Beijing Bittersweet

Beijing Bittersweet: Foreign Exchange Student in Wushu at the Beijing Physical Culture Institute during the 1980s.

BBcover web

A personal history of living and training at the Beijing Physical Culture Institute during the 1980s, some historical background of Beijing and of wushu during that time, and memories of the people learning and teaching at the Institute then.

 Soft cover book ISBN 978-1-989468-09-8. 6x9 inches, 270 pages.

PDF Edition ISBN 978-1-989468-10-4. 8.5x11 inches, 171 pages.

E-Reader Edition ISBN 978-1-989468-11-1.

6x9 inch hard cover book ISBN 978-1-989468-28-9. Retail price is a ridiculous US$100, because it costs me a fortune to print. It is on very thick, coated paper, with a much fancier printing process, for very clear images. I would get the soft cover, if I were you, the photos came out pretty well with the regular printing process.

I’ve been checking things at Amazon, and am not 100% sure that they have the correct versions for sale. The cover showing is definitely not the final version. You might be better to get the book from Lulu or PlumPub.

Brief excerpts

Comments from readers

”Andrea Falk was the first foreign exchange student at the Beijing Physical Culture Institute. Her distinct accessibility allows her to offer a unique view of what was happening, not only in the reconstructed world of martial arts, but in China as well. One of the book's strongest points is the way it discusses so many aspects of Chinese life through the storm of social variations and changing rules. We live in a Beijing of parks, activities and gathering relationships.

Falk sets the scene for us, literally, by including street maps of Beijing as she begins the book. She outlines the thoroughly complex situation of political involvement reflected in every aspect of Chinese life, sometimes with devastating effect. Farmers and officials, teachers and technicians, all touched in some way, matter how they might wish to see themselves, as Falk writes, as a "screw in society's machine." 

The Performance Wushu section is a huge resource, providing a serious discussion on the tug-o-war between Contemporary Wushu and Traditional Wushu. These have been hot topics for decades, but Falk's book shows that this was not a straight line process, taking the history into more detail. Whole lifetimes were spent in a twilight zone of power and politics and art, and she deals with this rare information in a straightforward way, while placing it in the martial environment. The search for Wushu skill is also prominent, here. Falk's diary includes her own experiences, as well as a wealth of stories from her friends and fellow students, from sparring practice to minute details on forms usage — a lifetime of martial knowledge and memories where art and life share everything. 

This book is everything a reader would hope for in the diary of a long time and respected martial artist. In addition to the lifetime relationships she established with friends and students, she also goes into detail about the various teachers she was privileged to study under, all with their own methods, quirks, and wisdom. While her experience was probably more intense than ones had by most martial students, the acquisition and discoveries of martial principle and practice are well-described. Falk, always a good writer, now also gives us a glimpse of the sincere student and teacher she’s become.” Plum Publications

”Andrea Falk’s exceptional new memoir of her years living and training martial arts in Beijing in the 80s is a must-read. Falk’s clear prose provides that rarest of combinations: a genuinely skilled and eloquent author who deeply understands Chinese martial arts. Her book ranges from an insightful history of Chinese martial arts in the Communist era, to personal observations of several of the greatest martial arts masters of the twentienth century – but always grounded in her humourous  and frank reflections as one of the first westerners to study martial arts in China post-Cultural Revolution. Falk’s book is high recommended for anyone with an interest in martial arts, the socio-political complexities of 20th century China, or lives well-lived.” Michael Blackburn, Vancouver Taijiquan

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