academy encounters martial arts

$FDGHPLD (QFRXQWHUV WKH &KLQHVH 0DUWLDO $UWV 6WDQOH\ ( +HQQLQJ China Review International, Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 1999, pp. 319-332 (Article) 3XEOLVKHG E\ 8QLYHUVLW\ RI +DZDLL 3UHVV DOI: 10.1353/cri.1999.0020 For additional information about this article Access provided by UFSC-Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (21 Oct 2015 01:02 GMT)

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Stanley E. HenningChina Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'i Press


Page 1: Academy Encounters Martial Arts

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China Review International, Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 1999, pp. 319-332(Article)

P bl h d b n v r t f H PrDOI: 10.1353/cri.1999.0020

For additional information about this article

Access provided by UFSC-Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (21 Oct 2015 01:02 GMT)

Page 2: Academy Encounters Martial Arts


© 1999 by University

of Hawai‘i Press

Academia Encounters the Chinese Martial Arts

The Chinese martial arts are among the oldest elements of Chinese culture, trac-

ing their origins to China’s earliest recorded dynasty and still performed today in

forms modified over the centuries. Originally practiced in a rough-and-tumble

environment where strength and bravery were highly valued, these skills were

used in hand-to-hand combat among the large infantry forces pitted against each

other during the Warring States period. “How-to” manuals for some of these

skills are listed in the Former Han Bibliographies, among them one for boxing,

which was considered the foundation for training in the martial arts, and even

one for a form of football thought ideal for developing agility on the battlefield.

Many of these skills were widespread throughout society during China’s early im-

perial age through the tenth century; they were the core military skills into the

Qing period; and they have been reflected in various aspects of the popular cul-

ture throughout Chinese history to the present. Widespread as they were, outside

the military these skills were nonetheless transmitted in a relatively secretive

atmosphere, dominated by narrow loyalties, and their true nature and origins

eventually became shrouded in a mist of myth and mystery that even now clouds

both Chinese and non-Chinese perceptions of their place in history, continuing

to confound laymen, practitioners, and scholars alike.

In academia, the Chinese martial arts have been conspicuous by their relative

absence from scholarly discussion, but when they have made an appearance it has

usually been fleeting and in a muddle not much beyond what one sees in the bulk

of martial-arts literature on the popular market. This can be seen in scattered

writings at every step up the scholarly staircase to the pinnacle of sinology in Jo-

seph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China. The possible reasons for this

phenomenon are many, but hardly excusable in the halls of academe, where thor-

ough research should be the norm. Whether these arts are misperceived by view-

ing them uncritically through popular legends, Japanese and other modern

practices, Chinese chivalric novels, fabricated secret-society “history,” the practic-

es of late Qing-period heterodox religious sects, or the Boxers �� of ,

they appear to be taken too seriously in their mantle of myth and treated with a

strange, reverential awe and, at the same time, not seriously enough to expend the

extra effort necessary to find out their true story.

Of the Chinese martial arts, boxing, the most basic, is also the least understood.

A form of no-holds-barred weaponless fighting, variously combining strikes with

the hands, kicks, holds, grappling, and throws, boxing was originally called bo �,

known as shoubo �� in the Former Han (– ..), and only much later, in

the Southern Song (.. ), by its present name, quan �. The Han History Bib-

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China Review International: Vol. , No. , Fall

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of Hawai‘i Press

liographies contain an entry on boxing or shoubo (distinguished from the military

sport of wrestling, jueli ��, in the commentaries), categorizing it as one of sev-

eral military skills, bing jiqiao �� , “to practice hand and foot movements, fa-

cilitate use of weapons, and organize for victory in offense or defense.” In other

words, boxing was viewed as a military hand-to-hand combat skill that served as

a form of basic training to prepare troops to use weapons, but that alone was only

a weapon of last resort; however, these same skills spread throughout the popula-

tion and were often embellished with less practical performance-oriented techni-

ques, disparagingly described by Ming general Qi Jiguang �� (–) as

“flowery methods” or huafa ��. It is generally in this latter form that Chinese

boxing, under the guise of the none-too-descriptive term kung fu or gong fu ��

(meaning “effort” or “skill”), has become known worldwide in recent years.

The Qing scholar Jin Bang �� (who received his jinshi degree in ) said

that “if you don’t know the Han History Bibliographies �� !" then you

won’t be able to read [understand] any of the books in this world [Chinese

books]. The Han History Bibliographies are the clue to all learning, the door to all

discourse.” This statement, while appearing somewhat exaggerated, certainly

holds true for understanding Chinese boxing. For example, had he heeded the

sage advice to consult this source, James R. Ware might not have mistranslated

the following passage from Ge Hong’s �� (.. –) Taoist treatise Baopuzi

�� : “In throwing tiles and catching them with the hands I am inferior to boys

and young lads.” (The emphasis is mine; this should read “boxing,” from the

term shoubo.) Tiles were thrown for distance and accuracy, not caught Frisbee-

style as Ware’s translation suggests. Throwing tiles and boxing were both mili-

tary-related skills mimicked by children.

