5 – Folk religions, cultural heritage & health cultivation

PANEL 5 – FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: FOLK RELIGIONS, CULTURAL HERITAGE AND HEALTH

Local martial arts practices linked to the Chinese religious landscape as a means for cultural construction and national ideologies through processes of patrimonialisation, sportification and biopolitics. Daoism curative applications and the wen-wu polarity in the general categories of Chinese cosmology and politics. This panel is subdivided into two parts as panel 5a and panel 5b. 

SUB-PANEL 5a CONTEMPORARY CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS: TRADITIONAL CULTURE, HEALTH AND GLOBALISATION

Chinese martial arts, designated by the generic terms of wushu or gongfu in mandarin, can be observed in various forms nowadays. These terms refer to a large variety of heterogenous practices and meanings. In China, martial arts are often practiced within the population, through local networks consecrating the relationship between the master and his/her disciples. Through an initiation ritual, the initiate enters the lineage of his master and is therefore bound to the community by symbolic family ties. Individuals identify themselves with regard of their position in the lineage but also by their belonging to this community in contrast to other lineages. Besides, wushu also refers to an institutional discipline in which national and standardized new sets of routines – discursively constructed as being the continuity of traditional lineages – are often practiced as sport whether during competition or physical education classes. Although, the ritual relationship between master and disciple has been replaced by the sport’s ideology, practitioners identify their sport and the values it conveys by reference to an authentic Chinese culture. Finally, wushu is increasingly reaching an international diffusion resulting in some adaptation. In particular, the lineage ties between master and disciple or certain cultural artefacts included in wushu are unexpectedly synchronized in abroad, especially in certain African countries. Within these various transmission networks of martial arts techniques, a shared assumption is that martial arts provide self-defense, entertainment and self-cultivation (understood as both physical and mental health) to the practitioner. Martial arts benefits for health is a common element in both practitioners and institutions discourses. In China, this shared idea has been especially blooming since the Central Administration of Sport defined in 2016 a new direction for the national promotion of sport where the “physical health of the population” (quanmin jianshen) is at the center of this political project. In the last decade, the academic community in China and abroad undertook experimental researches to systematically survey the effect on the human body of martial arts exercises and especially taijiquan. Health is also a common discursive feature among international networks of practitioners as well as a vehicle for effective internalization. This panel will address the broad question of traditional Chinese culture and the process of identification within martial arts communities. It will reflect on how notions of lineage, brotherhood, and health cultivation are mobilized as a means to convey what is thought as an authentic Chinese culture. Starting from the construction of identity within martial arts local communities in China, the panel will explore the various representations of traditional Chinese culture as discourses and meanings are reconfigured within sport-oriented practices, globalized networks of practitioners and in experimental research in the field of Health Sciences.

SUB-PANEL B CULTURALISING CHAN BUDDHISM AND DAOISM CURATIVE APPLICATION

This panel will, first, highlight the Shaolin’s martial arts characteristic in the specific context of its patrimonialisation, and analyse to what extent both Chan Buddhism and the Temple’s fighting practices can be regarded as “culture” instead of “religion”. Second, it will explore the ritual traditions of communal religion in Southern China that are often characterised by a dual structure of “civil” (wen) and “martial” (wu) components, and the spiritual dimension of martial arts inspired by Daoist ritual and alchemical exercises and their curative applications.

    • Discussants: Georges Favraud (LISST, Toulouse Jean-Jaurès University/CNRS) & Laurent Chircop-Reyes (GEAS, FU Berlin/CECMC, EHESS/IrAsia, AMU)

Discussion (panels 5a & 5b merged) 

PRESENTATIONS

  • Pierrick Porchet (University of Geneva) – Re-Appropriating Traditional Chinese Culture within the Wushu Elite Sport Context: Continuity and Rupture

Abstract

The creation of a competitive sport framework for Chinese martial arts introduces a paradigm shift in regard to the traditional transmission framework. Martial knowledge is no longer legitimized by the figure of the “master” but rather by national standards and regulations. Individuals are no longer bound by symbolic ties within a specific lineage but rather by the instrumental purpose of their training within a sport team. However, the sport disciplines are discursively construct as being in the continuity of the traditional framework. More surprisingly, actors in sports team also share narratives of lineage and brotherhood which they identify as a core value of Chinese traditional culture. Through the ethnographic study of Beijing elite wushu team, this paper will discuss the articulation of values identified as authentically Chinese in the context of modern and competitive sport.

Keyword: Chinese Martial Arts, Health, Sport, Traditional Culture, Globalization.

Contact

Pierrick.Porchet@unige.ch

Video presentation


  • Wang Hongwei (Beijing Normal University) – The Construction of Identity in Folk Martial Arts Community: How Individual Identity Becomes Collective Identity

Abstract

Individuals, within Chinese folk martial arts communities, identify themselves by differentiating their own martial arts lineage from other communities. The integration’s process of an individual within the community is based on his social capital, his corporal techniques and the ritual of initiation. Once fully integrated, the communal identity provides the initiate with a strong sense of belonging. Based on the ethnography of bamenquan lineage in Gansu province, this paper will discuss the process of identity building in Folk Chinese martial arts.

Contact

13919437131@163.com

Video presentation


  • Zhang Jianwei (Beijing Normal University) – Taijiquan and Health Sciences

Abstract

In recent years, researches lead by Health Sciences’ scholars around the world have shown the benefits of taijiquan practice for both mental and physical health. These researches highlight how taijiquan can be considered as a cultural artifact to be used for public health improvement. Based on the review of experimental studies in the field of Health Science, this paper will outline some of the benefits of taijiquan on the human body and mind.

