Source: Global Times
Photos: Courtesy of Ju’an Horseback Archery Club
By Gao Fumao (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s the last thing you expect, out among the truck fixers, the bathroom tile stores and the excavators for hire. This is Daxing, Beijing’s industrial southern backside. Not pretty, so where the hell are the archers, the men on horseback we’ve come to see?
Down a dusty side road we went, past yards of steel and car scrap. Still no horses, no arrows flying, though suddenly there are sandpits and some scrubland, which could conceivably hide bowmen, I’m thinking.
And then our car is waved into a yard, into the little-known world of Chinese horseback archery. Welcome to the Ju’an Horseback Archery Club. On the east bank of the faded Yongding River, a businessman turned equestrian Chen Liang is helping lead a revival of Chinese archery tradition around his small riding club, where locals learn to ride for 120 yuan ($17) a 40-minute class.
Chinese empires have depended on the skill of the legions that defended the national territory from the backs of ponies. Today instead of infantrymen defending the frontiers, local bowmen are a small but dedicated core inspired by the ancient Chinese arching tradition.
Ju’an, founded in August 2009, is as much about reviving horseback archery in Beijing, but it’s also a code “a living attitude,” explained Chen, tanned and wiry but with steel-gray hair making him look older than his 37 years. Horseback archery promotes in Ju’an members a “natural way of living…because people spend too much time and money on houses.”
Opposite the small prefabricated clubhouse, two horses move around a ring-shaped arena. If you’re good enough, as you canter around you shoot arrows inside the iron railings at circular target boards of concentric yellow and red discs. As he canters in circles, bow in one hand, Chen is clearly in care and awe of his steed, Long Fei, a dark five-year-old gelding and one of 10 horses kept in stables on the site.