Taking a giant step up from the realm of pure nonrecognition to mere

misunderstanding, had Joseph Needham and his associates heeded Jin Bang’s ad-

vice and carefully read Ge Hong’s autobiographical sketch (wherein he admits

that he studied several martial arts, including boxing, but does not count them

among his Taoist pursuits), rather than depend so heavily on a single secondary

source, a Adversaria Sinica article by Herbert A. Giles titled “The Home of

Jiujitsu,” one cannot help but feel that they would not have arrived at the conclu-

sion in Science and Civilisation in China that Chinese boxing “probably originated

as a department of Taoist physical exercises.” On the other hand, it appears that

Needham may have been attempting to force Chinese boxing into a preconceived

notion of the role of Taoism in Chinese culture; therefore, boxing is discussed in

the narrative under Taoism and physiological alchemy in volume and parts

and of volume , but only as a curiosity in footnotes to part of volume , on

military thought and technology—as a Taoist activity in a military environment.

An affinity for philosophical Taoism and yin-yang �� theory appears to

permeate the Chinese psyche, and this is nowhere more evident than in Chinese

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© 1999 by University

of Hawai‘i Press

military thought, from Sunzi’s �� Art of War, at the strategic and tactical level,

to the hand-to-hand combat theory expounded in the story of the Maiden of Yue

�� ! in the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue. However, the com-

bative arts were not necessarily associated with Taoist cultivation techniques,

alchemy, or religious Taoism generally. Needham’s observation that Chinese box-

ing embodies “a certain element of ritual dance” reflects a combination of insight

and misunderstanding natural to the uninitiated—misunderstanding in that he

apparently fails to realize that the “ritual dance” is actually a mnemonic device ty-

ing together individual forms or fighting techniques—a kind of shadow boxing

routine called kata �, in the more familiar Japanese karate �� (or ��)

parlance. Needham’s observation is also insightful in that martial-arts routines,

probably in modified forms, were an important part of ancient ritual “military”

(not Taoist) dances. To this day, the Chinese describe sword practice as “dancing

with the sword,” an activity immortalized by the Tang poet Du Fu (–) in

his “Observation of a Sword Dance by Madam Gongsun’s Disciple.”

Needham’s claim that Chinese boxing is “an art with rules different from that

of the West” appears to be based on the misassumption that it was ever consid-

ered to be a sport in the same sense as modern Western boxing. Chinese boxing

was never really meant to be a sport, although there is some evidence that it was

treated as such under some circumstances, in which it may have resembled the

Greek pankration. That it was probably not considered ideal as a sport can be

seen in the decree of the first emperor of Qin �� !, which designated

wrestling, not boxing, as the official skill for military ceremonies.

Needham describes taijiquan �� , in association with the legendary Tao-

ist alchemist Zhang Sanfeng �� (dates unknown, between the Song and

Ming periods), as an aspect of physiological alchemy, “A kind of physical exercise,

part self-defense, part medical eurhythmics,” going back “at least as far as Hua

Tho.” Hua Tuo (d. .. ) was a famous physician who is said to have created

the Five Animal Frolics, exercises that have no known association with taijiquan

or any other form of boxing. The association with Zhang Sanfeng can be traced

back no earlier than , but is primarily a fabrication of early twentieth-century

taijiquan proponents. Needham’s description of current taijiquan practice is at

least partially accurate—it reflects characteristics of Yang-style �� taijiquan that

have evolved over the past one-hundred-plus years and that have been encour-

aged by the government as a nationwide form of exercise. However, the name

taijiquan does not appear to date back earlier than about . Its original form,

Chen style ��, which is still practiced, was originally called Cannon Pounder

(paochui ��), among other names, and may be a “living” descendant of General

Qi Jiguang’s thirty-two forms, which he developed to train peasant volunteers for

campaigns against Japanese and indigenous pirates. The names of nearly all of

Qi’s thirty-two forms are similar or identical to Chen-style forms.

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China Review International: Vol. , No. , Fall

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of Hawai‘i Press

In mentioning Shaolin Monastery’s �� association with Chinese boxing,

Needham, this time referring to entries in the Encyclopedia of Ancient and Modern

Literature () in addition to Giles’ article, claims that boxing appears to have

originated from the sport of “butting with ox-horns” (ca. third century). Actu-

ally, this sport was considered to be an early form of wrestling, not boxing, and

the “butting with ox-horns” aspect was probably dropped very early, although the

term juedi �� continued to refer to wrestling for many centuries. Reference to

the Record of Wrestling (ca. ) might have given Needham a slightly better


Citing Giles again, Needham refers to a passage in the chapter on boxing in

General Qi’s New Book of Effective Discipline (ca. ), which, according to Giles,

suggests that Chinese boxing was the predecessor of Japanese jûjutsu �� and

thus, ultimately, the modern sport of

jûdô ��. Giles’ translation reads: “in

deftly holding the adversary face up-

wards lies its gentleness [�].”

Unfortunately, Giles’ translation is

based, in this case, on a lack of under-

standing not only of the subject matter

but also of the grammar of the passage

by leaving out the final phrase. The orig-

inal passage should actually read some-

thing more like “as for its speed, it can

be seen in lively upward thrusting seiz-

ing; and, as for its gentleness, it lies in

knowing when to turn aside and dodge.”

