Tag Archives: history

USA 2019 – 13 Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC (2019-10-27) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 20 MAR 2021

My third day in Washington D.C. started out with grey clouds and a sprinkling of rain. Early breakfast at the hotel done, and underground Metro successfully navigated, I walked across the National Mall and up the stairs to stand in front of the solemn stone monolithic building that houses the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Of course it was at this point that the heavens truly opened and I stood in the rain, soaking up what felt to be just about every single raindrop that fell on that soggy morning. When the doors were finally flung open and we made it past security, there I was, a truly drowned rat that just so happened to have the most massive of silly grins on its face.

Originally opened in 1964 under the banner of Museum of History and Technology, the year 1980 saw the museum adopt its new moniker of National Museum of American History, a much stronger representation of its mission to collect, care for, study, and interpret objects that reflect the history and experience of the American people. Having undergone a couple of renovations since the early 2000’s, the National Museum of American History is a behemoth of a museum to visit. Spread over three exhibition floors, each with its own wings and lined with artifact walls, the museum is packed with a mesmerizing number and variety of displays, items of interest, and exhibitions, stretching wildly across the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history.

For those interested in conquest and power, the third floor focuses on the military history of the United States, as well as the American Presidency, and even an exhibition regarding the First Ladies of America (I can’t really explain that last one). On the other side of the hall, sport, music and culture gets a nod, and for my particular visit there even stood a temporary exhibit of classic American quilts. The second floor is pinned by the original Star Spangled Banner Flag, and features rotating exhibits that consider American ideals, such as who people are who make up the United States of America, how did they live, where did they come from, and what it took to ensure voting rights for all.

The first floor is focused on exhibits revolving around transportation and technology, detailing America’s modes of transportation over the years, inventors and inventions, science in terms of robots and America’s future, and even a recreation of Julia Child’s famous kitchen whilst looking at the impact of Food Technology as a whole. The final lower level of the museum features a number of smaller exhibits including one showing the impact of American commerce on the world stage, and believe it or not, a Gallery of Numismatics, i.e. the study or collection of currency.

As you may then guess, it takes literal hours to walk through this fascinating museum and its ode to all things American, and thus the chance of absorbing every little detail is virtually zero. That said, as you may be able to tell just from the size of the photo gallery featured down below, this little nugget of information was surely nowhere near good enough to stop me from trying my best to do so!

Besides, who can say no to any museum that counts and so confidently displays a blindingly neon lit Batman Forever Batmobile so prominently as part of its collection!?

Cape Dutch Architecture in the historic Church Street of Tulbagh (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 JUL 2017

The Boland Earthquake of 1969 wreaked massive damage across the historic town of Tulbagh, but it was also thanks to this very disaster that the restoration and preservation of the town’s history became a reality.

The discovery of a photo taken in the 1860s allowed for the town to get together and restore every historic structure on Church Street to its original state, leading to 32 provincial heritage sites standing in one street alone, the largest concentration of National Monuments in South Africa!

I jumped at the opportunity to amble down Church street over the course of our weekend away at the African Tulip Guest House last December, taking my time to admire all these fantastic, well kept examples of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian architecture.

Other than those acting as museums, most of these historic houses are privately owned, with many operating as businesses, including the likes of restaurants, guest houses, art galleries, or quaint little shops.

Church street is also home to two churches (on either end of the street), a rugby field, a communal green space, and a organic community vegetable garden.

Outside of each house there stands an official, nifty little signboard, detailing the structure’s history and design style, not to mention the dispensing of some fascinating tidbits of local lore.

Naturally, plenty of photos were taken during the course of my stroll – I mean, who doesn’t love taking photos of classic whitewash and gables!

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Well, well worth taking the time to amble down Church Street, and even better if you can organise to join one of the historic walking tours!

Related Link: Tulbagh | Cape Dutch Architecture

Brief History to Basic Monkey Kung Fu Martial Arts 25 OCT 2008

Tie Hou QuanBasic Monkey Kung Fu (Hou Quan)

Many of the Chinese martial arts take on aspects and traits of a particular animal. Monkey Kung Fu is one such martial art, which, as playful and comedic as it might look to the untrained eye, is in fact a highly skillful and deadly art. It relies heavily on deceiving opponents and then striking using unorthodox methods. Nimble footwork, rolls, and confusing hand positions add to the general look and feel of a Monkey Kung Fu practitioner. Monkey Kung Fu is also a spiteful martial art. There is no such concept as fair fighting to a monkey. Any type of strike to any region of the body is acceptable, and striking the opponent when down is all part of the monkey philosophy. Monkeys are mischievous, playful, deceitful, tricky and deadly.

A Brief History of Monkey Kung Fu

It is known that the Monkey for has been in Chinese arts since at least the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.) This style was recorded by an official and named Dancing Boxing as it was under influence of wine when performed. It mimicked the creature and had its playful antics. Later, the surgeon Hua Tuo (190A.D.-240A.D.) created a system of health exercises known as the Five Animals Frolic Play. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) two separate books were published on actual monkey styles of kung fu that were practiced, especially at temples, so the religious, hence Buddhist, aspects and flavour would have began to play a part to later see the evolution of Shaolin versions of the boxing style. The main aspects of falling, acrobatic, ground fighting were constantly given to monkey influence. By the end of the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911) monkey boxing was well known in multiple styles like Choy Li Fut and Wu Wun Chuan.

