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Thread: General Tian Bubishi

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    Default General Tian Bubishi

    Wanted to share this illustration. It is from a colored Bubishi edition.
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    The writing on the illustration says:

    青龍出抓手勝 qinglong chu zhuashou sheng

    Blue Dragon sends out his claws (lit. grabbing hand) and wins

    丹鳳朝陽手敗 danfeng zhaoyangshou bai
    Cinnabar (=red) Phoenix [uses the] Sun-Facing Hand (=an upwards going attack) and loses

    This martial manual, Bubishi, was created by Ryukyuans who trained in Fuzhou City, Fujian, in the late 19th century. “Blue Dragon sends out his claws” and “Cinnabar Phoenix [uses the] Sun-Facing Hand” are names of techniques. Does anybody know of karate styles which still use these names?

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    I have this picture in a Goju Bubishi but it is not color.

    Is this saying the Goju Bubishi dates back to 19th Century. Dojo tradition is that it is older and probably came to Okinawa via Kumemura and the 36 families who first settled from China beginning in 1392. Not saying our Bubishi dates back to 1392 but it supposed to be older than 19th Century. But dojo history ...... What is more important a true accurate history or a fantastic story that feeds the fighting spirit. LOL


    In 1936 though Miyagi Sendai did say: In the meantime, there is the only opinion we can trust. It is as follows: In 1828 (Qing or Ching dynasty in China), our ancestors inherited a kungfu style of Fujian province in China. They continued their studies and formed Goju-Ryu karate. Even today, there still exists an orthodox group which inherited genuine and authentic Goju-Ryu karate."
    Ed Boyd

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    According to the research I conducted with my friend LKY the Bubishi could not have been compiled before the 1860’s.
    I agree with you that stories are inspiring, but truth (=history) have its own beauty, and it is empowering too. It makes you independent and free. Without disrespect to dojo traditions, which I myself cherish, truth takes you a step further, it makes you independent and free from relying (solely) on dojo traditions.

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    Hello,

    Do you know who was or is the owner of your colored "Bubishi"? Whom he/she get this "Bubishi" from?

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    Hi Henning
    This Bubishi was never mine. It belonged to Furuya Masato, aka Reverend Kensho Furuya (http://www.aikidocenterla.com/memorial/sensei.html ).
    It is now the property of Taiwan's Lion Books.

    Sincerely

    David

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    Hello David,

    Thank you for your promt answer! Based on your research on this colored "Bubishi", can you say (or guess) how old it is? Is it a more recent creation?

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    Thank you for your question!

    If I understand your question correctly you are asking whether the colored Bubishi was compiled later than those Bubishi editions which have been published. You might even be asking whether it was compiled sometime in 1930’s or 1940’s. Well, first of all, it is a very good question.
    It is possible that the colored Bubishi was compiled in post-traditional times (and by this I mean after 1912, that is, after the fall of China) but it is very unlikely. It was most probably compiled sometime between the 1860’s and 1890’s, but in order to give a precise date much more research is needed.

    My reasons (very briefly):

    1) Liu Kangyi have been collecting martial manuals for more than 20 years. According to the quality of paper he concludes that it is easily more than 100 years old.

    2) According to Bubishi expert Lu Jiangwei 廬姜威 the colored Bubishi is different than the two editions already popular in Okinawa. Thus, it is unlikely to be a simple copy of the other two. Lu Jiangwei, when comparing it to the other editions, found it to be authentic and independent edition.

    3) The colored Bubishi opens with an illustration of the deity General Tian (aka Busaganashi). The authors did not add this illustration because they thought it was cool, or because they were “superstitious”. Not at all. The authors of the Bubishi were most likely the Ryukyus’s most promising scholars, men who received Confucian education since birth. And Confucians were very critical of folk “religious” practices.
    Opening the manual with an illustration of this deity was in fact a lineage statement and an expression of gratitude, respect and filial piety towards the master who taught them. In post-traditional times, when much of the old customs being condemned or misunderstood, people did not add deity illustrations as often as they used to.

    4) And furthermore, after the fall of the Qing (and for various reasons) people started printing their martial manuals. Yet the colored Bubishi is hand written, and aside from one article it is never punctuated. This is how people wrote in traditional times. Later on, when people printed their manuals, punctuation was added.

    5) This colored Bubishi was a work of love (which is a very important aspect and I touch upon it in my research), which means that it was done when it was normal to love China. As you know, not long after WW1 Japanese become more and more hostile towards China, so that openly admiring China was not popular anymore. It was even dangerous (and this, I believe affected karate, which was basically Chinese, to a much greater extent than acknowledged today). Thus, taking the time to “re-compile” such obviously Chinese manual, in the 1930’s, for example, is very unlikely.

    6) This Bubishi includes the and-postures illustrations and herb illustrations of the kind which appear in ancient Daoist and medical works. This is another mark of traditional-times enterprise.

