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Chinese Martial Arts
 
 

Chinese Martial Arts [Kindle Edition]

Peter Lorge

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Product Description

Product Description

In the global world of the twenty-first century, martial arts are practised for self-defense and sporting purposes only. However, for thousands of years, they were a central feature of military practice in China and essential for the smooth functioning of society. This book, which opens with an intriguing account of the very first female martial artist, charts the history of combat and fighting techniques in China from the Bronze Age to the present. This broad panorama affords fascinating glimpses into the transformation of martial skills, techniques and weaponry against the background of Chinese history, the rise and fall of empires, their governments and their armies. Quotations from literature and poetry, and the stories of individual warriors, infuse the narrative, offering personal reflections on prowess in the battlefield and techniques of engagement. This is an engaging and readable introduction to the authentic history of Chinese martial arts.

Book Description

In the global world of the twenty-first century, martial arts are practised for self-defense and sporting purposes only. However, for thousands of years, they were a central feature of military practice in China. This book charts the history of combat in China from the Bronze Age to the present.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2056 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (24 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006H3TR62
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #432,431 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Research Into Facts and Myths of the Chinese Martial Arts 5 April 2012
By forever - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author has done a great job going through the historical records (and it turns out that there are plenty of those) to investigate the origin and development of the Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) over several thousand years of that country's history. A lot of effort was dedicated to establishing the truth and separating facts from myths (there are plenty of those as well). Some of the topics that I found especially interesting were the discussion of the origin of the martial arts, their connection (or rather the lack thereof) with Buddhism and Daoism, the role of Shaolin, the role of the warrior-monks, and the evolution of weapons. I think that anyone who is interested in the CMA would find the book helpful and informative. However, if you are looking to read some flowery legends that surround the CMA, prepare to face the facts. They are not pretty!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fact and Evidence Based analysis of CMA 4 Jun 2012
By Boon L. Kwan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was a little sceptical of the title and whether Professor Lorge could do such a vast topic justice. But it goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover, and luckily enough I had enough trust in Cambridge University Press to take a chance on this book. Peter Lorge is a historian of 10th and 11th century Chinese at Vanderbilt University, with a particular interest in Chinese military, political and social history. This book is written from an academic perspective and seeks to given an overview of the development of the Chinese Martial arts (in the broadest sense) from prehistory to the present day. It is not light reading, but should be quite accessible to an educated reader, although a good grounding in Chinese History is also helpful.

This book differs markedly from other more popular texts in that Professor Lorge, from beginning seeks to ground his arguments in solid textual and archaeological evidence and aims to deflate some of the myths regarding Chinese martial arts. And in the early centuries from the Shang Dynasty up to the Han, this approach is highly effective as he is able to put together a convincing case for the development of CMA which parallels the development of weapons on the battlefield, such as the evolution of the sword and longsword, and the replacement of the halberd by the spear on the battlefield.

From an archaeological perspective, he traces how there is a period of great variety and innovation when a new weapon type is introduced, as the military and martial artists come to grips with the strength and weaknesses of the weapon, followed by a period of mass standardization, and finally by a period of personalized customization where the weapons are again tailored to the attributes of the user, spawning many variants. And in the early centuries, despite the association of arts such as archery with personal cultivation, it is the military and wars that drive the development of the martial arts.

From the Tang Dynasty onwards his main argument is while the military remained an important part in the development of Chinese martial arts, the needs of the military are necessarily constrained by needs of standardization and the ability to act effectively in formation. Instead it is through the medium of performance and dance that martial arts evolved into the myriad schools that we see today. His argument being there is a fixed universe of techniques that are effective martially and the choice of which techniques to emphasize and to drop were originally driven by aesthetic concerns, in order to present something that remained interesting to the viewer and these sets developed into given schools.

Besides being a military historian, Lorge is also a social historian and from this perspective he also delves into many themes that broaden our understanding of CMA, such as the role of women, the difference between steppe warfare and southern warfare, the need for the government to balance a need to maintain a monopoly over violence and the need to have an effective pool of skilled soldiers to draw upon and the need of local elites to ensure security in a violent world.

