Subject: wuxia Taijiquan 'martial hero'
Culture: north Chinese
Setting: late Qing empire, north China 19th-early 20thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)
* Kennedy & Guo 2005 p215-216
"According to these documents [two official government documents related to the defense of Huaiqing County, 1853], once the Taiping army crossed the yellow River and attacked Huaiqing County, the local militia was defeated and dispersed, while the government troops escaped. Of all the villages, only Chenjiagou resisted. In his 'Veritable Record,' under the heading '29th day of 5th month,' Tian Guilin wrote:
"'The head of the thieves [i.e., the Taiping rebels] called Big-Headed Ram (Da Tou Yang) invaded Chenjiagou. This thief was extremely brave and strong, he was able to carry two big cannons under his arms and swiftly attack the town. The battle that destroyed the whole town was conducted under the command of this thief. Fortunately, Chen Zheng Shen and Chen Ji Shen, two brothers from Chenjiagou, were very skilled in using spears and long poles, and they used long poles to pull Big-Headed Ram down from the horse, and then they cut his head off ... Chen Zhong Shen and others managed to escape.'
"This is worth quoting because it points out two things. First, it illustrates the close tie-in between martial arts and real-world combat. It should be obvious that martial arts is used for martial purposes, but that truism often gets lost in modern discussions of the martial arts' focus on spirituality, health benefits, and the like. The episode is also of interest because Taijiquan has, in modern times, been cast as a kind of slow-moving old person's exercise, or as a way for college students to 'get in tune with the Tao.' The specter of two Taijiquan masters on a battlefield, with their village burning in the background, spearing a bandit leader off his horse, cutting off his head and escaping, is an instructive contrast to how Taijiquan has come to be viewed."