When the Japanese Made a Joke About 'Kara-Te': How ‘China Hand ' (唐手 - Tang Shou) Become ‘Empty Hand’ (空手 - Kong Shou)! (16.8.2022)
Author’s Note: My view is that the change of name from ‘Tang Hand’ to ‘Empty-Hand' was a blatant act of Japanese imperialist aggression and was intended to render an art full of ‘Chinese’ influence – into a fabricated state ‘emptiness’ - that is ‘empty’ of any and all Chinese influence! I am told that within the Japanese cultural milieu, this change (initiated by the Japanese Authorities in Okinawa) is considered ‘funny’ and an obvious ‘joke’ - even today! The problem is that whilst the Chinese people readily understand and know this to be the case – the Western (and other Asian and non-Chinese) people do not understand this situation and actively participate in this anti-China ‘joke’ by uncritically practicing ‘Japanese’ Karate-Do – even though it is clearly a martial art with deep Chinese historical, cultural and political roots! I am not suggesting a boycott of Karate-Do, far from it - I am encouraging the spread and utilisation of ALL Chinese cultural activities - but whilst doing this I am suggesting that all those millions of people who practice Karate-Do (空手道 - Kong Shou Dao) or the older ‘Karate-Jitsu’ (空手術 - Kong Shou Shu) - remember that these arts are ‘Chinese’ in historical and cultural origin and should be known as ‘Tang Hand Way’ (唐手道 - Tang Shou Dao) or ‘Tang Hand Art’ ((唐手術 - Tang Shou Shu), etc. With regards to the Chinese ideogram ‘手’ (shou3), it denotes an ‘open’ hand with the palm clearly showing and the fingers spread. This denotes four-fingers and thumb with various explanations associated with its structure. Sometimes, for instance, this ideogram is confused with the very similar ‘毛’ (mao2) which denotes the wing of a bird (and is used to refer to ‘fur’ or the ‘hair’ of an animal). However, ‘手’ (shou3) is comprised of the central particle ‘于’ (yu2) which can be interpreted as an ancient wind instrument (possibly held to the mouth by the hand to be ‘blown’). ‘于’ (yu2) is also viewed as a simplified version of ‘於’ (yu2) - which denotes an object, or a thing placed in a definite position (sometimes also used to refer to a ‘crow’ or black-feathered bird). This ideogram also suggests a ‘sudden’ interruption in proceedings! Added to ‘于’ (yu2) is the particle ‘一’ (yi1) which on its own represents the number ‘1’ (one) or ‘I’ in Roman numerals! Therefore, ‘手’ (shou3) represents a hand and palm with fingers spread which is both ‘open’ and in ‘motion’ - whilst being both ‘creative’ and ‘decisive’. It can be ‘closed’ if required or any part of it (such as a ‘palm’ or an ‘edge’) can be used to influence the environment in the martial context! The hand is only ‘open’ whilst in transit. The hand is ‘moving’ in a ‘fluid’ and ‘effective’ many whilst not being ‘limited’ to the ‘shape’ or ‘form’ it has to ‘assume’ or temporally ‘occupy’ whilst expressing a bewildering array of martial shapes, expressions and forms! To counter the supposed ‘humour’ of Japanese imperialism – I would confirm that ‘Kara-Te’ is ‘full’ (and not ‘empty’) of Chinese cultural inheritance! I would further add that I am in support of ‘loving’ the Japanese people – and ALL the peoples of the world who practice and spread the art of ‘Kara-Te’! ACW (16.8.2022)
Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868 – the Japanese Imperialist government embarked upon a rapid modernisation drive and an equally rapid expansion of Japanese political and cultural influence beyond its geographical borders! It is perhaps the greatest of ironies that Okinawa (Ryukyu) - an island nation politically and culturally associated with China for over a thousand years – possessed hundreds of highly trained martial artists (as well as thousands of amateur practitioners) - but did not possess a professional armed force dedicated to its own national defence! This is why the Japanese Imperial Army was able to land its forces unopposed in Okinawa in 1879 and the Japanese government was able to completely annex the island nation and separate and isolate its people from any and all Chinese cultural influence! The Japanese language replaced the Chinese language (and superseded the Okinawan dialect), and Japanese history replaced Chinese history. Despite these successes, however, the Japanese Authorities had to tread carefully as Qing Imperial China protested and threatened to send troops to the area – whilst the robust Okinawan people were more than capable of defending themselves against the over-zealous Japanese police and military!
Japanese Master Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) Practices Shuri (首里) Ryu Karate-Do - and is 99 years old! As of 2019 He Has Been Practicing for 65 Years! He Lives in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, He Says He No Longer Wears a Gi (White Uniform) or a Coloured Belt. He is Currently an 8th Dan and Still Teaches Students! His Approach to Teaching Karate-Do Seems Very 'Chinese' in Essence!
