I am happy to announce that a favorite project of mine has finally made it to print in a special issue of Acta Periodica Duellatorum commemorating the 2017 meetings at the German Blade Museum titled “Fight Books in a Comparative Perspective.” It was a great conference and, best of all, it inspired me to finally pull together all of the research I had been conducting over the last few years on a lost fight book tradition in 19th century Guangzhou. While I had written about this topic a few years ago on the blog, more recent archival work turned up not one but two versions of this previously “lost” manual. All of that is detailed in the following article. Enjoy!
Abstract – In 1874 an anonymous author published a partial English language translation and discussion of a now lost Southern Chinese martial arts manual originally titled Selected Techniques of Hero Boxing. This was a critical period in the development of the modern Chinese martial arts. Many of the best known Southern Chinese fighting systems (Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, Wing Chun, White Crane, etc.) were just starting to assume a recognisable form. Yet it is also a poorly understood era. Just as importantly, it was during the mid- and late nineteenth century that Western soldiers, administrators and adventurers first began to encounter and describe the Chinese martial arts. For better or worse, their records would help shape the perception of China in the popular imagination. This chapter begins by identifying Alfred Lister, a civil servant in Hong Kong, as the previously unknown author of this English language work. It then attempts to reconstruct the structure and contents of the fight book which he encountered. Lastly, it investigates the consequences of the misreading of this text.
Interested in exploring the rest of the conference volume? Take a look at these wonderful articles on a variety of global combat traditions.