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Visual Images of the Martial Artists

This tag is associated with 9 posts

Through a Lens Darkly (45): Creative Collages and Dueling Mythologies of the Chinese Martial Arts

    Romanticizing the Chinese Martial Arts   Vintage postcards or other ephemera may be interesting to students of martial arts studies for a variety of reasons.  When assessing this material, we are often drawn to photographic images that might reveal lost details of how things “were really done.”  I have come across a few … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (44): Martial Arts in Pre-War Japanese Schools

    Introduction   Today’s post is the result of a happy coincidence.  As regular readers will be aware, I occasionally collect and share vintage images of the Chinese martial arts.  Many of these come from the sorts of ephemera (postcards, advertisements, old newspaper clippings, newsreels) that contain interesting data on the social place of … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (31): Red Spears, Big Swords and Civil Resistance in Northern China

    Through a Lens Darkly   In this occasional series I turn to photographs, postcards, slides or other forms of ephemera both as a source of information about the Chinese martial arts and as a witness to the many functions that they have served in popular culture over the decades. These sources, rarely preserved … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (27): The Historical Record and China’s Missing Martial Artists

      Introduction   This occasional series of posts is dedicated to the display and discussion of vintage images of the Chinese martial arts. While occupying an important place in popular culture, the martial arts were traditionally associated with non-elite groups. As a result we have fewer photographs recording the reality of these practices … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (25): A Sawback Dadao in Hangzhou

    The Album   Recently I had the good fortune to come across a photograph of a Chinese dadao (big knife) that dates to the late 1930s. Images such as these were sometimes collected by Japanese soldiers in occupied China and subsequently ended up back in Japan. Obviously photos of Chinese martial artists and … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (23): The Dadao and the Katana – Symbolic Echoes Within the Modern Martial Arts

Introduction No topic within the study of the modern martial arts is more burdened with nationalist myths and legends than military fencing. By the middle of the 20th century blades were supposed to have become obsolete on the battlefield. Yet the Second World War (WWII) saw a resurgence of interest in the sword and knife. … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (20): Ip Man Confronts the “Indian” Police Officer

Introduction Vintage postcards are fascinating because they capture a dual image.  On the surface they present a simple picture of a notable location, individual or native custom.  Some of these images are historically important and you can occasionally glean a lot of information from them. Yet the real value of postcards goes well beyond that.  … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (17): “Selling the Art”: Martial Artists in the Marketplace, 1900-1930

  Introduction: Informants and the Problem of Reliability   The study of the traditional martial arts has tended to rely rather heavily on interviews with “participant informants.”  Cultivating relationships with informants and learning about their worldview consumes much of a researcher’s time during the course of any ethnographic exercise.  Yet there are also inherent dangers … Continue reading

Through a Lens Darkly (16): Capturing the Chinese Martial Arts Before the Camera, 1750-1850.

Introduction One of the most important, though often overlooked, events of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the creation and growth of the “Canton Trade System.”  This highly regulated trade, carried out between Chinese and European merchants in the city of Guangzhou (Canton), literally transformed the global economy.  It also had critical repercussions … Continue reading

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