View Full Version : Kungfu Masters

May 22nd, 2012, 02:22 PM
It is a crime-detective story, in which I described the moves of Chinese traditional kungfu in details as never have been described in English before. The story is interesting. The novel is published by Publishamerica in Maryland.

PrologueIt was pitch dark, ink dark, coal dark, a night without the moon--the fluorescent lamp of the sky—not even the stars, the blinking eyes of Heaven. The overcast sky threatened with a heavy downpour. The sullen weather sometimes seemed very friendly to certain individuals whose job was outside the law.
A shadow, blended in the dark, glided down a nylon rope from the roof of the six-story building. Sometimes he stopped, hanging on the rope like a monkey on a twig, and looked down, his eyes sparkling like two penlights behind the black mask. He wanted to make sure that no one was passing in the street below him. Sure, nobody was in the street so late on such an unpleasant night, not even a ghost, if he could see a ghost.
The building had housed the stock exchange center in Shanghai in the old China. After the Communist Party had taken over the reign in the mainland, it had been turned into a museum. The stock exchange is typical of capitalism. Not tolerable. Never, as long as communism prevails in China. A museum is a better thing. It can display the five thousand-year-old historic Chinese culture, which the communist leaders are always boastful of and very proud of, but which never helps to make the people’s lives happy or rich.
Sliding steadily, the shadow constantly looked down, hoping that no police patrols would come while he was on the rope and glance up if they happened to pass under him. He should act fast. Where was his nimbleness? Usually he moved fast, brisk of action.
Now he reached the third level, the level of his goal. He was just outside a window, a window to his fortune. Yes, he would soon be rich, after so many years of poverty. He was always envious of the wealthy. They had everything they wanted, more than they needed, while he, endowed with such ability and intelligence, had grown up destitute, barely able to keep his body and soul together. He had often taken the liberty--why not?--to invite himself into the residences of the rich, without their knowledge of course, to share in their abundance, like some curiosities in a cabinet, or a valuable painting on a wall, or some expensive jewelry he could easily lay his hands on. He didn't like hard work, like cracking a safe or taking time to search. He was a true gentleman, he told himself, a light-fingered gentleman. He was only executing the will of God to redistribute the riches of the world, a sublime task, like Prometheus stealing fire from Mt. Olympus for mankind. Ha-ha, a redistributor, an excellent job title. He liked it. Is not God's will often carried out through the hands of men? He was one of them. But since the communist government came, they had taken all the valuables from the commonwealth, saying that these things should belong to the government. So far so good. He could still redistribute them from the government’s possession. Is the Communist Party not the biggest robber? Always gets the lion's share in the name of government. He, a sly fox, would take his share from under the lion's paw. Now wait, lion, here I come.
He took out a rubber sucker, pressing it firmly on the pane. He drew a circle around the sucker with a glasscutter, big enough to reach his arm inside. He broke the round glass piece he had cut from the pane. Taking it down with the sucker still attached, he put it on the outside sill, then reached his right arm inside through the hole to open the window--no, the door to Ali Baba's cave. He didn't even need an “open sesame”. His “open sesame” to every treasure cave was his kungfu. He swung into the exhibition room by the rope like Tarzan, but as lightly as a feather floating in. Letting go of the rope, he landed noiselessly on the floor on his rubber-soled shoes.
While adjusting his sight to the darkness of the room, he suddenly felt the urgency of nature's call. Too bad. Wrong time. Wrong place. But he had to answer it, if he didn't want to wet his pants. Once when he had been only seven, he still remembered, he had been playing hide-and-seek with other children in the neighborhood. He couldn't come out from his hiding place and risk being caught. But nature's call had been so pressing. He couldn't restrain it anymore. He had peed in his pants. He had been afraid to go home until his pants had dried. But his foster mother had detected it by smell and spanked his dear little butt. No one would spank his butt now, though. He still didn't want to wet his pants. It was not comfortable, he remembered, to dry his pants by his body warmth. He took out a small flashlight and in its dim light found a low showcase against the wall. He stepped over to piss behind it. He turned his head away, didn't want to look at the spot where a small puddle of smelly water was expanding from behind the showcase. He moved his feet wide apart, afraid that his shoes would get wet. He suspected that a police dog might trace him by the smell on his shoes. Finished, he jumped back. Then he walked to the tall glass showcase at the other end of the room, which was his goal.
“Who's there?” a guard shouted from the doorway, sweeping the beam of his flashlight across the room. He ducked behind another showcase.
“Any trouble here?” Another guard approached. They walked into the room, getting nearer and nearer. His pulse accelerated.
