firmly established as horse breeders, and began to exhibit marked differences
from other North Tungusic groups in Siberia, with whom they once shared a common culture.
In time, Orochen bands living in the western Khingan ranges developed a horse breeding
nomadic culture entirely divorced from reindeer husbandry, which eventually gave rise to the
popular image of the nomadic Orochen hunter astride a shaggy Mongolian horse. However,
the ancient association with reindeer herding may still be seen from the name Orochen,
which was etymologically derived from oron chen reindeer-people. Nonetheless,
a salient feature in the Orochens cultural make up and socio-economic orientation that
persisted through this period of change was the focus on hunting as their primary economic
activity, which distinguished them as the only sub-arctic hunters in China.

The Orochens heavy reliance on hunting was in common with many indigenous groups
inhabiting the taiga belt across the Eurasian continents, as severe climatic conditions impose
a natural limit on the role of other subsistence activities in the far north. Thus, unlike foragers
in tropical forests who place a greater emphasis on gathering, hunter gatherers living in the
boreal forest are first and foremost hunters, whose economy is supplemented by fishing and
a limited extent of gathering in the summer. In many respects, hunting was the only viable
mode of existence in much of Siberia and northern Manchuria, whereas conversely, Orochens
nomadic hunter-gatherer culture represented an extreme adaptation to the sub-arctic
environment. In this connection, it is worth considering the Soviet scholar A. P. Okladnikovs
comment that the Neolithic age in Siberia was precipitated by a series of important
technological breakthroughs, chief among those being the invention of the bow and arrow,
which enabled rapid social developments and the occupation of large parts of Siberia which
were until then unpopulated.iv

Morgen artists impression of a mounted Orochen archer

No other aspect of Orochen
culture from the beginning
of the Qing period to the
dawn of Socialism was more
enduring than the practice of
hunting and gathering

Bayartu; last Orochen bowyer

The significance of the bow in north Asian indigenous cultures can his bow (or in a later period, his rifle), which beyond its value as
hardly be overestimated, for prior to the introduction of firearms a subsistence tool is also a social marker carrying great symbolic
it was the most important tool to the hunter in the boreal forest, significance. This may be seen in the first place in the semantics of
and proficiency in it use could carry a band over the fine line the Orochen language, where the term designates a good hunter.
separating subsistence from starvation. The continuing relevance

of archery as a subsistence activity is testified by the persistence n many ways, the ability to hunt defines the Orochen adult
of bow and arrows and their derivative hunting tools even in male and gives meaning to his existence. Naturally, there are
the early 1960s, despite the fact that firearms had been known many skills and different aspects of knowledge incumbent on
among them since the early Qing period. v morgen is used an aspiring hunter, including intimate geographic knowledge of his
synonymously to describe a person of intelligence and ability, which hunting ground, the ability to track animals, and an understanding
in native society is inevitably connected with skills in archery and of their movements and seasonal habits, but none is considered
the hunt. The symbolic value of the bow is also made manifest as vital as the ability to shoot well, which is the sure mark of a
through taboos associated with its handling. To the present day, true hunter, a morgen. The symbolic significance of the bow and
women are forbidden to touch mens hunting equipment in many the cultural value attached to its mastery is deeply embedded in
indigenous societies in north Asia, which they believe would Orochen consciousness, and in their myths the morgen inevitably
pollute the weapons and bring bad luck. This ritual prohibition appears as a cultural hero and defender of society, who combats
not only highlights the sacrosanct nature of hunting activities but primeval monsters and overcomes impossible odds by performing
also reinforces the hunters elevated (sacred) ritual position. And supernatural feats with his bow. The story of Morgen and Mangee,
lying at the center of all hunting activities is the bow, which is the which I retell below, may be taken as representative:
loci of spiritual power and, as we shall see, a potent tool used
in the communion with the spiritual world. And to the Orochen There was a Mangee (monster) living in the forest. Many
hunter nothing symbolizes his status as provider of food as well as hunters have been caught and eaten by Mangee and
eventually they decided to invite Morgen (the best hunter)
to deal with him. Thereupon Morgen went along to find the
cannibalistic Mangee and challenged him to a contest. First,
they had a trial of strength. Mangee picked up a massive
boulder and threw it to the other side of the river. Then
Morgen picked up a boulder just as big and landed it on
top of a hill across the river. Then they decided to have an
archery contest, with the boulder on top of the hill as the
target. Again, Mangee was the first to try. The first arrow
pierced a hole in the edge of the boulder; but the second
arrow only reached the foot of the hill; and the third arrow
did not even make it across, but landed in the middle of

