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Martial Hero

wuxia kung fu martial chinese manhua chi qi dianxue sifu shifu

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#41 GhostDancer


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Posted 17 August 2016 - 06:16 AM

The Sword of Goujian- The Ancient Chinese double-edged straight sword untarnished after 2700 years  https://m.thevintagenews.com/2016/07/26/goujian-ancient-chinese-sword-defied-time-2/

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#42 Cancer


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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:05 PM

I keep misreading this thread title as "Marital Hero" and think it's sinking into a miasma of a regurgitated Jane Austen story.
... abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.

#43 Nolgroth


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Posted 18 August 2016 - 01:24 AM

Some excellent stuff in here. I've written up quite a few martial arts on these boards over the years. Most notably the Fighting Arts of the Spartans (based on the action scenes in 300) and the Halfling Wardance, the martial art of the little folk.

Don't forget your Blademaster forms from Wheel of Time. Good stuff there.
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#44 Amorkca


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Posted 19 August 2016 - 01:18 PM

Don't forget your Blademaster forms from Wheel of Time. Good stuff there.


Is there a link to these?

#45 GhostDancer


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Posted 01 October 2016 - 08:31 AM

Mandarin 武俠 ‎(wǔxiá, martial hero).  A genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists.


The world of the wuxia is different from that of society.  The wuxia operates in a realm under the surface of society and the rule of law, called jianghu - a world made up of individuals and their relationships, rather than the collective and the government.  -Ang Lee, 2001


The jianghu (literal meaning: lakes and rivers) is the milieu, environment, or sub-community, often fictional, in which many Chinese wuxia stories are set.


In modern Chinese culture, jianghu is commonly accepted as an alternative universe coexisting with the actual historical one in which the context of the wuxia genre was set. 

Even during periods of stability, neither the Imperial Court in the capital nor local governments could be relied on to protect the interests of the commoners. Travelling performers, itinerant traders and wandering craftsmen who spend most of their time "on the road" came to see their world as separate from those governed by legal authorities.

For those "on the road", the powers that matter most were petty strongmen who controlled local patches of turfs. Some of the strongmen were landed gentries or temples whose powers were derived from legal ownership of farmlands and villages. Others were bandits who claimed control over stretches of wilderness, mountain roads or riverways - any legal authorities present, if any, were too weak to contest the controls.

Integral to jianghu is the smaller circle of martial arts practitioners usually including the protagonists called wulin.


Wulin (武林) is a term referring to the smaller microcosm within jianghu. Inhabitants of wulin are clearly differentiated from those within jianghu, in that they all know some form of wushu or martial arts. And the way to differentiate the good from the bad within wulin is the code of xia, those who adhere to it are good, those who do not are bad.

The standard of morality within wulin is less vigorous than that in jianghu or in the historical setting. It is common to split wulin into black and white "ways", denoting the criminous and virtuous. Killers, murderers and those less scrupulous belong to the "black way" would live in wulin with a bad reputation, until someone would right their wrongs. 



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#46 Nolgroth


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Posted 01 October 2016 - 08:48 AM

Is there a link to these?


Sorry I did not see this earlier. Sadly, I once had much of that saved to disk. That was about four hard drives ago (at least) and I doubt that I backed it up to CD or DVD. I'll check through my archives so see if I can find it. We had a very lively discussion about the Wheel of Time setting and magic system. It was pretty over the top, but the blademaster forms were very grounded.


I'll see what I can find, if anything.

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#47 GhostDancer


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Posted 01 October 2016 - 11:54 AM

HK Martial Arts Cinema
by David Bordwell

The "wuxia pian," or film of martial chivalry, is rooted in a mythical China, but it has always reinvented itself for each age. Like the American Western, the genre has been reworked to keep in touch with audiences' changing tastes and to take advantage of new filmmaking technology. Yet at the center it retains common themes and visceral appeals.