He felt his heart trying to escape through his throat and jump out of his mouth. He took a deep breath. Calm down, he told himself. Calm down. Don't let the guard hear your wild heartbeat. But what could he do now? Since the communist government always inflicted severe punishment even for petty crimes, the burglary in the museum would surely put him behind bars for at least twenty years. How many “twenty years” in a man's life? Three or four. Minus childhood and senility. The periods of time when one is too young or too old to do anything worth doing. Twenty years for such a minor offense? Sure. Why not? It was the government’s property. He was not supposed to put his hand into the pocket that belonged to the government. He knew someone who had had a sexual affair with a married woman and had been sent to a labor-reform concentration camp in a remote region without even a verdict from any court. That's a fact, not hearsay.
Now the first guard was standing right beside the showcase. If he turned his head a little to the left and down, he would see a suspicious black bundle on the floor, a bundle that should not be there as the burglar huddled, shrinking as small as possible, like a hedgehog without quills, at the foot of the showcase. His black outfit gave him some advantage in the dark room. But the guard never looked down. That's no wonder. Individuals in China, working for the government, are accustomed to rolling their eyes upward to the ceiling whenever they speak or listen to their subordinates, or people at large, but bow their heads before their boss, like obedient dogs. They will glance stealthily from time to time at the boss's face, hoping for some pleased expression while they smooth-talk him. Poor creatures!
The footsteps, tat-tat-tat, of the guards were gradually retreating to the door. He raised his head to peep out. The guards disappeared through the doorway. The footsteps, tat-tat-tat...tat-tat-tat...tat-tat-tat...died in the corridor. He stood up and tiptoed to his goal. He had been here for three days, to investigate. This is not a detective's privilege. A burglar can investigate, too. He had made up his mind on the spot what he wanted, where they were. He stopped before the big glass showcase attached to the wall. A few priceless old Chinese paintings hung inside. He wanted them all. He would escape abroad and retire for the rest of his life, enjoying himself with his wife whom he was yet to find and marry. He was not a monk, would never be, though he had learned kungfu in the world-renowned Shoalin Temple.
No time for daydreaming. Time for action, he urged himself. He took out another rubber sucker, playing the same trick. At that time, decades ago, no alarm system could be imagined in China. This time, the glass piece he cut down was much larger. He laid it on the floor. Reaching in his arm, he took down one of the paintings.
“Stop!” one guard shouted.
“Thief!” another guard cried.
That was their strategy. They pretended to leave, but sneaked back, catching him red-handed. Once they had caught someone in the exhibition room, but the guy had pleaded, saying that he had been so carried away by the beauties of the artifacts on display that he had forgot the time and had been locked in after exhibition hours. So he’d had to stay inside for the night. He had thanked the guards for liberating him from his involuntarily self-imprisoned situation. They had no evidence against him. They’d had to buy his story and let him go.
Calm, the burglar told himself. Calm. Hastily he rolled up the painting and put it into the bag tied on his back. The two guards stood face-to-face with him now. More guards showed up in the doorway. I must get out of here quick, he thought. I must take initiative. He raised both his hands, emitting his chi. He hit both guards on the chest. The force of his chi was just strong enough to send the guards flying backwards without hurting them physically. The back-flying guards knocked down the other guards that rushed in behind them. All the guards fell on the floor, piling up in a human mound. He leaped towards the window he had come in, but more guards ran to attack him. All these guards, though trained in karate, didn't have chi to use. He issued his chi again and brought the three guards down on the floor. Suddenly he felt the air behind his back stir in a rushing wind, a sign that someone was using chi to assault him. He threw his hands backwards, his chi darting out to meet the attacking chi. Two gusts of chi clashed in midair with a hollow bang. He didn't budge. Turning round, he faced a short heavyset guard. He knew he should not stay here so long. He should have been long gone. The police would come soon, though the whole process of the fighting took only a minute. He cast out his chi with full force at the short guard, pushing him two steps back. Seizing the interval, he jumped out the open window. The short guard, pushed back two steps, tread on something slippery and almost fell. It was the urine puddle. He didn't notice the smell before. He cursed under his breath. When the heavyset guard steadied himself, he dashed to the window only to discover the burglar touching briefly on the treetop right below the window before landing lightly on his feet in the street like a cat. The boughs only bent a little. He made a great leap forward across the street and vanished into a dark alley. The short guard stared into it.
He knew with certainty that as the head of the guards he would hand in a self-criticism report tomorrow for not capturing the thief. The police arrived two minutes too late.