Summer 2009 87
The Archery Tradition of Chinas Boreal Hunters

the river, and was immediately washed away by the current;

Mangee tired easily. Then it was Morgens turn to shoot;
his first arrow penetrated right through the middle of the
boulder. Terrified by Morgens strength and skills, Mangee
fled and never returned.vi

In this myth, the hunter was able to drive away the man eating
monster with an impressive display of strength and archery skills.
Significantly, the figure of mangee is universal in the mythic
traditions of indigenous societies across north Asia known, for
instance, as manggus in Mongolian which symbolically embodies
the untamed elemental forces that continually threaten mans
fragile existence within nature. In all these traditions mangee is
invariably portrayed as shaggy and massive with human if troll like
characteristics, possessed of tremendous strength, and preys on
human beings. To understand the significance of this imagery we
have to understand the lived-in environment of the Manchurian
forest and Siberian taiga, in whose vast wilderness man is exposed
to the unremitted harshness of nature and competes with other
animals of prey for limited resources. Man the hunter lives at the
mercy of the elements, and in every hunting expedition he runs
the risk of forceful currents, storms, snowdrifts, and attacks by
bears and wild boars, so that at any given moment he could have
the table turned against him and become man the prey. Among
Orochen elders I have heard heart breaking tales of husbands and
fathers lost in the forest, and when their bodies were eventually
found they bore unmistakable signs of a fierce struggle against
amaha, the grandfather, which is the name by which they call the

Solonbow1; photograph taken and printed with the permission of the Dresden
Museum of Ethnology

Uliren (Orochen encampment); photograph taken in Alihe Autonmous

Banner Inner Mongolia

Orochen bow detail of the limb and bowstring Orochen bow detail of the nock
revered Asiatic Black Bear. Only against this background of daily in the National Museum, inaccessible to the public, in Beijing. There
struggle for survival can we truly appreciate the symbolic force of is also a simple trapping device, consisted of a short wooden self-
the story of mangee and morgen, for the only security an Orochen bow and a releasing mechanism (also made of wood), in the National
hunter has as he ventures out into the forest are his personal Museum of Ethnology in Japan, which was collected in Inner Mongolia
weapons, of which the most important are his bow and arrows. in the 1930s. The only other Orochen bow I know of is in my own
personal collection, which was made by the oldest living Orochen

owever, what does the Orochen bow look like? According to hunter, Bayartu, as a gift to me in 2004. To my knowledge it is the
Song Zhaolin, one of the earliest Chinese ethnographers to only Orochen bow that has been made in recent times. Different
study the Orochen in the early 1960s, they had two types of types of wood seemed to have been used, according to the bowyers
bows: the standard composite bow used in the Qing military, and a preference and the materials available. The bow Song collected is
type of wooden self-bow manufactured by the Orochen themselves. made of birch (or so he believes), while Qiu Pu, who studied the
vii viii
Other ethnographers indicate pine as the wood of choice for Orochen around the same time, gave pine and elm as the preferred
making bows a fact corroborated by Bayartu, the last Orochen materials. However, regardless of the type of wood used for bow-
bowyer.ix There are very few extant Orochen bows today, and the manufacture, its basic shape is consistent and shows a classic D
tradition of archery and bow making has discontinued since their cross section typical of self-wood longbows.
settlement in the 1950s. Most of the surviving specimens were
collected by Chinese ethnographers in the early 1960s and are stored For the sake of comparison, it is worth quoting in full Bayartus
account of bow making:

The most important consideration in making the longbow (per)

is the choice of material. First of all, the wooden stave must be
selected from a limb on a pine tree growing on a slope directly
exposed to the sun. After the bark is removed from the limb it
should have a slightly red hue, which indicates the tree received
direct sunlight and was strong and healthy. It is important that the
limb is free from any lumps and has a nice curve, which gives it
flexibility. It has to be balanced on both ends, with a circumference
of about 6cm, and not tilted to one side.

The bow-string (per ushiin) is made from deers neck skin, which is
cut into a leather string with a width of about 1.5cm, of about the
same length as the bow.

