As regards 'tradition', 'lineage' and 'respect' - these are aboth fundamental Chinese cultural aspects which were brought suddenly into the modern world in 1911 (the ‘Nationalist’ Revolution) and 1949 (the ‘Socialist’ Revolution). In Japan, this process began with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. This all evolves around the concept of 'face' (面子 - Mian Zi) - or the ability to walk through the public spaces with one's dignity fully intact and face on display. To traverse the public spaces used to demand a stern adherence to the teachings of 'Confucius' as defined by various philosophers and politicians, etc. Indeed, Confucianism regulated not only the society of China for over two-thousand years, but also many other countries including Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Okinawa (including large areas of South-East Asia). Furthermore, wherever Chinese people have migrated - Confucianism has followed. Confucianism still defines Chinese society, but the way this happens has evolved over the centuries and can still seem baffling to the uninitiated. Regardless of this, understanding ‘Confucianism’ is the only way ‘in’ and ‘out’ of a Chinese cultural grouping.
In the old days, breaking these rules led to the breaking of one's body - a simple correlation between spiritual morality and physical punishment. The individual body used to be the property of one's parents and belonged to the State (that is to the 'Emperor'). The body of a child used to represent the continuation of a family's ancestral 'Qi' energy and the lasting of the Clan Surname. Judicial execution often involved public beheading (the 'loss' of face through the loss of the head) – a punitive process which usually including the killing of all members of the same family (depending upon the severity of the offense). Social execution involved the 'exclusion' of an individual and a family (Clan) - from all meaningful social interaction. It is interesting to note that despite the differences in political and economic view that exist between Beijing and Taipei, for instance, Chinese people living in Taiwan and Mainland China would agree (both implicitly and explicitly) about what 'face' is, and about what 'losing' and 'saving' face actually entails - so important is this central aspect of Chinese culture.
Today, the forces of modernity have radically redefined this tradition - but occasionally murders and beatings do still occur throughout Chinese society - usually involving disputes regarding love affairs, relationship betrayals and intimate deviations, etc. Of course, if an individual is known to have behaved in a terrible fashion for whatever reason, social ostracization tends to follow. Remember, China is comprised of 56 ethnicities which enlarged through the Chinese diaspora as it intermixes with different people throughout the world. This means that 'saving face' and 'losing face' tends to vary in interpretation. For instance, my modern academic colleagues in China tend not to give 'face' much consideration - but the older members of our Chinese family still live their lives by this concept! Okinawa, for instance, is still being punished by the Mainland Japanese for being historically ‘Chinese’ – and this has involved the post-1945 US Military Bases being lodged of the Island. This US neo-imperialist presence has been compounded by an assault on Ryukyu culture that has been intended to eradicate all obvious ‘Chinese’ cultural tendencies and replace these with a blend of Americana and Nipponisation. Yet the robustness of the Okinawan way of life stands inherently strong – with an older version of ‘Confucian’ ideology lurking firmly in the background and regulating the martial arts, leisure and business communities.
Indeed, the Chinese concept of 'face' (面子 - Mian Zi) literally translates as 'Face Child' or 'Face Master'. The second ideogram '子' (zi3) means 'a child that is born already old and wise' - and is associated with 'Laozi' (老子) - one of the founders of Daoism. Perhaps 'Saving Face' would be better redefined as 'Preserving Face'. In England we talk of proudly holding our heads-up high in public.. Of course, in the strict Confucian model, the onus is on the individual rather than the social collective. Today, the social collective is just as responsible as the individual - so that the entirety of society works together to preserve the status quo. Now, it is as if the collective society has its own 'face' that has to be preserved in the 'face' of individual behaviour. It is a two-way street. Individual responsibility is now balanced with collective responsibility - creating a preserving 'tension' of positive interaction. An individual's 'face' is considered secondary and is only saved when the 'face' of orderly society is acknowledged and preserved. Having explained all this, there still exist pockets of Chinese culture spread throughout the world that uphold older versions of ‘Confucian’ ideology and expect all incomers to understand and respect this reality.
