chapter  5
16 Pages

Projecting the ‘Chineseness’: Nationalism, Identity and Chinese Martial Arts Films

ByFilms Lu Zhouxiang, Qi Zhang, Fan Hong

Renan argued that ‘a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle’.1 This soul or principle is constituted by two elements: a legacy of remembrances and the will to continue to value such heritage. Wushu has long been regarded as one of the most important elements of Chinese culture. From its very beginning, Chinese nationalism was tightly bound to Wushu. In the 1890s, the rapidly developing network of Wushu clubs united Chinese people against the foreign aggressors and gave birth to the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901). After the 1911 nationalist revolution, Wushu was recognised by most of the Chinese as a basic means to ‘preserve the nation’ and ‘preserve the race’. The government, educationalists and the general public supported the widespread promotion of Wushu as a means to encourage individual fitness and aid national defence.2 The nationwide development of Wushu in the Republic of China era (1912-1949) revealed the extent to which the nation’s soul and spiritual principle were valued and preserved by its people. In the following decades, Wushu successfully reinforced its place as one of the most important cultural images of the Chinese nation. Its relationship with Chinese nationalism has been fortified over the course of time.