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Military Sports in Ancient Times

2003-11-16 11:11 COC

    IN ancient China there was a fairy tale called "Kuafu Running After the Sun." Untrue as it is, the story does reflect people's admiration for great runners. Walking and running are the most fundamental abilities of man in daily life as well as in fighting. In ancient times when the means of transport were extremely simple and crude, people attached great importance to improving their walking and running abilities.
    "The quality of troops lies in speed" was one of the most important maxims in ancient Chinese art of war. Eminent strategists of all times, from Wu Qi of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) to the Ming Dynasty patriotic general Qi Jiguang (1528-1587), required their men to "run light-footedly" while carrying their weapons and with their coats of mail on. In ancient times, when dukes and princes travelled around in carts, their bodyguards had to run behind them. These bodyguards, called "brave warriors, " were selected through stringent tests" and enjoyed high esteem.

    By the Yuan Dynasty (1271- J 1368), a long distance running race was held every year by the ruler inspecting his guards. According to a Yuan Dynasty history book titled Chuo Geng Lu, the race covered a t distance of about 180 Ii (90km) and the winner was awarded a silver disc while the others were given satin of different lengths. This was actually a kind of cross-country race that was held at regular intervals.
    Hunting was one of the productive activities carried out by the primitive man as a means of survival. In the latter stage of the primitive society it began to be incorporated into the military training programmes of the ruling class. By the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods (770-221 BC) it assumed enormous dimensions as the rulers "taught the civilians ways to fight" by training them in such combat skills as marching, archery on horseback, and hand-to-hand fighting.

    In the early Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), hunting gradually became a kind of recreation for the emperors and the nobility. Emperor Liu Che (140 BC- AD 88) had a hunting ground opened up in a forest west of the city of Xi' an. Named Shang Lin Yuan Park, it covers a large area with a circumference of hundreds of kilometres. Li Yuanji, son of the Tang emperor Li Yuan, is said to "prefer going without food for three days to going without hunting for one day." This shows what a great favour hunting was among the nobility.

    Rulers of the Oing Dynasty ( 1644-1911) hailed from northeast China where people depended on hunting for their livelihood. Following an old tradition, they practised marching and fighting through hunting. Emperor Kangxi (1662- 1723) had a hunting ground named Mulan Ranch opened up in Rehe (a region comprising parts of today' s Hebei, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia), where large-scale hunting was carried out in the seventh and eighth months of the lunar year for six decades on end. Oianlong ( 1736- 1796 ) , another Oi ng emperor, issued a decree in which he gave his officials to understand the importance of hunting to both military exercise and physical training.