China’s Kung Fu Metamorphosis

Last June (2010), Tom Carter wrote five guest posts about Martial Arts in China, and the same month I wrote about a movie, The Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chang.

I’ve never been to Wudang Mountain (at last not yet), which is well known for its deep-rooted tradition of wushu (martial arts).

Watching Jackie Chang and Jaden Smith climb that long, narrow stairway reminded me of mountains I’ve climbed that challenged my breath and made my heart pound.

Tom Carter’s guest posts came with a few of the photos that he shot while there.

However, in the March 2011 National Geographic Magazine (NGM), we read of the Battle for the Soul of Kung Fu and discover that as the world and China changes, so does this ancient world of Martial Arts that has been steeped in tradition for millennia.

In Tom Carter’s first guest post on this subject, he wrote, “Located atop the western peak of the sacred Song Shan Mountain in northern Henan province, 800 year-old Shaolin Si has been destroyed and rebuilt time and again, weathering attacks by emperors, warlords, cultural revolutions, and now its most reoccurring invaders – the modern tour group.”

It’s the modern tour group Carter mentions that challenges China’s Kung Fu.

NGM says the city of Dengfeng (population about 600,000), China’s kung fu capital, boasts some 60 martial arts schools and attracts about 50,000 students from all over China.

Shaolin Si

A time line in the NGM piece shows the oldest Chinese reference to martial arts was in the 11th century B.C., more than three thousand years ago, and in 2010, the Shaolin Temple was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One element of the philosophy behind Kung Fu was explained by a master, “In each boy, he looks for respectfulness and a willingness to ‘eat bitterness’, learning to welcome hardship, using it to discipline the will and forge character.”

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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7 Responses to China’s Kung Fu Metamorphosis

  1. Debbie says:

    HI Lloyd, I stumbled upon this old post whilst trying to find info about Wudangshan Daoists possibly fighting against the Qing in efforts to restore the Ming. Do you or your wife know anything about that or where I could go to find such info?
    Fyi, Shaolin Si is one of the few ancient temples that does not sit atop a mountain, its at the bottom of Song Shan.

    • They were called the White Lotus Society.

      White Lotus Rebellion, (1796–1804), large-scale uprising in the mountainous regions of central China that contributed to the decline of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911/12). The White Lotus society (Bailianjiao) was a religious cult already in existence in the Nan (Southern) Song dynasty (1127–1279). When the Manchu tribes of Manchuria (now Northeast China) conquered China some 500 years later in the 17th century and proclaimed the Qing dynasty, the White Lotus members dedicated themselves to the overthrow of the alien Manchu and to the return of the previous Ming dynasty (1368–1644). In the late 18th century, in response to famine, crowded conditions, and harassment from petty government officials, White Lotus leaders in central China began a rebellion; they promised their followers that there would be the return of the Buddha and the end of suffering.

      • Debbie says:

        Oh yes of course! thanks Lloyd. But the White Louts where mainly in Shaolin – Buddhist? and not wudangshan?( cant find anything much refering to wudangshan)

      • There were other uprising during the Qing Dynasty—several were devastating killing tens of millions

        The Revolt of the Three Feudatories was led by three territories (三藩, Sānfàn) in southern China bestowed by the early Manchu rulers on three Chinese generals (Wu Sangui, Geng Jingzhong, and Shang Zhixin). In the second half of the 17th century, these generals revolted against the Manchu Qing Dynasty. This rebellion came as the Qing rulers were establishing themselves after their conquest of China in 1644 and was the last serious threat to their imperium until the 19th-century conflicts that ultimately brought about the end of the dynasty in 1912

        The White Lotus Rebellion (1796–1804) was a Chinese anti-Manchu uprising that occurred during the Qing Dynasty.

        The Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864), led by the heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, sees southern China descend into civil war.

        The Nian Rebellion (t 捻軍起義, s 捻军起义, Niǎnjūn Qǐyì; 1851–1868) was a large armed uprising that took place in northern China. The rebellion failed to topple the Qing Dynasty, but caused immense economic devastation and loss of life that became one of the major long-term factors in the collapse of the Qing regime.

        The Du Wenxiu Rebellion (1856–1872) was a separatist movement of Muslim Hui in western Yunnan, led by Du Wenxiu (born Sulayman ibn `Abd ar-Rahman).

        The First Dungan Revolt or Muslim Rebellion[8] (t 回變, s 回变, Huíbiàn; 1862–1877), known in China as the “Hui Minority War”, was an uprising by members of the Muslim Hui minority in Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia.

      • Debbie says:

        Thanks for this detailed information, Lloyd. 🙂

      • I hope you find what you are looking for. I left out a few that I thought wouldn’t fit because they were too small except the one that ended the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

      • Debbie says:

        Thanks Lloyd. I’ve been searching for the specifics of what I’m looking for when I stumbled from google into your site:). Not everything is available on the world wide web! 🙂 Thanks for the extensive information though, it’s helpful.

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