(My emphasis here highlights the

dropped phrase.) In spite of his mistranslation, however, Giles does manage to

stumble upon a possible connection between Chinese boxing and other Ming-pe-

riod bare-handed fighting arts on the one hand and Japanese jûjutsu on the other.

The origins of what is perhaps the oldest school (ca. ) of jûjutsu, the Kitô-ryû

�� or Rise-Fall School, are memorialized in a stone tablet standing in the

precincts of Atago Shrine �� ! in Tokyo—the Kitô-ryû kempô hi �� !

�� or Rise-Fall School Boxing Method Tablet. In jûjutsu’s early years, the term

was apparently sometimes used interchangeably with kempô (quanfa �� in

Chinese) or boxing.

Zheng Ruozeng’s �� Strategic Situation in Jiangnan (ca. ) lists escape

and seizing techniques (pofa ��, jiefa ��, and na �) among boxing styles,

and the Complete Book of Miscellany ( and ) contains illustrations of some

of these techniques with a hint of jûjutsu in them. Also, the individuals credited

with developing the Kitô-ryû were said to have associated with the Chinese expa-

Figure . Two of the

thirty-two forms

selected for troop

training by Ming

general Qi Jiguang

and included in juan

of his New Book of

Effective Discipline.

These two forms,

“Reach for the

Horse” (r.) and

“Diagonal Single

Whip” (l.) are al-

most identical to

forms in modern


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triate Chen Yuanyun �� (usually pro-

nounced “Chin Gempin” in Japanese) (–

), who, according to the Kitô-ryû tablet,

was the source of kempô. He was a Renais-

sance man of sorts, a calligrapher, author,

and potter, who once lived in a monastery in

Tokyo (then Edo), and whose remains rest in

the precincts of a temple in Nagoya.

In summarizing his uneven coverage of

Chinese boxing in Science and Civilisation in China through , Needham

points to a manual by Zhang Kongzhao �� titled Boxing Classic (ca. ),

declaring it to be Chinese boxing’s “definitive manual.” Actually, no “definitive”

boxing manual exists—only a number of manuals based on individual or cumu-

lative insights. The title of General

Qi Ji-guang’s chapter (manual) on

boxing also begins with the words

“Boxing Classic.”

In volume , part , of Science

and Civilisation (), dedicated to

military matters, Professor Krzysztof

Gawlikowski primarily discusses

martial arts in a couple of footnotes,

compounding the readers’ misun-

derstanding of the subject in the

process. Referring to General Qi

Jiguang, he says, “It seems that Chhi

was the first theoretician to advocate

the training of regular soldiers in the

mystical arts of wu-shu”—a view

based on lack of knowledge of the history of these arts, a misinterpretation that

they evolved from Taoist exercises, a lack of understanding as to their real mili-

tary function in hand-to-hand combat where firearms played only a marginal

role, and an apparent overestimation of their “spiritual” aspects. Emphasis on the

“spiritual” in the martial arts seems to have increased in the minds of some pro-

portionally to the decreased relevance of the original purpose of these skills.

Associating the martial arts with spirituality is a matter of individual inter-

pretation and preference. Contemporary views on this aspect appear to be based

on a common misperception that these arts were somehow inextricably linked to

religious Taoism �� or Zen (Chan � in Chinese) Buddhism. This mispercep-

tion appears, in turn, to have arisen as a result of a combination of factors includ-

ing the exaggeration of the role of Shaolin Monastery; the indiscriminate associa-

Figure . Escape

technique, “Escape

from being seized

by three persons.”

Material reflecting

skills similar to and

possibly associated

with the develop-

ment of Japanese


Figure . Xuan Ji, a

Shaolin Monastery

monk, demonstrat-

ing body technique

in Boxing Classic,

declared by Need-

ham to be Chinese

boxing’s “definitive

manual.” The open-

ing sentence to the

original preface

reads, “Boxing is an

excellent art to

protect oneself and

defend against

insults. Its origins

are in Shaolin


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tion of the martial arts with Japanese Zen practices; the confusion of modern

sports and exercise regimens reflected in wushu ��, jûdô ��, karatedô ��

�, taekwondo �� , and taijiquan with traditional martial arts; and, in the case

of the Chinese martial arts, an overemphasis on the significance of their relation-

ship to heterodox religious sects and secret societies during the mid- to late Qing

period. The end result of all this is that a kind of “new age” martial arts reality

has been formed from distorted perceptions. This is an attempt to describe—not

to pass moral judgment on—what appears to have happened. As the views of a si-

nological icon, though, Needham’s writings can be said to contribute, at least

partially, to this state of affairs through their influence on those only beginning

their ascent up the scholarly path. For example, Charles Holcombe, basing an en-

tire article on Needham’s premise that “Chinese boxing . . . probably originated

as a department of Taoist physical exercises,” comes to the untenable conclusion

that premodern Chinese martial arts were inseparable from a religious context.

Following Needham’s premise rather than doing some independent research, he

is apparently unfamiliar with all the historical evidence to the contrary, and so

concludes “that the historical Chinese martial arts first appeared” out of the

White Lotus or similar societies.

