Wushu, or Chinese martial arts known in the West as kongfu, is a traditional folk sport characterized by various bare-hand and armed combat techniques.
Wushu has a long history. Going as far back in primitive society as four thousand years ago, hard living conditions compelled the ancient people to use their stone and wooden tools as weapons to hunt and to defend themselves. Their fighting skills with bare hands and in using weapons formed the basis of primitive wushu. It was during the Shang (c. 16th-11th century BC) and Zhou (c. 11th century-221 BC) dynasties, with the development of productive forces, especially that of the techniques used in bronze casting, that the variety of weapons increased and their quality improved.
In the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), wushu became quite popular. A wushu competition held in the spring of 108 BC attracted thousands of spectators. Through competitions, wushu developed furthermore. Various forms of martial arts such as sword-play, broadsword-play and halberd-play came to be. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), both military men and scholars were required to practice wushu. Sword-play was often performed at parties and other social gatherings. The boxing style of Shaolin Temple became very popular because in the early period of the dynasty, the Shaolin monks had helped Li Shimin (Emperor Tai Zong) conquer Wang Shichong (King of the Zheng Kingdom); therefore, Shaolin Temple was given special permission by the emperor to train monks in wushu.
Revised June 13, 2011