In many ways, the ability to

hunt defines the Orochen
adult male and gives meaning
to his existence

Orochen bow made by Bayartu

Summer 2009 89
The Archery Tradition of Chinas Boreal Hunters

To make the bow, the tree limb is reduced to a stave measuring bows that are lightweight and powerful, and whose shape can be
about two arms in length, and the bark is removed with a hunting manipulated for the best design for casting an arrow. xi Not having
knife. It is gradually fashioned into a flat, round shape, adjusted these materials at their disposal, Orochen bow makers made up for
to the desired weight, with the middle of the bow slightly broader the lack of strength and flexibility in the native woods by creating
than the ends. It is then laid down on a long stool, flattened, and bows of immense size and weight.
firmly fastened to the stool with leather ropes. It remains in this
position for a day or so, out of the reach of the sun, to increase the Secondly, technological innovations and developments often arise
bows flexibility. in response to new economic, social, and political challenges, and
the very stability in bow form suggests it was perfectly adequate
The leather string for use as a bow string should be made as taut as in meeting the needs of subsistence hunting. Indeed, throughout
possible. Then it should be thoroughly rubbed back and forth with the historical period, the Orochen have shown great readiness and
a short leather belt, so that the tension is even across the string. aptitude in adapting new technologies to subsistence activities,
After that it should be tightened again and left for a while. as demonstrated by their active import of equestrian skills and
technologies from the Mongols and Manchus and adoption of
Finally, removing the bow from the stool, indentations are made firesarms. Indeed, given that the composite bow was also known
about 3cm from both ends to fashion the nocks, which should have among the Orochen, that the old, native self-bow continued to be
sufficient depth for fastening the bow string. Then, the string is in use suggests it was sufficient for hunting purposes. Due to the
tied to the bow, adjusting the pull weight as you do so. After this paucity of functional Orochen bows today it is hard to gauge the
the bow is complete.x actual (range of) weight of their bows, but if the bow made by
Bayartu could give us any indication then a typical Orochen hunting
The Orochen bow belongs to the type of north Asian bow used bow would probably be around 45 pounds at 24 draw. Studies
by indigenous groups across much of northeastern Siberia. An have shown that war bows characteristically have a much heavier
unstrung Solon bow collected in the Hulun Buir plains in the early draw weight than hunting bows. As a general rule, bows used in
20th century by the German ethnographer, Walther Sttzner, hunting seldom pull over 50 pounds whereas war bows frequently
which is now in the Museum of Ethnology in Dresden shows have draw-weights in excess of 70 or even 100 pounds, particularly
essentially the same characteristics with a rounded body, subtly where they were designed to pierce protective armor.xii This would
tapering towards the limbs, and displays nocks of identical design, explain why the Orochen bow never developed features that would
albeit somewhat smaller. Undoubtedly, the basic design of the enhance the bows performance in battlefield such as the ability
bow is archaic and its structure is similar to primitive self-bows to withstand stress over a sustained period of use, a heavier pull,
found in large parts of the world, including northern Asia, the and a more stable and smooth cast neither acquiring the great
Japanese archipelago, northern Europe and north America. Being length of the English war bow,xiii nor developing the sinew backing
a perishable material, there are not many surviving specimens of of the Eskimo bow,xiv which are different ways of allaying the
ancient bows in north Asia. However, the simplicity in the design tremendous tension put on the back of a heavy war bow when it is
of the Orochen bow suggests its form has changed little from in full draw. In this regard, I am inclined to think that an important
prehistoric times, which is perhaps a little surprising given the reason for the Eskimos advanced bow technology was the
significance of the bow in Orochen culture. Below, I postulate frequency of inter-tribal warfare a fact attested by the elaborate
two main reasons for the stability in Orochen bow design over an pieces of Eskimo amour collected by ethnographers in the 19th
extended temporal span. century,xv although according to Orochen oral traditions warriors
of old employed massive pine bows which could out-perform more
In the first place, the relative homogeneity of the flora across the elaborate composite horn bows used by the Manchus.xvi At our
sub-arctic zone in north Asia means indigenous bowyers have a present state of knowledge we cannot verify the claim one way
limited selection of wood to choose from. Superior woods for bow or the other, and have no way of determining whether surviving
manufacture, such as yew, cedar and osage-orange, which have specimens of Orochen bow are indicative of cultural degeneration,
good compression strength, resilience and flexibility, are simply or whether they did in fact possess a more powerful bow which
not available to hunter gatherer groups living in the far north. had been forgotten and fallen into disuse, and was replaced by a
The properties of these types of wood allow the manufacture of cruder type of bow used only for hunting.
A photograph of Orochen riders taken in Alihe Orochen Autonmous Banner Inner Mongolia in the early 1960s

technological innovations and

developments often arise in response
to new economic, social, and political
challenges, and the very stability in bow
form suggests it was perfectly adequate in
meeting the needs of subsistence hunting

