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History of Chinese Wushu
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Wushu (or Kungfu) appeared in ancient China as early as 2,500 years ago. During the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods (770 - 221BC), a method called Daoyin was evolved to promote health.

In a tomb of Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24AD), discovered near Changsha in Hunan Province, a silk scroll was found on which figures were drawn in different postures -- sitting in meditation, bending, or squatting. At the end of Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220AD), a renowned medical doctor, Hua Tuo, created a set of exercises called Wuqinxi (Five Animals Play), mimicking the movements of animals. One of Hua's disciples, also a devotee of Wuqingxi, was said to have lived over 100 years. Wu Pu, another Hua's follower, was reputed to have sound teeth and acute hearing and sight at his late 80s. Hua Tuo's inventive work has a far-reaching influence on the history of Chinese Wushu.

During the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasty, there appeared a large number of exercises, including Baduanjin (an eight parts exercise), Yijinjing (a system of muscular exercise), Taijiquan (also called Chinese shadow boxing), and Qigong (breathing exercise).

Today, both in China and around the world, millions of people are fascinated by Chinese Wushu and benefit from it. It is believed to be effective in preventing and curing some diseases like cold, indigestion, and eyestrain.

Among the many forms, Taijiquan may enjoy the highest popularity. Characterized by gentle, rhythmic movements, natural breathing, physical and mental coordination, it is of particular good to the old and weak, and those suffering from chronic diseases.

History has it that Taijiquan first derived in Henan Province some 300 years ago, in the late Ming Dynasty. It conforms to the principles of "the vigorous subdued by the soft," and "overcome a force of 1,000 pounds with one of four ounces." Having undergone significant changes, its movements become more relaxed and graceful. When practicing Taijiquan, you need to be tranquil but alert in mind and coordinate vigor and gentleness. In 1956, a set of simplified Taijiquan of 24 forms was developed to stimulate its popularization.

Shaolinquan is one of the well-known forms of Wushu with a long history. Situated in Henan Province, the Shaolin Temple can be dated back about 540. An Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma (Damo in Chinese pinyin) traveled to China. When he arrived at the temple, he was refused to get in the door. So Damo went to a nearby cave and meditated until the monks recognized his religious prowess. Legend says that he bored a hole in the cave with his constant gaze. Later he taught the monks a set of exercises, which derived from Indian Yoga. And it is believed to be the origin of Shaolin Gongfu. The Shaolin gongfu is mainly used to protect the temple. It complies with the Buddhist principles of non-violence.

Written by our column writer Hao Zhuo.

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