Chinese Girl Athletes

Journal of Combative Sport December 1999

North China Herald, Shanghai, June 12, 1920, p. 685

 The Chin Woo Athletic Association [of Shanghai] has just published a very interesting anniversary volume containing  a history of the development of the Association as well as pictures descriptive of its history, development, and work.

 Covering more than 200 pages in Chinese, but little space has been allotted to the English portion. However, in the three pages reserved for the English section, the Board of Directors give a brief description of the Association's history, while Mr. S. S. Chow, the English secretary, has written a very able article on "The History of Chinese Kungfu" -- Kungfu, by the way, means boxing -- the art of which is mainly emphasized in the Association.

 The book, which is printed on white art paper and bound in foreign style, contains several hundred photos and pictures all of which are the work of the members. These show the beginning of the Association in its very humble quarters and go on to the present  modern buildings and the members playing all sorts of modern games. As stated, most of the photos were taken by the members and were also developed and printed by them in the Camera Department. The different movements of Chinese boxing are shown from the first to the last.

 Military drill is not forgotten. The pictures also show the companies at drill at bayonet practice, and using machine-guns.

 Not only are activities inside the club described, but the work of the members in various institutions and schools in Shanghai and outports are illustrated.

 Many different articles on the value of physical culture, written by girls as well as men, appear in the Chinese section of the book, which concludes with a complete list of members. It is remarkable that so big a book as this can be bound so well and printed on such fine paper and yet be sold for a little more than a dollar.
 Editor's note: The Chin Wu Athletic Association was established in Shanghai in 1919 by Huo Yuan-chia, formerly of Tientsin. Although organized along the same lines as a YMCA, the nationalism of its founders was Chinese rather than North American or European. Therefore its instruction included training in the Chinese martial arts rather than Swedish gymnastics or Canadian basketball.

 This was not the first such effort, however. For example, in 1904, Hsü Fu-lin and his coworkers Hsü Yi-ping and Hsü  Ch'eng-lieh opened a Chinese Physical Training School (Chung Kuo T'i Ts'ao Hsüeh Hsiao) in Shanghai. Hsü had trained in Japan, and his methods were Japanese versions of Swedish gymnastics. Although closed in 1927, the Physical Training School's 1,500 graduates included many future leaders of Chinese physical education programs. Between 1926 and 1931 novelist Hsiang K'ai-jan wrote some fictionalized popular accounts of this organization's leaders beating Russians, British, and Japanese in weightlifting, boxing, and judo contests.

 Meanwhile, in 1909, a jingwu tiyuhui, or police physical education society, is established in Shanghai for the purpose of training Chinese policemen in assorted traditional martial arts. The reason, Shanghai police historian Fred Wakeman Jr. wrote in 1955, was that "instruction in Chinese boxing, the ‘national art' (guoshu), which was seen as a way both of strengthening police ability to defend public order as well as converting ‘foreign ridicule' (waiwu) of Chinese physical weakness into admiration for their martial prowess. Although physical education had been associated with national salvation since the introduction of Prussian Türnen, this interest in guoshu may have had a lot to do with the fact that so many Chinese military and police officers had studied in Japan, where national martial arts forms (and especially judo) were seen to be linked with the nativist vigor of the Meiji Restoration and where ‘the greatest experts in these arts were to be found among police officials.'"

 Finally, the Shanghai Chinese YMCA organized a course in wushu in 1912. The reason was that the youths who came for self-defense lessons usually discovered that they liked the foreign games of volleyball, basketball, and baseball even better, and thus were amenable to Protestant proselytization.

JCS Dec 1999.