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The Archery Tradition of Chinas Boreal Hunters

Orochen Ritual Archery: photograph taken in the 1980s courtesy of Guan Xiaoyun
How did the Orochen shoot? On the basis of the limited available length and is pulled back employing the Mediterranean draw a
materials, it is difficult to reconstruct the Orochen shooting misnomer given that this is one of the most common techniques in
methods, for early ethnographers did not pay too much attention archery traditions around the world. We cannot tell from this picture
to indigenous archery practices, and there are very few old hunters whether the bow is at full or half draw, although the properties of
left who are cognizant of the use of bow and arrows. Song this type of self-bow and the performance of my own Orochen bow
Zhaolin, one of the only Chinese ethnographers to have studied suggest it is close to a full draw. Indeed, studies of archery traditions
the Orochens hunting methods, suggests that the thumb-ring in North America show that what we consider to be a full draw was
was probably used in archery practice. By his own admission, not used in many indigenous societies, which often favored a shorter
his argument is based on the accidental discovery of an elk and quicker release.
bone thumb-ring during the process of assembling an Orochen
ethnographic collection, although he also says that the Orochen Perhaps there was another method of arrow release in Orochen
had already forgotten how it was used.xvii However, Song did not archery practice that made use of the thumb-ring. It has already
seem to have studied their archery methods, and the method he been shown above that beside the indigenous pine self-bow the
proposes of how the Orochen used the thumb-ring is contradictory Orochen also had the Manchu composite bow. In so far as the
to what we know about its use in general, and in any case his Orochen were part of the Manchu military organization and served
hypothesis betrays a lack of understanding in fundamental archery in its armies, it seems likely that they also learnt the standard
principles. method of using the composite bow with the thumb-ring release.
The presence of thumb-rings in a number of Orochen ethnographic

ortunately, there is a black and white photograph from the
1960s which shows an Orochen hunter taking an aim with a
bow, and presents a clear picture of how they shot or at least
one version of it. The photograph shows an Orochen hunter clothed
in deer skin holding a typical Orochen D-shaped self-bow, with a
rounded body slightly wider in the handle than the limbs, and what
appears to be a twisted leather rope for bow string. Interestingly, the
arrow is unfletched and is without an arrowhead, which suggests he
was posing for the photographer and that the equipment he was
using might have been made specifically for this purpose, for an
unfletched arrow has no aerial stability. In fact, I should point out
that most of the arrows I have seen in museums (including those
made by Bayartu) do not have feathers attached to them. On one
occasion, I brought up this issue with Bayartu who explained that
arrows were fletched in the past, and the reason why the ones he
made for me were bare was that he did not have suitable feathers.
This suggests that most of the arrows made after the 1920s
and 1930s were specimens made for ethnographic collection and
not intended for use. On the other hand, the type of arrow shown in
the picture fits very well with Qiu Pus description, which states that
some of the arrows were made from a single piece of birch wood and
sharpened at one end. xix xx The shooting method is what one might
Orochen hunter with bow and arrow, photograph taken circa 1960s
expect from this type of wooden self-bow, which has a short draw

Summer 2009 93
In this myth, the hunter was
able to drive away the
man eating monster with
an impressive display of
strength and archery skills.

