A Minute History of Foshon, China
Beijing and Shanghai may be the most well known, but give yourself a minute or two to learn about Foshon. You might end up wanting to visit. Located in the central Guangdong Province of southeast China, Foshan is a city that is nestled in the heart of the Pearl River Delta. Foshan governs five districts which include the Changchen, Nanhai, Shunde, Gaoming, and Sanshui Districts, and has a population of over seven million. Today, Foshan is regarded as the hometown to many Chinese who have opted to live overseas.
Foshan was one of the Fen River’s early minor settlements. The city was built around a Tang-era (618-907) Buddhist monastery (which was destroyed in 1391). In 1372, the Foshan Ancestral Temple (also known as Foshan Zumiao) was built and dedicated to Taoist diety Xuan Wu. This gave Foshan a new identity and was the focal point of the city during the 15th century. Foshan quickly developed into one of China’s major cultural and industrial settlements by the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
A true purveyor of Lingnan culture, Foshan was famous for its mastery of ceramics in the city’s sub-district Shiwanzhen. In fact, the Nanfeng Kiln (which is one of the city’s famed tourist sites, located in the town of Shiwan) has been continuously making the town’s trademark ceramic ware for over 500 years now.
When it comes to performance arts, Foshan has played an important role in enriching Chinese culture. The Foshan Museum notes that as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) performance arts were already of significant importance in the city. By the time of the Ming Dynasty, folk performances had become a common source of entertainment, which then led to the establishment of the Qiongchua Guild Hall. This established Foshan as the epicentre of Cantonese Opera. According to the Foshan Museum, this cultivation of the arts has led to 400 amateur Cantonese Opera and Cantonese music organisations in city. The groups are made up of 5000 members who perform 6000 times a year.
Another art form that Foshan has both spearheaded and fostered is Kung Fu. China Daily explains that it was during the Ming Dynasty that this form of martial arts was developed in Foshan. It quickly rose to fame and has been associated with Foshan ever since. Cantonese martial artist and folk hero Wong Fei Hung (Huang Fiehong) was the master of the Hung Ga style, which is a form of hand-to-hand combat that features deep-low stances with strong hand techniques. Another Foshan martial arts figure is Ip Man (also known as Yip Man) who was a master teacher of Wing Chun, a Kung Fu martial art that focuses on close range combat. The Wing Chun expert would later mentor of one of the most important figures in martial arts and world culture: Bruce Lee.
As early as sixteen, Lee went under the tutelage of Ip Man and spent hours practising techniques on a wooden dummy and free sparring. These classes would serve as the building blocks for Lee to further pursue martial arts and even later establish his very own trademark fighting style known as Jeet Kune Do.
Armed with combat skills that had been taught to him by one of Foshan’s finest, Lee would fly from Hong Kong to the U.S. and eventually become an international celebrity. His legacy continues to be strong even after his death. In the modern world, Lee’s influence can be easily recognized. His philosophies have inspired many people. Such is his global fame that companies have continuously used his image. From being the inspiration for one of the characters in a widely popular and successful video game franchise Tekken’s – Marshall Law, to being digitally revived for a Johnnie Walker commercial, Lee definitely has timeless mass appeal. In the online gaming industry, the Bruce Lee slots game on Slingo, takes elements of Lee’s extensive film career and brings them together in one place. Forty years have passed since Lee died; yet he continues to be a great source of interest and inspiration across the globe.
Foshan honours Lee contributions to field of martial arts, through the Bruce Lee Paradise Theme Park. This park is a nature-preserve dedicated to Lee. The place offers breath taking views of majestic mountains, and several museums where visitors can learn more about the icon. It is also the location of the tallest Bruce Lee statue in the world.
As far as contributions to commerce and infrastructure go, Foshan has also become one of China’s most important industrial hubs. Today, Foshan remains competitive in the fields of auto-part production, household appliances, equipment manufacturing, metal processing, and more.