China’s Kung Fu Metamorphosis

May 22, 2011

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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