Uliren (Orochen encampment); photograph taken in Alihe Autonmous Banner

Inner Mongolia
Summer 2009 95
The Archery Tradition of Chinas Boreal Hunters

collections including two thumb-rings at the Museum of continued to make a shorter type of wooden bow as part of a
Ethnology in Dresden, one at the Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig, self-releasing mechanism for protecting their horses at night, which
and at least one at the National Museum in Beijing indicate that they called ground-arrows. Many Orochen hunters had forgotten
thumb-rings were common among the Orochen. That many of them the art of bow making, though the elders still remembered how
were locally manufactured (made of animal and particularly elk their ancestors hunted with arrows tipped with iron or bone
bones) further suggests that the wearing of thumb-ring had arrowheads. xxi Within a few short years, the Cultural Revolution
become part of the local custom, even if it was originally brought in would bring about changes that would transform the social and
from outside (which seems likely given that the wearing and use of natural landscape of the Khingan Mountains beyond recognition,
thumb-ring is not practiced among other northern Tungusic peoples). and draw a curtain on the Orochens history as hunter gatherers.
Nonetheless, given the fashion of the wearing thumb-rings among However, even as the bow retreated from the Orochens daily
upper class Manchus, it is possible that thumb-rings were worn for activities, it continued to play a part in their cultural life and
aesthetic and symbolic reasons rather than used in actual archery identity. Even though fewer bows were made for subsistence
practice. In any event, the original purpose of the thumb-ring seems purposes, hunters continued to make miniature bows for their
to be quite forgotten by the mid-20th century, at a time when children one of my Orochen friends, Meng Luanfeng, recalled
hunting was itself beginning to fade into memories of the past. playing with a toy bow and arrows his father made him when he
was growing up in the 1980s. Another surviving archery practice
In the late 1950s and early 1960s when Chinese ethnographers until recent years was the use of bow and arrows in funerary ritual,
visited Orochen settlements in Heilongjiang province and Inner whereby a hunter would release an arrow into the forest to guide
Mongolia, the bow had already been replaced by modern rifle as the spirit of a deceased relative.xxii This custom reminds us of the
the primary hunting tool, and the hunters they interviewed were bows unique significance to the Orochen hunter, which protected
the last Orochen bowyers and archers. Already by that time, few him and his family during his lifetime, and served as a guide to his
hunters used bow and arrows for subsistence hunting, though many spirit after he had moved on from this world.

Orochen ritual archery; photograph taken in the 1980s courtesy of Guan Xiaoyun
In the 6th year of the emperor Kangxis reign (1667) the institution For discussion on the properties of yew and osage bows see
of zuolin (jiangin in Orochen) administration was imposed on the Strunk, J., Yew Longbow, and Hardcastle, R., Osage Flat Bow, both
Orochen, with the creation of five lu corresponding to five major in The Traditional Bowyers Bible, vol. One, The Lyons Press, 1992:
rivers in the Khingan Mountains and eight jiangin officials. See Conneticut, pp. 117-131, 131-148. It is also worth remarking that
Song, Zhaolin, The Last Hunters (zui hou de pu lie zhe), Shandong of the other types of wood discussed by Paul Comstock for making
Posters Publications, 2001, pp. 18-19. bows, he does not mention pine although he includes birch in his
The Orochen were the most important suppliers of sable-pelts
to the Manchu court, and most of the imperials records that deal xii
Baker, Tim, Bow Design and Performance, The Traditional
with the Orochen were concerned with sable-pelt tribute. See Bai, Bowyers Bible, vol. One, p. 78.
Ying & Wu, Yuanfeng(ed.), The Compendium of Chinese and Manchu
Soar, Hugh D. H., The Crooked Stick: A History of the Longbow,
Records in the Qing Dynasty (Qing dai elunchun man han wen
Westholme Publishing, 2005.
dangan huibian), Nationalities Press, Beijing: 2001.

Callahan, Errett, Archery in the Arctic (Parts One to Three),
Ibid., pp. 640, 643, 189, 197.
Primitive Technology II: Ancestral Skills (Wescott ed.), Gibbs Smith,
Okladnikov, A. P., Ancient Population of Siberia and Its Cultures, 2001, pp. 119-133.
Peabody Museum, Massachusetts: 1959, P. 12-21
Burch, Ernest S., Jr., War and Trade, Fitzhugh, William W. &
Song, Zhaolin, op. cit., pp. 83-87. Crowell, Aron (ed.), Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and
Alaska, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988, pp. 227-232.
The story of the mangee and morgen is popular among the
Orochen and there are many different versions of it. See for example xvi
Zhao, Fu-xing, op. cit., p. 27.
Legend of Gaxian Cave, Orochen Folk Stories (Elunchun minjian
Song, Zhao-lin, op. cit., pp. 14-15.
gushi ji), Inner Mongolia Peoples Publications, 1981:Holhot, pp.
25-27. xviii
Qiu, Pu, op. cit., p. 21. Qiu Pu states that the Orochen used swan
and wild goose feathers as fletches.
Song, Zhaolin, op. cit., p. 12.

