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Mastery Without Enmity:·Athletics, Modernity and the Nation in Early Republican China* by Andrew Morris In an interview given on the occasion of the Forty-first World Cup Golf Tournament, held in Shenzhen in November 1995, China's Sports Minister Wu Shaozu told reporters of his plans actively to promote golf throughout China. Wu explained his enthusiasm thusly: not only is golf "a sport beneficial to the body and mind," but also, "in some coastal cities and special economic zones, golf has become a helpful intermediary in expanding China's foreign trade." Perhaps most importantly forWu, "The physique of the Chinese people is suited to the sport,· which requires techniques [sic] and coordination of movements rather than strength." 1 These recent official comments on golf in China caught my eye not so much for their seeming crassness and cynicism as for the odd and distorted echoes they sounded of early Republican China. Eighty-some years ago, Chinese bodies and minds simply did without the benefit now apparently provided by golf clubs, courses and carts. In China there were as yet no alcohol- and greed-soaked 19th 40les in which to close multinational corporate deals. Athletics , exercise and Chinese physiques were already quite common topics of discussion , however, as·educators, intellectuals and students of a different China worked feverishly to save and strengthen their new republic. The philosophical, educational, political, cultural, literary and scientific explorations that so marked China in the 191 Oswere also accompanied by a fascination with physical education and Chinese bodies. Among the many new concepts that quickly became common sense in the Republican era was the * An earlier version of this paper was prepared for Professor Paul Pickowicz's Modern Chinese History Research Seminar at the University of California, San Diego, Fall 1994-Winter 1995.Iwould like to especially thank Professor Pickowicz and all my classmates, as well as Professors Dorothy Ko, Joseph Esherick and Takashi Fujitani for their many tough questions and for helping me to imagine how a history of modern Chinese tiyu could and should be written. I am also grateful to participants of the Third West Coast Graduate Conference in Modern Chinese History (Berkeley, 28-30 April 1995), Professor Stephen Averill, and an anonymous reviewer for their many helpful comments and suggestions. REPUBLICAN CHINA, 22.2 (April 1997): 3-39 4 Republican China idea of a strong national body that would be strengthened and solidified by a fit, competitive, disciplined citizenry that could work and play together as a team. The connection between physical exertion and a strong nation, especially as trumpeted by Western and Japanese patriots, already seemed rather obvious to many concerned Chinese of the 1910s. Exactly how to make this crucial connection , however,· was still open to debate. Discussions of physical education and endeavor (tiyu) and the nation usually centered around two main types of exercise-German and Swedish gymnastics and calisthenics (known as ticao), and the Anglo-American team sports of ball games and track and field (also referred to as tiyu). By the May Fourth movement of 1919, competitive team sports had emerged as the strengthening and unifying tiyu of choice, with ticao lingering on as a more seldom-used disciplinary supplement. Noticeably absent from these debates and this final outcome was the traditional Chinese martial arts (wushu); the fact that this absence is "noticeable" to us today says much about our own notions of Chinese nationalisms, national essences and their masculine overtones. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that the wushu simply was not noticed at all by many of these modem-minded Republican patriots, whose aversion to Chinese feudal and unscientific forms led them to construct a tiyu based on Western definitions of bodies and nations. By the early 1920s, the forms of physical exercise and recreation in China marked by the term "tiyu" bore great resemblance to forms that would be recognized both then and now by Westerners as "sports" or "athletics." (As neither of these words provide an exact fit for Chinese physical culture, however , I feel most comfortable using the term "tiyu.") 2 Remarkably, since these early debates, this definition of tiyu has never been seriously challenged, and remains almost...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 3-39
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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