Sounds, Swords and Forests: An Exploration into the Representations of Music and Martial Arts in Contemporary Kung Fu Films

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Author: Brent Keogh, Macquarie University, Australia
Email: brent.keogh@mq.edu.au
Published: January 2016
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijas.2.1.03

Citation: Keogh, B. (2016). Sounds, Swords and Forests: An Exploration into the Representations of Music and Martial Arts in Contemporary Kung Fu Films . IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijas.2.1.03


Abstract

In the Wu Xia film Hero (Yimou, 2002), Jet Li’s character Nameless ponders mid-combat the connection between the martial arts and music, stating that both wrestle with ‘complex chords and rare melodies’. There have been various articulations of the Chinese equivalents to the Medieval Quadrivium, whereby the cultured person is expected to be competent in a select number of artistic and intellectual disciplines. Rather than the four disciplines of this particularly western approach, several Chinese equivalents have been based on the number five, a significant number featured in the I Ching, whose articulation of the Five Elements (Fire, Metal, Wood, Water and Earth) can be found throughout traditional Chinese medicine, cosmology, and martial arts. One such articulation expects the cultured martial artist to be competent in the disciplines of calligraphy, music, healing (acupuncture, Chinese medicine), cosmology, and of course, kung fu. My interest in this article is to explore the ways in which the philosophical connections between music and martial arts have been represented and articulated in contemporary kung fu films.

Keywords

Martial arts cinema, music, Kung Fu, interdisciplinary arts practice