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 center 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 aging 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 endeavor 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, Switzerand
Mr. Hing Chao, Hong Kong Guoshu Association