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Real Heroines

Female warriors and heroines still exists today.  In today's society, there are more opportunities for woman to achieve their full potential.  There are not barriers to education or limits to their professional careers that might have hindered their gender in the past.  Chinese martial arts has similarly adapted to encourage female participation. 

Martial arts represents one form of self-expression.  The same drive and dedication from the stories of the past now inspires a new generation of women. The martial arts offers women a means of training of body, the mind and the spirit.   The body is healthier through increased activity.  The mind is more peaceful because you can be more self-confident of your abilities and limits.  Enlightenment is achieved through quiet contemplation of your own self.  Chinese martial arts are an unique form of activity in that it combines all three elements.  This importance of this activity was recognized by heroines in the past and can still play an important role for the heroines of the future.

 
 Contents
 1.  Heroine
 2.  Ancient Times
 3.  Past
 4.  Art and Fiction
 5.  Real Heroines
 6.  Female Teachers
 7.  Actresses
 8.  Athletes

(Women holds up half the sky)

Looking for a new generation of women martial artists

The Ottawa Chinese Martial Arts Association firmly believes that women of all ages can benefit from proper training in the Chinese Martial Arts.  It is not only a worthwhile physical activity but there is also considerable social benefits.  Through this practice, you can appreciate and understand the rich cultural heritage represented by the Chinese Martial Arts.  Young girls can benefit from a structured training program that will provide them with the proper tools to deal with the difficulties of growing up.  Adults can take part to learn important self-defense skills and to further understand an important aspect of Chinese culture.  The older generation can take advantage of the proven health benefits of Chinese Wellness exercises.  Dedicated progressive martial arts training - that is the mission of Ottawa Kungfu!

Qui Jin

Qiū Jǐn (秋瑾; 1875 - 1907) was a Chinese anti-Qing Empire revolutionary, martial artist, feminist and writer. She was one of the first Chinese women to openly call for women's equal rights with men. This message was meet with open hostility and public persectuation. She was executed by the Qing government after a failed uprising.  Her earned her nick name, Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (鑑湖女俠 Jiànhú Nǚxiá), for her brave and heroic life.

Born in Minhou, Fujian Province, Qiu grew up in Shānyīn Village, Shaoxing Subprefecture, Zhejiang Province (浙江山陰). Qui Jin was the eldest daughter of a middle-class lawyer and a supportive enlightened mother.  She was allowed to educated in a classical traditional that included the reading of the Four classics as well as the martial arts.  Through her education, she developed considerable talent in writing poetry.  Since her youth, she was a avid reader of swashbuckling novels and often picture herself in the role of a knight-errant and woman warriors.  She learned to ride a horse, use a sword and she was proud of her ability to drink huge qualities of wine like the heroines of legends.  Her life long passion towards the martial arts will later become an recurring motif in her work. During this period, her poems generally involved themes about eulogies of Ming scholar warriors and Daoist-influenced celebration of flowers.  Her writings reflected a general joie de vivre that matches her ordinary contented life.

In 1903, Wang Zifang brought a post in the imperial bureaucracy and moved the family to Beijing, near the time of the occupation of the city during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.  This was the pivotal moment in the awakening of Qui Jin. Qui Jin was immediately exposed to the revolutionary and radical ideas that was pervasive in the nation's capital.  She became more receptive of those ideas after Wang Zifang declared his intention of taking a concubine. An act that normal at the time but seen by Qui Jin as an act of betrayal to all her years of discontent. Qui Jin experienced first hand the turmoils of the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxer's ideology must have appealed to her age old passion for the martial arts as a means of self expression and a tool for transformation. She begin to correspond with similar reform minded women such as Tang Qunying and Ge Jianhao (1865-1943). She begin to openly campaign for the rights of women. She pointed to the age old feudal practice of foot binding as a symbol of the oppression of women.  Foot binding involves permanently restricting the growth of a woman's feet through bondage for purely aesthetic reasons. Her views, like other reformers of the time, was meet with strong opposition by the conservative Chinese society.  

Near the end of 1903, she sold her jewelry and she left her family to join the group of exiled Chinese patriots who were campaigning for reform and even the overthrow of the Ching government.  On her way to Japan, she wrote:

...Unstrained wine never quenches the tears of a patriot;
A country's salvation relies on exceptional genius.
I pledge the spilled blood from a hundred thousand skulls
To restore the universe with all our strength.

In Japan, she lived for the next two years in relative poverty estranged from her husband, she was supported only by her mother and brothers.  She studied Japanese and enrolled at the Girls' Practical School with the intention of learning nursing and teaching.  She was active in the leading anti-Qing movement of the time, the Guāngfùhuì (光復會 "Revive the Light Society") lead by Cài Yuánpéi (蔡元培; 1986-1940) and the Tongmenghui (中國同盟會) organized by Sun Yat-sen (孫中山; 1866-1925).