    7) The martial arts sections of the already-published Bubishi (but which are not included in the colored edition, but which I expanded upon in my research) suggest that it was not written before the 1860’s. Since the colored and not-colored Bubishi have much in common, and ruling out the possibility of it being written much later (for the reasons given above), then in most probability it was written in the second half of the 19th century too.

    But, as I said, much more research is needed. And I continue with it. That is one reason I posted here—I am trying to gather more information.
    So if you have any comments, input and of course, constructive criticism, I’ll be more than grateful to hear it.

    David

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    Hello David,

    Thank you for your answer! That someone took the time and effort to create coloured pictures for this work is reason enough to find it interesting. For me personally it is indeed interesting to know that it seems to be from the late 19th century. Therefore it is a very good source for comparison with the “Bubishi” versions or extracts published by Okinawan authors in Japan in the 1920ies and 1930ies.

    The picture introduced above reminded me of a similar “looking” photo from 1922. It shows G. Funakoshi (1868–1957) with a technique that he calls “Pressing the throat” (“nodo-osae” 咽抑). This is, of course, a Japanese appellation and certainly not “flowery”. In the description accompanying the photo he describes the attack with the simple Japanese verb “thrusting into” (“tsuki-komu” 突き込む). So, again he uses no “flowery” wording. I’m not trying to say that this photo or the technique described is directly related to your picture of the coloured “Bubishi”. It “looks” similar; however, the language used is different (“flowery” vs. “technically”). I marked the three main spots which are similar in both pictures, yet show some differences, too.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    On a more general note, I researched and translated (into German) a few of the earliest writings of Okinawan/Ryūkyūan fighting artists (there are really only a few). They certainly used Japanese as their language in order to express their ideas (already in the late 19th century, the “Bubishi” time). However, they also referred to Chinese sources (besides Japanese sources), which they translated into Japanese (grammar etc.). So while there certainly was a “love” for China, there was also a “love” for Japan …

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    “That someone took the time and effort to create colored pictures for this work is reason enough to find it interesting”

    Not “someone”, those men were not very different than you are; they were highly educated foreigners who fell in love with a foreign martial art. They put the Bubishi the same love and passion you put in your books.
    One of the reasons the Bubishi is so special is that it was compiled by educated men. This is special because most Chinese martial artists—the people who usually compiled such texts--were not very educated. And this education is reflected in the form and contents of the Bubishi. Confucian education entailed learning to draw too. These beautiful illustrations then are simply one expression of classical Chinese education.

    The nodo-osae picture is a beautiful piece of information. Thank you. With your permission I would like to use it.
    I’d say the technique in the picture shows uncanny resemblance to the technique in the illustration.

    Under Japanese occupation, which lasted 50 years, many Taiwanese learned to read and write the Japanese language. And they too wrote things in Japanese. But that was not necessarily an expression of love. The Japanese state was aggressive, exploitative and brutal. The minute they “pacified” the island they went after its primary forests and cut them down mercilessly (because they coveted the wood), they went after sulfur, after gold, what have you. And the Japanese state behaved in similar way in Korea, China and all of Southeast Asia. And there is no reason to believe that it behaved differently in the Ryukyus.
    Here is a Chinese testimony of the Ryukyus from 1697 (after less than a century of Japanese occupation):

    "The Ryukyus are just east of Min [i.e. Fujian] province. They lie closest to China. They are the weakest and the poorest. Merchant junks never go to trade with the Ryukyus because of its poverty and stinginess. Their king will pay tribute to other countries in order to increase trade.

    Other countries despise its poverty and weakness. They harbor no plans to invade or attack the Ryukyus. It is through this poverty and weakness that the Ryukyus maintain their security.

    Every three years, they lead an embassy to China, offering only sulfur and hides. They take with them all their currency, which is in the form of conch and clam shells. The conch shells can serve as horn, blown from atop the wall at daybreak. The clam shell cut in half can be sewed onto belts. In addition to these goods they also have paper fans and funnels made of such low quality that even the lowest laborers will not buy them. There is a common saying, in which goods of poor quality are said to be “made in the Ryukyus.” This bad craftsmanship did not just start today, for those of old said as much."( Macabe Keliher, Small Sea Travel Diaries: Yu Yonghe Record of Taiwan. Taipei: SMC Publishing Inc., 2004, pages 189-190. )


    Now, at the time of the Bubishi the Ryukyus were under occupation for 250 years, five times the occupation of Taiwan. Two-hundred and fifty years. Just three words, you spit them out in less than a second. Yet, do I really understand what 250 years mean? I don’t think so. I guess that after 250 years of brutal occupation Ryukyuans did indeed write in Japanese, but more of necessity than of love.
    At the same time the Japan was milking the Ryukyus China built for them impressive embassies, facilitated trade, and allowed the sons of the nobility to study in the best universities of Beijing and Nanjing. The relationship with China were, from the very beginning, very different. The story of 36 families and the emphasis on the contribution of the Kumemura Chinese are recounted for a reason—there was a genuine feeling towards China.

