Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology

Abstract - Chinese guó shù (國術 “national art”) in Shaolin Temple

Background. The Shaolin monastery offers a meeting with Chinese culture by implementing a guo shu, program that the Chinese government supports and helps develop. Guo shu, implemented during the republican era in China supported the development of national arts, including Chinese martial arts. It was developed to rebuild a sense of patriotism and national pride in the Chinese nation after the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion.
Problem and Aim. The purpose of this paper is to present the new challenges that the Shaolin monastery has faced in modern times and how is it currently implemented based on the guo shu concept. Because the Shaolin monastery is also seen as a great emissary of the culture of the Middle Kingdom, students also have the opportunity to get acquainted with Chinese culture.
Methods. The theoretical perspective is based on the sociology and anthropology of martial arts. For the theoretic background, an analysis of specialist text and documents was applied. The author also applied participant observation and interviews with foreign Shaolin kung fu students, visiting Shaolin temple in 2007, 2012.
Results. For students from Europe and the United States some changes and regulations had to be made (eg. learning the Chinese language, calligraphy classes). Chinese teachers are not only martial artists, but also act as emissaries of Chinese culture.
Conclusions. Shaolin returned to the teaching concept previously implemented by Jingwu and the National Academy of Skills. Currently, the Shaolin Monastery is a brand, that promotes the new Chinese guo shu and sends a strong message about the potential of China to the world: it is no longer the “sick man of Asia”.