In 1906, frustrated by the slow pace of reform, overwhelm by a sense of isolation from China, and constant harassment by the Japanese government, Qui Jin returned to China.  Her aim was to put her feminist and nationalist aspirations into direct action.  She founded a woman's journal, Chinese Women's News, in Shanghai together with the female poet, Xu Zihua (徐自华; 1873-1935) .   They used this magazine to educate the public on issues such as education, health care and self-sufficiency.   In 1907, she became the head of the Datong school (蒋璐霞), a middle school in Shaoxing, ostensibly a school for sport teachers, but really intended for the military training of revolutionaries.  Her aim was to prepare China for the coming revolution.  She was implicated in a failed uprising led by her cousin, Xu Xilin.  Qui was subsequently arrested, tortured and executed for her role.  During her torture, she wrote down the following lines on her confession paper: Qiufeng qiuyu chousharen (秋風秋雨愁煞人). This phrase can be translated as "Wind and drizzle in the fall, enough to make you a dreary soul.".  However, it is more of a pun on her name and shows that even under terrible circumstances, she maintained her pose and wit - like the heroines she loved. 

Qui Jin was sentenced to death and executed July 15, 1907. Receiving initially an ignominious burial.  When the Qing Dynasty was finally overthrown five years later, Qui Jin was reburied under the oversight of Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republic of China.  He acknowledged her officially as a heroine she had always sought to be.

The final line of her epitaph reads: "Not only under Southern Sung (Song Dynasty) were heroes lightly put to death ...all shall esteem (and) remember in their hearts her fiery heroism."

Her reputation and legacy is remembered through her heroic deeds as well as her emotional writings.  Throughout her work, she emphasis the heroic strength of women.  Those messages still resonate within us today.  Her life story has been featured in many books, films and documentaries.  The latest being the documentary drama by Rae Chang and Adam Tow entitled "Autumn Gem - the true story of the China's first feminist" (2009). 

Here are some examples of Qui Jin's writings.

1.  Man jiāng hóng 滿江紅 or Crimson Flooding into the River, is a bitter poem that laments Qui's feelings in an oppressive era of Chinese society. The poem written in the cí 詞 style which requires strict tonal patterns and rhyme schemes aw well as  in fixed numbers of lines and words. Man jiāng hóng is one of many types of cí, and all poems written in Man jiāng hóng style retain the same name, so there are many different poems titled Man jiāng hóng. Crimson Flooding into the River is an old cí from the Tang Dynasty written by Yue Fei, which sets out the word scheme that all following Mǎnjiānghóng poems would follow.

 滿江紅 Crimson Flooding into the River
 小住京華﹐ Just a short stay at the Capital
 早又是中秋佳節。 But it is already the mid autumn festival
 為籬下黃花開遍﹐ Chrysanthemums blooming everywhere.
 秋容如拭 。 Fall is soon arriving
 四面歌殘終破楚﹐ The infernal isolation has become unbearable here
 八年風味徒思浙。 I longed for my home after eight years
 殊未屑﹗ It is the bitter guile of them forcing us women into femininity.  We cannot win!
 身上得,男兒列。 Despite our ability, men hold the highest rank
心卻比,男兒烈。 While our hearts are pure, still is the men who are ranked
 算平生肝膽上因人熱。 My insides are afire in anger at such an outrage
 俗子胸襟誰識我﹖ How could vile men claim to know who I am?
 英雄末路當折磨。 Heroism is borne out of this kind of torment. 
To think that so putrid a society can provide no camaraderie,
 青衫濕! Brings me to tears!

Translated by Michael A. Mikita, III

2.  This is a poem written by Qui Jin that expresses the emotions of regret and longing. 

 见月 Viewing the Moon
 愁见帘头月影圆, In sorrow, I look through the curtain to the bright round moon
 思亲空剩泪潺湲。 Thinking of my parents, I can only shed useless tears.
 衔泥有愿誓填海, The grieving swallow struggles in vain using mud to fill the vast sea;
 炼石无才莫补天。 I, too, am helpless and overwhelmed.
湘水燕云萦旧鹿, The Xiang River and Northern clouds became tangled in old dreams;
碧山红树噪新蝉, Amid green hills and red trees young cicadas chirp.
十分调怅三分恨, Of ten parts melancholy, three parts are hatred;
往事思量只自怜。 Reminiscing about the past only brings self-pity.

3  Reply to Mr. Ishii's Request for a Poem Using the Same Rhyme (日人石井君索和即用原韻) describes her experiences in Japan and her longing to return and start her revolutionary struggles. 