In Japan, only members of the samurai class could carry a sword, but in ancient China both aristocrats and commoners could become professional swordsmen. Since the land was ruled by rival warlords, an unattached fighter could become a killer for hire. This sordid reality became glamorized in the wuxia tales which became popular after the ninth century AD. Like the Arthurian legends of Europe, the wuxia promoted a conception of knightly virtue. The roaming hero was not only strong and skillful; he or she also had an obligation to right wrongs, especially when the situation seemed dire. The hero fought for yi, or righteousness - not for rights in the abstract, or for society as a whole, but for fairness in a particular situation - usually, seeking retribution for a past wrong. Here political history becomes crucial. China has had an unhappy history of corrupt and tyrannical regimes, dislodged only by court intrigue and assassination. Since civil society could not guarantee the rule of law, the wuxia knight-errant became the central hero of popular imagination. He or she was an outlaw who could deliver vengeance in a society where law held no sway. The revenge motive took on moral resonance through the Confucian scale of obligations: the child owes a duty to the father, the pupil to the teacher. The wuxia plot often presents a struggle between social loyalty and personal desires, as when in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Li Mu-bai's final mission to avenge the death of his teacher prevents him from simply retiring from the Giang Hu world to live with Shu-lien.

Wuxia characters and plots entered Peking Opera in the nineteenth century, where dazzling acrobatics added to their impact. Wuxia novels, often serialized in newspapers and running to hundreds of pages, became mass literature in Shanghai shortly thereafter. As Chinese filmmaking emerged in the 1920s, screenwriters drew stories from martial arts plays and novels, building scripts around both male and female adventurers. (Most Westerners are surprised to find how central women warriors are the wuxia tradition.) The epic Shanghai film "Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery" (1928), released in eighteen parts, became a progenitor of the fantasy film. Using flying daggers and wirework, it employed over 300 martial artists. The genre grew during the interwar years, both on the mainland and among the emigré companies of Hong Kong. When Mao's 1949 revolution dictated new cinema policies, Hong Kong and Taiwan held a monopoly on wuxia filmmaking.

To serve Hong Kong's large Asian market, films were made in both Cantonese (the local Chinese dialect) and Mandarin (the more widely spoken dialect). Cantonese wuxia pian of the 1950s and early 1960s emphasized magic and fantasy. Warriors soared endlessly, swords and daggers turned to fire, and fighters' hands could emit jagged bolts of lightning to stun their opponents ("palm power"). The plots were sketchy and the special effects were crude (sometimes scratched directly on the film negative), but the supernatural films established some permanent techniques of the genre. Reverse-motion shooting created impossible stunts, like leaping onto a roof. Hidden trampolines launched fighters into the air, and strong wires kept them aloft. On the soundtrack, thunderous whooshes underscored leaps and blows.

In reaction to the Cantonese fantasy films there emerged the "new wuxia pian," a school of more realistic swordplay films influenced by Japanese movies and a younger generation of martial arts novelists. Filmed in Mandarin and produced by big studios like Shaw Brothers, these tales didn't shy away from giving their warriors astonishing abilities, but the supernatural aura vanished. Now feats were presented as things which could be executed by a very disciplined fighter. In "The Jade Bow" (1966), the hero and heroine pursue ninja-like assassins over rooftops with a fluidity that seems only a slight exaggeration of natural human grace. Women warriors remained central to the tradition, but now they were given opportunities to contrast their styles with men's. Cheng Pei-pei became famous and known as the "Queen of wuxia pian" for her roles in "Come Drink with Me" (1966) and "Golden Swallow" (1968). In "Fourteen Amazons "(1972), when an army's generals are massacred, their widows take up arms to avenge them in spectacular combat sequences.

The Mandarin wuxia pian also intensified realism by focusing not on aristocrats but on commoners, tormented heroes and heroines driven by ambition or revenge or devotion to justice and undergoing extreme physical suffering. Zhang Che quickly built a reputation for his sadomasochistic swordplay dramas, emblematized in his "One-Armed Swordsman" (1967) and "New One-Armed Swordsman" (1971). In contrast were the delicate, lyrical masterworks of King Hu. Hu brought the energy and finesse of classical Chinese theater and painting to the new swordplay movie. His films lingered on breathtaking landscapes, treated swordfights as airborne ballets, and created a gallery of reserved, preternaturally calm warriors who fought not for prestige or vengeance but to preserve humane values. Perhaps the most famous scene in all the new wuxia pian comes midway through Hu's "A Touch of Zen" (1971), where a combat unfolds in a quiet bamboo grove. Although fighters clash in midair, hurling themselves from spindly branches high above the ground or dive-bombing one another in a flurry of fast cuts, the overall impression is of poise - the sheer serenity of perfectly judged physical movement.