    One more thing: I practically admire Japanese culture. I trained in karate and Judo and did undergraduate (and first year of graduate) in Japanese history and language. But not all aspects of Japanese culture are pretty. The strange thing is, when you acknowledge the ugly side, you appreciate the beauty even more.

    Best

    David

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    A recent edition of possible interest. http://www.plumpub.com/kaimen/2016/bubishi/

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    Hello David,

    I completely agree with you that the ability of writing and creating such a work is a sign of education. My use us the word “somebody” is not meant in a belittling way. I simply don’t know the creator’s name, and I guess it is not given in the coloured “Bubishi” itself. Perhaps “anonymous creator(s)” is a better wording.

    If it is anonymous, it is unclear if the creator was Chinese, Okinawan, a fighting artist himself or perhaps a professional artist hired to create it as a kind of commissioned work.

    As for the Japanese language in Ryūkyū, the oldest known inscription using Japanese “kana” in Ryūkyū is from 1494. Even during the Satsuma occupation Chinese language appears to be the most important foreign language followed by Japanese. So it would be wrong to say that the use of Japanese language is a result of “brutal” oppression or something like that. Additionally it is important to know that some Ryūkyūans, who are known by name, went to Japan in order to learn specific Japanese fighting arts. Some of them also learnt from Chinese teachers so that they were educated in Japanese as well as Chinese fighting arts. At the end of the Ryūkyū kingdom there were three groups, one group was strictly against Japan (becoming a prefecture of Japan), a second group wanted to become part of Japan, and a third group was indifferent regarding China or Japan. Okinawan fighting artists can be found in each of the three groups.

    That the “Middle Kingdom” looked down to the surrounding neighbours is only logical. In the beginning they also looked down at the Japanese as “dwarfs” (“wo” 倭). So there is no reason why China should view the much smaller Ryūkyū different.

    My last question: does the English version of the coloured “Bubishi” contain any additional information that is not included in the Chinese version?

    I sent you a personal message with the photo.

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    Hi Henning

    First of all, thank you your post. I learned a lot! It’s pleasure to discuss martial arts with a fellow researcher.

    Occupation is, by definition, an action taken against one’s will. It never meant to benefit the Ryukyuans but simply (and quickly) to enrich Satsuma. I cannot see why Ryukyuans would like Japan and I’ll be happy to continue discussing it with you.

    For the Chinese tribute was a symbol. It symbolized its status as a great and benevolent patriarch. This was, generally speaking, the policy of the Chinese state. But the Chinese elite not necessarily held only notions of superiority. In the case of Japan, from the Ming onwards, there was also much admiration for Japan. See for example: SAGACIOUS MONKS AND BLOODTHIRSTY WARRIORS:
    Chinese Views of Japan in the Ming-Qing Period

    http://www.eastbridgebooks.org/monks_info.html


    The English version is a totally different book. It is way more comprehensive. But more importantly, it addresses questions Westerners are burdened with. It gives karateka tools which can assist them in adapting karate to their own culture and way of life.

    Thank you for the picture!

    And, thanks to you I found this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHuJ_2ixkAs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct2_La6czww
    Merry Christmas

    David

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    I would like to get back a little to the Blue Dragon and Red Phoenix. These have been termed “flowery imagery” by some karateka.
    I would like to explain the function of flowery (and sometimes even poetic) imagery. It was meant to be evocative (whereas nodo-osae, for example, is quite literal). So what did such instructions evoke?
    I cannot say exactly what “Blue Dragon sends out his claws” because it depends on the specific teacher which transmitted it, but I can point out the purpose on such imagery in general.
    For the Chinese “Blue Dragon sends out his claws” had a similar effect as, say “Man-with-no-name draws his gun” and “Indiana Jones cracks his whip” to a Westerner. The minute you hear “Man-with-no-name draws his gun” you go like “oh, I get it. I should perform this movement/technique in this manner. I should convey the same coolness under pressure and speed in drawing the gun, my movement should be small, prompt…” and you can go on and on.
    Usually, this imagery would also be accompanied with a specific sound (made by the teacher). The sound of, say, swallowing, spitting, cracking, sticking to something, also helps students in getting the right feel.
    We can say that such flower imagery plays a fundamental role in forming a fighter’s martial mindset. It is very important in Chinese gongfu, thus, not surprisingly, each and every one of the Bubishi’s 48 illustrations is accompanied by such flowery instructions.
    Nodo-osae, the way I see it, is more like the objective of the technique (“to press the throat”) rather than instructions on how to perform it. In my years of Shotokan and Kyokushin teachers did not use imagery-flowery names either. But it is possible that once they did. And this brings me to the political circumstances we spoke about earlier. It might be that in order to popularize karate on the Japanese mainland Karate pioneers (such as Funakoshi) effected many changes in karate, changes which were meant to make it less disagreeable to the Japanese. One such change might have been the re-naming of techniques and doing away with such Chinese-flavored imagery.

    What do you think?

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    Very interesting, thanx for sharing

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