Promoting wushu

In 1912 the last weak Qing-emperor was forced to abdicate. A republican rebel group came to power and formed a provisional government in Nanjing with dr. Sun Yatsen as president. We do not know the exact details about Liu Cai Chen’s life in Beijing during this period, but we can assume it was not easy.

Also during this year 1912 the Beijing Research Institute of Physical Education was established by Xu Yu Sheng. Several other martial arts instructors cooperated in establishing the Institute: Liu Cai Chen and his friend Wu Jian Quan, Tung Lian Yan and Chi Te. We do not know how they financed the project, most likely with private capital. Liu’s students mention that his strongest wish was to spread the knowledge of wushu, so the health and well-being of the Chinese people could benefit from it. To Liu wushu formed the essence of Chinese culture and a precious aspect of Chinese heritage. Setting up the Institute was a way to promote wushu and to pass it on to the next generation.

In 1916 the new republic came to an untimely end. Until 1928 China was torn to pieces by the imperial ambitions of the warlords. In the meanwhile the Communist Party and the Guomindang worked together to form some kind of government. Theirs was a desperate attempt to prevent the country from plunging into complete anarchy.

Despite this political and social upheaval Liu still managed to accomplish his dearest goal, promoting wushu for the good of the Chinese people. We can vividly imagine that a martial artist was a welcome sight in these dangerous times. Probably many people were eager to learn how to defend themselves. In 1916 Liu was involved at the establishment of the Beijing School of Physical Education, where he also became a teacher and lecturer. In 1920 he was invited by a friend, Tsai Yuen Pei, to teach martial arts for the “Association of attacking and defending techniques.” In these years he was also asked by Beijing Chiao Tung University to teach martial arts. Liu Cai Chen taught for more than 20 years at several universities at Beijing.

Old age

In 1928 the Guomindang managed to take Beijing. They formed a government until the Japanese Invasion of Beijing in 1937. Liu was already an old man by this time. The story goes that even at high age, Liu Cai Chen was still healthy and physically very strong. In 1932, 80 years old, Liu Cai Chen still accepted an invitation from the Nanking Central National Martial Arts Academy. There he was a teacher during the summer session of the National Meeting of Martial Arts Instructors. Liu Cai Chen passed away at the onset of the Japanese invasion in 1937.

Liu’s students quote their teacher as follows:

“The development of wushu depends on three aspects: practice, time and insight. If you practice, practice with full concentration and strength, else all your labor will be in vain. Secondly, a student cannot expect to become proficient at the martial arts from one day to the next. Only by consistent practice over a long period of time will he develop martial arts skills. Thirdly, the student has the develop insight, the ability to see that which is not obvious, to notice the smallest details. When these three elements are present, kung fu will come.”