Swordplay films fell out of favor in the mid-1970s as kung-fu swept the world and gave the Hong Kong film industry a cheaper genre to exploit. Still, there were efforts to revive the wuxia pian. Patrick Tam's brooding "The Sword" (1980) reflected Japanese influence. Action choreographer Ching Siu-tung turned to directing, and created a supple, modern flying swordplay style in "Duel to the Death" (1982). At a less spectacular level, the great Shaws kung-fu director Lau Kar-leung turned to wuxia swordplay in his comedy "Shaolin vs. Ninja" (1978) and especially in "Legendary Weapons of China" (1982), a virtual anthology of wuxia devices, both magical (a magician controls a fighter from a distance by manipulating a doll) and historical (the final fight scene displays over a dozen weapons and fighting techniques).

Above all, it was producer-director Tsui Hark who spearheaded the revival of all manner of wuxia. Tsui's first film, "The Butterfly Murders" (1979), enhanced swordplay with futuristic weaponry, and he went on to revive fantasy swordplay in his dazzling, flamboyant "Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain" (1983), for which he imported Hollywood special-effects experts. He went on to team with Ching siu-tung for the trailblazing "Chinese Ghost Story" (1987), which melded supernatural swordplay, horror, comedy, and romance. With its bisexual ghost and animated skeletons, "A Chinese Ghost Story" triggered a fashion for flamboyant, almost campy swordplay fantasies. Tsui knew a good thing when he saw it. His productions "The Swordsman I" (1990) and "Swordsman II: The East Is Red" (1992), "Green Snake" (1993), and other hits relied on gender-bending transformations, outrageous aerobatics, thundering music, and stunning set designs. They also showcased Brigitte Lin, Jet Li, Joey Wang, Maggie Cheung, and other popular stars of the period.

                 ashesoftime.jpg     ZuWarrior.jpg       dongfangbubai.jpg      

Like all Hong Kong cycles, the updated fantasy wuxia wound down, and a new trend surfaced. Under Tsui's auspices Yuen Wo-ping, one of the great kung-fu choreographers and directors, made "Iron Monkey" (1993), a mixture of kung-fu and swordplay that was also grounded in the reality of traditional techniques. Daniel Lee's fascinating "What Price Survival?" (1994) featured classic wuxia performers in an enigmatic tale pitting Japanese and Chinese swordsmen against one another. Tsui himself revisited the 1960s grittier wuxia pian tradition in "The Blade" (1995), a savage and tumultuous tale in which a one-armed swordsman avenges his wounding and his father's death. Most important was Wong Kar-wai's "Ashes of Time" (1994), told in laconic dialogues over wine, splintered flashbacks, and strobe-pulsed fight scenes, all awash in a melancholic score. Ashes offers a poetic meditation on the wuxia tradition itself, as old fighters brood over their wasted lives, mourning the youth and loves they have lost.

A "xia" is a knight-errant, who might come from any class, and wuxia involves knightly chivalry. The Chinese concept of the knight-errant originates the fourth century BC, but chivalric stories as we know them today go back to the T'ang dynasty, around the ninth century AD. Some were literary efforts composed by men of learning, others were oral tales and ballads in colloquial prose or simple verse. By the seventeenth century, these forms had become a flourishing fictional genre concentrating on vagabond warriors who display outstanding courage, honor, and fighting skills. Magical elements had also entered the mix, so knights were often given superhuman powers  - flying, hurling balls of fire, becoming invisible. Many stories played on the boundary between pure fantasy and what might be barely possible for a supremely trained and gifted warrior -  not really flying but the "weightless leap"; not being invulnerable but being able, through control of breathing, to make one's body as hard as iron. To enjoy the wuxia tale we must grant that supreme skill in martial arts could give a fighter extraordinary powers.