Hou Quan borrows much from the Tai Shing Pek Kwar (Monkey Axe Fist) monkey style. Tai Shing Pek Kwar is in fact made up of two separate and complete arts, Tai Shing (Monkey), which was founded by Kou Sze and Pek Kwar (Axe Fist), which was founded by Ma Chi Ho. The following two accounts of the history behind Pek Kwar and Tai Shing are the more common histories related today. Although it is not certain that they are a hundred percent accurate, they certainly are plausible enough to get an idea of how the styles originated.

1. A History of Pek Kwar

Master Ma Chi Ho, who lived in Shantung province, founded the art of pek kwar over 2000 years ago. He based this particular style of pek kwar Kung Fu on axe-fist techniques, which use circular long arm, and free-swinging movements, low stances, and the internal energy of chi. It is not a pretty or flashy style, but it’s filled with quick and powerful movements of sudden blows and strikes. This style uses circular patterns and angular strikes, resembling those made by a man swinging an axe in each hand.

While Ma Chi Ho was quite young, he lived down the road from a Taoist temple. Out of the kindness of his heart, young Ma would gather and chop wood for the priests who lived in that temple. One day, one of the priests from the temple approached Ma and said to him, "Metal may conquer wood, but the spirit is stronger". Then the priest walked away without giving an explanation. Though Ma was puzzled, he still continued his chore of providing wood for the priests.

With an axe in each hand, which helped double the results, he chopped at the limbs of every tree he could reach. Later, when Ma decided he had gathered enough wood for the temple that day, he slowly set both his axes down. Then the priest’s saying suddenly came to mind. "Metal may conquer wood, but the spirit is stronger". Ma sat down on a log and studied the saying. "Metal", thought Ma to himself, "must mean the axe in my hand and the conquering of wood must be my chopping off branches. The spirit must mean me, or the inner me, which is stronger".

Ma then took one of the axes in his hand and swung it at one of the branches of the tree, chopping it off. He set down the axe and walked up to the tree. After angling his arm and his fist, as if he were using an axe, he swung at the branch. To his amazement, the limb broke off. Through this realization, that he could wield his strength and inner spirit like an axe, Ma later perfected a new type of swinging motion. Ma combined these motions with several of the northern Kung Fu styles that he knew into a brand new style.

Ma Chi Ho later passed on this art to his protégé Ken Ming Kwai, who passed it to his son, Ken Yung Kwai, who then, passed it on to his son, Ken Tak Hoi.

2. A History of Tai Shing

The history of Tai shing Kung Fu begins at the turn of the century, near the end of the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911). A short-tempered fighter from northern China, Kau Sze was a chief of an armed escort service in the early 1800’s.

On one particular job he was sent to escort some gold and silver being transported from north to south. When he reached a small village in Guangzhou he helped three young men to escape from being impressed into the army. Several army guards were killed by Kau Sze in the fight, and, in turn, the army chief ordered his arrest.

Kau Sze was on the run. He went to a local Pek Kwar Kung Fu master named Kan Wing Kwai for help. After he had explained everything to Kan Wing Kwai, Kan decided to help him. Kan Wing Kwai let Kau Sze wear his kung fu school uniform and pretend to be his student when the army came to search for him. However, the soldiers returned many times and finally caught on to his disguise, and arrested Kau Sze. He was sent to prison for eight years.

Kau Sze went to the prison near the forest inhabited by many monkeys. He wanted to escape from the prison, but he learned that other prisoners’ attempts failed not because they were stopped by the prison guards, but rather by the monkeys. Kau Sze was an expert of Tei Tong Kung Fu (Great Earth Style – a lower body kicking and ground rolling Northern Chinese Kung Fu style), so the security guards were not the obstacle; Kau Sze’s problem was the monkeys.

Therefore, he needed to find a way to get past them, and decided to observe the monkey fighting and playing through the small little window in his cell. Because there was nothing really to do in the prison, Kau Sze dedicated all his time to watching and learning from the monkeys. Kau Sze discovered that each monkey had its own characteristic when it fought or played.

Basically, monkey fighting places emphasis on movement (smooth, quick, unpredictable and clever), ground rolling and sudden attack. Since there are similarities between Tei Tong and monkey fighting techniques, Kau Sze decided to combine them together and call the style Tai Shing (Great Sage) Kung Fu, in honour of Sun Wu Kung, the Monkey King in the Chinese folktale “Journey to the West”.

Through careful study, Kou Sze was able to break down all of the monkeys’ reactions and categorize them into five different personality types. Thereby he founded five different forms: the tall monkey, the lost monkey, the drunken monkey, the wooden monkey and the stone monkey forms. These five forms make up the Tai Shing art.

Unlike other systems of Kung Fu, Tai Shing has its own principles of maneuvering; including grabbing, falling, lunging and light art jumping and turning. In addition, there are five principles of mental attitude that must be cultivated in this art. They include deviousness, elusiveness, unpredictability, sneakiness and destructiveness. Each of these is employed in each of the five monkey forms.