Kung Fu’s Identity Crisis

Source: Roads & Kingdoms

It’s just after dawn on the outskirts of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and Li Quan is kicking a bag of sand. Water is boiling on his stove, audible above the roar of buses headed into the city. After practice, Li checks his phone for messages and pours himself a cup of tea. A few foreigners are on their way today to train with the kung fu master.

Across China, the number of martial artists like Li—people in their late 30s and 40s who hold the flame of an ancient tradition—is shrinking fast. A lucky few operate martial arts ...

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