The Secret of the Golden Flower

The Secret of the Golden Flower,太乙金華宗旨- TàiyǐJīnhuáZōngzhǐ, translation by Richard Wilhelm, commentary by C.G Jung (first published 1931, constant re-prints)


Highlight: One of the first works to explain Taoist concepts and Chinese meditation techniques to a Western audience, this book is a great read for those who would like to understand more about the philosophy behind Martial Arts, especially Tai’Chi.

Key themes: Spirituality, meditation, philosophy

Jung and Wilhelm were some of the first westerners to systematically try to understand Chinese philosophy with reference to the I Ching (“Book of Changes”), which the distinguished Sinologist Richard Wilhelm also translated, with a foreword by renowned psychologist Carl Jung. They explore their interpretation of concepts such asqi(气) in English, which is translated as a sort of “breath energy”.

The original text The Secret of the Golden Flowerwas thought to have been written by the late Tang dynasty master LüDongbin (呂洞賓), but actually, we now know that it was first published in the early Qing dynasty (清代前期), around the years 1668-1692.

In Chinese, the central idea of this book can be described asnèidānshù (內丹术). The challenge, for modern readers (as for the original translators) is to find a meaningful description and explanation of this concept in English, bearing in mind the fundamental differences between the Eastern and Western psyche. In short, this book provides details on a range of meditation practices which originate from the Taoist tradition, focusing on the immortal spirit-body, and designed to prolong life.

“Action through non-action”.

“Though one does not destroy things, neither does one pay attention to them; this is the contemplation of the Centre”.

“If, when stimulated by external things, one moves, it is the impulse of the being. If, when not stimulated by external things, one moves, it is the movement of heaven”.



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Chinese Martial Arts Film

Martial arts film is a film genre. A sub-genre of the action film, martial arts films contain numerous fights between characters, usually as the films’ primary appeal and entertainment value, and often as a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include other types of action, such as stuntwork, chases, and/or gunfights.

Chinese Kungfu

As with other action films, martial arts films are dominated by action to varying degrees; many martial arts films have only a minimal plot and amount of character development and focus almost exclusively on the action, while other martial arts films have more creative and complex plots and characters along with action scenes. Films of the latter type are generally considered to be artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercially successful and well received by fans of the genre.

Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists, and these roles are often played by actors who are real martial artists. If not, actors frequently train in preparation for their roles, or the action director may rely more on stylized action or filmmaking tricks like camera angles, editing, doubles, undercranking, wire work, and computer-generated imagery. Trampolines and springboards can also be used to increase the height of jumps. These techniques are sometimes used by real martial artists as well, depending on the style of action in the film.

Hong Kong kung Fu film.
A poster of “The Big Boss”
Chinese Kungfu

During the 1970s and 1980s, the most visible presence of martial arts films was the hundreds of English dubbed kung fu and ninja films produced by the Shaw Brothers, Godfrey Ho, Joseph Lai, and other Hong Kong producers. These films were widely broadcast on North American television on weekend timeslots.

Jackie Chan
Chinese Kungfu
Jet Li
Chinese Kungfu
Donnie Yen
Chinese Kungfu

Martial arts films have been produced all over the world, but the genre has been dominated by Hong Kong action cinema, peaking from 1971 with the rise of Bruce Lee until the mid 1990s with a general decline in the industry. Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Donnie Yen.



Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

Kung Fu films are a significant movie genre in themselves. Like westerns for Americans, they have become an identity of Chinese cinema. As the most prestigious movie type in Chinese film history, Kung Fu movies were among the first Chinese films produced and the wuxia (Chinese name for martial arts) period films are the original form of Chinese Kung Fu films. The wuxia period films came into vogue due to the thousands of year’s popularity of wuxia novels. For example, Jin Yong and Gu Long, their wuxia novels directly led to the prevalence of wuxia period films.

In Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films are commonly divided into two subcategories – the wuxia period films, and the more modern Kung fu films (best epitomized in the films of Bruce Lee).

Jet Li filmed in movie Tai Chi Master

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Chinese-language martial arts film released in 2000.

The film was directed by Ang Lee and cast by internationally famed Chinese actors, including Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. The movie was based on the fourth novel in a pentalogy by martial arts novelist Wang Dulu. The martial arts and action sequences were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping, well known for his work in The Matrix and other films.

Chinese Kungfu

Made on a mere US$15 million budget, with dialogue in Mandarin, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a surprise international success. After its US premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, it grossed US$128 million in the United States alone, becoming the highest-grossing foreign-language film in American history. It has won over 40 awards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Taiwan) and three other Academy Awards, and was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film also won three BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and two Golden Globes, one for “Best Foreign Film” as well as additional nominations for ten BAFTAs including “Best Picture”.


Reception and aftermath

The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

Crouching Tiger was very well received in the Western world, receiving critical acclaim and numerous awards. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 97% of critics gave Crouching Tiger positive reviews, based on 141 reviews, while Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 93 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.

Chinese Kungfu Chinese Kungfu

The film led to a boost in popularity of Chinese martial art films in the western world, where they were previously little known and led to films such as House of Flying Daggers and Hero marketed towards western audiences. The film also provided the breakthrough role for Zhang Ziyi’s career, who noted that: “Because of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero and Memoirs of a Geisha, a lot of people in the United States have become interested not only in me but in Chinese and Asian actors in general. Because of these movies, maybe there will be more opportunities for Asian actors”.

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