The Chinese martial tradition, a bit like Chinese cuisine, presents astonishing variety. The country is so vast, and its local fighting traditions so diverse, that a well-stocked armory indicates a frightening range of ways to inflict damage on other humans.

Central to the wuxia mythology is the sword. Chinese distinguish between double-bladed ones, calling them swords proper, and single-bladed ones, which regardless of size and design are usually called knives. There are broadswords like the Green Destiny Sword in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and lighter sabre-like swords, as well as heavy cutlass-like blades (often pierced with rings to snag the opponent's weapon and to distract the opponent with their clanging). Shorter swords are often used in pairs, such as the so-called "butterfly swords," and the emei, or blades with arrow-like points at each end.

Western fans often assume that the exotic weaponry on display in wuxia films is an invention of moviemakers, but very often it comes from tradition. The simple staff, which may be as long as seven feet, can also have one or two joints (making it useful for delivering a hard, swinging blow or for enclosing an opponent's arm). Bruce Lee popularized the short jointed staff, best known by its Japanese name, nunchaku. Whips may be sectional as well. Spears come in a dazzling variety of shapes, including the jagged-edged "snakehead" spear and the hook-spear. Spears often have colorful tassels or feathers which distract the opponent from the blade's maneuvers. There are hand axes, hammers with heavy spherical heads, and heavy cudgels with bulbous, gourd-shaped heads. For throwing there are darts and arrows, razor-edged stars and boomerang-style blades, and the infamous "flying guillotine," a rattan basket with an opening lined with knives. During the 1960s and 1970s, many wuxia pian built their plots around the sheer variety of Chinese arms. Zhang Che's "New One-Armed Swordsman," for instance, gave the villain a two-jointed staff, the secondary protagonist a pair of heavy butterfly swords, and the main protagonist a single light broadsword, so the combat was not only among fighters but among weapons and techniques.

DAVID BORDWELL is a Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his many books include On the History of Film Style and the recently published, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment.



Ang Lee: The Wuxia is a particularly Chinese type of hero (or heroine). Wu means martial, and a rough equivalent for xia in Western culture would be knight-errant. Unlike the knight-errant, however, the Wuxia is a free spirit, not belonging to any class. In the world of the Wuxia, the most important values are honor, loyalty and individual justice.

These qualities became ideals, and the Wuxia became a mythical, larger than life hero in the Chinese imagination. By the Ching Dynasty, in the 18th and the 19th centuries. Wuxia fiction was very popular. The story of the Wuxia became a fantasy of power, romance and moral duty ­ embodied by Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien in "Crouching Tiger."

As the genre developed, the Wuxia character became a more independent figure, often serving the basic principles of honor and justice themselves, rather than a particular master. In this respect, the Wuxia is not unlike the familiar Western hero ­ the lone cowboy riding into town to exact justice and right wrongs. The world of the Wuxia is different from that of society. The Wuxia  operates in a realm under the surface of society and the rule of law, called Giang Hu. A world made up of individuals and their relationships, rather than the collective and the government. These relationships can exist entirely outside of the law. For example, the Wuxia can be a member of an underground, Mafia-type organization, but loyalty and honor are still the main values. In serving a master, the Wuxia keeps his or her word, even to the point of death. (Today, the term Giang Hu has a broader meaning, referring to the entanglements of life and relationships in a society).

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#48 Balabanto


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Posted 18 October 2016 - 02:05 PM

What this means is that if you're not following my Imperial Throne Process Thread, you should be. 



Hang onto your Hats, True Believers! Because the Brawling Balabanto is back in action. Many of you have forgotten how to say Excelsior! So I will say it for you!

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#49 GhostDancer


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Posted 21 October 2016 - 07:09 AM

Virtuoso music performance Ambush from Ten Sides https://www.youtube....?ci=eP589a780w0

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#50 GhostDancer


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Posted 01 November 2016 - 01:10 PM

Old photo of warrior monk!