Ibid. p. 12; Qiu, Pu, Orochens Social Development, Shanghai
Peoples Publications, Shanghai: 1980, p. 21. xx
Bohr, Roland, Indigenous Archery on the North American Plains:
Adaptation and Survival, World Traditional Archery: The Current
See Shirokogoroff, S. M., Social Organization of the Northern
Situation and Tasks Ahead, published by the World Traditional
Tungus, Garland Publishing, NY & London: 1979, originally
Archery Festival, 2007, pp. 151-206.
published by the Commercial Press, Shanghai: 1929; also Zhao, Fu-
xing, The Culture of Orochen Nomadic Hunters (Elunchun zu youlie xxi
Abridged History of the Orochen (Elunchun zu jianshi), Inner
wenhua), Inner Mongolia Peoples Publications, Holhot: 1991, pp.
Mongolia Peoples Publications, Holhot: 1983, p. 34. By the time
socialist ethnographers conducted their survey archery was no
x longer practiced as a subsistence activity, although the old people
The account is based on an oral interview with Bayartu in summer
remembered a time when it played a more important role in the
2004, after he completed making his bow. It was previously
published in the Orochen Foundations annual magazine, Uncooked,
issue 1, December, 2005, pp. 10-13. xxii
See Song, Zhaolin, op. cit.; Zhao, Fu-xing, op. cit.; etc.

Summer 2009 97
Boxing Manual and Key Principles of
Boxing Methods

By Luo Zhengcheng

Introduction to the Boxing Manual and Key Principles of Methods.

The present edition was issued by Tan Yin Lu () in Shanghai during the twenty-fifth
year of the Republic (1936), and was reprinted from an original copy published in the
twenty-sixth year of the Guangxu period (1900).
he Tan Yin Lu series were edited by Luo Zhengchang, a well orally transmitted by the master. However, Cao and Zhang did not
known scholar and book collector of the near-modern period. live in the same period, and it was stated in the introduction that the
He was a native from Shanglu, Zhejiang province, and the author learned the techniques from a combination of reading Zhangs
younger brother of Luo Zhengyu, who was an outstanding scholar in book and instruction. We may conjecture thus that Cao probably
the study of inscribed steles of the Jin period. learned Zhangs techniques from one of his students, some of whom
might have still been alive during emperor Qianlongs reign. Otherwise,
In the introduction Luo Zhengchang says that the Boxing Manual is it was unlikely that the author could have learned the techniques from
made up of just one chapter called Key Principles of Boxing Methods reading the text alone (we may discard the reference to the author
, and that the original was a private hand written copy. learning the skills from two old men who appeared in his dreams). The
Furthermore, he states that the methods it contains belong to the martial arts flourished during Kangxis reign but declined thereafter.
Shaolin style. Allegedly, the manual was compiled by Zhang Kongzhao A line towards the end of the book states that a certain Wang hand
and annotated by Cao Huangzhu, and judging from its contents, the copied this book in the twenty-sixth year of the Guangxu period
methods it describes were derived from Kongzhao but written down the year when the boxer rebellion broke out. In fact, the claim
by Huangdou. In the Chinese textual tradition, annotations are usually the book was copied from an ancient text dating to the mid-Qing
inserted below the original text for ease of identification. In this case, dynasty was probably apocryphal, though the methods it contains are
however, the original text and the annotations are put together genuine, as opposed to other martial arts texts published under the
without a clear boundary separating the two. No author is given for boxer influence at that time. In any case, regardless of its genesis, the
Key Principles of Boxing Methods, though the fact all the book is encyclopedic in scope and contains a wealth of information
illustrations were added by Cao suggests that he might perhaps also ranging from analysis of the functionality of different human parts
have written the text. An original mnemonic rhyme appended to the (encapsulated in the twelve secret methods), to advanced techniques
section entitled secret methods of the double channels in body exercise, generating force, and stepping movements. In
(shuangguan mifa) in Boxing Manual, which was attributed addition, the etched illustrations are well executed and exceptionally
to master Zhang, suggests that the original text was not written by detailed, and it is a complete martial arts manual of the finest quality.
Zhang, for it was customary for a disciple to record the techniques The book has previously been published in China and Taiwan.

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