Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Summer Reading: Shui Hu Chuan

Shui Hu Chuan (水滸傳) is considered one of the major classics in Chinese Literature. It is known in English under several titles: The Water Margins, Outlaws of the Marsh, and All Men Are Brothers. The image to the right was created by Miguel Covarrubias for the Pearl S. Buck translation.

My instructor spoke of this book often as a "must-read" for martial artists. The same for his instructor, and HIS instructor. For many years, I've toyed with this book but have never made it all the way through. The Buck translation (All Men Are Brothers), while it was the first English translation, is not a stirring read in my opinion. I have since found the Shapiro translation (Outlaws of the Marsh) to be far more entertaining, despite its flaws with the English language.

Since I am only halfway through the book, I can't comment much, except to say that is a great adventure novel with themes of loyalty and virtue throughout. There is a good deal of talk about fighting and violence, with a good deal of humor as well.

This weekend, I read the chapter telling the tale of Wu Song. Wu Song, who becomes the village hero after killing a dangerous tiger with his bare hands, is later exiled as a criminal for avenging the death of his brother. During his exile voyage, his guards are coerced into murdering him. Wu Song, while wearing a yoke and manacles, manages to defeat his enemies and break free.

Upon reading this, I stopped. The name of Wu Song was familiar to me, but I couldn't remember why. Later, the phrase "Wu Song Breaks the Manacles" bounced in my head, and with a little help from Google, I found this:

Obviously, the form represents a bound man fighting several people. Neat! This form was also featured in an edition of Kungfu Magazine, which is probably where I read about it originally.

Just wanted to share this with everyone.
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