May 23rd, 2012, 04:07 PM
Perhaps it's just not my cup of tea, but I find the chi-fight rather monotonous. The story builds up rather slow to, for that matter. I think the martial art theme will already limit your public, perhaps you could add other elements to appeal to a greater demographic? Some mystery, make us curious.

May 23rd, 2012, 05:27 PM
I can think of one slight little problem right off the bat. I can't really read this without concentrating. If a reader has to concentrate to read your work, it's not really going to get read unless out of necessity. I know that forums take out indentations, but you can always go back and turn that huge block of text into paragraph blocks. It allows the reader to lock onto what they are to read instead of reading and spending time concentrating on which part of that huge block of text they were reading from. I literally flung myself away and averted my eyes from the monitor when I saw that it was a constant, flowing wall of text.

May 24th, 2012, 02:05 PM
sorry. this in only the prologue of a long novel. as the story goes on, readers will be told about crimes and as well romance. From chapter 1 on, everything happens in the US. I plan to post one chapter every week. there will 29 chapters in the whole novel.

May 27th, 2012, 04:21 AM
Well, this is not very engaging as it stands. Infact, I'd go as far as saying that it's quite dry.
The main problem I see here is probably the overuse of the narrative summary in the first few paragraphs to set the background. Try to make it as short and as concise as possible.

Second is the unnatural questioning and hesitation/second guessing from that "shadow" guy who seems to be hiding from whomever. "Usually he moved fast.." Is very ineffective as a line to explain his uncharacteristic sloppiness in that scenario.

Third is...I don't know really. For some reason, I'm not sure whether it's the style or flow or sentence structure but I find it to be dull. Or dry as said before. Reading it feels like a chore, because actual action begins so late in the chapter that they don't deliver cause-effect cycle we need to stay interested.

Overall, it could be much better than it is as of now. Course, I'm no writing expert, so I can't pinpoint exactly what it is that offs me about that story as whole. Either way, good luck and I hope this advice helps you.

