Traditional Chinese archery gains popularity among youths

Writer:   |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-04-13

It was like a scene from a Chinese martial arts drama — a group of Shenzhen youths in traditional Hanfu gathered at a narrow alley near the Shenzhen Cultural Museum on a Sunday afternoon, holding a traditional Chinese weapon, the whistling arrows.

They took turns to shoot the arrows towards the target, with more experienced companions standing by to correct the new archers’ posture.

Member of the Whistling Arrows club practice traditional Chinese archery in this undated file photo. Shenzhen Evening News 

A girl, known as Daodao, told Shenzhen Evening News she is a new member of the traditional Chinese archery club, which was established in 2012. Female archers make up a considerable number of club members. “Many girls started learning because they were interested in Hanfu culture and after that, they also become interested in traditional archery,” Daodao told the News. She said she was interested in the art because it helps with her concentration and strength.

In 2012, due to their interest in Hanfu culture and traditional archery, two Shenzhen youths, known as Canqi and Wushuang, established an interest group under a Hanfu association in Shenzhen to systematically introduce the etiquette and techniques of traditional archery to its members. The group developed into a platform for many Shenzhen youths to meet friends and practice traditional Chinese archery every Sunday afternoon.

Archery has long been a part of Chinese culture and society, Wushuang told the News. During ancient times, students were required to master the Six Arts, which included archery.

At present, traditional archery is still a minority sport. When most people think of archery, their first reaction is the modern competitive recurve bow, which is one of the modern bows featured in the Olympic Games.

The two types of bows and arrows have their own difficulties, and the traditional bow equipment is very simple, but it is the most difficult to master.

Guo Yulin, a veteran archery enthusiast, is a certified coach of the Hong Kong Archery Association. He often comes to Shenzhen to practice archery skills with club members.

Guo has practiced recurve bow and traditional bow for over 10 years now. In Guo’s opinion, the difference in equipment, mentality and techniques makes it far more difficult to practice the traditional bow than the recurve bow.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t hit the target with traditional bows. It took me two years to practice and hit the target steadily,” Guo told the News. During this process, Guo also went to Guangzhou and other East Asian countries to learn traditional archery knowledge.

The practice of traditional Chinese archery is referred to as “The Way of Archery” after 17th century archery manuals written by Gao Ying. Guo said the manuals were also used as a guidance at the club.

“I always carry a Hanfu in my backpack. Wearing Hanfu and picking up a traditional bow to shoot arrows makes me more confident and prouder of our traditional culture,” Guo said.

Meanwhile, some club member have also participated in profession competitions like the Guangdong Province Archery League, the GBA Archery Open and other competitions.

Wushuang hoped that traditional archery can maintain its inheritance and receive more attention and recognition, just like Hanfu.

“We named our club as Whistling Arrows, hoping that traditional archery can make its own sound in modern times,” he said.