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Honor Code of Chinese Warriors
The objective of this study is to discuss the honor code of warrior-heroes in Chinese history and to answer to what the honor code consists of and the origin of the honor code. As well, this study will examine how this honor code influenced the intentions, words, and actions of the warriors and how the honor code manifests itself in novels, how and when the codes apply and what competing visions existed in human conduct.
Wuxia is a term in Mandarin that means literally "martial arts chivalry" and is representative of a unique Chinese type of story that is dated back as far as the Tang Dynasty (681-907). Wuxia is defined by stories "that combine wushu (martial arts) tradition with deeds of heroic chivalry perfomed by men and women." (Pollard, 2011, p.1) Wuxia stories are rooted in "early youxia (?
) and cike (?
) stories around 2nd to 3rd century BC, such as the assassination attempts of Jing Ke and Zhuan Zhu (?
) listed in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian. In the section entitled "Assassins" (?
), Sima Qian outlined a number of famed assassins in the Warring States who were entrusted with the (then considered noble) task of political assassination. These were usually shi ke (?
) who resided in the residences of feudal lords and nobilities, rendering services and loyalties much in the manner of Japanese samurais. In another section "Roaming Xia" (?
) he detailed many embryonic features of the xia culture of his day. This popular phenomenon continues to be documented in historical annals like The Book of the Han (?
) and The Later Book of the Han (? )." (Wuxiapedia, 2012)
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) these tales are reported to have become "epic novels such as 'Outlaws of the March' and 'Romance of Three Kingdoms'." (Pollard, 2011, p.1) Protagonists are reported to have been "sword-bearing warriors of great virtue, who, like Robin Hood or King Arthur, would apply their fighting skills to vanquishing injustices with the edge of their blades." (Pollard, 2011, p.1) These novels blended "elements of fantasy with history." (Pollard, 2011, p.1) This is reported to have become the "jiang hu, or martial word, in which Chinese knight errants living by a code of honor could perform superhuman feats, channel chi energy into magical palm blasts and battle mythical beasts." (Pollard, 2011, p.1)
Xia is a term that is used in Eastern philosophy to describe a person with the virtues of righteousness or one who is considered to be honorable. The concept of Xia is reported as one that is challenging to define because there are no terms existing in other cultures that are equal to this term. Righteous warrior and knight are only rough translations. It is reported that the concept of Xia "has an ancient history in Chinese culture which continues to this day, most notably in the flower of arts in the wuxia genre, detailing the exploits of heroic and chivalrous people. Someone who embodies the spirit of xia has a strong personal code, and abides to it at all costs. Honor is a very prized value in general in Chinese culture, so people who adhere to their honor tend to be heralded as heroic, whether or not they are skilled fighters. However, people who can be described with the term "xia" also happen to be very talented warriors, with extensive Chinese martial arts skills. However, these skills are not used for rampant fighting or display; rather they are used as tools to protect the innocent and fight injustice. Heroes may not necessarily abide by the letter of the law to accomplish their goals, but their actions are always in accordance with their personal faith and beliefs. For example, a warrior might be forced to do something illegal in order to defend someone else, but he or she would consider the action just because it was done in the interest of protection, rather than for gain." (WiseGeek, 2012, p.1) When the individual is described as having the characteristic of xia what is meant is that "he or she has an exceptionally good character with a strong and clear honor code. In a sense, xia could be considered a form of chivalry, as it places a heavy focus on righting wrongs and protecting those in need. Both men and women can be considered heroes with the trait of xia in Chinese society, another marked difference between the ideas of xia and European knighthood. Xia can manifest in someone of any class or background, and warriors need not necessarily serve a specific lord or ruler, either. The wuxia genre can be confusing to some Westerners, who may read wuxia books or watch wuxia films with the expectation of seeing detailed and complex fights in which the hero prevails over enemy forces. In fact, martial attitudes are only a small part of xia, as heroes are encouraged to use the powers of persuasion and diplomacy to achieve their goals, rather than leaping to the sword for a quick solution." (WiseGeek, 2012, p.1)
II. Warrior's Code of Honor
There are two primary components to Chinese culture: (1) Chinese classical culture found in the literary history; and (2) Chinese martial culture. In ancient china there was a warrior spirit known as Xiake Jingsheng " which in general referred to the culture and spirit of highly-skilled pugilist (martial artist or kungfu master) who were known as Xiake?
in ancient China. These heroes were equivalent to the Samurai in Japan and Knights of Europe. Quite often these stood on the side of righteous and used their martial skills in combating dark evil forces in ancient China. (China History Forum, nd, paraphrased) There are Nine Codes of a True Warrior including those stated and described as follows:
Courtesy means that a true warrior "always attempts to practice certain elements of proper etiquette including the following: (a) He or she promotes the spirit of mutual concessions; (b) He or she will be ashamed of one's vice, contempting that of others; (c) He or she will be polite to another martial artist, regardless or rank or skill; (d) He or she will always encourage and uphold justice; and (e) He or she will treat all people on an equal basis and not hold any arguments against another. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
Honesty in the Warrior Code means that a martial artist will be honest and "he will answer questions truthfully to those that are due an honest answer. He will not steal or keep items that do not belong to him. The Warrior's Code holds that 'honest is the best policy'. The Warrior's Code does not hold one to honesty to those who would abuse any truth that was revealed to them. Lying is wrong and can only be justified to a certain degree and in certain situations such as when a soldier is a prisoner of war and in this case, he is not required to be honest to his captors. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
Integrity means the ability to define right and wrong and to have a conscience feeling guilt when wrong. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
An old Asian saying is as follows:
"Patient leads to virtue or merits. One can make a peaceful home by being patient for 100 times."
Patience is a requirement when attempting to reach a higher degree or perfection of a technique. It is reported that one of the most important secrets to becoming a 'true warrior' is "to overcome every difficulty by perseverance." (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
This is a critically important moral whether it is when "conducting oneself in the martial arts or in one's personal life. A loss of control in martial arts or in life can be disastrous as well as can "an inability to live and work within one's capability or sphere" which demonstrates a lack of self-control. Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
(6) Indomitable Spirit
This is a principle that holds that the cost is not a consideration when the person believes in something and that they must fight for what they believe in regardless of the ultimate cost. This is a principle of no fear. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
This reminds the warrior to never be overconfident of his skill and to remember that practice makes perfect to avoid becoming discouraged. Humility keeps one from declaring that he is a champion because if he is indeed a champion others will declare him to be so. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu, 2012)
Loyalty reminds one that they should be grateful to those who are kind to them and to remember that no one is required to help anybody or to be anybody's friend. The individual should do their part to defend and protect those that they love and to never abuse their trust and to act honorably at all times. (Shaolin Tiger Kung-Fu,…[continue]
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