Several of the misunderstandings concerning the Chinese martial arts that

appear in the volumes of Science and Civilisation rear their heads again, along

with some new bits of misinformation, in Celestial Lancets: Acupuncture and Moxi-

bustion, which Needham coauthored with Lu Gwei-Djen, although here the au-

thors openly complain that most of the literature on the subject is “quasi-esoteric

and unscholarly.” But, even after observing that the secondary sources available

in both Chinese and Western languages are vague, contradictory, and unsatisfactory,

they go right on to rely on some of these very sources in their narrative, thus

lending these sources undue credence and muddying their own arguments. As a

result, the authors, apparently unaware of the pioneering works by the Chinese

martial-arts historian Tang Hao ��=(–), and substituting the words

“according to tradition” for lack of in-depth research, merely repeat the myth

that attributes the origins of Chinese boxing to the legendary Zen monk

Bodhidharma, as well as a garbled account of the so-called Northern “exoteric”

(waijia ��) Shaolin �� versus Southern “esoteric” (neijia ��) Wudang �

� schools of boxing.

The authors blame the sparseness of literature on the subject to an over-

whelmingly oral tradition, yet there is no indication that they came anywhere

near to exploiting all the available sources. In China, even oral traditions are usu-

ally recorded somewhere. Literature on the subject appears to be adequate

enough to confirm the absence of either a written or an oral tradition associating

Shaolin Monastery directly with boxing prior to the mid-sixteenth century, and

Bodhidharma with boxing prior to the twentieth century. The earliest extant writ-


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ten reference to Bodhidharma and boxing appears in Liu E’s �� popular novel,

Travels of Lao Ts’an (ca. ), followed by a highly controversial manual, por-

tions of which were variously published (author unknown) beginning around

(in the midst of unrest and revolution) as Illustrated Explanation of Shaolin Box-

ing Methods and Secrets of Shaolin Boxing.

Secrets of Shaolin Boxing has probably been the single source most responsi-

ble for the spread of misinformation about Chinese boxing throughout the world.

Compiled by an anonymous author styled Master of the Studio of Self-Respect

�� !", and written in a revolutionary tone with some indications of Japa-

nese terminology (such as frequent use of roushu ��, or jûjutsu in Japanese and

called jujitsu in English), this book expands upon the myth that that Chinese box-

ing originated in Shaolin Monastery with the Indian monk Bodhidharma, and

combines it with equally spurious secret-society material. This material was un-

critically included in the first History of Physical Culture in China () and has

served as the basis for the boxing “history” found in numerous popular works on

karate, and thus it has seeped into Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China

and other works, including Jonathan Kolatch’s Sports, Politics and Ideology in

China ().

Kolatch is correct in beginning his book with a discussion on the martial arts,

as they most certainly are a major element of traditional Chinese physical culture,

but his lack of reliable sources relegates his prologue to the level of pulp fiction.

Also, clearly inexperienced in the world of classical or literary Chinese, he errs in

attributing the use of the term “boxing” to a passage from the Book of Songs (Shi-

jing ��), which he translates as “If one has neither boxing ability nor courage,

such may usually be the cause of uprisings and disturbances.” (The emphasis is

mine; this should read “strength.”) As noted earlier, quan � or “fist” did not

come to mean “boxing” until many centuries later.

The reference to “exoteric” versus “esoteric” schools of boxing can be traced

to Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan (ca. ), by the Ming loyalist scholar Huang

Zongxi �� , who appears to be using the piece more to make an anti-Manchu

political statement than to offer a serious discussion on boxing. Curiously, the

authors of Celestial Lancets fail to mention this work, but refer in a footnote to

Esoteric School Boxing Methods (ca. ) by Huang Baijia �� (Huang Zong-

xi’s son). They are absolutely correct in their assumption that it would be a

gross oversimplification to say that karate was what the Japanese developed from

the Northern Shaolin school and that jûjutsu was what they made of the Southern

Wudang school—which causes one to wonder why, on such shallow pretenses,

they do so anyway.

Karate and jûjutsu are complementary techniques, the former boxing and the

latter escape and seizing skills, mentioned earlier, that could be combined with

boxing. Chinese martial-arts theory, as presented in the story of the Maiden of

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of Hawai‘i Press

Yue, is based on the interaction of the opposite attributes of yin and yang, and in-

herently combines so-called “hard” and “soft” or pliant techniques. This concept

is most succinctly stated in Wu Shu’s �� Record of the Arm (ca. ), where he

quotes the Meng Lu Tang Spear Method �� !" manual: “In the art of war it

says, the pliant can control the unyielding, the weak can overcome the strong.”

