Balancing Violence with Virtue of China

"When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave." This quotation(a quotation is a sentence or phrase taken from a book, poem, or play, which is repeated by someone else) is likely to bring a flood of memories to fans of the original TV series Kung Fu starring David Carradine. That show, and the rising star of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, lifted the veil from the secretive world of Chinese kung fu and propelled martial arts into mainstream American culture.

In following years, big stars like Jackie Chan in the 1980s and Jet Li in the 1990s inspired millions of Western boys to take martial arts training. And even though some of those boys grew up to create movies as popular as the animated Kung Fu Panda (2008), some Chinese believe that the film genre is merely capitalizing on people’s stereotyped impressions about gong fu (the Chinese system of self-defense that stresses circular rather than linear motion).

"Hong Kong films and some Hollywood films about kung fu are very well known, but what they have presented to audiences is a very limited portion of real kung fu culture in China," said Zeng Hairuo, director of the new documentary series Kung Fu. The ambitious project, which began shooting a few months ago, plans to finish over 100 episodes within five years.

In most Hong Kong(香港Xiānggǎng) kung fu films(功夫电影gōngfu diànyǐng), southern schools of martial arts such as Wing Chun, Praying Mantis, and Choy Li Fut (developed mainly in China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces) are used most frequently. Over time, this trend creates a problem. Zeng told Global Times, "Besides limited kung fu styles or schools, films usually either romanticize or exaggerate(if you exaggerate, you indicate that something is, for example, worse or more important than it really is) real kung fu and overlook the long-accumulated Chinese culture behind them."

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