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Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array

Tainan University wins 2017 Song-jiang Battle Array competition in Kaohsiung's Neimen District

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Tainan Unversity Kung Fu athlete jumps high in the air during Song-Jiang Battle Array competition in Kaohsiung.

Tainan Unversity Kung Fu athlete jumps high in the air during Song-Jiang Battle Array competition in Kaohsiung. (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) The Tainan University team seized first place and the top cash prize of NT$1 million (US$32,000) at the finals of the annual Song-Jiang Jhen Battle Array (宋江陣) competition held in Neimen, Kaohsiung on Saturday.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Tainan University Song-Jiang Battle Array team in Neimen District of Kaohsiung (CNA photo)

In the final intense round, after a week of grueling competition held at the Nanhaizizhu Temple (南海紫竹寺), the Tainan University team held off tough field of competitors to walk away as the champions of the Song-Jiang Battle Array tournament for the third consecutive time. Lunghwa University of Science and Technology took second place, while I-Shou University took third place.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Shih Chien University team members reenacting Hua Mulan.

Da-Yeh University fused East and West with its athletes combining cheerleader attire and acrobatics with traditional kung fu weapons and forms. The Lunghwa University team told the story of the "Duck King," (鴨母王), Chu Yi-kuei, a legendary figure from Neimen who lead an uprising against the Manchus. Shih Chien University reenacted the story of Hua Mulan (花木蘭).

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Shih Chien University team members during an intense duel.

The Song-Jiang Battle Array is named after a bandit who went by the name of Song Jiang (宋江) during the Song Dynasty, who had his men split into two teams to fight in mock battles. The duels were so effective in preparing the men for real battles, that it was adopted as a regular military exercise.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Shih Chien University warrior thrusting a "Saodao," a Taiwanese weapon, unique to Song-Jiang battles.

During the Japanese colonial era, such military exercises were banned, and so it evolved into more of a performance-based format. When the KMT came to power, people were prohibited from wielding metal weapons in public, so the battles were converted into temple rituals.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Tainan University student leaping high over a weapon.

The battles, which today are only found at a few temples in Southern Taiwan, consist of teams of 108, 72, or 36 warriors carrying a wide arsenal of weapons performing kungfu, dance, lion dance, and drums.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Tainan University standard bearer leading Song-Jiang army formation.

In recent years, the Kaohsiung City Government, in cooperation with local temples has organized events such as this competition to keep the ancient tradition alive, especially in the Neimen District, where it has been best preserved.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Peaceful ending to the battle as Tainan University team member holds up a lotus flower.

The end of the tournament featured a bit of the old and young: a 94-year-old kung fu master, Ho Kuo-chao (何國昭), performing drunken style kung fu and a children's team doing a Song-Jiang Battle Array demo.

Everybody was kung fu fighting at Song-Jiang Battle Array
Children's Song-Jiang Battle Array team in action.