The concept is applicable to all martial arts, but the degree of application may

vary with the individual. One could say that boxing’s “hard” aspect is reflected in

kicks and punches, while escape and seizing methods appear to emphasize “soft”

techniques, but to categorize these aspects as Northern Shaolin versus Southern

Wudang is an oversimplification resulting from misinterpretations of Huang

Zongxi’s Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan that have clouded our understanding of

Chinese boxing. In “A Taoist Immortal of the Ming Dynasty: Chang San-feng,”

Anna Seidel points to the Epitaph as the second historical source, after the biogra-

phy of Zhang Songqi �� in the Ningbo Gazetteer (ca. ), to mention Zhang

Sanfeng as a boxing master (alleged originator of the “esoteric” school of boxing)

who, in modern times, has been viewed by many as the patron saint of taiji

boxers. Much to her credit, Professor Seidel comes to the conclusion that the “es-

oteric” or “Wu-tang” school represented “more a method of military training

than of physical self-cultivation,” unrelated to taijiquan. However, apparently

unknowingly, Seidel reverses the true sequence of her sources. The Epitaph ()

is really the earliest source, and careful study of this piece in the historical context

in which it was written reveals that the real significance in its discussion of Zhang

Sanfeng and the “esoteric” school of boxing lies in its anti-Manchu symbolism.

This helps explain why the variant sanfeng �� instead of sanfeng �� “appears

almost exclusively in legends alien to his original hagiography.” Seidel notes the

difference but misses the symbolism.

Ironically, the full significance of the symbolism in the Epitaph has been

overlooked over the centuries, its content interpreted literally by scholars and

martial artists alike, and a confused discourse on “exoteric” versus “esoteric”

schools of boxing has permeated thinking on the subject at every level, from pop-

ular martial-arts magazines all the way up to Needham’s Science and Civilisation

in China. On the dark side, it has bred further divisiveness in a community al-

ready rife with narrow loyalties. On the lighter side, it has added to the lure of

tourism to both Shaolin Monastery and Mount Wudang. However, even here,

scholarship has been groping in the dark. In Naquin and Yu’s Pilgrims and Sacred

Sites in China, John Lagerwey admits that he is not clear “when Wu-tang Shan

became almost exclusively identified with T’ai-chi ch’uan �� and, as such,

came to be known as the Taoist counterpart and rival of the Buddhist Shao-lin.”

Curiously, neither Lagerwey nor Bernard Faure, who, in the same volume, con-

tributes the chapter on Mount Song �� (the location of Shaolin Monastery),

references Huang Zongxi’s Epitaph, the real source of the problem. But, the

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Epitaph only associates Mount Wudang with the “esoteric” school of boxing, not

taijiquan. It was not until the early twentieth century, after taijiquan became asso-

ciated with the “esoteric” school of boxing, that Mount Wudang came to be asso-

ciated with taijiquan.

Armed with their imperfect understanding of the martial arts, the authors of

Celestial Lancets attempt to illustrate with overlapping circles the interrelationship

between the martial arts and other cultural elements such as medicine, exercise,

dance, and theater. They begin on the wrong foot by separating “unarmed

combat,” which they identify as wushu, from “armed combat.” Wushu comprises

both armed and unarmed combat in sport form, but, more importantly, they fail

to show the direct, overlapping relationship between wushu and “ritual dance”

(thus partially ignoring Needham’s own initial description of Chinese boxing)

and “theatrical acrobatics.” The relationship with “theatrical acrobatics” is equally

intimate, although the performance-oriented acrobatics exceed the practical re-

quirements of real hand-to-hand combat. The fight scenes require a foundation

in the martial arts, though, and, in the past, there were occasions when real weap-

ons were used.

The most widespread current image of the Chinese martial arts appears to be

a belief in their association with secret societies and heterodox religious sects

from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries, and a belief in their in-

herent spirituality. While the association itself was real, the nature of this associ-

ation, and especially the role of spirituality, is usually distorted. To begin with,

some college textbooks, such as recent editions of Immanuel Hsu’s The Rise and

Fall of Modern China, unwittingly persist in spreading Heaven and Earth Society

�� (also variously known as the Triads �� or the Hong League ��)

misinformation about their own origins, ostensibly in a Shaolin Monastery in

Fujian, by treating it as history. This story, never backed up by a single kernel of

historical evidence, was hopefully laid to rest by Chinese research outlined in Qing

History Research in and further detailed in Dian Murray and Qin Baoqi’s The

Origins of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History ().

While the Heaven and Earth Society’s Shaolin Monastery story establishes a

superficial religious aura around martial-arts practices, the practices of various

heterodox religious sects such as the White Lotus �� and Eight Trigrams

�� further complicate views as to the possible spirituality of the martial arts.

Susan Naquin has published extensively on these sects and their various martial-

arts, meditation, and other practices, but I think Joseph W. Escherick comes clos-

est to clarifying the martial-spiritual relationship in a note in The Origins of the

Boxer Uprising: “The two elements, martial arts and heterodox beliefs, are clearly

alternatives, not linked elements of a single tradition.” Members of heterodox

sects might practice martial arts, but martial arts were not inextricably linked to

spiritual practices.