 日人石井君索和即用原韻 Reply to Mr. Ishii's Request for a Poem Using the Same Rhyme
 漫雲女子不英雄, Don't tell me women cannot be heroes,
 萬裡乘風獨向東。 I have traveled alone over the vast East Seas.
 詩思一帆海空闊, My thoughts have expanded beyond the sea and sky
 夢魂三島月玲瓏。 I have dreamed of your Japan glimmering in the moonlight.
 銅駝已陷悲回首, Now I grieve to think of my China; Ashamed,
 汗馬終慚未有功。 that my struggles have not yet achieved success.
 如許傷心家國恨, My heart aches for my Homeland,
 那堪客裡度春風。 So how can I stay here as a guest, enjoying the Spring Winds?

4  This poem shows a typical martial arts flavor and also demonstrate her strength and resolve. 

 對酒 Right Wine
 不惜千金買寶刀, I will pay anything for a precious sword,
 貂裘換酒也堪豪。
 一腔熱血勤珍重,
灑去猶能化碧濤。

5  This was her last untitled poem written on July 12th, 1907.  She was captured by the Qing government one later, tortured and then executed three days later. 

 失题
Untitled Poem
大好时光一刹过, In the blink of an eye, the most opportune moment is over.
雄心未遂恨如何。 My bold ambition is not fulfilled, to my bitterest regret.
投鞭沧海横流断, We dropped our whips into the sea to measures the rolling waves.
倚剑重霄对月磨。 We raised our swords to the sky to sharpen them on the moon.
函谷无泥累铁马, The revolution is not yet ready.
洛阳有泪泣铜驼。 The Country can only weep with regret. 
粉身碎骨寻常事, I accept my fate - having my fresh turn to dust, my bones ground to powder.
但愿牺牲保国家。 I only hope my sacrifice will help to preserve our country.

6.  This is a poem featured in the documentary drama by Rae Chang and Adam Tow entitled "Autumn Gem - the true story of the China's first feminist" trailer.  I could not find the direct Chinese text.  So if you find it, please e-mail it to me!

 
Untitled unknown

Danger threaten our homeland.

Our country mournfully Weak

From the East the invasion continues

From the West plots further inclusions

Scholars thrown down your brushes

Maidens take up your arms

Who can save us?

Together we must hold back our despair.

Mok Gwei Lan, Wu Ying Hua, Sun Jian Yun and Chen Li Qing

There are many female martial artists who are like the heroines of the past -  keeping the martial art tradition alive.  Here are four internationally famous female martial artists who had dedicated their lives to the promotion of traditional Chinese Martial Arts.  They struggled and overcome the turmoils of their times and left behind a rich legacy. 

Mok Gwei Lan (莫桂蘭; 1890-1983) was born in Kao Yao, a small town near Canton. She was initially trained in her family style of Mok Gar and traditional Chinese medicine from her uncle. She later married Wong Fei Hung (黃飛鴻), studied Hung Gar (洪拳) and helped him at his school and clinic, "Po Chi Lam" (寶芝林).  She was also known for her skills at Lion dance and on special occasions, she lead her school in various Lion dancing competitions. Their student (李燦窩) is continuing the Po Chi Lam tradition even today. 
Wu Ying-hua (simplified Chinese: 吴英华; traditional Chinese: 吳英華; pinyin: Wú Yīnghuá ; 1907 - 1996) teaches Wu style Tai Chi Chuan. She was born in Beijing and died in Shanghai. She was the eldest daughter of Wu Chien-ch'uan, the best known teacher of Wu style Tai Chi Chuan.  In 1930, she married Ma Yueh-liang. Together, they continue the Wu style through the Chien-ch'uan Tai Chi Chuan Association (鑑泉太極拳社) in Shanghai.

Sun Jian Yun (孙剑云; 1913 - 2003)  was the daughter of the Sun Lu Tang (孙禄堂; 1861-1933).  She trained extensively with her father and became the leading proponent of her father's system of martial arts.  This include: Sun style Tai chi and Sun style Xingyi. 
Chen Li-Qing (陳立清; 1914-2008) in ChenJiaGou, Wen  County, Henan Province, PRC. and died in Xian. She is the daughter of Chen Hong-Lie. She also studied with her grandfather, Chen Chun-Yuan, and his friends.  She was strong proponent of the Xiaojia method of Chen Taijiquan.  She also demonstrated considerable skill in the use of the Da Dao (Kwan Dao) and the Chen Family "108" Long Boxing. She is also listed in the Big Frame lineage as a student of Chen Da-Lu, brother of Chen Fa-Ke. She is one of the first women, of her generation, in Wen county to attend college. She became a teacher of Chinese history and was later moved to Xi'an to teach and promote the art of Chen Taiji.