May 29th, 2012, 01:50 PM
Chapter One“I want to be the First Kungfu Master, a super-rank one, The Invincible,” vowed Richard Chang, dressed in a white cotton kungfu suit, as he started sinking into a yoga cross-legged position on the accustomed spot of the carpet on the den floor, half-worn from long-time daily sitting. “No one can beat me.”
The handsome square-faced man had close-cropped ebony hair and tanned olive skin. He was five foot nine inches tall with a strong build but no fat, only muscles rippling in spite of his old age. He always ate black sesame seeds, which is said to keep the hair black.
“Right, just like nobody beats the WIZ,” leered his wife, leaning on the doorframe as she came to ask him what he'd like for dinner. She was thin, only five foot six inches, still keeping a good figure and fair skin, though the age told with a bit wrinkles on her forehead, a little white frost in the hair on her temples and some silver threads scattered here and there. She was wearing gray silk pants and a white silk blouse with an embroidered red peony flower on the upper left front side; her hair was pulled up in a twisted bun on top of her head. It was over eighty-seven degrees Fahrenheit outside, but the air-conditioning was not on because they believed in air-conditioning sickness. All the windows were open to let in some breezes.
The den served as Richard's kungfu practice room, as well as his study, with a mahogany desk, a leather swivel chair behind it on one side and a row of oakwood bookshelves on the other. Not every shelf was filled with books. He used one shelf to keep the stubs of bills and such things, one shelf for newspapers and another for the display of some small porcelain bottles in which he stored some Chinese medicine for cutting and bleeding, spraining and muscle aches, and all that.
He was sitting against the wall, facing the doorway, with his eyes closed. “Fried chicken, boiled shrimps, spinach, and rice, if it's not too much trouble for you.” He began to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply into the lower abdomen--dantian, in kungfu terms.
Richard was three-score-less-one years old, the right age to be mature and experienced enough to perform the Chinese kungfu feats to perfection. He had learned kungfu from a very famous master, a monk in Shaolin Temple in China, when he had been only ten. It was not necessary to be a monk to learn kungfu in the Temple. His late father had been a close friend of the head monk. When he left the Temple fifteen years later, he was the first among all the learners. He felt very proud of himself. His father would have been proud of him, too, if he had still been alive.
When anyone is taught kungfu, he must be able to grasp the gist of the master's instructions, which are unable to be explained clearly and fully in words, about how to exercise chi. One can actually feel chi going around inside his body while exercising it. If anyone is too dull to understand the master, he can never get the feel of chi inside. So he can only learn how to use his body and limbs--the outside karate actions, and can never become a master. The outside karate actions, backed by inside chi, is really Chinese traditional kungfu and has much more strength than mere outside actions. With the feel of chi going inside for the first stage, the next stage is to practice chi hard and correctly everyday so as to be able to emit it through hands or fingers. As the years go by, the chi one can emit becomes stronger and stronger and can actually hurt people from a certain distance. The stronger the chi, the greater the distance. But nowadays people have separated them. Some only exercise karate moves and others only do the chi practice. They can use chi to help other people with certain kinds of health problems. But few people can combine both now.
Richard was really a genius at kungfu. “Men are created equal” only applies to the area of human rights, not of IQ. The brain and wisdom can never be equalized. Now after another thirty-four years of daily practice, Richard was a renowned master, if not the first in rank yet. Certainly not “The Invincible”. He taught karate classes at home in the basement on rainy days or in fine weather in the backyard of his house on a secluded street in Edison, New Jersey. His wife, Judy, was of the same age, but a layman to karate. However, his pupils called her Mistress Chang according to Chinese tradition. They didn't have any children of their own. It was a pity in their life.
They were married for three decades plus four years already. On the Silver Jubilee Day, as far as Judy could remember, he had made her a gift of a sterling silver necklace with a heart-shaped pendant with the words “I love you forever” inscribed on one side and her name on the other. He had promised to give her a gift of gold for their golden anniversary and a present of diamonds for their diamond jubilee.
Though it was thirty-four years ago, he could still clearly see in his mind's eye their wedding day as if it were yesterday. He had been living at that time in a small village, not far from the Shoalin Temple. Their wedding had been held in the old fashion still prevalent at that time in small villages, though not in big cities. His bride had come in a red palanquin with the musicians walking in front and her relatives behind. The palanquin resembled a miniature Chinese pavilion with a decorated roof and a sturdy wooden bottom with a wooden board as the back wall, two wooden sides, each with a small curtained window, and a curtain in the front doorway. When the bride wanted to go in or out, she just needed to pull aside the front curtain. There were two poles attached to both sides for the shoulders of the carriers. The bride sat inside it on a plank set into the sides. The procession had lasted half a kilometer. A red cloth had covered the head of the bride, who had a bridal knot hairdo on the skull with a gold hairpin piercing through the knot. He himself had worn a Chinese-style black gown with a red paper-made flower pinned on the front of the gown. He had stood at the front door waiting for the bride, looking occasionally at the sunny sky and hearing the gaily tweeting birds, his heart fluttering with bliss and nervousness. When the bride had arrived, the red palanquin had been let down and firecrackers had thundered off to the frightened wailing of some small children among the throng gathered to observe the procession. An old woman, acting as the mistress of ceremony, had helped the bride out of the palanquin and thrust the end of a red cloth rope into her hands while he, the bridegroom, held the other end. The bride had been attired in a red satin Chinese-style coat, an aqua-colored ankle-length skirt of silk embroidered with multicolored threads in patterns of flowers, and a pair of red brocade shoes with a vivid pair of Mandarin ducks embroidered on each of them. He had led the bride into the house, to the center room where the ceremony would be held. It seemed that he was not leading his bride, but instead pulling a horse on a rein or a dog on a leash. Then they had stood side by side on a thick red rug facing a long narrow table on which incense and two red candles had been burning. On the wall behind the long table the red character of “Double Happiness” had been pasted.
The mistress of ceremony had sung out the words, “Now the bride and bridegroom, kowtow.” They had knelt before the long table on the red rug. “Kowtow, first, to Heaven and Earth!” They had kowtowed. “Kowtow, second, to ancestors!” They had done it again. “Kowtow, third, to each other!” They had turned to face each other and done it once more. “The ceremony is completed.” They had stood up; then kowtowed to their parents and other senior close relatives, and at the same time received some red packets with money in them. After that he led his bride into their newly decorated bedroom, still on the red cloth rope. Then the feast began and he came out to pay his respects to the guests by presenting them, one after another, with a cup of wine, while at the same time, drinking a cup himself. The result was often that the bridegroom got drunk before he could offer the wedding wine to every one of the guests. But oftentimes, friends of the bridegroom would drink the wine for him, keeping him sober so that after the feast, they could have other programs carried out. But before the tricky programs began, the bridegroom would pick up the red cloth that covered the head of the bride with a short stick so that the guests could appreciate the beauty of the bride first, if she was a beauty. Then the programs began. The tricks could include the following: an apple was hung by a string from the ceiling and the newlywed couple were asked to bite the apple from opposite sides without using their hands; or the couple should eat a piece of orange from both ends to the middle and at last their lips would be pressed together; or a female relative would hide something on the person of the bride and ask the bridegroom to find it. Of course, the bridegroom wouldn't search the bride's person before the guests, so he must do something else to entertain the guests as a penalty, like singing a song or telling a joke. Married people often played these tricks. The single ones were afraid to take part, because if they did, when they had their own wedding day this newlywed couple would enjoy the satisfaction of retaliation.
“A dollar for your thoughts!” He was back from his reverie and looked at his wife's smiling face.
“You see, your thoughts are more expensive than others. Theirs only cost some pennies,” his wife joked with him. They had invited some friends to a dinner party in some Chinese restaurant for the silver jubilee.
In his free time, his ambition would drive him everywhere to seek other kungfu masters. Whenever he met one, he would challenge him to a competitive fight to determine who was better in kungfu. That was an old Chinese tradition in the kungfu world, too. They named it “Learn From Each Other”, but sometimes they really killed people intentionally or unintentionally.