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Interspersed among the martial-spiritual misperceptions pervading the bulk

of writings, many of which really only tangentially touch upon the martial arts,

are a number of other mistakes akin to James Ware’s failure to recognize the old

term for boxing and Jonathan Kolatch’s mistranslation from the Book of Songs, all

of which can be traced to a simple lack of knowledge of or attention to the

subject. One of the most recent of these appears in Frederic Wakeman’s Policing

Shanghai –, in a footnote stating that “In a jingwu tiyuhui (police

physical education society) was formed in Shanghai.” This appears to be an error

based on attention to the subject of the book versus the actual association that

was formed—the “Martial Excellence” �� not “Police” �� Physical Education

Society (both are pronounced similarly, except for tones, in Mandarin Chinese),

founded by the martial artist Huo Yuanjia �� (–) and which later es-

tablished branches at other locations in China and in Overseas Chinese commu-

nities throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

Douglas Wile’s Lost T’ai Chi Classics of the Late Ch’ing Dynasty () repre-

sents a rare attempt, the first in book length, seriously to approach the Chinese

martial arts head on with a full set of social science tools. Of these tools, Wile

appears most adept at handling literary Chinese, and it is primarily his ability

with the written word that sets his work apart from the pioneering efforts of Rob-

ert W. Smith, who, more than anyone else, successfully introduced the Chinese

martial arts to the rest of the world. But, to be fair, Smith’s main focus has always

been practice rather than history. Wile, on the other hand, has involved himself

deeply in the writings of one style, Yang ��, of taijiquan, which is but one, al-

beit a very important one, of at least a half-dozen styles of taijiquan and more

than one hundred other styles of Chinese boxing. Lost T’ai Chi Classics is Wile’s

attempt to combine translation with textual analysis and, at the same time, to try

to place this in historical context. His primary accomplishment, after one comes

up for air amidst his complicated arguments, is to increase the corpus of Yang-

style taijiquan English translations available to taijiquan proponents. His primary

shortcoming is to focus so narrowly on one style of taijiquan at one period in his-

tory as to isolate it from the overall context of Chinese martial arts and social his-

tory and thus limit the scholarly value of his efforts.

The martial arts are one of the oldest and most widespread and yet least un-

derstood elements of Chinese culture. Thoroughly bogged down in myth and

misperception, their true face managed to elude even so eminent a sinologist as

Joseph Needham, who himself admits that “This does not mean that specific fur-

ther research could not piece a good deal together.” Apparently, in their choice

not to pursue this research, Needham and others in academia have considered the

effort to be a distraction from their primary search for Taoist solutions and other

matters only peripherally associated with the Chinese martial arts. The single ma-

jor exception among them, Douglas Wile, has yet to venture forth out of the

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small inner world of Yang-style taijiquan and accurately identify its place in the

overall context of Chinese martial arts and social history.

Stanley E. Henning

Stanley E. Henning is an independent scholar in Honolulu, Hawai‘i; he studied Chi-

nese martial arts in Taiwan between and , and has spent nearly years

studying their history.

notes . Gu Shi ��, ed., Hanshu yiwenzhi jiangshu �� !"#$ (Annotated Han history

bibliographies) (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, ), p. .

. Qi Jiguang �� , Jixiao xinshu �� ! (New book of effective discipline) (; ed.

Ma Mingda �� !", Beijing: Renmin Tiyu, ), juanshou, p. , juan , p. ; Qi Jiguang

�� , Lianbing shiji �� ! (Actual record of military training) (; Zhang Haipeng ��

�, Mohai jinhu �� !, vol. [Taibei: Wenyou, ], juan , p. ).

. Gu Shi, Hanshu yiwenzhi, editor’s introduction, p. .

. James R. Ware, trans. and ed., Alchemy, Medicine and Religion in the China of .. 320:

The Nei P’ien of Ko Hung (Pao-p’u tzu) (New York: Dover Publications, ), pp. –; Wang

Ming ��, Baopuzi neipian jiaoshi, �� !"#$ (Interpretations of the Baopuzi inner

chapters) (Beijing: Zhonghua, ), p. : “�� !"#$%&'()*.” Also, see Wang

Saishi �� , “Gudai wushizhong di tou zhi” �� !"#$% (Throwing and tossing

among ancient martial activities), Tiyu wenshi �� !, no. (): –.

. Herbert A. Giles, “The Home of Jiujitsu,” in Adversaria Sinica (Shanghai: Kelly and

Walsh) , no. (): –.

. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-

versity Press, ), p. .

. Ibid., vol. , pp. –; vol. , pt. (), p. ; vol. , pt. (), pp. –; vol. ,

pt. (), pp. n. e, n. b.

. Zhang Jue ��, trans. and ed., Wu-Yue Chunqiu quanyi �� !"# (Complete

translation of the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue) (Guiyang: Guizhou Renmin

Chubanshe, ), pp. –.

. Xu Fang ��, Du Fu shi jinyi �� !" (A modern translation of Du Fu’s poems)

(Beijing: Renmin Ribao, ), pp. –.

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pp. –.

. Michal B. Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence and Cul-

ture (New Haven: Yale University Press, ), pp. –; Rachel S. Robinson, Sources for the

History of Greek Athletics in English Translation (Chicago: Ares Publishers, ), pp. –; E.

Norman Gardiner, Athletics of the Ancient World (Oxford: Clarendon Press, ), pp. –.

. Chen Menglei �� , Gujin tushu jicheng �� !"# (Encyclopedia of ancient and

modern literature), juan (; Taibei: Dingwen, ), vol. , p. .

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pt. , p. n. f.