I was forwarded this short video clip from a colleague involved in high-level Aikido practice - which in their Japanese School involves Katana (Long Sword) 'cutting' (carried out in a peaceful, meditative state). It was explained to me that their Sensei had explained that prior to WWII - many 'Official' Sword Smiths in Japan possessed a 'Permanent' Governmental Permission to 'Test' the effectiveness of freshly forged blades on the necks of judicial prisoners Sentenced to Death. As the process of 'Test Cutting' blades today (only using rolled-up tatami mats) is referred to as 'Tameshigiri (試し切り) - could I decipher, translate and transliterate this Japanese term to see if this 'history' is denoted in the concept. My research is as follows:
1) 試 (Tame) = Trial, Experiment and Exploration.
2)し(Shi) = Death, Execution and Judicial Decapitation - achieved through s single (efficient) Sword 'cut' or 'swing' - where the blade does NOT oscillate (wobble) left and right when in movement.
3) 切 (Gi) = Slice, Cut and Cleave apart.
4) り(Ri) = Perfected Form, Finished and Completed Movement.
The data obtained when forensically translating this term - which requires rolling-back layers of 'politically correct' (interpretive) terminology accrued over several post-1945 decades - does indeed support the history lesson as transmitted by the 'Aikido' Sensei concerned. The tatami mats - which must be struck and cleaved with a 'graceful ease' - have 'replaced' the necks of condemned Japanese criminals (who are now 'Hanged' in private). This is in fact a 'Death-Cut' - or a sword strike designed to render an opponent DEAD in the quickest and most efficient manner!
Translator’s Note: Reading through historical texts on the Chinese language internet (Baidu) - I came across the following true story apparently recorded in a journal or diary written by the British imperialist living within Fujian province at the time - John Charles Oswald (1856-1900) - who was responsible for running a tea house and horse-racing track! The photographs were found in the journal entry but it is not clear whether he took them or if they were taken for him. This episode – essentially a legal case – took place in 1895, and although cameras were known, there numbers were few in China. Such devices would have been considered a very rare and specialised piece of technology. However, the photographs themselves are of a very good quality considering the time they were taken. I suspect the pictures were more or less ‘posed’ for and that the ‘criminals’ had to participate in sessions despite all being sentenced to death and scheduled to be killed on the day of the photographing! The Emperor of China tried to keep out all foreigners, but they managed to penetrate the border guards, they were directed to Fujian province, which was full of robust and loyal Chinese people who knew how to ‘control’ and ‘limit’ the activities of these visitors. These English and American visitors ended-up in exactly this place, despite their dominating and oppressive attitudes and behaviours. People from Fujian province often travelled to the Island of Okinawa – an ancient Chinese settlement – and it is their Chinese martial arts which eventually evolved into ‘Karate-Do’ - now considered a ‘Japanese’ art. In these photographs we see the grinding poverty of the ordinary Chinese people, and can see that two men entrusted by the Authorities to carry-out executions – despite being relatively well-dressed – nevertheless, lack any semblance of shoes or socks! From their stance-work it is obvious that traditional Chinese martial arts were brutally effective in practice rather than ‘flowery’ or ‘elaborate’ in theory. ACW (4.6.2021)
Chinese prisoners who killed foreigners in the late Qing Dynasty - were forced to the execution-ground after a simple interrogation (with no legal defence). Four suspects in the ‘Gutian Religious Case’ include Du Zhuyi (杜朱衣), Zheng Huai (郑淮), Liu Xiangxing (刘祥兴) and Zhang Ch (张赤). In the early morning of August 1st, 1895, more than one-hundred members of the "Piety Association" (斋会 - Zhai Hui) situatin in Gutian County, Fujian Province - attacked Mount Hua - where British and American missionaries lived, resulting in the deaths of eleven British missionaries and other female Christian assistants. Many other people were injured. This incident became known as the "Gutian Religious Case" in the history books. This is one of the two largest religious-orientated single cases that happened during the late Qing Dynasty – with the other being the "Tianjin Religious Case" which happened in 1870. Western missionaries aggressively penetrated and took-over large parts of China and used brutality to force Chinese people to ‘convert’ to a religious they neither wanted nor understood. Every so often, this foreign aggression and brutality was met with ‘resistance’ primarily from the embittered peasant community – which generally paid dearly for its loyalty and bravery.
