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Women and Chinese Martial Arts

An interesting and obscure aspect of Chinese Martial Arts in the West is the contribution of women to its evolution and development. Though a mostly male pursuit, highly skilled female martial artists have emerged over the years as well. Their involvement demonstrates the fact that the practice and use of traditional Chinese Martial Arts depends on mind, will, spirit, and skill rather than on size and brute physical strength.


Romantic notions of women skilled in the martial arts exist in the real world and in fiction. One literary example is the Crane-Iron (鶴鐵系列) wuxia-romance series by Chinese novelist Wang Dulu (王葆祥; 1909–1977; Traditional Chinese Kan-chih Calendar 4605 to 4606 – 4673 to 4674) upon which the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" films are based on.


#Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from Crouching Tumblr, Hidden Dragon.
#Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from Crouching Tumblr, Hidden Dragon.
#Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from Crouching Tumblr, Hidden Dragon.
#Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from Crouching Tumblr, Hidden Dragon.
#Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from Crouching Tumblr, Hidden Dragon.

Jen vs. Shu Lien

From as early as the Bronze Age Shang dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 商朝; pinyin: Shāngcháo; c. 1600 BC–c. 1046 BC) through the Warring States period (Traditional Chinese: 戰國時代; Simplified Chinese: 战国时代; pinyin: Zhànguó Shídài; c. 481–221 BC; Traditional Chinese Kan-chih Calendar 2216 to 2217 – 2476 to 2477) to the Ming dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 明朝; pinyin: Míng Cháo; 1368–1644; Traditional Chinese Kan-chih Calendar 4064 to 4065 – 4340 to 4341), Chinese women led armies in unsettled times. They often did so with the expectation that once the crisis was averted they would return to their traditional roles as wife, mother, or daughter. Some were teenage girls; some were tough old women. They defended the border of China from invasion by barbarians and organized the defense of besieged cities. They led peasant uprisings and helped put them down. (Historical accounts even tell of a woman who led a peasant revolt and named herself empress.) They helped defend existing dynasties as well as establish new ones. They raised armies and inherited them. Sometimes they held official ranks in the Chinese government or military. Their heroism was often recognized after the fact with a commemorative title—if they were on the winning side.


The stories are shaped by the sources in which they appear. Many of these accounts are found in collections of biographies of "exemplary women" rather than in official Chinese histories. One collection includes short biographies of fifty-five "remarkable women," who were mostly women warriors. These biographies are more akin to parables with morals than biographies: the highlighted women fit a number of standard Confucian categories like chaste widow or filial daughter. As a result, incidents that seemingly transgress the social norm are portrayed as being grounded in Confucian ethics of filial piety and loyalty. Most of the noted women began their military careers as the mothers, wives, or daughters of Chinese officials. They either fought alongside their kinsmen or in place of them if their male relatives were unable to carry out their duties.


China also produced women warriors who were considered to be disagreeable and not exemplars of Confucian ideals of womanhood. Lady Qi Wang (齊王; c. 1530–1588; Traditional Chinese Kan-chih Calendar 4226 to 4227 – 4284 to 4285), for example, who led the defense of a coastal fort against Japanese pirates in 1561, was said by contemporaries to be "rude, unreasonable and aggressive." The stories of "rude and aggressive" women weren't included in collections of exemplary tales; instead they were hidden in plain sight in the biographies of people considered to be more praiseworthy.


A number of Chinese women warriors include: Hua Mulan, Ng Mui, Yim Wing-chun, Fu Hao, Mother Lü, Li Xiu, Lady of Yue, Qin Liangyu, Liang Hongyu, Lady Xian, Lady Sun, Zhiyuanduo, Mu Guiying, Princess Pingyan, Fan Lihua, and Ching Shih.

Legend of Jade Sword

Whether a passion or a practical necessity, women can learn bare handed self-defense and the use of weapons by enrolling in the best Detroit Kung Fu or Detroit Martial Arts class, which is offered by the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple.



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