Spring and Autumn of Martial Arts: 206 b.c.e.

excerpted from Professor Kang Ge-Wu’s book of the same name

Time: 206 B.C.E.
Liu Bang destroyed the Chin Dynasty and went to HongMen to meet with Xing Yu. At the banquet Xing Zhuang said, “We have no entertainers in the army. May I perform a sword dance?” And Xing Zhuang drew his sword and began dancing. He intended to strike Liu Bang. Xing Yu followed suit, shielding with his body so that Xing Zhuang could not strike Liu Bang.” (From the Records of the Historian). At that time wearing swords became the fashion. On the one hand the sword could be used in sword dancing. On the other hand it could be a defense weapon. Later, wearing a sword became part of ritual. The Book of Chin records, “The ettiqute of Han Dynasty stipulated that the Emperor and all officials wore swords. Later they word swords only when they went to court.

Ancient stone rubbing of Xing Yu defending Liu Bang

COMMENT: So popular did the sword become that Confucius is said to have worn one despite not knowing how to use it. He said it made him feel like a gentleman. One of China’s most famous and beloved poets, generally known as Li Po, was an accomplished Swordsman and his great colleague, Tu Fu, wrote a few pieces about the art of swordplay. Women entertainers were so excellent at the sword that they actually inspired movements for combat. For many centuries this weapon that balances beauty and skill has been a favorite of the China people in general and Kung Fu practitioners particularly.


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