Chinese Athletes of Wuchang

Journal of Combative Sport November 1999

North China Herald, Shanghai, May 10, 1924, 210

Ed. note: The patronizing tone of this article is typical of the period.

Wuchang, April 28.

 Last Saturday came with bright sunshine to favour the spring term athletic meeting.

 The new buildings, which are steadily rising right across the south end of the football field, have encroached to a certain extent upon the space which was available last year for sports. But this has been compensated for to some extent by filling in the low ground which lies at the farther end. It is no longer possible to lay down a "220 straight"; but the quarter-mile track can still be fitted in.

 Seeing that two other large schools in Wu-Han were holding their sports on the same day, a large number of visitors was hardly expected. But a contingent of some 40 boys from the Wuchang First Middle School turned up early in the day with their athletics instructor; and various old boys, together with students from Kung Ching Middle School, the Normal University, and the Wuchang Commercial School, helped to swell the crowd.

 The competitors were in good form, and their results showed an improvement upon last autumn, although on the whole they were not quite so good as last spring. Wu Kuang-teh  carried off seven first places and one third, showing himself easily the best all-round athlete in the school. His distance of 18 ft. 4-1/2 in. in the long jump probably constitutes a school record. In the high jump, he did no more than equal his last year's record of 4 ft. 11-1/2 in., but he has been known to do better in practice. Hu Ren-ching's time of 25 secs. in the 220 yards is also the best performance that has been seen hitherto on the Wesley College ground.

 The obstacle races provided some amusement. Half-way round the course, the competitors had to craw underneath a net which was stretched tightly upon the ground; and after the course was finished, each had to eat a dry bun. The inspection of mouths was performed by the judges. Several tugs of war were pulled between staff and students, old boys and present, etc. The visitors' race was again won, as last autumn, by one of our visitors from Kung Ching Middle School.

   Perhaps the most attractive feature of the whole proceedings was one which had been arranged and got up entirely by the boys themselves. This was a display of Chinese boxing. It is quite different from English boxing. In the latter, one's main object is to get at one's opponent and punch him out. But in China, the gentle art of self-defence is quite otherwise. Your main object is not to hurt your opponent, in the well-founded confidence that he will be equally careful not to hurt you. Hence a Chinese "boxing" contest between two people consists of a striking of attitudes, more or less threatening, a waving of arms and smiting of thighs (generally one's own), varied by certain kangaroo-like hops and flounders, sudden turns of the body, and alternate advances and retreats.

 Squad drill was performed under the direction of Mr. Liu Ching-seng, who is the professor of Chinese boxing employed by the Chin Wu Athletic Club in Wuchang. Mr. Liu comes from Shantung, but he has been three years in Shanghai and three in Hankow, and he came last year to reside in Wuchang, where he teaches his art in six or seven schools. Mr. Liu has two enthusiastic disciples in Wesley College, and in response to their request he has recently been giving some of his time to training a selected number of boys.

 Mr. Liu was kind enough to give a display by himself of one or two of the tricks of the trade. While Chinese boxing by no means comes up to the foreign idea of "sport," there is no question but that some of the feats shown to us must require considerable skill, which could only have been acquired by years of practice. Among these are the sword dance, in which the performer keeps two swords whirling around his head and limbs like Indian clubs, with long sweeps coming thrillingly near to his throat and other vital spots. Still harder than this is the display with a long steel chain, composed of thick and heavy links. Holding this by one end, Mr. Liu kept it whirling around his head, twisting about his neck and untwisting again, passing it beneath his whole body while he appeared to be lying at full length upon the ground, then again rising and making it describe figures around his body.

 At the close of the day, the medals were presented to the winners by Mrs. Thomas, the headmaster's wife.

JCS Nov 1999