The Creation of Wing Chun

A Social History of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts

By Benjamin N. Judkins & Jon Nielson

Subjects: Sports And Society, History, Cultural Anthropology, Chinese Studies, Asian Studies
Paperback : 9781438456942, 364 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438456935, 364 pages, August 2015

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Table of contents

List of Maps and Figures
Part I: Hand Combat, Identity, and Civil Society in Guangdong, 1800–1949
1. Growth and Disorder: Paradoxes of the Qing Dynasty
2. Setting the Stage: The Evolution of Guangdong’s Martial Arts, 1800–1911
3. Northern Tigers versus Southern Heroes: Local Identity, National Reform, and the Golden Age of Guangdong’s Martial Arts, 1911–1949
Part II: Conflict, Imperialism, and Modernization: The Evolution of Wing Chun Kung Fu, 1900–1972
4. The Public Emergence of Wing Chun, 1900–1949
5. Ip Man and the Making of a Modern Kung Fu Master
Epilogue: Wing Chun as a Global Art
Works Cited

Looks at southern Chinese martial arts traditions and how they have become important to local identity and narratives of resistance.


This book explores the social history of southern Chinese martial arts and their contemporary importance to local identity and narratives of resistance. Hong Kong's Bruce Lee ushered the Chinese martial arts onto an international stage in the 1970s. Lee's teacher, Ip Man, master of Wing Chun Kung Fu, has recently emerged as a highly visible symbol of southern Chinese identity and pride. Benjamin N. Judkins and Jon Nielson examine the emergence of Wing Chun to reveal how this body of social practices developed and why individuals continue to turn to the martial arts as they navigate the challenges of a rapidly evolving environment. After surveying the development of hand combat traditions in Guangdong Province from roughly the start of the nineteenth century until 1949, the authors turn to Wing Chun, noting its development, the changing social attitudes towards this practice over time, and its ultimate emergence as a global art form.

Benjamin N. Judkins holds a doctoral degree in political science from Columbia University. Jon Nielson is chief instructor at Wing Chun Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah.


"…outstanding … There is no substitute for reading this wonderful book. It is a treasure trove of insightful information on Wing Chun, martial arts, modern Chinese history, and modern Chinese culture. It is also a great micro-history of a particular physical practice, and a great local history of Hong Kong." — Journal of Chinese Military History

"Martial arts was scorned by traditional Chinese literati, ignored by Western historians, and predicted to go extinct by Western and Chinese modernizers. However, as this book brilliantly demonstrates, late imperial and twentieth century Chinese history cannot be properly understood without it … Wing Chun students will see the most definitive exposition of the roots of their art, historians will see twentieth-century China through a new lens, and martial arts studies scholars will see a high water mark and model in their field." — Martial Arts Studies

"The Creation of Wing Chun is a fascinating read and a book that I highly recommend to all Wing Chun students." — Tony Massengill, Wing Chun Illustrated