When thinking about kung fu, many people immediately think of what Hollywood has given us: kicks, punches, and even high-flying stunts. But it didn’t always have this meaning– in Chinese, “kung fu” can refer to anything that requires practice and dedication, whether it be physical, mental or both. And today, this inclusive definition still applies when it comes to Chinese martial arts– there are a variety of styles taught and practiced in China to this day, often named after animals, philosophies or legends, that have both mental and physical components to the practice.
Legend has it that martial arts began in China over 4000 years ago during the Xia dynasty when the Yellow Emperor Huangdi developed early fighting styles. These legends are only known from much later texts, and the earliest mention of martial arts is found in the Chinese classic Spring and Autumn Annals from the 5th century BCE, and other references can be found in other ancient Chinese texts. Despite these early origins, it is believed that martial arts were not institutionalized until around the 7th century CE– that’s the earliest known reference to the Shaolin monks in battle.
On Sunday, June 3, you’ll have a chance to learn more about kung fu at Free Chinese Culture Sunday: A Day with Kung Fu Masters. We’re partnering with Joy of Kung Fu to bring five masters to Pacific Asia Museum who will talk about and demonstrate several styles. Master Bai Li Wang is a Mantis Boxing champion several times over, and will speak on how the style is changing. Master Arnold Chien will talk about how tai chi, traditionally a more internal style, relates to today’s mixed martial arts, and masters Hawkins Cheung and Franco Lung will speak on aspects of the Wing Chun style, popularized by none other than Bruce Lee. Finally, Grandmaster Li Tai Liang will speak on a style he himself helped develop– xinyi-dao. A demonstration follows the talks, and two kung fu films will bookend the day. And on top of all that, the event and the entire museum are free all day! Check our website for the full schedule, and get ready for a dynamic day of kung fu! ~CM