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#51 GhostDancer


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Posted 02 November 2016 - 06:17 AM

Here's an informative, entertaining link related to the old photo above and the Japanese warrior monk, the sohei http://jp.learnoutlive.com/the-sohei/

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#52 GhostDancer


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Posted 02 November 2016 - 06:57 AM

Japan's monastic warriors have fared poorly in comparison to the samurai, both in terms of historical reputation and representations in popular culture. Often maligned and criticized for their involvement in politics and other secular matters, they have been seen as figures separate from the larger military class. However, as Mikael Adolphson reveals in his comprehensive and authoritative examination of the social origins of the monastic forces, political conditions, and warfare practices of the Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333) eras, these monk-warriors(sohei) were in reality inseparable from the warrior class. Their negative image, Adolphson argues, is a construct that grew out of artistic sources critical of the established temples from the fourteenth century on. In deconstructing the sohei image and looking for clues as to the characteristics, role, and meaning of the monastic forces, The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha highlights the importance of historical circumstances; it also points to the fallacies of allowing later, especially modern, notions of religion to exert undue influence on interpretations of the past. It further suggests that, rather than constituting a separate category of violence, religious violence needs to be understood in its political, social, military, and ideological contexts.Sohei.jpg

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#53 GhostDancer


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Posted 02 November 2016 - 08:51 AM

Japanese history is replete with monks and priests who were very skilled martial artists, and there was this interesting "revolving door" between the ranks of nobility (and later the ranks of bushi) and ordained life. The Katori Shinto Ryu, for example, is one of the oldest existing ryu, still centered at Katori Shrine in Ibaragi prefecture, practices sword, spear, naginata, shuriken, shinobi (!), siegecraft, and some other stuff. The Hozoin temple near Nara was another famous center of martial study in medieval Japan; it is said that Musashi went there to challenge / get a lesson from the abbot Innei who had developed a wicked spear style.


[Most] sohei were more like goons or mooks that lived in the temple and did dirty work, than warriors. They lifted heavy things, cleaned crap, dealt with dead animal carcasses, that sort of thing. There was a period of time when the temples and shrines used strongarm tactics to maintain political leverage and prevent taxes from being levied on their lands - they would send sohei into town to be a nuisance, in some cases to get a little out of control and cause a situation, and in a few really entertaining cases they would cart a sacred artifact or statue down the mountain and just leave it in the streets until the townspeople were so freaked out by this god sitting around possibly getting angry that they would entreat the nobles to relent to the temple's demands. Which usually worked! In short, they were like the brownshirts of ancient Japan.  -unknown



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#54 GhostDancer


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Posted 02 November 2016 - 09:02 AM


"I can see the truth in the dragon's riddles"

Fubuko was a kensai sohei, an master of dual wield weaponries, a jewel of the Spider Clan and member of the Order of the Spider.

Read more about her on L5Rwikia.com

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#55 GhostDancer


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Posted 03 November 2016 - 09:03 AM

Should a sohei be prohibited from starting the campaign with a shield?bakemono_by_neilbruce.jpg

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#56 GhostDancer


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Posted 19 November 2016 - 08:15 AM



From the Battle of the Bridge chapter of Heike monoatari, featuring a worker-monk:


"You must have heard of me long ago.  See me now with your own eyes!  Everyone at Miidera [Onjoji] knows me!  I am the worker-monk Jomyo Meishu [Jomyo Myoshu] from Tsutsui, a warrior worth a thousand men.  If any here consider themselves my equals, let them come forward, I'll meet them!"  He let fly a fast and furious barrage from this twenty-four-arrow quiver, which killed twelve men instantly and wounded elven others.  Then, with one arrow left, he sent the bow clattering away, untied and discarded the quiver, cast off his fur boots, and ran nimbly along a bridge beam in his bare feet.  Others had feared to attempt the crossing: Jomyo acted as though it were Ichijo or Nijo Avenue.  He mowed down five enemies with his spear and was engaging a sixth when the blade snapped in the middle.  He abandoned the weapon and fought with his sword.  Hard-pressed by the enemy host, he slashed in every direction, using the zigzag, interlacing, crosswise, dragon-fly reverse, and waterwheel maneuvers.  After cutting down eight men on the spot, he struck the helmet top of a ninth so hard that the blade snapped on the hilt rivet, slipped loose, and splashed into the river.  Then he fought desperately with a dirk as his sole resource.