Contact

13161615533@163.com

Video presentation


  • Li Cuihan (Beijing Normal University) – The Notion of Martiality in Zhuang People Traditional Sports

Abstract

The Zhuang Autonomous Region of Guangxi – located in southern China – is populated by a variety of ethnic groups with distinctive languages, religions and social customs which highlight the rich and diverse cultural landscape of the region. Among these various ethnic groups, Zhuang people hold traditional festivals during which individuals display their physical strength, braveness and tenacity through combat related practices. These practices – often categorized as traditional sports – feature narratives related to folk religions such as animism. This paper will explore how these practices and the values they convey can be understood as martial spirit. Moreover, through the ethnographic description of Zhuang traditional sports, it will reflect on the relationship between Zhuang culture system of beliefs and the broad notion of “martiality”.

Contact

cuihan2007@163.com

Video presentation

 


  • Li Xiongfeng (Beijing Normal University, China) – Sacred and Mundane: The “KaiGuangDianJing” ritual in lion dance performances and its various modes of representation.

Abstract 

In recent years, the Chinese lion dance ritual has been increasingly simplified and standardized as it has become a sport activity and a secular activity. Indeed, profound changes happened in the Chinese cultural landscape these last decades including in rural area where lion dance was once very popular. Spiritual beliefs are progressively replaced by rational and secular modes of representations. Moreover, economic success has become the main concern in social life. Through the field investigation of the “KaiGuangDianJing” ritual, this paper will explore the process by which this specific ritual of the lion dance has developed from religion and folk believes and is now re-articulated within simplified forms in a secular context.

Bio & contact

LI Xiongfeng is a PhD candidate at the College of Physical Education and Sports of Beijing Normal University. His research focus on the theory and practice of folklore sports and especially the lion dance. His research investigates the lion dance historical development and its status in contemporary society.

649190168@qq.com

Video presentation


  • Giles Yeates (Oxford Brookes University) – Daoist Spirituality, Martial Arts & Healthcare: An Interdisciplinary Journey of Translation and Application

Abstract

This talk presents an overview of an interdisciplinary programme of research over the last 3 years, involving clinical neuropsychologists, physiotherapists, a Daoist theologian, taiji instructors, and survivors of stroke and other forms of acquired brain injury. Taiji has a strong evidence-base in neuro-rehabilitation, with replicated physical and psychological gains for practitioners following their brain injury. However it has been primarily conceived as an ‘internally-empty’ physiotherapy intervention by researchers, and not adapted for bespoke needs in survivors. Our research aims to translate the Daoist concept of Neidan or ‘inner alchemy’ into constructs that are accessible to Western perspectives and which can be operationalised in both research design and clinical application. Related constructs of Flow State Experience and Liminality have been positioned in dialogue with Daoist frameworks to both a) explain the simultaneous physical/psychological benefits of taiji, and b) adapt the learning and practice of taiji for diverse physical, cognitive and psychological needs of brain injury survivors. We will present both quantitative and focus group qualitative date from the results of a pilot 6 month weekly-taiji group for this population, and outline the plan for the next phase of our research.

Bio & contact

Dr Giles Yeates, Clinical Neuropsychologist & Wudang Taiji/Kung Fu Instructor. Movement, Occupation and Rehabilitation Sciences (MOReS), Oxford Brookes University.

drgilesyeates@gmail.com

Video presentation 


  • Joan Listernick (Boston University) – Tai Chi Forms Designed to Treat Depression

Abstract

 This presentation will intervene in the debate about the effectiveness of tai chi forms tailored for specific illnesses. It will do so by analyzing two new forms for depression created by contemporary American teachers: Dr. Aihan Kuhn and Dr. Albert Yeung. In the efforts to bring tai chi to the West, one movement has been toward simplification, as in the 12-week tai chi protocol developed by Dr. Peter Wayne.  While tai chi came to the West as a holistic approach to personal development and health, and was never designed as a treatment for a specific disease, it is currently undergoing a rapid evolution.  One aspect of this evolution is the development of tailored forms specially designed to benefit patients with specific medical conditions. Many studies have tested tai chi as an adjunct to medication to treat depression. Just as Jian  Kong et al. in their  2019 article, “Treating Depression with Tai Chi: State of the Art and Future Perspectives,” have asserted that research needs to compare the effects of simplified tai chi with traditional tai chi, I argue that  studies are needed to compare the effectiveness of tailored forms with non-tailored forms.  Would tailored forms  better fit into a Western perspective on treating illness and therefore be more readily assimilated into the Western health care system? Do they provide improved  outcomes for the conditions targeted? What is lost in the process of simplification or targeting? What about the usefulness of such forms for patients with  co-morbidities? Do tailored forms “treat” one illness, but have less effectiveness in preventing the onset of other illnesses? The analysis of the creation and dissemination of tailored forms is significant for understanding the history and development of tai chi.

Keywords: tailored forms; depression; tai chi.

Bio & contact

Joan Listernick is an instructor in French at Boston University and a student in Dr. Peter Wayne’s teacher-training program for tai chi. She has been studying tai chi at the Tree of Life Center run by Dr. Wayne for the past 17 years and expects to be certified to teach this Spring. Her doctorate in Romance Languages (French) is from Boston College and her undergraduate degree is from Harvard College in the same field.  She also holds a master’s degree in public health from Boston University. In addition, she has completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Divinity School.

listerjb@icloud.com

Video presentation