According to conventual thinking, within the Okinawan dialect (which is a mixture of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous languages), the Chinese term ‘唐’ (Tang) used to refer to the Tang Dynasty and for centuries taken to mean the country of China – is pronounced ‘Kara’. The Japanese Authorities substituted the Chinese ‘唐’ (Tang-Kara) for the Kanji Japanese equivalent of ‘空’ (Kong-Kara). The name of the martial art appeared to stay the same on the surface – ‘Kara-Te' - but changed completely beneath the surface! This was an act of blatant imperialist domination on behalf of the Japanese themselves, and despite such people as Funakoshi Gichin playing along with it (pretending the change had something to do with the philosophy contained within the Buddhist Heart Sutra), its only purpose was the complete eradication of all Chinese cultural influence upon the island! This process saw ‘唐手’(Tang Shou – Kara Te) - or ‘China Open Hand Martial Art’ - become instead the Japanese art of ‘空手’ (Kong Shou – Kara-Te) or the ‘Empty Open Hand’ - despite these many martial systems often incorporating the extensive use of traditional martial arts weaponry! Despite this change, the problem the Japanese Authorities had was that very few of the prominent martial arts Masters on the island took any notice of the ‘new’ name and continued to teach their martial arts as being distinctly ‘Chinese’ in origin, nature and expression!
It was not until 1936 (the 11th year of the Showa era) that this matter was resolved. Japan had begun military hostilities in China during 1931 and was gearing-up for a more serious and widespread confrontation with China. To assist this process the Japanese government had been propagating extensive anti-China propaganda and informing the Japanese people not to associate themselves in anyway with Chinese culture. It did not take long for this negative attitude to infiltrate Okinawa and influence the martial arts community. In the Okinawan city of Naha, a symposium of many of the country’s leading martial artists was held to decide upon a distinctly ‘Japanese’ cultural expression for their respective martial arts. All the ‘Kara-Te’ Masters discussed this matter and unanimously decided to change the name of their martial art from ‘唐手’(Tang Shou – Kara Te) to ‘空手’ (Kong Shou – Kara-Te) - with each ‘denying’ or ‘rejecting’ any historical or cultural link with China! Despite Japan losing the Pacific War (1941-1945) it had started with the US, and the Second Sino-Japanese (1937-1945) it had started with China (Japan actually began hostilities in Manchuria during 1931) - the situation regarding ‘Kara-Te’ did not change. Indeed, the post-1945 US government facilitated the spread of ‘Kara-Te’ around the world as a means to eradicate and obscure all Chinese martial cultural influences throughout the West! Despite Japanese Imperialism killing millions throughout Asia during the 1930s and 1940s – the racially motivated change of ‘Chinese Hand’ to ‘Empty Hand’ was allowed to hold fast despite making no historical or logical sense whatsoever! This is even true amongst reasonably intelligent Westerners who would otherwise protest about any form of racism should they encounter it! Indeed, Okinawan people should throw-off the cloak of Japanese and US oppression and reclaim their martial arts as being ‘Chinese Hand’ - whilst remaining proud of this fact!
Chinese Language Source:
Fujian Provincial Government: 30 Years Ago - Lin Weigong (林伟功) - Was Given the Task of Uncovering the Chinese Roots of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do! (5.2.2020)
Translator's Note: The earliest editions of this story appear on the Chinese language internet on December 30th, 2019. This story is then circulated around and through the Chinese language media for at least another six months to a year. There appears to be two dates that are distinct - but which are 'merged' - during the reporting of this story. The two dates are as follows:
a) 'September 16th, 1989' - when Lin Weigong made the official announcement that he had discovered the name of the Chinese Master of the 'Whooping Crane Fist' - that is 'Xie Chongxiang' (謝崇祥) [1852-1930]- also known as Xie Ru Ru (謝如如) and 'Ru Ru Ge' (如如哥) - who was the teacher of the Higaonna Kanryo [1853-1915] (from Okinawa) during the 19th century.
b) 'June 9th, 1990' - a black marble "Monument of Achievement" was raised in the southwest corner of the Fuzhou New Sports Centre by the Japanese and Okinawa Karate Association in memory of the Chinese Master Xie Ru Ru (謝如如) also known as 'Ru Ru Ge' (如如哥) - the Chinese teacher of the Okinawan Master Higaonna Kanryo!