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#57 GhostDancer


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Posted 31 January 2017 - 10:04 AM


When Mongolian men wrestle in the Naadam games held annually since Genghis Khan founded the nation in 1206, they wear a particular vest with long sleeves but no shoulder covering and a completely open front exposing the whole of the chest, thereby allowing each wrestler to be certain that his opponent is male. At the end of each match, the winner stretches out his arms to display his chest again, and he slowly waves his arms in the air like a bird, turning for all to see. For the winner it is a victory dance, but it is also a tribute to the greatest female athlete in Mongolian history, a wrestling princess whom no man ever defeated. Ever since she reigned as the wrestling champion of the Mongols in the thirteenth century, however, male wrestlers have only wrestled men. 

The princess, a great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan, was born about 1260 and is known by several names: Khutulun, Aiyurug, or Aijaruc, all referring to moonlight. In opposition to her cousin, the emperor Khublai Khan, who enjoyed the luxury of the Chinese court, Khutulun rejected the temptations of sedentary civilization and sought to maintain the hardy Mongol way of life. She was a large and powerfully built woman, and she used her size and strength in the three Mongol sports of horsemanship, archery, and wrestling, as well as in the primary Mongol vocation of warfare.

Mongolian wrestlers were not paired by size or weight, and the rounds had neither spatial no temporal limits. The two opponents grabbed the other’s arms or waist until one forced the other to the ground. If any part of the body touched the ground, no matter how briefly, that contestant lost. Smaller or less skilled wrestlers might be thrown in a few seconds, but evenly matched wrestlers sometimes locked their arms around each other and pushed other back and forth like two bull elephants for as long as necessary until one competitor dropped.

Khutulun grew up with fourteen brothers and seemingly learned from an early age how to confront and beat them. As she grew older, she joined the public competitions and acquired great fame as the wrestler whom no man could throw. She became ever richer by winning horses from defeated opponents, and eventually her herd of ten thousand rivaled the herds of the emperor.

Among the Mongols, athletic victory carried a strongly sacred essence, and the champion was considered to be blessed by the spirits. Therefore, Khutulun’s athletic triumphs made her the ideal companion for her father in battle. Her presence, mounted next to him on the battlefield, extended her reputation for past athletic victories into an implied guarantee of dominance on the battlefield. Throughout their lives the two constantly defied the efforts of Khubilai Khan to rule over the tribes of the steppes of western Mongolia and Kazakhstan and over the mountainous regions of western China and Kyrgyzstan. They resisted every army sent against them and kept their homeland permanently free of rule by his Yuan Dynasty.

Khutulun followed an unorthodox method of confronting the enemy. She rode to the battlefield at her father’s side, but when she perceived the right moment, in the words of Marco Polo, she would “make a dash at the host of the enemy, and seize some man thereout, as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird, and carry him to her father; and this she did many a time.” While such deeds of individual bravado held little strategic value, they certainly provoked discord and even panic in the enemy while enhancing her reputation as divinely inspired and blessed.

Khutulun was unusual, but not unique. Mongol women rode horses as skillfully as men, often carried a bow and wore a quiver, and they repeatedly appeared in early reports as fighting alongside men. The ability of women to fight successfully in steppe society when they failed to do so in most sedentary civilizations derived, however, from the unique confluence of the horse with the bow and arrow. In armies that relied on infantry and heavy weapons such as swords, lances, pikes, or clubs, men enjoyed major physical advantages over women.

Mounted on a horse and armed with a bow and arrows, a trained woman could hold her own against men in battle. Women fared better in combat based on firepower than in hand-to-hand combat. Although archery requires strength, muscular training and discipline prove to be more important than brute force. An archer, no matter how strong, can never substitute mere might for skill in shooting. By contrast, good swordsmanship requires training and practice, but a sufficiently strong person wielding a sword can inflict lethal damage without prior experience. Mongols, like their relatives the Huns and Turks, relied almost exclusively on the bow and arrow in warfare.

