A Quick Update
My other writing projects are continuing well, though weekends are never quite as productive as one might hope. But my loss may be your gain in the shape of some fresh material here on the blog.
It seems that among martial artists there has been renewed interest in “stone locks” and other types of traditional Chinese strength training equipment in the last few years. I have already covered this topic once before. Nevertheless, I now feel compelled to share a recent find with the readers of Kung Fu Tea (see above). This photograph ran on the UPI news wire service in 1961 and I was lucky enough to snag an original copy of the image in an auction. Its caption reads:
Exercise is the order of the day-every day-for most of the 670 million people of communist China, and the Red regime stresses psychical fitness to produce better workers and tougher soldiers. Upper: An elderly peasant on an agricultural co-operative in Liaoning province lifted two heavy blocks in one of the two daily calisthenic sessions which are required of all communist workers.
Its a very nicely composed image, though upon closer inspection one suspects that we are actually seeing a scene from a public demonstration rather than a typical daily exercise session. There are certainly more people standing around applauding than one might otherwise be able to account for. And if you look carefully at the lower right hand corner of the image it appears that there is another strongman lifting a set of stone wheels that are obscured by the individual in the center of the frame.
The Cold War rhetoric in the caption is quite interesting and it reminds us of what was once a common context in which the Chinese martial arts were discussed. Of course, all of this has long since vanished from our collective memory and been replaced with more recent images of figures like Bruce Lee, Ip Man and the ubiquitous Shaolin monk. At some point in the future I hope to delve further into the Cold War inflected images of the martial arts in “Red China” that frequented the pages of Western newspapers between the 1960’s and the 1980’s. Hopefully this photograph will serve as down payment on that conversation.
Still, it is always fascinating to see a vintage image of stone locks in use. Those interested is seeing more great images (or reading about their use) may want to check out a short interview that I recently did for the Red Pagoda gallery. Its a quick read, and the blog’s photography and design is really excellent. Click here to read more:
If you enjoyed this you might also want to see: Through a Lens Darkly (25): A Sawback Dadao in Hangzhou