The suspects in the "Gutian Religious Case" were arrested by the Qing government. This group of photographs was found in a recently discovered album left by the Englishman John Charles Oswald (1856-1900), which recorded key scenes relating to the trial of the suspects. Oswald once ran a tea and horse racing business in Fuzhou, and it is not certain that these photographs were taken by him personally. After the "Zhaihui" congregation killed people, they robbed the missionary's residence and set fire to it.
The scene after the looting of the British and American missionaries' residence was very bloody. In the late Qing Dynasty, missionaries went deep into China to preach, and there were often conflicts between the church and the local people. The involvement of missionaries in the opium trade, forced land leases, and illegal act of shielding the faithful aroused the anger of the local people. The Gutian "Zhaihui" and the church have had long-standing grievances, with both encroaching upon the other’s territory. The church employed all kinds of illegal methods but continuously got away with their crimes – which included rape of Chinese women and girls. If the Chinese Authorities dared to act against this foreign criminality, then the foreign governments would often send in their armed forces and make matters far worse. When the ‘Piety Associations’ fought-back – they were invariably ‘blamed’ when caught and issued with the severest of punishments demanded by the church missionaries – who enjoyed watching the spectacle of scared men kneeling to be ‘beheaded’!
After the incident, foreigners in China reacted strongly. The British and American envoys in Beijing protested to the Qing Court and sent warships to intimidate along the coast of Fujian. The "New York Tribune" of the United States even clamoured to put China "under the gun" and subject it to "the most severe sanctions."
Du Zhuyi - one of the main criminals in the case - was kept in a cage. In his early years, he repeatedly failed the exams, and then he despaired of his career and joined the "Zhaihui". Because he couldn't understand the arbitrary behaviour of foreigners, he rebelled against their corruption. The "Zhaihui" is mostly comprised of the poor people at the bottom of society, and a small number of frustrated intellectuals and small businessmen.
The British who died were buried in Fuzhou. On August 5th, Emperor Guangxu decreed, "The case is serious. The generals (Bian Baoquan, Governor of Fujian and Zhejiang Province, General Qingyu of Fuzhou) should send troops to severely deal with the perpetrators and be punished in accordance with the law; The church residence was properly protected by the stern magistrates, and there was no need to do anything else," which shows the attitude of the pro-Western Qing Court.
Chinese, British, and American personnel involved in the investigation and trial of the case. On August 13th, an investigation team composed of British and American diplomats, military officers, and missionaries went to Gutian to investigate the incident and participate in the Qing government’s trial of the arrested suspects. Under their pressure, the Qing government offered high rewards and arrested hundreds of people. Among them, a large number of innocent people were implicated for being allegedly reported by others.
The scene before the execution. In order to quell the adverse effects caused by the case as soon as possible, the Qing government adopted a method of rapid arrest and rapid trial. The procedure was very simple, and the participants in the confirmed cases were immediately sentenced. By October 18th, the trial was completed in just over two months, and 92 people were finally determined to be guilty, of which 26 were sentenced to death, 17 were enlisted in the military, 5 were imprisoned for life, 27 were imprisoned for 10 years, and 5 were imprisoned for 5 years. 5 people to hold the stone pier for 3 years, 5 people hold the stone pier for 6 months, and 2 people hold the stone pier for 2 months.
The executioners who carried-out the death penalties. During the trial of the case, the British and American authorities did not claim compensation, but only demanded that the perpetrators be punished. This is a rare case in modern history that caused heavy losses without financial compensation. Reference materials: Liu Guoping, "Research on Gutian Religious Cases in 1895", Yang Guanghui, "Public Opinion and Modern Religious Cases".
Original Chinese Language Source Article:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.