Taijiquan and the Search for the Little Old Chinese Man: Understanding Identity through Martial Arts

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The first book-length ethnography of a Chinese martial arts association, the book tackles the general question of how human beings form viewpoints of themselves and others through the practice of an art--in this case, the art of taijiquan (a.k.a. "tai chi"). The first half of the book focuses on the author's own experience of studying taijiquan with teachers in the People's Republic of China and the United States, then expands the discussion to include taijiquan as national symbol, taijiquan in the context of urban China, and the globalization of "Chineseness" through taijiquan.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Adam D. Frank notes that many people, Chinese and non-Chinese alike, look to martial arts masters to fulfill their fantasies of finding some font of wisdom, or source of power, and/or an Oriental essence. Drawing on his considerable experience as both practitioner and observer of taijiquan, Frank examines the paradoxes and ironies that proliferate when an ancient tradition enters the international media scene. He shows, with modesty and wit, that the form provides insight into Chinese conceptions of the self, the body, and social relations--all of which are put into question in contemporary China's rapid and at times uncomfortable transformation."
--Ward Keeler, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

"Both product and producer of modern identity for people around the globe, the martial art of taijiquan is shown in Adam D. Frank's compelling ethnography to be a highly contemporary urban practice that can teach us a great deal about how culture travels in these postmodern times."
--John Nelson, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Director, Asian Studies Degree Program, University of San Francisco

"Adam D. Frank's evocative ethnography is more than a story of apprenticeship to masters of tai chi in Shanghai, China. Following the path and the myth of the 'little old Chinese man,' both in embodied practice and in mediated representations, Frank tracks the circuitous and often surprising turns of cultural imaginations in both the East and the West. Indeed, analyzing the practice that most epitomizes the Chinese spirit for the West, Frank elucidates the deep transformations that take place when traditional forms are inhabited by and, in turn, transform the global imagination. His writing is highly crafted, his analysis astute, and his subject matter riveting. This is a book that will set standards."
--Deborah Kapchan, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403968289
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 11/14/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Frank is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the Honors College, University of Central Arkansas. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in International Affairs from American University, and a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Arizona. His current research focuses on Asian American heritage sites, on Asian theatre, and on anthropology history and theory. In addition to teaching anthropology and Asian studies, Frank continues to practice and teach taijiquan. He lives in Conway, Arkansas with his wife, Sandi, a teacher, and his daughter, Zabei, a taiji master.

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Table of Contents

• The Body: Daoism, Qi, and the Making of Social-Sensual Identities
• Bodies, Lineages, Alleys
• Park Lives and Secret Spaces
• Barbaric Glass and Indeipherable Causes: Taijiquan as Public Art
• "Through Martial Arts We Will Become Friends:" Taijiquan as Master Symbol
• Kung Fu Fantasies and Imagined Identities
• Global Chinatown
• Body Redux
• Appendix I: Wu Style Slow Taijiquan (Wu shi taiji man quan) Posture Names
• Appendix II: JTA Lineage Chart
• Appendix III: Literature of Interest on Martial Arts and Critical Race Theory
• Glossary
• Bibliography

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