Welcome to our second annual discussion of the top webpages in Chinese martial studies. The purpose of this series is to acknowledge some of the individuals who have made great contributions to our understanding of the traditional martial arts in the last year. We also hope that visitors who are not familiar with these authors will be inspired to go out and discover some of these resources (and the contributions that they can make) for themselves. Readers interested in going back and reviewing our previous selection for the “best web-page of 2012” should click here.
After thinking about the question for a month or so, we are ready to announce Kung Fu Tea’s selection’s for “Top Chinese Martial Arts Webpage of 2013.” To be eligible a webpage must have been active in the last year and to have shown excellence in the study and understanding of some critical aspect of Chinese martial culture. It is also expected to have made a substantial original contribution in its research, journalism, art or creative writing. Finally, the webpage must be searchable and available on the open internet (e.g., you should not have to be a member of an exclusive social media community to access it).
Beyond that everything can get quite subjective. “Chinese martial culture” is a huge research area with lots of different branches. Better still, there are a great many individuals devoting their time and resources to researching and spreading this information. The pace and quality of this work has actually grown markedly in the last year. Collectively our community turned out some great work in 2013. As always, narrowing the field down to a single “winner” was a challenge. There were at least half a dozen strong contenders that I looked at, each advancing their own understanding of the arts.
As always the winner was the webpage that best captured the spirit of the year and responded to both the challenges and opportunities that 2013 presented. What sorts of issues were these? To begin with, how can one leverage the communicative power of the internet to improve the overall quality of our discussions about the traditional Chinese martial arts? Alternatively, how can we bring practitioners, students of Chinese popular culture, ethnographers and historians together into a single conversation that advance our understanding of the development and the practice of the traditional fighting styles?
After careful consideration I am happy to announce that Brennan Translation (written by Paul Brennan) has been selected as the “Top Chinese Martial Arts Webpage of 2013.” First launched in 2011 this blog is dedicated to the publication of English language translations of important manuals and other works on the Traditional Chinese martial arts. The texts, offered to readers for free, date from 1875-1963, though most of these works are a product of the Republic of China period.
As I have observed before, for a pastime that often claims to be passed only via oral traditions, the traditional Chinese martial arts have generated a surprising number of books. [Link] Claims of great antiquity notwithstanding, most of the arts that are practiced today were either created, or underwent serious transformations, during the late Qing and Republic periods.
Brennan Translation has opened an invaluable window onto the past for both practicing martial artists and students of martial studies through its careful, systematic and freely available translations. I have never seen a number of these works translated or sold anywhere else. A simple google search reveals that these translations have become the jumping off points for countless discussions (some technical in nature, others historical) on various discussion boards and social media sites around the internet. Brennan Translations has been noticed and it is having an observable impact.
The most gratifying thing about this project is that it has not only gotten a number of people talking about the martial arts of the Republic era, but it has given them the information needed to improve the overall quality of their discussions as well. That is quite an accomplishment.
Given the amount of study and effort that goes into these translations the blog is pretty active. Generally it releases one new work a month. In fact, the pace of its posts have actually quickened in the last year. In 2011 Paul Brennan released four original translations. In 2012 he put out eight new works. In the last year he freely distributed a total of 11 new translations.
The majority of the texts which this site translates deal with Taijiquan. However Xingyi Quan and certain Shaolin systems have come up. Even if one does not practice a given art, this literature is always worth reading and mulling over. These texts are the “primary sources” of our field. They record and bear witness to an era of important transformations in the traditional martial arts. The introductions to these works often contain important biographical, historical and social discussions, and clues to the ongoing transformations of these systems can be seen scattered throughout.
The list of works translated in the last year is truly impressive:
Twelve Line Tantui (BOXING ARTS FUNDAMENTALS – ILLUSTRATED HANDBOOK FOR TANTUI) Compiled by Hu Jian (May, 1917).
The Xingyi Manual of Li Jianqiu (THE ART OF XINGYI BOXING) by Li Jianqiu (1920).
An Outline of Taiji Theory (BREAKDOWN CHART OF TAIJI BOXING) by Chen Yanlin (1943).
The Voices of Sun Lutang’s Teachers (BOXING CONCEPTS EXPLAINED AUTHENTICALLY by Sun Fuquan [Lutang] (March, 1924).
The Taiji Classics (FOR HAO WEIZHEN TO CHERISH: “WANG ZONGYUE’S TAIJI BOXING TREATISE” APPENDED WITH MY PREFACE & “FIVE-WORD FORMULA” (A manual handwritten by Li Yiyu, presented to his student, Hao He (Weizhen) – 1881).
The Taiji Spear Method According to Chen Yanlin (TAIJI THRUSTING POLE) by Chen Yanlin (1943).
Yang Style Taiji Sword According to Chen Yanlin (TAIJI SWORD from Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring) by Chen Yanlin (1943).
The Taiji Manual of Gu Ruzhang (TAIJI BOXING) by Gu Ruzhang (1936).
Explaining Taiji Principals (EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES) attributed to Yang Banhou (circa 1875).
Taizu Cannon Boxing Set (FROM THE BOXING METHODS OF THE ZHAO SCHOOL: ILLUSTRATED CANNON BOXING SET) by Wu Zhiqing (1931).
The Badjuanjin Manual of Yin Qianhe (FITNESS TECHNIQUES ON A BED & SCIENTIFIC BADUANJIN) by Yin Qianhe (Nov 10, 1958).
A lot of people have made important contributions to our discussion of the Chinese martial arts in the last year, but what Brennan Translations has done is both impressive and generous. I love the fact that his work is valuable to practitioners and students with a range of interests. He has also provided a good model of future projects. Wouldn’t it be great to have a similar blog dedicated to Ming era manuals, or 1970s Chinese language magazine articles? I think that Paul Brennan has already demonstrated that these sorts of projects would likely succeed.
What about you? Are there any other web-pages that you discovered in the last year that made a particularly significant contribution to your understanding of the traditional Chinese martial arts? Drop us a link in the comments section and let us know what you have been reading.
Happy New Years!