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Thread: Damned Shame - Last Traditional Chinese Bowyer

  1. #1
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    Damned Shame - Last Traditional Chinese Bowyer

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070202...e_070202035527

    BEIJING (AFP) - Yang Fuxi, China's last known traditional bow and arrow maker, is plying a dying craft and has made it his mission to keep it alive.

    One man against the crushing forces of modernity, the 48-year-old Beijing resident says he owes it to his ancestors and to the Chinese nation as a whole.

    "I feel a responsibility towards history. A huge responsibility," he said as he sat on a stool in his small cramped workshop in a corner of a residential compound. "I know I have to do it as well as I can."
    The pen is mightier than the sword, but only if the pen is very sharp and the sword is very small.

  2. #2
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    This is a very heartwarming article. He not only embodies the values of historical preservation but of moral character essential to the transmission of generations-worth of skills you'd typically see with martial arts.
    Adrian
    Maestro of the Bolognese School (Spaghetti sauce, not fencing!)

    Click HERE for the SFI comic strip "Bloodgroove"!

  3. #3
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    I just meant it's a shame he's the last one.
    The pen is mightier than the sword, but only if the pen is very sharp and the sword is very small.

  4. #4
    I hope he is able to find some suitable students.

    It would be a shame for those skills to just vanish.

    Maybe the article will get more archers to order from him----make it more likely that his art is passed down.

    I hope.
    "I think its in the basement---lets go upstairs and check."

    MC Escher

  5. #5
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    That is really a nice article. Thanks Todd for sharing. Does this gentleman have a websidet? Is it possible to buy his bows?

    Kind regards

    Manouchehr

  6. #6
    I believe the TV program mentioned is Discovery Channel International's "Atlas" series iirc

    He went into more detail about the dangers his father faced.

    It's worth watching.

  7. #7
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    Hello.

    I read this article on China Daily yesterday.

    Here's the link Bow maker struggles to keep craft alive.

    Best regards, Kenneth A.H.
    I study at:
    Long Quan Zheng Wu Knife & Sword Forge.
    I work at:
    Zheng Wu Knife & Sword Company.
    Qing Zhong Knife & Sword Company.
    Exclusive Porcelain.

  8. #8
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    I wish I knew how to order from him. A craft like that deserves our support.
    The pen is mightier than the sword, but only if the pen is very sharp and the sword is very small.

  9. #9
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    I have been at his workshop. Unfortunately, his reputation surpasses his skill as a bowyer. There aren't too many archers around to shoot his bows, resulting in entirely traditionally made bows that do not have the power or durability of the old ones. Most of his bows end up as wallhangers so poor Yang misses the archer feedback a good bowyer needs to improve his bow making.

    Luckily, others abroad like Jaap Koppedreyer have picked it up and are continuing with much more research to back up their skills. Unfortunately, Yang was only taught bow making at a late age and not everything had been properly passed down on him.

    I will be in Beijing from March-August and and thinking about selling some of his bows for him to actual archers so he can adjust to that market again. I also shoot one myself, but it's not as balanced as the real thing and has much more hand shock than a composite recurve bow should have. These are things that can still be improved, though.

    -Peter

  10. #10
    Hi, were traditional Manchu bows made from bamboo? I thought coming from the steppe their materials used should be more in line what they have up there?

    Unless of course bamboos grows up there?

    cheers
    A blunt sword is like an impotent man!

  11. #11
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    Although wood is used in making traditional Manchu bows, it's not the most important part of the bow. Traditionally, Manchu's used several kinds of wood or bamboo for the core, it really depended what was at hand at their present location. The rigid ears of the bow were often made of birch or elm wood, as was part of the grip.

    The side of the working limbs facing the archer was covered in horn, usually from the Asian water buffalo. The other side was covered in sinew from the back of a working ox. The wooden or bamboo core was actually nothing more than a framework to glue these materials on. The power of these bows came from the fact that both materials were forced to do what they most resisted: the horn was compressed and the sinew stretched when drawing the bow.

    The glue was made from hide, bones or fish bladders. Fish bladder glue was best, this is the same stuff that still holds 17th century Stradivarius violins together well enough for them to still be played.

    -Peter

  12. #12
    Peter,

    Could you name the source or sources that you are using to support your response?

    Sincerely,

    Doug Mullane

  13. #13
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    My sources on Chinese bow making:

    Personal communication
    Jaap Koppedreyer
    Stephen Selby
    Yang Fuxi (last traditional Chinese bow maker)
    Yiming (Chinese archer and fletcher)
    Grozer Csaba

    Literature
    Archery traditions of Asia - Stephen Selby
    Chinese archery - Stephen Selby
    1759 Huangchao Liqi Tushi - Reprint
    And a host of other books that do mention archery but are not specifically about it.

    Other
    Society of Archery Antiquaries (member)
    www.atarn.org
    Studying, owning, and shooting Chinese bows.

    -Peter

  14. #14
    Thank you, Peter.

  15. #15
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    2005/2006 Hongkong Museum of Coastal Defence had an exhibition on Asian Archery Traditions supported mainly by Stephen Selby and Mr. Yang was featured prominently in the exhibit along with photographs of his craft. A real pity if what you say is true and that his bows are no longer up to standard. I was thinking of bringing one back to shoot with but hesitated mainly because the humidity of Singapore weather would unglue the glue of the bow unless I keep it in a dehumidifier.

  16. #16
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    Well his bows do shoot, I managed to become third at an Amsterdam tournament with one. For accuracy, the arrows are most important and I made those myself. But it's harder to be consistent when dealing with a lot of hand shock. Apart from that, his bows don't seem to last as long as the ones by, for example, Koppedreyer or Csaba. But these guys bows are also a lot more expensive.

    Comparing them with antique bows, the difference is very obvious.

    On humidity, the Chengdu bowyers treated their bows with tung oil (tongyou). Those in dryer regions did not do this. In Chengdu, humidity can be some 80% in summer there and it can become pretty hot. I think if the bows worked well there, which they did, you must be able to take one to Singapore as well provided you give it the same treatment.

    -Peter

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Dekker View Post
    On humidity, the Chengdu bowyers treated their bows with tung oil (tongyou). Those in dryer regions did not do this. In Chengdu, humidity can be some 80% in summer there and it can become pretty hot. I think if the bows worked well there, which they did, you must be able to take one to Singapore as well provided you give it the same treatment.

    -Peter
    Oh good! I wasn't sure if tongyou would help, and since beijing isn't exactly next door as well as the need for import permits and police approval, I didn't want to go through all the trouble only to have it fall apart after the first couple of shoots.

    Thanks for the feedback Peter.

    Jieming

  18. #18
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    You're welcome... I hope it helps for you. I'll be in Beijing for some 6 months from the 24th of this month, so if you need any help dealing with Ju Yuan Hao, let me know because I'll be living pretty near his workshop (also in Chaoyang) and be a fairly regular visitor.

    My compliments on your work on Chinese Siege warfare! I enjoyed it a lot...

    -Peter

  19. #19
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    Har.... I wish I was going to beijing soon but no such luck. Will definitely make a trip but not so soon I'm afraid. Thanks for the offer Peter. Your feedback to Mr. Yang hopefully will help him improve his bowyer skills.

    Jieming

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