. Stanley E. Henning, “Ignorance, Legend and Taijiquan,” Journal of the Chenstyle Taiji-

quan Research Association of Hawaii , no. (Autumn/Winter ): –.

. Ibid.

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pt. , p. .

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. Tiao Luzi �� , Jueli ji �� (Record of wrestling) (ca. ; Hu Ting ��, Linlang

mishi congshu �� !"# []).

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pt. , pp. –; Giles, “The Home

of Jiujitsu,” pp. –; Qi Jiguang, Jixiao xinshu, p. .

. Shen Shou ��, Taijiquanfa yanjiu �� !"# (Taijiquan methods research)

(Fuzhou: Fujian Renmin Tiyu, ), p. : “�� !"#$%&'(� )"#*+,


. Imamura Yoshio �� !, Nihon taikushi �� !" (Japanese physical culture

history) (Tokyo: Fumido Shuppan, ), pp. –.

. Zheng Ruozeng �� , Jiangnan jinglue �� ! (Strategic situation in Jiangnan),

juan shang, pp. b–a, in Qinding sikuquanshu �� !"#, vols. – (ca. ; Taibei:

Taiwan Shangwu, ); Liu Shuangsong �� , ed., Xinban zengbu tianxia bianyong wenlin

miaojin wanbao quanshu �� !"#$%&'()*+,- (New, revised, easy-to-use . . .

complete book of miscellany), Songlin Anzhengtang Liu Shuangsong Engraved Edition ��

�� !"#$ (; Harvard-Yenching Library), juan , a–b; Zhu mingjia hexuan zengbu

wanbao quanshu �� !"#$%&'( (Revised complete book of miscellany: Combined

selections made by famous persons) (; Harvard-Yenching Library), juan , pp. a–a.

. Wu Yu �� and Jiang An ��, “Chen Yuanyun, Shaolin quanfa, Riben roudao” ��

�� !"#�$%&' (Chen Yuanyun, Shaolin boxing, and Japanese jûdô), Wuhun ��

(): –.

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pt. , p. ; Zhang Kongzhao ��

�, Quanjing quanfa beiyao ��� !" (Boxing classic: Essential boxing methods), Miao-

yuan congshu �� ! (; Taibei: Academia Sinica, Fu Sinian Library, ).

. Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. , pt. , p. n. a.

. Ibid., p. n. b.

. Charles Holcombe, “The Daoist Origins of the Chinese Martial Arts,” Journal of Asian

Martial Arts , no. (January ): –.

. Lu Gwei-Djen and Joseph Needham, Celestial Lancets: Acupuncture and Moxibustion

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), p. n. c.

. Ibid., p. n. c.

. Ibid. Their main sources are Bruce A. Haines, Karate’s History and Traditions (Rutland,

Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, ), pp. n. c, n. h, nn. b, d); Robert W.

Smith, Secrets of Shaolin Temple Boxing (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, ),

p. nn. b, c; and Huang Wen-Shan, Fundamentals of Tai Chi Ch’uan (South Sky Book

Company, ), pp. n. a, n. d. Haines scatters a Chinese character around here and

there and brushes off an actual reference to boxing in the Han History as “much too remote in

antiquity to be convincing” (p. ) in the midst of his regurgitation of the popular Bodhidhar-

ma/Shaolin myths of the origins and development of Chinese boxing. Smith’s book is a partial

translation of an early twentieth-century manual, whose content reflects secret-society influence

and whose historicity was thoroughly debunked by Chinese martial-arts historians Tang Hao

and Xu Zhen in the s. To Smith’s credit, he emphasizes the boxing (which happens to be

hongquan ��, associated with the Hung League, also variously called the Heaven and Earth

Society or the Triads, although he does not point this out), but his claim in the foreword (p. )

that Shaolin is “the father of all boxing forms in China” is groundless. The “history” in Huang

Wen-Shan’s book is a patchwork of fact and fiction tied into a Gordian knot too tedious to un-

ravel here.

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. Ibid., p. ; Tang Hao ��, Shaolin Wudang kao �� !" (Shaolin Wudang

research) (; Hong Kong: Unicorn Publishers, ).

. Liu T’ieh-yun (Liu E), The Travels of Lao Ts’an, trans. Harold Shadick (reprint,

Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, ), pp. , – nn. , ; Li Ying’ang �� ,

ed., Guben Shaolin zongfa tushuo �� !"#$% (Old volume illustrated explanation of

Shaolin boxing methods) (n.d.; Hong Kong: Unicorn, ); Zun Wozhai Zhuren �� !"

(Master of the Studio of Self-respect), Shaolin quanshu mijue �� !"# (Secrets of Shaolin

boxing) (; ; reprint, Taibei: Zhonghua Wushu, ), critiques by Tang Hao and Xu

Zhen () appended.

. Jonathan Kolatch and Jonathan David, Sports, Politics and Ideology in China (New York:

Middle Village, ).

. Ibid., p. xvi; Jiang Shengzhang, ed., Book of Poetry, trans. Xu Yuanchong (Changsha:

Hunan Press, ), p. : “�� �!"#$%” (Who is that knave on river’s border, Nor

strong nor brave, Root of disorder).