Therefore, the year '2019' marks the 30th Anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of 'Xie Chongxiang' (謝崇祥) - whilst the year '2020' marks the 30th Anniversary of the raising of the black marble stele - and I believe the confusion (and conflation) of these two dates is the reason 'why' the news story continues to be associated with two different years (2019 and 2020). As not all of the historical data is present in any one single text (as the authors assume their readership already possesses a working knowledge of the story at hand), I have borrowed from at least three versions and have weaved a coherent historical narrative together. There was around eight months between Lin Weigong's historical announcement - and the Japanese - Okinawan Karate Association (representing 'Goju Ryu') organising the fund raising, commissioning, construction and transportation of the black marble stele - which is inscribed using Japanese language ideograms. The primary pictures in this article feature the stele and are dated from 1990 and 2000. The main stone tablet (and supporting base stele) both commemorate - with great respect - the eternal friendship that exists between China and Japan. This very close and fraternal relationship is embodied (and epitomised) through the creative (historical) interaction that took place between Xie Chongxiang and Higaonna Kanryo! May this interaction between the cultures of these two countries be forever fruitful! ACW (15.8.2022)
In the summer of 1988, the relevant Departments of Okinawa Prefecture Government hosted a banquet in Fuzhou to thank the Deputy Secretary-General of the Fujian Provincial Government and Director of the Provincial Tourism Bureau - Nan Jiang (南江) - and other leaders including the well-known and respected senior academic - Lin Weigong - (Editor-in-Chief of People's History of the Fuzhou Local Chronicle Committee) who sought out the roots of the "Thirty-Six Surnames of Fujian People" in the Ryukyu country. He has made unremitting efforts and contributions to the search for roots and ancestors in Okinawa for many years. On September 16th, 1989, after months of arduous research, Lin Weigong made the breakthrough that everybody had been waiting for - that he had discovered the Chinese teacher of Higaonna Kanryo! This led to a great outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement in both Okinawa and Japan - culminating in the idea of constructing an engraved monument to honour the Chinese ancestor whose martial arts style eventually evolved into style of Goju Ryu Karate-Do in Okinawa! Therefore, on June 9th, 1990, in the southwest corner of the Fuzhou New Sports Centre, a solemn black marble "Monument of Achievement" was raised. It is a monument erected by the Japanese and Okinawa Karate Association in memory of the Chinese Master Xie Ru Ru (謝如如) also known as 'Ru Ru Ge' (如如哥) - the Chinese teacher of the Okinawan Master Higaonna Kanryo - who developed a style of Karate-Do - that evolved into 'Goju' (Hard-Soft) Ryu. His full name was 'Xie Chongxiang' (謝崇祥).
Thirty-Years Ago - "People's Daily" Overseas Edition - "China Sports News" and Other Reports!
Investigative Report Published in "Fujian Local Chronicle".
The Chairman of Fujian Wushu Association Liu Zhonglu (刘中路) and Lin Weigong (林伟功) Cooperated to Publish a Report in "Chinese Wushu".
The Inauguration Ceremony of the Outstanding Monument Held at the Fujian Provincial Sports Centre (1990).
Wen Fushan (温附山) Vice Governor of Fujian Province - and VIP Leaders from All Walks of Life in China, Japan and Okinawa - Attended the Ceremony Took a Group Photograph in Front of the Monument.
The Name on the Tablet - Decided by the Historical Investigation team - is that of 'Ru Ru Ge' (如如哥) as the Martial Arts Master in Fujian Who Taught Higaonna Kanryo!
From the left in the front row of the photograph: Lin Weigong (林伟功), Lin Xuanzhi [林萱治] (former Deputy Director of the General Office of the Fuzhou Municipal Government and former Director of the Municipal Local Records Office), Fang Baoyan (方宝炎) (the Great Master of Whooping Crane Fist - 鸣鹤拳 [Ming He Quan]), Huang Qiquan [黄启权] (former director of the General Office of the Municipal Party Committee, Director of the Municipal Office of Local Affairs), Wen Fu Shan [温附山] (Vice Governor of Fujian Province), Head of the Japanese and Okinawan Delegation - Yuika Tokashiki (渡嘉敷唯贤) - (President of the Japanese and Okinawan Karate Association). In the back row are the Directors and Deputy Directors of the Provincial Sports Commission, as well as leaders of relevant Departments and other members of the Japanese and Okinawan delegation.
Lin Weigong (林伟功) was hired as a Special Consultant by the Japanese and Okinawan Karate Association to investigate the origins of Goju Ryu Karate-Do in China. The picture shows the esteemed Presidemt - Yuika Tokashiki (渡嘉敷唯贤) and Lin Weigong - taking a photograph together in front of the monument.
A Photograph of President Yuika Tokashiki and Lin Weigong - Executive Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the Fujian Provincial Surname Origin Research Association, Deputy Director of the Fujian Provincial Committee of the Revolutionary Committee of the Fujian Provincial Committee, and Head of the Liaison Office.
The above pages are written in Japanese script and list a number of 'names' of honourable Japanese people who have contributed finance, time and/or expertise to the arrangement, construction and raising of the stone monument(s). These names include Moriyoshi Niizaki, Tomoyoshi Nakayoshi, Chuichi Uehara, Takakatsu Nakamura, Yasuhide Gibo, Antetsu Takehara, Yuki Dochu, Nobuichi Ishii, Koji Sugimoto, Noriko Sugimoto, Maki Sugimoto, Masashi Deni, Hiromi Miyagi,,Koji Miyagi, Hyakuna Ason, Hanashiro Seimei, Onaha Tsutomu, Nakazato Masayuki, Gakiya Hiroshi,
Kamiesu Choho, Hirota Nakaima and Kosuke Kamiya, etc.
Chinese Language Articles:
Selection of Important Extracts:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.