Spotlight on Traditional Martial Art ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’ at the 19th Asian Games Opening Ceremony
The Charm of Chinese Martial Arts: ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’
At the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, the world got to witness a unique spectacle of traditional martial arts from China: ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’. This pre-event performance, originating from the Wu Yue culture, set the stage for the grand ceremony that followed, offering the audience a glimpse of China’s rich martial arts heritage. This martial art form, distinctively showcased at around 6 pm, gave a memorable start to the official ceremony.
A Glimpse into the Roots of ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’
‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’, deeply rooted in the Jiangnan boxing heritage, is more than just a martial art. It is a symbol of Chinese culture and tradition that has been celebrated in the works of renowned novelist Jin Yong, particularly through his character, “The Seven Eccentricities of Jiangnan”. The man behind the preservation and promotion of this traditional martial art is Han Haihua, the Director of Jiaxing Haihua Martial Arts Museum. Under his dedicated efforts, this unique form of martial art was recognized as the fourth batch of Zhejiang Province’s intangible cultural heritage in July 2012. Furthermore, Han Haihua was acknowledged as the representative inheritor of this art form in November 2013.
Representation of Culture Through ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’
For Han Haihua, ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’ is not just a form of martial art, but a representation of Jiangnan, canal, and tide culture. His aspiration is to seamlessly integrate the charm of Jiangnan with boat boxing. The performance of boat boxing, according to Han Haihua, is inseparable from the element of the boat. Using a long bench to represent the shape of the boat, he creatively devised formations to represent the boat’s head, cabin, and hull. The performers danced on the bench with weapons fashioned like ropes and oars, thereby capturing the essence and allure of boat boxing.
Rehearsing for the Grand Stage
Being the only martial arts program performed before the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, the stakes were high for Han Haihua and his team. The team underwent repeated training sessions under Han Haihua’s guidance, focusing on accurately positioning each person’s standing position and overall formation during each full rehearsal. Despite the pressure, the team remained confident and eager to deliver their best performance.
An Unforgettable Performance
The 3-minute ‘Nanhu Boat Boxing’ performance was nothing short of spectacular. It ignited the atmosphere and led the event’s momentum to its peak, winning applause from the audience. After the performance, an excited Han Haihua mentioned receiving congratulations from family and friends. Despite initial nervousness, everyone quickly adapted and showcased their best side, making the performance a memorable event.
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