. Huang zongxi �� , Nanlei wending �� ! (Nanlei’s definitive works) (Shanghai:

Zhonghua, ), qianji , pp. a–b; Stanley E. Henning, “Chinese Boxing: The Internal Versus

External Schools in the Light of History and Theory,” Journal of Asian Martial Arts , no.

(): –.

. Lu and Needham, Celestial Lancets: Acupuncture and Moxibustion, p. n. e.

. Ibid., p. .

. Zhang Jue, Wu-Yue Chunqiu quanyi; Wu Shu ��, Shoubei lu �� (Record of the

arm) (ca. ), fujuan xia, p. a, in Zhihai �� (), vols. – (Dadong Shuju, ).

. Anna Seidel, “A Taoist Immortal of the Late Ming Dynasty: Chang San-feng,” in Will-

iam T. de Bary and The Conference on Ming Thought, Self and Society in Ming Thought (New

York: Columbia University Press, ), p. .

. Ibid., p. n. ; Henning, “Chinese Boxing,” pp. –.

. In Susan Naquin and Chun-fang Yu, eds., Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China (Berkeley:

University of California Press, ), see John Lagerwey, “The Pilgrimage to Wu-tang Shan,” pp.

– at p. , and Bernard Faure, “Relics and Flesh Bodies,” pp. –.

. Lu and Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, p. , fig. .

. Immanuel C. Y. Hsu, The Rise of Modern China, th ed. (New York: Oxford University

Press, ), p. .

. Qin Baoqi �� , Fujian, Yunxiao Gaoqi—Tiandihui de faxiangdi �� !"#$%

�� !" (Fujian, Yunxiao, Gaoqi—The Heaven and Earth Society’s place of origin), Qingshi

yanjiu �� ! , no. (): –; Dian H. Murray and Qin Baoqi, The Origins of the

Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, ).

. Susan Naquin, Millenarian Rebellion in China (New Haven: Yale University Press,

), Shantung Rebellion: The Wang Lun Uprising of (New Haven: Yale University Press,

), and “The Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism in Late Imperial China,” in David

Johnson, Andrew J. Nathan, and Evelyn S. Rawski, Popular Culture in Late Imperial China

(Berkeley: University of California Press, ), pp. –; Joseph W. Esherick, The Origins of

the Boxer Uprising (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), p. n. .

. Frederic Wakeman, Jr., Policing Shanghai – (Berkeley: University of California

Press, ), p. n. ; Guojia Tiwei Wushu Yanjiuyuan, ed., �� !"#$%&'(

(National Physical Culture and Sports Commission Martial Arts Research Institute), Zhongguo

wushu shi �� !" (Chinese martial arts history) (Beijing: Renmin Tiyu, ), pp. –.

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. Douglas Wile, Lost T’ai-chi Classics from the Ch’ing Dynasty (Albany: State University of

New York Press, ).

. Stanley E. Henning, review of Lost T’ai Chi Classics of the Late Ch’ing Dynasty by Dou-

glas Wile, China Review International , no. (Fall ): –.

. Lu and Needham, Celestial Lancets: Acupuncture and Moxibustion, p. n. e.

a. Qi Jiguang �� , Jixiao xinshu �� ! [New book of effective discipline] [ca. ;

], ji , juan , b; Zhang Haipeng �� , Xuejin taoyuan �� !.

b. Liu Shuangsong �� , ed., Xinban zengbu tianxia bianyong wenlin miaojin wanbao

quanshu �� !"#$%&'()*+,- [New, revised easy-to-use . . . complete book

of miscellany], Songlin Anzhengtang Liu Shuangsong Engraved Edition (; Harvard-

Yenching Library), juan , b.

c. Zhang Kongzhao �� , Quanjing quanfa beiyao ��� !" [Boxing classic: Essen-

tial boxing methods], Miaoyuan congshu �� ! [ca. ; Taibei: Academia Sinica, Fu

Sinian Library, ], juan , a). This is the earliest extant reference to Shaolin Monastery as

Chinese boxing’s place of origin, an exaggerated and unsubstantiated claim typical of what

might be expected in a preface. However, this does not deny the possibility that some of the ma-

terial in this manual may actually have originated in the monastery (the manual was handwrit-

ten by Cao Huandou based on the oral transmission of Zhang Kongzhao, and the material likely

comes from multiple sources over several generations).

The Study of Chinese Philosophy in the West:

A Bibliographic Introduction


This article is intended to provide an annotated survey of predominantly recent

literature in Western languages on Chinese philosophy. It is meant as a guide to

the study of Chinese philosophy for those who have not mastered the Chinese

language. Attention has gone primarily to book publications and, moreover, to

publications in English, French, and German. The important Russian contribu-

tions to the historiography of Chinese philosophy had to be left out—not to men-

tion the massive literature on Chinese philosophy in Japanese and Chinese.

This survey is dressed up as a short narrative about the history of Chinese

philosophy, but it is not representative of Chinese philosophy as a whole, if only

for the reason that publications about Chinese philosophy—secondary literature

as well as translations—are not equally spread over the different periods, thinkers,

and schools. Neither does it aim at completeness. The survey is ordered according

notes to

the figures