Sun, Jun 05, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Master of arms

A respected martial-arts teacher, Lin Chang-hsiang is also the owner of one of Taiwan's most extensive collections of antique Chinese weaponry

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Martial arts expert Lin Chang-hsiang (林昌湘) may not be the nation's oldest and most experienced practitioner of wushu (武術) at the age of 38, but over the past 10 years, Lin has taken his passion to new levels.

Like all masters of wushu, or guoshu (國術) as the 2,000-year-old form of hand and weapon-based martial arts is also referred to, Lin is proficient in numerous armed and unarmed techniques including the Praying Mantis, Eagles Claw, Monkey and Drunken-style. And he looks equally menacing when striking a pose or brandishing any one of the huge arrays of weapons employed by wushu devotees.

What sets him apart from his peers, however, is his instruments of death, some of which are over 300 years old and all of which are housed in his specially built arsenal in Danshui.

When he's not polishing his broadswords or sharpening his spears, the soft-spoken and mild-mannered wushu master is a busy chap. He teaches martial arts-based fitness programs at over a dozen schools, sits on the board of several of northern Taiwan's physical-education committees and manages his own school called the Qingdao Wuguan (青島武館).

In 1995, Lin helped to establish the biennial Danshui Custodian's Cup (鎮長盃全國國術比賽), which is now considered to be Taiwan's most influential wushu showcase.

The contest attracts an average of 80 teams of every level. High school teams, martial arts dojos and even military units now all compete in the event and the number of competitors has risen from less than 400 to over 1,000.

"Because there had never been a high-level national wushu competition in Taiwan, the Custodian's Cup has somehow filled this void," Lin said. "It has become one of, if not the most talked-about contest, and we get teams from all over Taiwan wanting to compete now."

In addition to his numerous commitments, Lin also serves as quasi-envoy for Taiwan's numerous wushu federations. He travels extensively to give demonstrations, lectures and to teach wushu to students in Europe, Central and North America and China.

Despite Lin's teaching and administrative duties, he still finds time to enjoy his favorite pastime -- collecting and restoring ancient Chinese weapons.

Lin began collecting old swords, spears, staffs and other weaponry 10 years ago, but it wasn't until 2000 that he finally found a permanent home for his massive collection.

His private arsenal is stocked with over 1,000 weapons ranging from Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) cavalry swords and infantry short swords, to Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) knuckle-dusters, maces and tridents. The collection also includes numerous contemporary reproductions for use in wushu demonstrations, competitions and movies.

The collection is not housed in shiny display cases and there are no printed explanations about what the objects are, but the assortment of antique weapons remains one of the largest such collections to be found anywhere in Taiwan.

As well as housing his collection of weapons the private museum, which Lin named the Taosheng Ancient Chinese Military Weapons Museum (道生中國兵器博物館), the structure also doubles as a shrine to Lin's master and martial arts teacher, Kao Tao-sheng (高道生). Now 91 and living in Qingdao, China, the hugely influential wushu master is considered by many to be one of the world's top martial-arts experts.

"I wanted to pay homage to my teacher and figured that the most fitting way to do this was to name the rooms in which I keep my collection after him," said Lin.

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