Because archery depended so much on training, the ability of women to use arrows effectively in war depended upon their developing their skills as young girls. In the pastoral tribes, both boys and girls needed to use the bow and arrow to protect their herds. The boys would take the larger animals, such as camels and cows, farther away to graze, while girls stayed closer to home with the sheep and goats. Since wolves would more likely attack a sheep or goat than a camel or cow, the girls had to be able to defend their animals.

With her success in battle and in sports, Khutulun refused to marry unless a man could first defeat her in wrestling. Many men came forward to try, but none succeeded. Her parents became anxious for her to marry. According to Marco Polo, a particularly desirable bachelor prince presented himself around 1280. Most opponents wagered ten horses, or at the most a hundred, to compete against her. This unnamed bachelor wagered a thousand horses, and Khutulun’s parents pleaded with her to take a fall and let him win.

An excited crowd gathered for the match. In the desire to please her parents Khutulun agreed to let the prince win. In the rush of competitive excitement as she stepped forward to face her rival, however, her filial resolve to please her parents melted. She grabbed her opponent by the arms, and found him to be more formidable than her usual challengers. He struggled against her, and they pushed this way and that, but she could not submit and allow herself to be thrown. The match continued for an agonizing long time with neither able to dominate. Finally, in a great surge of energy Khutlun threw him to the ground. She not only defeated but humiliated him, and he disappeared, leaving behind the additional thousand horses for her herd but having shattered her parents’ hopes of marrying her to a worthy suitor.

Khutulun’s colorful and unusual public life without a husband provoked much speculative gossip not only in her father’s kingdom, but also among chroniclers and envoys of the adjacent Muslim territories. Her political and military enemies who had not been able to defeat her on the battlefield alleged that she maintained an incestuous relationship with her father and thus would take no other man while he lived. Realizing the price her father paid for such malicious propaganda, Khutulun chose a man from among her father’s followers and married him without wrestling him. He was her husband, but he was the man of her choice. Even in submitting to marriage she remained undefeated as a wrestler.

Khutulun consistently outperformed her many brothers, on the wrestling field as well as the battlefield. While Qaidu Khan’s other children assisted him as best they could, he increasingly relied on Khutulun for advice as well as for political support. She was unmistakably his favorite child, and according to some accounts, he attempted to name her to be the next khan before his death in 1301.

Her brothers resisted. She may not have actually wanted to be monarch as much as to be the chief officer of the army. She placed her political support behind her brother Orus in return for a plan to make her commander over the military. The two maintained a loyal alliance for only a few years, and by 1306 Khutulun, about forty-five years old, was dead under unexplained circumstances that gave rise to stories of diabolic plots against her life.

Although mentioned in a variety of Muslim sources as well as in the accounts of Marco Polo, Khutulun almost disappeared into the fog of historic myth. Only by chance was the story of the wrestling princess resurrected in a twisted way in the eighteenth century. In 1710, while writing the first biography of Genghis Khan, the French scholar François Pétis de La Croix published a book of tales and fables combining various Asian literary themes. One of his longest and best stories derived from the history of Khutulun. In his adaptation, however, she bore the title Turandot, meaning “Turkish Daughter,” the nineteen-year-old daughter of Altoun Khan, the Mongol emperor of China. Instead of challenging her suitors in wrestling, Pétis de La Croix had her confront them with three riddles. In his more dramatic version, instead of wagering mere horses, the suitor had to forfeit his life if he failed to answer correctly.

Fifty years later, the popular Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi made her story into a drama of a “tigerish woman” of “unrelenting pride.” In a combined effort by two of the greatest literary talents of the era, Friedrich von Schiller translated the play into German as Turandot, Prinzessin von China, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe directed it on the stage in Weimar in 1802.

More than a century later, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini was still working on his opera Turandot at the time of his death 1924. Unlike his other operatic heroine, Madame Butterfly who lived and died for the love of a man, Turandot rejected any man whom she deemed inferior to her. His opera became the most famous of the artistic variations of her life’s story.

