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Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century Hardcover – December 5, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Book Description

In the global world of the twenty-first century, martial arts are practiced for self-defense and sporting purposes only. However, for thousands of years, they were a central feature of military practice in China and essential for the smooth functioning of society. This book charts the history of combat and fighting techniques in China from the Bronze Age to the present. This broad panorama affords fascinating glimpses into the transformation of martial skills, techniques, and weaponry against the background of Chinese history, the rise and fall of empires, their governments, and their armies. Quotations from literature and poetry, and the stories of individual warriors, infuse the narrative, offering personal reflections on prowess in the battlefield and techniques of engagement.

About the Author

Peter A. Lorge is a Senior Lecturer of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China, 900-1795 (2005) and The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb (2008).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521878810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521878814
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a little sceptical of the title and whether Professor Lorge could do such a vast topic justice. But it goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover, and luckily enough I had enough trust in Cambridge University Press to take a chance on this book. Peter Lorge is a historian of 10th and 11th century Chinese at Vanderbilt University, with a particular interest in Chinese military, political and social history. This book is written from an academic perspective and seeks to given an overview of the development of the Chinese Martial arts (in the broadest sense) from prehistory to the present day. It is not light reading, but should be quite accessible to an educated reader, although a good grounding in Chinese History is also helpful.

This book differs markedly from other more popular texts in that Professor Lorge, from beginning seeks to ground his arguments in solid textual and archaeological evidence and aims to deflate some of the myths regarding Chinese martial arts. And in the early centuries from the Shang Dynasty up to the Han, this approach is highly effective as he is able to put together a convincing case for the development of CMA which parallels the development of weapons on the battlefield, such as the evolution of the sword and longsword, and the replacement of the halberd by the spear on the battlefield.

From an archaeological perspective, he traces how there is a period of great variety and innovation when a new weapon type is introduced, as the military and martial artists come to grips with the strength and weaknesses of the weapon, followed by a period of mass standardization, and finally by a period of personalized customization where the weapons are again tailored to the attributes of the user, spawning many variants.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has done a great job going through the historical records (and it turns out that there are plenty of those) to investigate the origin and development of the Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) over several thousand years of that country's history. A lot of effort was dedicated to establishing the truth and separating facts from myths (there are plenty of those as well). Some of the topics that I found especially interesting were the discussion of the origin of the martial arts, their connection (or rather the lack thereof) with Buddhism and Daoism, the role of Shaolin, the role of the warrior-monks, and the evolution of weapons. I think that anyone who is interested in the CMA would find the book helpful and informative. However, if you are looking to read some flowery legends that surround the CMA, prepare to face the facts. They are not pretty!
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Format: Hardcover
For a relatively short work it surveys a broad swathe of Chinese history, in fact all of Chinese history. The first two hundred pages covers the main types of mechanical weapons used by Chinese soldiers and irregulars such as militias, warlord bands and such. Two weapons in wide use in ancient China that I found particularly interesting were the dagger axe and the two handed long sword. There probably isn't all that much difference between Chinese weapons training and the rest of the bronze and later iron aged world.

One thing that seems to distinguish Chinese martial arts is their role as entertainment. It seemed to go well beyond anything similar in Europe, and though this is not the focus of the book it certainly could be the subject of a book itself. Even though weapons training for stage and cinema have always existed in the West, it doesn't seem to be as systematized and named as in China ( at least until recently ). Another difference is that even though gun powder weapons were used in China even before Europe, they didn't completely displace mechanical weapons as quickly as in the West. Thus there is more of a living tradition of weapons training to draw off in Chinese and other asian martial arts than in Europe.

As in the West, the most popular form of unarmed martial arts for most of Chinese history was wrestling. There isn't much detail about wrestling styles, but there is more about the origins of specific schools and styles of striking techniques, most of which seemed to be secondary to weapons training until modern times. Yes the Shaolin temple was at times associated with martial arts, much in the same way large medieval estates owned by the Catholic church would have had men at arms of some sort to police and defend them.
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By EvoNAP on December 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author does a great job in introducing and giving you an overview of actual Chinese Martial Art history. He points out the good and bad things that have happened over the years and tells it like it is. It also might dispel some myths that people have of Chinese Martial Arts. The book is a fairly light and short read and because it seems more like a quick overview it left me wanting more!

But other than wanting more, I thought the book was awesome.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
just got started reading...already breezed through it and checked out many section....it is a great book. Looking forward to a solid sit down read from front to back and absorbing the gems inside. Can see already the info will become part of my lectures.
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