V

A Visit To

Mount Liangshan

Can you remember the TV series "The Water-margine" and the exploits of the heroes from Liangshan Po? In China, the legend is old and very powerfull, and the 'mythical' Liangshan is a real place.

ocated in south-western Shandong Province, Mt. Liangshan is famous in China; it turned out a number of legendary heroes including Song Jiang and Li Kui during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). These heroes are mentioned in The Outlaws of the Marsh, a novel written by Shi Nai'an living in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and their names have become household terms in China as the name of Robin Hcxxl has in Britain. These people not only equipped themselves with unique martial skills but also went out of their way to rob the rich and endow the pcx>r. Having a great admiration for these heroes, people here have maintained a long wushu practising tradition and Liangshan County where Mt. Liangshan sits Ls named "A Hometown of Wushu".

To leam something about how wushu is going on around Mt. Liangshan we came to Liangshan and its neighbouring county Yuncheng for a visit early in the summer of 1989. We had read The "Outlaws of the Marsh" and were deeply impressed by the description of the vast lake around Mt. Liangshan. However there was no lake coming into view as we were driving towards Mt. Liangshan. In reply to this question, Meng Fanlin, director of the Liangshan County Sports Commission who was travelling in our company told us "You see, this novel was set here around 800 years ago. According to the historical records, Mt. Liangshan was then surrounded by a vast lake, which gradually disappeared as a result of geological changes in the ensuing years. This may be proved by lotus seeds and seed p<xls as well as a warship unearthed from six or seven meters under the ground near the mountain several years ago."

When we got to the foot of the mountain, we l<x>ked up and saw four

Chinese characters - Shui Po Liang Shan -engraved on a rock. The mountain, which is recognised as the base of the rebels, is only 150 meters high though it looks quite imposing. Isolating itself from the outside world, in ancient times Mt. Liangshan was a place easy to defend against attack, so many people who could bear feudal oppression no longer, came here to join the rebellion. As described in the novel, amongst others, Song Jiang and his 107 followers were the most outstanding.

"There are two roads leading up to the headquarters on the hilltop - one for walkers and the other for horseman". As we were passing by a stretch of open ground, Meng told us that it was a place where a stage was set up for those who would join the insuirectory army to show off their prowess.

It was not very long before we arrived at the ridge of a hill. Feeling a much stronger wind, we saw a sign standing nearby with three Chinese characters: Hei Feng Kou (Reshahar Gap) on it. This place was then so precipitous that only one or two generals would be sent to stand guard when the government army came to attack. Beside the board there was a six metre high statue standing on a giant rock. It was a bearded man who, with a Shandong style scarf worn on his head and an unbuttoned coat, was holding an axe in each hand, watching over the road leading up to the hilltop. He was Li Kui, one of the leading generals on Mt. Liangshan. Bom into a peasant family, Li Kui started to practise wushu when he was only a child. He was good at axe play, cudgel play and barehanded exercises. When he was fighting against an enemy, he could swing his axes like a gust of wind and kill his opponent in a twinkling. It was for his unique axe play and his black complexion that he was nicknamed Heixuanfeng (Black Whirlwind). He was upright by nature, and only took up the cudgels for justice. He fled to Liangshan after killing a landlord and several robbers. His bravery and strength were also praiseworthy.

Once, he went down the mountain to pick up his mother. On their way back to Mt. Liangshan, they had a rest on a hillside. However, when he left her alone to get some water, she was swallowed up by tigers. He was so angry that he finished off four tigers in succession with his sword.

After walking for half an hour, we arrived at the hilltop and saw a courtyard in front of us. With Shui Hu Zhai (Waterside Village) on a board above, the door of the courtyard was flanked by two crouching lions, one on each side. It was the headquarters of the rebels. Upon entering the courtyard, a 200-square-metre ground came into sight, which was used for wushu practice and funeral oration. In the north was Zhongyitang, a hall where Song Jiang discussed matters with other leading generals.

According to Meng, these building were restored in accordance with the descriptions of related historical records and "The Outlaws of the Marsh". He added that there were then 30 odd men instead of the 108 at the command of Song Jiang.

Listening to Meng Fanlin's talk and watching local masters

China

Shandong Province

Scenes from 'The Outlaws of the Marsh':

above - Xee Shau kills the soldiers and recuses Lau

Chum Yee.

below - The Song Army attacks the Yee Chun Gate.

On the cover of 'The Complete Story Of The Water-Margine': The leader of the rebels - Song Jiang.

performing martial routines, we were drawn to trace the development of martial arts in the past 800 years.

From the Song dynasty wushu has enjoyed solid development in Liangshan County. A dozen barehanded exercises are practised in Liangshan including Meihuaquan (Plum Flower Boxing), Shaolinquan, Hongquan, Erlangquan and Luohanquan (Arhats Boxing). Amongst other things, Meihuaquan is the most popular there and has several thousand followers. To promote wushu throughout the county, a wushu association was formed in 1982, which has a membership of 16,000. There are 196 training centres and almost every township or village has it's own wushu gym. In slack seasons, groups of young people are often seen practising wushu under the guidance of veteran masters.

Liangshan County has distinguished itself all over the country by pixxJucing a large number of wushu county government has appropriated the funds to finance the training of PE teachers in schools.

Driving south-west for no more than 50 kilometres, we arrived in Yuncheng County, the hometown of Liangshan hero Song Jiang. Having an aptitude for writing, Song Jiang served as a minor official in the local government. But, whenever he had time he would practise wushu by himself. As he was willing to make friends and help others he was nicknamed Jishiyu (Timely Rain). Later, he killed a woman who threatened to inform against him for his connection with Mt. Liangshan and had to flee there, where he became a leader of the rebels.

Following in the footsteps of Song Jiang, many people in Yuncheng went to join the rebellion. As a saying goes "There are 108 heroes on Mt. Liangshan, and 72 of them came from Yuncheng." It is because of such a historical background that wushu has many followers in Yuncheng including its vast rural areas. A few years ago, as people in the countryside lived a rather ptxir life and could not afford to build gyms for wushu training, they practised wushu

" There are 108 heroes on Mount Liangshan, and 72 of them came from Yuncheng."

masters. In recent years, when people who have grown up in Liangshan County go to other parts of the country on business, they are more often than not asked to perform or teach some wushu routines. So, wushu has become part and parcel of daily life for lcxal people who usually start to learn it at an early age. To help young people lay a good foundation, two special schools have been set up, whose wushu training classes have an enrolment of over 100 every year. Lessons in wushu are conducted in every secondary and primary school, and pupils and students enjoy them very much. In addition, the outdoors. When winter came they kept doing exercises, with the only exception that their training ground was moved into cellars. With the steady development of rural economies, they are now becoming better off, and able to build wushu schools on their own. Now there are two wushu schools run by local people which have a total enrolment of 1,300. They can enter their top three students in a provincial competition and many of them are asked to act as instructors after graduation, in other parts of the country^

by Hung Gang

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Responses

  • Payton
    Does liang shan hero got any son?
    8 years ago

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