Sports Heritage Along the SILK ROAD (Intro)

GSHA (& MUSEUMVIEWS) were delighted to be invited to join in the celebrations of the first annual Silk Road Week (June 19-24, 2020) to mark the inscription of the Silk Road – from Chang’an to the Tianshan Corridor -, onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, during a ceremony that took place in Doha, Qatar, in June 2014.

Courtesy Bruce Lee Family Co., LLC, and Bruce Lee Foundation

History of sports spans the documented and undocumented history of humans’ interactions with one another, and with nature.

For example, the foundations of martial arts may be traced back to the discovery of the Sinathropus (Peking Man) some 750,000 years ago, in China. “Tactical fighting is the most fundamental feature of martial arts. Therefore, the study of the origin of martial arts entails beginning with an exploration of these tactical fighting arts (A History of Chinese Martial Arts, edited by Fuhua Huang, Fan Hong).” Beginning with humans’ survival tactics against wild animals and birds of prey.

Boy with “Peking Man (Sinathropus)” at Zhoukoudian, Peking Man Museum, courtesy Shanghai Daily

Ancient texts in Latin, Arabic, Persian, Sanksrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Korean recount elaborate references to the importance of mental and physical health as well as techniques of warfare with and without tools.

Over time, choices between the use of bare hands (or feet) and tools grew more sophisticated as did the evolution of singular or collective forms of training into games and leisure activities for the entire community.

These traditions spread across regions, including along the Silk Road, throughout Asia, Europe, and parts of Africa.

It’s nearly impossible to track and trace the histories and origins of all sports around the globe, including the Silk Road – which is the focus of our presentations during this 1st annual Silk Road Week (June 19-25).

MUSEUMVIEWS and GSHA’s engagement with #SilkRoadWeek2020 may be viewed as an invitation to celebrate the histories of various sports – football (cuju), martial arts, equestrian sports, archery, wrestling, horse polo, board games, weight lifting, etc. – and re-consider their origins and practices around the world. This is especially the case in the West where insufficient attention is given to the arts, cultures and sports traditions beyond our sphere of interest.

*  World Nomad Games (as seen in the below video) is one example of an international event that promotes regional sports. Organized under the patronage of UNESCO, during its inaugural edition in 2014, some 583 athletes from 19 countries participated in competitions held in 10 types of sports, in addition to 1,200 in exhibiting cultural program of the representative nations. The television broadcast of the Games reached 230 million people. WNG2021 is set to be held in Turkey, in September 2021.