In the final part of the book, Lorge deals with the decisive confrontation between the Chinese martial arts and western power. And what is interesting is that he convincingly shows us that unlike in Japan, the use of gunpowder and guns had remained widespread through the Ming and Qing dynasties but could not match European technology. Although Lorge is a martial artist, his background is not in the Chinese arts so he is able to view CMA with a degree of emotional detachment, which is necessary for slaughtering sacred cows. For instance he plays down the importance of the Shaolin Temple, and cites political reasons for the rise of internal martial arts, such as Taiji, Bagua and Xingyi. But even when he goes against the grain, he does in a most polite manner and leaves room for alternative explanations.

It took me some time to work my way slowly through the book as there were many fascinating ideas and anecdotes that I needed to take time to ponder and digest. The style begins in quite dry logical manner in the early chapters (along the lines of thesis - support - implications - conclusion - new idea) but begins to pick up the pace in the later chapters, but this could also be a constraint of the source material at hand. Lorge also shows an interesting choice in his use of vocabulary, with some less common words used repeatedly such as "ecumene" and his choice of sword for '"Dao" and longsword for "Jian"'. Another choice that he made was the use of knightly class, which then changed to literati in the later chapters for '"Shi". This sometimes made for a little bit of confusion, but it is not fatal to the enjoyment of the book.

But all in all this was an impressive addition to the field of research on the development of Chinese Martial Arts and is one of those that should be on the bookshelf of anyone with a serious interest in martial arts.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mainly about weapons training not unarmed arts. 23 Jan 2013
By Sean McCoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For a relatively short work it surveys a broad swathe of Chinese history, in fact all of Chinese history. The first two hundred pages covers the main types of mechanical weapons used by Chinese soldiers and irregulars such as militias, warlord bands and such. Two weapons in wide use in ancient China that I found particularly interesting were the dagger axe and the two handed long sword. There probably isn't all that much difference between Chinese weapons training and the rest of the bronze and later iron aged world.

One thing that seems to distinguish Chinese martial arts is their role as entertainment. It seemed to go well beyond anything similar in Europe, and though this is not the focus of the book it certainly could be the subject of a book itself. Even though weapons training for stage and cinema have always existed in the West, it doesn't seem to be as systematized and named as in China ( at least until recently ). Another difference is that even though gun powder weapons were used in China even before Europe, they didn't completely displace mechanical weapons as quickly as in the West. Thus there is more of a living tradition of weapons training to draw off in Chinese and other asian martial arts than in Europe.

As in the West, the most popular form of unarmed martial arts for most of Chinese history was wrestling. There isn't much detail about wrestling styles, but there is more about the origins of specific schools and styles of striking techniques, most of which seemed to be secondary to weapons training until modern times. Yes the Shaolin temple was at times associated with martial arts, much in the same way large medieval estates owned by the Catholic church would have had men at arms of some sort to police and defend them.

In short this book will mainly appeal to those interested in weapons training martial arts. Those interested mainly in unarmed styles will find the last 60 or so pages of the book the most relevant. This book will be well worth reading for anyone interested in Chinese military history.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 14 Dec 2012
By EvoNAP - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author does a great job in introducing and giving you an overview of actual Chinese Martial Art history. He points out the good and bad things that have happened over the years and tells it like it is. It also might dispel some myths that people have of Chinese Martial Arts. The book is a fairly light and short read and because it seems more like a quick overview it left me wanting more!

But other than wanting more, I thought the book was awesome.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, thoroughly researched and intriguing to read. 24 April 2014
By B. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lorge has filled a major gap for the English reading public and scholars by offering a history of the evolution of Chinese martial arts which is thoroughly grounded in a multidisciplinary approach including archaeology, anthropology, historical literature, and a keen grasp of places where misconceptions are commonly born from. On top of all this I found it a pleasure to read. If you wish to know the history of Chinese martial arts for any reason, scholastic, martial, or otherwise, you owe it to yourself to buy and read this book.
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