Chinese Martial Arts
Fu - History - Women's Contribution
interesting and important aspect of Chinese Martial Arts is the contribution
of women to its evolution and development. Despite being a predominately
male activity, the martial arts have attracted some remarkable female
contributors. Their involvement re-emphasizes the point that the practice
of traditional Chinese Martial Arts depends on mind, will, and spirit,
and that physical strength is less important.
romantic notions of woman skilled in the martial arts exist in
fiction as well as reality. Their contribution can be seen today.
following are some of the prominent female martial artists in history:
- Mulan (589-618)
- Ng Mui and Yim
- Present day
Niu (770 BC - 221 AD)
fencing, though highly alert
The appearance is as calm as a fair lady's
But when in action, a vicious Tiger emerges
Weak and exposed in appearance;
But powerful when unleashed.
One's reactions may start afterwards,
But the response arrives there first.
to ancient Chinese history, Yu Niu was the best swordsman of her period.
During the "Spring and Autumn" periods (770 BC - 221 AD), the King of
the Zhou kingdom organized a sword contest. Yu Niu was chosen as the
victor over three thousand swordsmen in the seven-day contest. Her sword
methods and philosophies are still recognized today.
named Qianguang, lived during the Eastern lin Dynasty (AD 317-420).
Her father, Bao Qian, was a commander in southern Guangdong province
and a Taoist who studied the Qi Huang Plan (a famous medical treatise).
When she was twenty years old, her father arranged for her to marry
his close friend and fellow Taoist, the famous chemist and doctor, Ge
Hong. She travelled with her husband through southern Yue (Guangdong
province), "plucking and testing one hundred herbs, finding cures for
strange diseases, saving countless lives". Baogu's medical skills were
superb, especially in the field of moxibustion. Acupuncture and moxibustion
are the traditional Chinese methods of treating illnesses. Baogu and
Ge Hong worked together on their first treatise to emphasize the theories
of moxibustion; the Zhouhou Beiji Fang.
Ming-Lian was the daughter of Emperor Liang Wu Di. She became the only
female disciple of Damo. For her devotion, the emperor built a temple
so that other woman could also worship Buddha. The temple was near the
Shaolin Temple, but was built facing west as a sign of respect to the
Buddha. During her path towards enlightenment, Princess Ming-lian also
studied Chi Kung, the martial arts, and herbal medicine.
famous women followed along the path of Princess Ming-lian and became
the leader of the Temple. Yongtai, the Princess of Beiwei Dynasty, was
the successor to Princess Ming-lian. Princess Yongtai was well known
for helping people. There are many stories locally about how she helped
people and achieved high status in her qigong and martial arts practice.
In her memory, the name of the temple was changed from Ming-lian Temple
to Yongtai Temple - the name it still bears today. This temple produced
many nuns renown for their ability to cure people with herbs. This Buddhist
temple for women is little known by most Chinese, let alone the world.
want to buy a saddle and horse,
And serve in the army in Father's place
Anonymous (c.5 A.D.)
is a well-known heroine in Chinese history and now in the West thanks
to the Disney movie "Mulan". The real story of Mulan is lost in time,
but she is remembered in a well-known Chinese poem, written during the
Northern Dynasties (AD 420-589), and later turned into a novel, during
the late Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), and then into a play, during the
Qing Dynasty. To this day, her real name is not known. According to
the Annals of the Ming, her surname was Zhu, while the Annals of the
Qing say it was Wei. A play by Xu Wei gives her the surname Hua (Flower),
but that could be literary licence. Others, using The Ballad of Mulan
as their guide, have attributed the surname Mu to her.
introduced Mulan to the West with great success.
legend, the novel and the play all describe the plight of a young girl,
Mulan, who lived in Northern China. In one of the many wars against
foreign invaders, Mulan disguised herself as a man to serve in the army
in her father's place. She was an able and courageous warrior, and won
many battles. The emperor recognized her for her accomplishments and
offered her many rewards including a government position. She turned
down all her rewards in favour of going home and living a peaceful life
with her family. After she returned home, she changed back into her
old clothes. When she reappeared as a girl, not one of her friends recognized
her even though they had fought side by side for many years.
story of Mulan inspired many generations of Chinese woman because of
its Confucius morality (honouring the father, protecting the country)
and elements of Taoist thinking (inaction, leaving government office
for the family). Its influence can still be felt today.
Meifeng from Shanghai created Mulan Quan as a tribute to the ideals
of this character. Established less than ten years ago, this form of
martial art is based on hua jia quan - an ancient martial art featuring
dance moves. Mulan quan consist of six sets with 52 to 82 moves in each
set. Some of the sets involve the use of a single sword, single fan,
double swords or double fans. Because of its health benefits, this exercise
has attracted tens of thousands of followers all over China, in Japan,
Southeast Asia, Europe and America.
Mui and Yim Wing Chun (1662-1722)
Wo Ping's 1994 movie Wing Chun, starring Michelle Yeoh, depicts
the fictional life of the martial artist.
the Ching Dynasty (1662-1722), the emperor K'anghsi felt that the Shaolin
temple could resist the rule of the Ching government. He ordered its
destruction. Ng Mui, the head nun at an affiliate Temple, was one of
the few people that escaped the massacre. She retreated to the White
Crane Temple on Mt. Tai Leung (also known as Mt. Chai Har). Her knowledge
and skills of the martial arts was legendary.
Wing Chun was a native of Canton [Kwangtung Province] in China. She
married Leung Bok Chau, a salt merchant of Fukien. They finally settled
at the foot of Tai Leung Mountain near the border between Yunan and
Szechuan provinces. She encountered Ng Mui and studied with her for
many years. Under Ng Mui, Wing Chun developed a style that is extremely
efficient and ideally suited to smaller fighters having less strength.
Wing Chun then taught her skills to her husband Leung Bok Chau. Leung
then trained Wong Wah Bo (an opera performer). Wong Wah Bo taught Leung
Yeu Tei. Leung Yeu Tei moved to Fat Shan, Southern China One of his
students in Fat Shan was Leung Jan. Leung Jan taught his skills to Chan
Wah Shan. Yip man, a noted Wing Chun fighter before becoming famous
as the teacher of Bruce Lee, is the student of Chan Wah Shan.
a new generation of students to carry on the tradition of Chinese
has changed, and so has role of women. Slowly, their contribution and
importance in all areas are being recorded and noticed. Women are now
recognized for their interest in and contribution to the martial arts.
During our research on the web, we have come across many female martial
artists who are today actively training and promoting Traditional Chinese
Martial Arts. We are extremely interested in expanding our knowledge
of and friendship with others in the martial art community. So let us
know if you know of other examples of female martial artists.