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Questions to Consider

  1. Hachiman is a diety important to Japanese warriors, among other roles. How did the Japanese conception of Hachiman compare to the way Greeks and Romans viewed Ares/Mars in the ancient Mediterranean, or to the concept of “patron saints” in Catholic/Eastern Orthodox interpretations of Christianity?
  2. How did samurai spiritual practice differ from the portrayal in popular culture in the US in the twentieth/twenty-first century? How does it differ from the Zen and other Buddhist contemplative practices associated with modern martial arts practice? How are these approaches appropriate to the lives of the people who incorporate them in each historical period?
  3. How does storytelling in these handscrolls compare to myths, legends, and histories you’ve experienced in other artistic media: print, film, comics, or elsewhere?
  4. Have you seen other visual art depicting historical events, especially with martial themes? How do these handscrolls compare to, for example, huge oil paintings of the American Revolution or Civil War, or the campaigns of Napoleon?

Required Reading

Dave Lowry
After you RSVP for the event, ask your instructor for copies of these essays so you can read them in advance. Better yet, buy the books so you can read them in context with the many other thought-provoking essays therein.

  • “Now and Zen”, a two part essay from Traditions, 2002, Tuttle Publishing
  • selections from The Essence of Budo: A Practitioner’s Guide to Understanding the Japanese Martial Ways, 2010, Shambhala

Suggested Reading

Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo
These two books unsentimentally debunk the popular Shaolin and Wudang myths and describe the transition of Chinese Gongfu from practical fighting training to modern spiritual/intellectual discipline.

  • Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals, 2005, Blue Snake Books
  • Jingwu: The School that Transformed Kung Fu, 2010, Blue Snake Books

Matthew Polly
Entertaining account of an American college student training at the Shaolin Temple at the historical moment when the Chinese government began to open it to foreign students. A respectful, clear-eyed, and self-deprecating blend of myth and 21st Century reality.

  • American Shaolin, 2007, Gotham Books

Dave Lowry
Autumn Lightning and Persimmon Wind are memoirs describing the author’s authentic traditional Japanese sword training and the values/process he absorbed along the way.

  • Autumn Lightning: The Education of an American Samurai, 1985, Shambhala
  • Persimmon Wind: A Martial Artist’s Journey in Japan, 1998, Tuttle Publishing

Deng Ming Dao
Dramatic retelling of the Wudang Taoist myths, framed as a memoir of a 20th Century monk’s life. Based on a real person, the events of this book has been viewed with skepticism by many who knew him, but it’s a concise summary of the Taoist backstory superimposed on the epic sweep of the multiple societal upheavals of modern China.

  • Chronicles of Tao: The Secret Life of a Taoist Master, 1993, HarperOne
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