Hong Kong Martial Arts Living Archive

Kung Fu Motion Capture

The Hong Kong Martial Arts Living Archive is a longitudinal research project initiated in 2012 in collaboration with the International Guoshu Association, City University of Hong Kong, and the Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+), Digital Humanities Institute, EPFL. The project encompasses the first-ever comprehensive digital strategy of archiving and annotating a living kung fu tradition using state-of-the-art data capture tools. In addition, this archive will become the wellspring of exhibitions and installations that promulgate rich cultural traditions.

Intangible cultural expressions are defined by their reliance on embodied knowledge. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage (2003) was conceived to help preserve these social practices, oral traditions and performances, which are increasingly at risk worldwide.

In mainland China, a significant portion of traditional martial arts have already vanished. Hong Kong remains a critical centre for Southern Chinese kung fu and is home to some of the most prominent martial artists in the world. However, rapid urban development, population growth, cultural transformation, and the ageing of the masters are endangering these practices.

The documentation, reproduction and presentation of immaterial cultural forms pose significant theoretical and technological challenges. Ephemeral traditions require cultural scholars, technologists, artists and scientists to work together with kung fu communities to develop new methods for sustaining and enlivening these cultural traditions. This interdisciplinary endeavour has become an ongoing focus for the Digital Humanities Institute, EPFL, in conjunction with collaborators and kung fu practitioners around the world.

Principal Investigators:
Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, EPFL, Switzerand
Prof. Jeffrey Shaw, City University of Hong Kong, and EPFL, Switzerland
Mr. Hing Chao, Hong Kong Guoshu Association

Installations and Curated Exhibitions:

Related Projects:

Related Publications:

  • Chao, H. Kenderdine, S. & Shaw J., eds. (2016). 300 Years of Hakka Kung Fu: Digital Vision of its Legacy and Future. Hong Kong: International Guoshu Association, 165–189.
  • Kenderdine, S. & Shaw, J. (2016). ‘A digital legacy for Living Culture’, in Chao, H. Kenderdine, S. & Shaw, J. (eds.), 300 Years of Hakka Kung Fu: Digital Vision of its Legacy and Future. Hong Kong: International Guoshu Association, 165–189.
  • Kenderdine, S. & Shaw, J. (2017). ‘Archives in Motion. Motion as Meaning’, in Grau, O. (ed.), Museum and Archive on the Move: Changing Cultural Institutions in the Digital Era. Berlin: De Gruyter, 211–233.
  • Kenderdine, S. & Shaw, J. (2018). ‘The Museological Re-enactment of Lingnan Hung Kuen’, in Chao, H. (ed.), Across the Century: Kung Fu Narratives in Cinema and Community. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 137–159.
  • Chao, H. Delbridge, M. Kenderdine, S. Nicholson, L. & Shaw, J. (2018). ‘Kapturing Kung Fu: Future Proofing the Hong Kong Martial Arts Living Archive’, in Whatley, S. Cisneros, R. & Sabiescu, A. (eds.), Digital Echoes. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 249–264.
  • Kenderdine, S. (2019). ‘Archives in Motion: Intangible Heritage and Embodied Exhibitions’. ICH Courier online 39.
  • Lo, P., Chan, H.H.Y., Tang, A.W.M., Chiu, D.K.W., Cho, A., See-To, E.W.K., Ho, K.K.W., He, M., Kenderdine, S. & Shaw, J. (2019). ‘Visualising and revitalising traditional Chinese martial arts: Visitors’ engagement and learning experience at the “300 years of Hakka Kungfu”’, Library Hi Tech 37(2): 273-292. DOI 10.1108/LHT-05-2018-0071
  • Hou, Y., Kenderdine S., Adamou, A., Picca, D. & Egloff, M. (2022). “Digitizing Intangible Cultural Heritage Embodied: state of the art”, in Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage. https://doi.org/10.1145/3494837
  • Hou, Y. & Kenderdine S. (2022). “Encoding the Whole-of-Environment Knowledge for Intangible Cultural Heritage”. (IN)TANGIBLE HERITAGE(S): Design, culture and technology – past, present, and future, June 15-17, Canterbury, UK. AMPS Proceedings Series 29.1, pp.121-132.
  • Hou, Y., Seydou, F., & Kenderdine S. (2023). “Unlocking a multimodal archive of Southern Chinese martial arts through embodied cues”. Journal of Documentation. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-01-2022-0027
  • Hou, Y. & Yuan, L. (2023). “Building a Knowledge Graph of Chinese Kung Fu Masters From Heterogeneous Bilingual Data”. Journal of Open Humanities Data 9. https://doi.org/10.5334/johd.136
  • Hou, Y. & Kenderdine S. (2024). “Ontology-based Knowledge Representation for Traditional Martial Arts”. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqae005
  • Hou, Y. (2023). “Co-encoding embodied knowledge in Southern Chinese martial arts: a collaboration between computists, experts, and digital models”. Digital Humanities 2023: Book of Abstracts. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8107443
  • Adamou, A., Hou, Y., Picca, D., Egloff, M. & Kenderdine, S. (2021). “Ontology-mediated cultural contact in Southern Chinese martial arts”. Proceedings of the International Joint Workshop on Semantic Web and Ontology Design for Cultural Heritage.
  • Adamou, A., Picca, D., Hou, Y. & Granados-García, P. L. (2023). “The Facets of Intangible Heritage in Southern Chinese Martial Arts: Applying a Knowledge-Driven Cultural Contact Detection Approach”. Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage 16.3, No.63, pp 1-27. https://doi.org/10.1145/3606702