Juyuanhao Bow&Arrow workshop

October 20th, 2011

Chinese traditional archery which for ancient Chinese Imperial Military
Juyuanhao videos from Discovery (Approximate 7 Minutes):

From the year of 1720 – today.

The Ju Yuan Hao bow and arrow-making workshop used to be one of the 17 Imperial bow and arrow-making workshops in the gong jian da yuan (bow & arrow courtyard), located on Dongsi Street. This workshop is the only bow and arrow-making workshop that retains its bow and arrow-making tradition.

The Ju Yuan Hao bow is one kind of “recurve” Chinese traditional bow, which has a curvature when it is unstrung. Craftsmen first make a core for the bow from thin bamboo and attach the wooden grip and the ears. Then they firmly glue horn and sinew to the core. Finally craftsmen decorate the bow with material such as birch bark, symbols, and lacquer.

The traditional bow and arrow have struggled mightily in the market since the 1960s. In order to continue keep this technical tradition alive, the owner of the Ju Yuan Hao workshop, Yang Wentong, passed on his skills to his third son, Yang Fuxi.

Now, Mr. Yang Fuxi (Master of Ju Yuan Hao Workshop) is the only one who can make the Chinese traditional bow and arrows. Juyuanhao Workshop, today’s only one who can make Chinese traditional archery which were used by ancient Chinese Imperial Military.
Features of Juyuanhao bow and arrows: Light,Durable,Immensely Accurate and Powerful.

In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), bow makers were on the payroll of the Imperial Treasury and so, although their status was not high, they enjoyed extremely rich pickings and hence came to feel themselves several cuts above the rest of the ordinary people, living a life free of deprivation.

The Manchu banner men of those days often led pretty dissolute lives; the seventh generation of Ju Yuan Hao’s founder was no exception. Finally he became an opium addict and hardly had the willpower left to do any business. In the end, he had no choice but to sell off the family business.

Yang Wentong’s father Yang Ruilin was a craftsman who was infatuated with bow and arrow making when he knew the seventh-generation inheritor of the Ju Yuan Hao shop wanted to sell it, he immediately collected the money and bought it.

In the prosperous time, the “bow and arrow courtyard” could produce more than 500 bows a month. However, with the changes of time, Yang Wentong, the ninth-generation of Ju Yuan Hao makers, gradually went out the practice of making bows.

His fortune began to reverse itself in 1998, when Yang took his bows to an international archery competition. There, the coach of the national archery team took a fancy to his traditional bow, and from then on, Yang Wentong began to make bows again in his spare time, and also encouraged his sons to inherit the ancestral craft.

Alongside the development of science and technology, the traditional technique of bow and arrow making is facing permanent extinction.

Yang Fuxi, worried that the tradition could wither and die in his hands, so in order to pass on the technique, Yang Fuxi undertook the responsibility to save it.

When Yang Fuxi first learned how to make the bow and arrow, he was already 40 years old. To master this craft, Yang Fuxi resigned from his work, and worked as a taxi driver for 4 years. During this time all the money he saved was used to purchase material. Starting from 1998, Yang Fuxi devoted himself to making the bow and arrow.

Bows and arrows are complex to make, demanding in their construction and particularly needing an accumulation of experience. There is no way to train someone in a few short years to undertake the whole process: At best people might get very skilled with one part of it.

In the first year, Yang Fuxi made 40 bows, but he only sold one. Yang Fuxi, the only continuator of Ju Yuan Hao. Yang helplessly said that he eagerly hoped there was someone who could master the skill. There are many processes for making one bow. Even some original professionals have a mastery of only one or two working procedures.

Besides the complex procedures, traditional arrow manufacture needs many material, like silk, bamboo, horn, tendon, wood, rubber, lacquer, skin, and so on; these material are hard to obtain or even to find today.

Moreover, as a bow maker, one must know many other technologies, and must be able to sink his or her heart into learning this dirty, tiring job.

An ordinary bow can be sold for 100 Yuan, or about US$12.5, and a special-made strong one is worth one or two thousand Yuan. However, compared with the time and energy spent on making it, such a price is not high. But today (from the year of 2009), the price of Juyuanhao bow is more than USD1000.00 (including 5 arrows). More information about Juyuanhao bow and aroows, please visit website at www.juyuanhao.org directly.

Yang Fuxi said making a traditional bow was too hard. Generally, it would take him 3 to 4 months to make only 10 to 12 bows. This is because there are nearly 200 steps for making a single bow. For making a superior bow, the technique is more complicated.

It is Difficult to Find an Apprentice

Many traditional crafts like bow and arrow making are facing the prospect that once the old craftsmen pass away, the technique will be forever lost. Yang Fuxi said he want to have an apprentice, but so far he has been unable to find one. Bow making is hard work that cannot earn much money, so many young people do not want to learn it.

Not long before, Yang was offered a job as the folk researcher in the China Culture Academy. He told journalists that the reason that he and other handicraftsmen worked as researchers was to protect and pass on the folk technique. Yang said that soon, the government and research institute would record some words and audiovisual aids for them so that later generations could resume the crafts.

Reason for Optimism:

In the earliest Chinese royal dynasties, archery had an important place both in mystic ritual and in war. It was a compulsory subject, together with ritual, music, charioteering, reading, and arithmetic in the schools that trained the Chinese nobility.

At present, although archery is no longer a fighting skill used in the battlefield, it’s not merely a traditional sport. More important, much China traditional culture is contained in the archery. By study traditional archery, people can learn about some of China’s traditional lifestyle as well its traditional way of thinking, which might have some influence on today’s society.

Yang Fuxi said that Ju Yuan Hao has weathered the storms of three centuries, sometimes at the crest of the waves and sometimes in the troughs. He said people should have faith that in these days of China’s open economy, the Ju Yuan Hao can be rode up to a crest once again.

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