Asian Traditional Archery Research Network (ATARN)

A1, Cloudridge,
30, Plunkett’s Road,
The Peak, Hong Kong.

Fax: (852) 2808-2887
June  2003

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Dear All,

Horseback Archery at the Leeds Royal Armouries, UK
8th, 9th, 10th August 2003

Hilary Greenland, Secretary of the SPTA (The Society for the Promotion of Traditional Archery) writes:

"We will be demonstrating competitive horseback archery as part of a show in the tiltyard at the Royal Armouries during one of their "Sporting Times" series, which feature displays of martial skills which have become modern sports.

"The Armouries itself is well worth a visit with fine displays from the UK national collection of historic arms and armour from around the world: see For information on SPTA see

"The displays will be in the Tiltyard, adjacent to the museum and admission to the museum and the display is free.

"Friday 8th is a practice day (from approximately midday) which will be open to the public. The main shows will be at 3pm on Saturday and Sunday.

"Alongside the tiltyard on all three days, SPTA will be putting on an exhibition of composite bow making and horseback archery.

"Please come and meet us, see the display, have a chat with us about all things to do with traditional archery, and visit the Armouries' remarkable collection."

In May 2002, the Bow-makers' guild hall in Beijing was demolished. Already in the Cultural Revolution of 1966, the tale of the invention of the bow by Huang Di, mythical first ruler of China, had been erased from the wall on each side of the ancestral altar. In case it should be forgotten - even though it is not more than a fairy tale -- I hope you will tell it to your children. You can download the story and the drawing as an Adobe Acrobat file to print and distribute to you school class or community group.

How Huangdi Invented the Bow and Arrow

ONCE upon a time, Huangdi went out hunting  armed with a stone knife. 

Suddenly, a tiger sprang out of the undergrowth. Huangdi shinned up a mulberry tree to escape.

Being a patient creature, the tiger sat down at the bottom of the tree to seewhat would happen next.

Huangdi saw that the mulberry wood was supple, so he cut off a branch with his stone knife to make a bow. Then he saw a vine growing on the tree, and he cut a length from it to make a string.

Next  he saw  some bamboo nearby that was straight, so he cut a piece to make an arrow.

With his bow an arrow, he shot the tiger in the eye. The tiger ran off and Huangdi made his escape

(Chinese folk tale. Drawing by Stephen Selby 2003)

On 30 May, the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence opened its exhibition of Asian archery to the public. It has been an exciting experience working with the professional staff of the museum to prepare for the exhibition. I hope that many Members of ATARN will come to the official opening in October.

Meanwhile, for those of you who can't wait, here is a preview. The photographs are published here with kind permission of the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence and are protected by copyright.

Entrance to the exhibition. 
"There are thirty six types of weapons, and the bow is king. There are eighteen martial arts, and archery is the greatest."

Visitors can pull out draws to examine exhibits of arrowheads.

Archery in Chinese legend and ritual

Varieties of Qing Dynasty bows: hunting, examination and military

The bowmaker's craft: tools of the trade and video showing how bows are made by Ju Yuan Hao.

Life-size figure of a Qing archer (after the 1867 photograph by John Thomson)

The archery traditions of Asia





(Stephen Selby)