There were Americans as well as Chinese-Americans in his karate classes, mostly young people. He really taught fighting skills, not just exercises for health. His classes were divided into three levels: the beginners, the mid-level and the high-level. The first two were taught mere karate actions while the high-level pupils were learning chi practice. The classes were allowed in the basement only on rainy and cold days while the pupils exercised in the backyard when it was fine and not too cold.
David Li belonged to the high-level class with two other young American guys. He always acted as if he was full of information about the people and affairs in the kungfu circle. If kungfu performance could be divided into ten levels, excluding the master level, David was at the fifth, which was good enough, considering the fact that kungfu is really no match for modern weapons and fewer people are indulged in it. However, kungfu has its own particular use. In the olden times, a learner was allowed to leave his master's place and wander independently into the world only when he reached the eighth or ninth level so that he could protect himself against most of the other kungfu people. But times changed and rules changed, too.
One day as the class was dismissed, David stayed behind for a little while, telling Master Chang that he heard that there was another master living somewhere in Piscataway, New Jersey. Richard could not remember that he had ever crossed swords with anyone living in that area. So that must be someone he had not met before. That's worth a try. His face was really beaming with excitement.
“What's his name?” he asked David, who replied “I don't know.”
“Where's he living exactly? On what street?” The Master stared at David menacingly.
“I'm not sure,” David answered evasively. He was of medium height, meager, tanned, with a slightly round face like on some commercial for baby food. He was simple-minded, easy to be at the beck and call of other people.
“Get the information for me,” the master ordered.
“I'll go round to ask and let Master know when I come next time,” he promised respectfully. He came in the evening three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The master was impatient when David came on Friday, but he refrained himself until the class was over. An excellent master did everything deliberately, never in a hurry. Master's dignity.
“His name is Charles Pan,” David released the news, seeing the impatience depicted on Master Chang's face, and then gave him the address. Task completed, he left with a sinister smile on his otherwise good-looking visage.

June 7th, 2012, 08:19 PM
I believe chapter one was a slight improvement over the prologue but it still feels a bit dull to read. I mean the writing isn't bad at all but it just feels like I've read this type of novel before. The main problem with this work so far is the overuse of passive voice. (Ex: The mistress of the ceremony had sung out the words....They had knelt...etc) I mean for an action story it doesn't feel immediate enough.

June 8th, 2012, 02:46 PM
Sorry, what you mentioned here is not passive voice. They are the past perfect tense form: had + past participle in the active voice.