Chinese wrestling dates far back to very early times. It is said to have been used about five thousand years ago by the Chiyou tribes for training their soldiers. When China was unified by the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC, wrestling was adopted as an important exercise in military training. After the Wei, Jin and Northern and Southern dynasties (AD 220- 589), wrestling gradually developed into a competitive, recreational sport.
In the Tang Dynasty (AD 618- 907) there were professional wrestlers and special platforms for wrestling contests in imperial palaces. By the Song Dynasty (960- 1279) professional wrestlers began to appear among the populace and platforms were erected for national contests. In the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911) there was a battalion of professional wrestlers called Shan Pu Ying whose members performed at all important banquets.
There were many different styles of wrestling in ancient China, with a great variety of names as well. This may be seen from the images recorded in cultural relics of different! periods. Lacquer paintings unearthed in Hubei Province and murals on the ancient tombs at Donggou, Jilin Province, show pictures of two naked men locked in wrestling resembling modern Japanese sumo. Pictures on bronze articles unearthed at Keshengzhuang, Shanxi Province, show a variety of wrestling skills such as catching, holding, tumbling, tripping, throwing and rolling, which can be seen in modern Chinese-style wrestling.
Wushu, with its mysterious Oriental flavour, is regarded as the quintessence of physical culture. Often referred to as "arts of fighting with eighteen kinds of weapons," it is distinguished by three salient features: usefulness for combat, benefits to health, and fascinating movements.
Wushu dates back to primitive society where people used clubs and other primitive tools to fight wild animals. In the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods (770- 221 BC), wushu became more combative in nature as more weapons came into use. It also attracted more attention with its beneficial effects on health. Wushu contests and performances were popular in the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC-AD 220). The sword dances performed by Xiang Bo and Xiang Zhuang at "A Banquet at Hongmen Gate" as described by Sima Oian in his Historical Records were actually a show of attack and defence in swordplay. The imperial examination system of the Tang Dynasty (618- 907) for identifying martial arts talent stimulated the growth of wushu activities in society. By the Ming Dynasty ( 1368-1644 ), many schools of wushu, each with its own distinctive features, had developed across the country. One of these was the Shaolin school, which owes its name to the world-famous Shaolin Temple in Henan Province.