How a culture treats the past often tells us more about the people doing the remembering than about the ones being remembered. In Western culture the tale of Khutulun became a story of a prideful woman finally conquered by love. The Mongols kept her in their memory as a great woman athlete and warrior whose achievements are still remembered today in the open vest and the victory dance of the warrior. Every time a wrestler dresses for a match and every time he dances in victory, they honor the achievements of the greatest female wrestler in Mongolian history. Both the wrestling rituals in Mongolia and the diva on the opera stage preserve two aspects of the life of one of history’s greatest female athletes.

Jack Weatherford

Jack Weatherford is a former professor of anthropology at Macalester College and the author of several books, including Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America, The History of Money, and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

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#58 GhostDancer


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Posted 03 February 2017 - 03:08 PM

I am enjoying the very highly rated Netflix series, Marco Polo.  I've read fair criticism of it, too, such as this from Fei Fei Wang, Marco Polo's story doesn't have a “theme". Think about it, what did Marco Polo do? What was his impact on Mongolians or his native Italians? If his action doesn't make impact beyond himself, his story wouldn't matter all that much. For a Hero's journey to be successful, his action must benefit people beyond himself (short people with hairy feet destroyed the one ring and bring peace to the world; Luke destroyed emperor Palpatin, bring peace to the world; The Pevensie siblings cross over to Narnia, become the Kings and Queens and bring peace to the land…) There must be a payoff at the end. What is Marco Polo's pay off? Did he bring any European technology to Asian and benefit the people there? No. Did he bring any Asian technology back to Europe and benefit the people back home? No. Did his action changed anything in Mongolian empire? No. He's there, and record shows he had done nothing.

...the original Marco Polo story was never about a hero's journey. Marco Polo was indeed well traveled (it was disputed whether he actually make it to China, let alone the court of Mongol Emperor). And he got bored when he was put in jail, so he start telling stories. The the appeal of his story was never about what he did or his impact to the world. The appeal of his story was what he saw, his experiences in a far away land, and many wonders there. But in a modern world, when that part of the history is very well researched and freely accessible to anyone who's willing to do a google search, that appeal is greatly reduced.

What would you do to make the story of Marco Polo a Hero's Journey, with a cast of Player Characters?

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#59 Ninja-Bear


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Posted 04 February 2017 - 07:40 AM

I'll have to find my notes but two.martial powers I wrote were:

Defense from Choke Hold: LS with limits

Defenses from joint breaking: Extra body only for to protect from joint breaks
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The main object of the game is for the players and the GM to have fun. Champions 3rd ed. Pg 130

#60 GhostDancer


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Posted 05 February 2017 - 11:48 AM

Re: Marco Polo campaign and/or convention game setting.  I'd rename this, since it's a team game.  How about Pax Mongolica, or The Silk Road, or Xanadu?  Another name you like better?  I'd start with the game being more historically accurate (no spoilers), then depart greatly, because, Player Characters and such.  Pull elements from the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge-


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 
A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
   Down to a sunless sea. 
So twice five miles of fertile ground 
With walls and towers were girdled round; 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills, 
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted 
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! 
A savage place! as holy and enchanted 
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted 
By woman wailing for her demon-lover! 
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, 
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, 
A mighty fountain momently was forced: 
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst 
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, 
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: 
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever 
It flung up momently the sacred river. 
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion 
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, 
Then reached the caverns measureless to man, 
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean; 
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far 
Ancestral voices prophesying war! 
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure 
   Floated midway on the waves; 
   Where was heard the mingled measure 
   From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device, 
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! 
   A damsel with a dulcimer 
   In a vision once I saw: 
   It was an Abyssinian maid 
   And on her dulcimer she played, 
   Singing of Mount Abora. 
   Could I revive within me 
   Her symphony and song, 
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me, 
That with music loud and long, 
I would build that dome in air, 
That sunny dome! those caves of ice! 
And all who heard should see them there, 
And all should cry, Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 


And drunk the milk of Paradise.
An early adventure- recovering a Buddhist temple from Taoists who seized it,* recasting Hundred Eyes, the Taoist martial artist as the opposition leader.
Late or last adventure- Marco Polo and company escort the Blue Princess Kököchin to Arghun Khan, in Persia, on his way home to Venice.*
I'll continue to read, for more material.  What ideas do you have, especially for a theme such as the Hero's Journey?

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