Friday, December 07, 2018

Shaolin Kungfu

Shaolin Temple monks practice Shaolin Kungfu in Quanzhou City, South China's Fujian Province

In the west when we think of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li we think of Kung fu, but interestingly here in China Kung Fu is just as likely to be called 'Wushu'.

P: Ni Hao. Welcome to "Ask Pingping and Jules", your bridge to Chinese culture. I'm Pingping.

J: Ni Hao. I'm Jules. Wo shi Zhu Li An. This morning I saw some people practicing Tai Chi in a park. It's fascinating. I've recently discovered that Tai chi is one of the many types of Wushu. You know, in the west when we think of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li we think of Kung fu, but interestingly here in China Kung Fu is just as likely to be called 'Wushu'.

P: Yes, and there are many different varieties and styles of Wushu, and tai chi is one of the more famous of these styles.

J: So, Pingping are you a big fan of this genre of movie, the 'Kung fu' movie.

P: Absolutely. Jacky Chen is one of my idols. I love his movies.

J: So do I. Leaping onto roofs and vaulting over walls is amazing! So are these movements real Chinese kung fu moves or is it just make-believe for the movies?

P: Mostly it's real kung fu.
J: Wow. It must be complicated and mysterious. It's interesting that Kung fu films have had such a wide ranging influence on so many action films. But what's the origin of kung fu?

P: Kung fu, also known as Wushu or martial arts, was created for physical training and self-defence.

J: How long has it been practiced?

P: For around several thousand years. And because it's based around maintaining health, wushu was also used in conjunction with medicine in ancient times.

J: You mean wushu can cure diseases?

P: Yes. The famous ancient surgeon Hua Tuo created a set of exercises inspired by five animals for curing diseases and physical training. And they have been handed down to the present day.

J: Haha, interesting. But I don't understand why it is still so popular in China and gaining increasing interest throughout the world.

P: Um… in China I think the reason is that Wushu builds strong bodies and strengthens willpower and sometimes it offers training in fighting skills. But I'm not quite sure in other countries…

J: It's the cultural meaning I guess. In many foreigners' eyes, Wushu is one symbol of Chinese culture. Also it's also very cool!

P: Good point! Let me give you a test, how many types of Wushu do you know?

J: Thi Chi… It's really hard for me to name them all. I watched a lot of films and I studied a little bi of Wushu before but I don't actually know the individual names.

P: I see. Well …. Wushu is practiced by performing various types of set exercises. It generally falls into five categories; these include quanshu (barehanded exercises), qixie (exercises with weapons), duilian (dual combat), group performances and combat using offensive and defensive skills.

J: Well then, which type does Thi Chi belong to ?

P: Quanshu—barehanded boxing.

J: Oh….I found that some movements in Peking Opera seem very similar to wushu. Why is that ?

P: As wushu exercises contain many beautiful and natural body movements, they have become great attractions in Chinese operas, not only Peking Opera. Some of them have even been adopted to fighting scenes on the opera stage.

J: Okay. Pingping, could you tell me something about Shaolin Temple and it's connection with Kung fu. You know, Shaolin Temple attracts many foreigners because of this connection, as well as it's beautiful location.

P: Yeah. Shaolin Temple is much more than just a temple. In a sense, it is a famous wushu school and an institution in China. Since it was established in 477AD, people of all ages who have been interested in martial arts have came to the Shaolin Temple. The Shaolin Temple has its own unique type of wushu, called Shaolin kung fu.

J: Well, today we talked about "kung fu" in China.

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