Iron & Silk

Click Here to Enlarge
Author: Mark Salzman
Pub: 1986 by Random House, Inc.
Pages: 211
Ranking:Three Star Rating
In Print: Check Price Now!


This book isn't going to show you any Kung Fu techniques, but it's a fascinating story of a young man's journey to China, and his training in Kung Fu. It covers modern China culture in an interesting way. Very good reading!


 Leaving - Arriving                                    1
 A Piano - Teacher Wei - Hong Kong Foot - Myopia      15
 Peking Duck - Pan - A Fisherman                          
 Kissing - A Suicide                                  51
 Lessons - A Garden - A Short Story                       
 "Mei Banfa" - A Ghost Story                          81
 Pan Learns Script - A Runaway                          
 Teacher Black - In a Gallery                        l3l
 Unsuitable Reading - No Sad, No Cry                    
 Thinning Hair - Bad Elements                        159
 "Don't You Know It's Snowing Out?" - A Coffee Shop     
 Professor Jin                                       181
 A Rat - A Night Ride - The Long Swords              197



For some reason I always had bad luck in Canton. In August 1984, on my way out of China after two years in Hunan Province, I was delayed at the Canton train station for half a day because of the seven-foot leather bag I carried. It contained five swords, four sabres, a staff, a halberd, two hooked swords, some knives and a nine-section steel whip. I had receipts and photos and a manila folder full of Foreign Affairs Bureau correspondence to prove that the weapons were all either gifts from my teachers or had been purchased in local stores, that none of them was an antique, and that I was the legitimate student of a well-known martial artist residing in Hunan, but the officials right away saw an opportunity to play their favorite game, Let's Make a Regulation.

"This bag is too long. You can't take it on the train. There's a regulation." We discussed this point for a while, and eventually the regulation was waived. "But these weapons are Chinese cultural artifacts. They cannot leave China, that's a regulation. You can take the bag, though." In time it was determined that the weapons might conceivably leave China, but I would need special permission from a certain office which would require a certain period of time to secure, so wouldn't I stay in Canton for a few days and come back with the proper documentation? My flight from Hong Kong to New York left in two days; I was desperate not to miss it. As I walked around the train station trying to think up a new strategy, I happened to bump into a Cantonese policeman I had met a year before. When I told him my problem he took me by the arm and led me back to the train station, where he began arguing on my behalf. He talked with the officials for over an hour about this and that, occasionally touching on the subject of my bag and its contents, then gently retreating to other matters. He eventually suggested that I give a short martial arts demonstration there in the train station - "Wouldn't that be fun?" He asked the people sitting on the long wooden benches in the station to make room for a performance, then helped them move the benches out of the way. I warmed up for a few minutes, took off my shoes and began a routine. Somewhere in mid-air my pants split wide open, from the base of the zipper to the belt line in back. A crowd of giggling old ladies rushed forward with needles and thread ready, followed by an equal number of old men with incurable illnesses who believed that I must have learned traditional medicine as part of my martial arts training, convincing the officials to let me through without further delay. The policeman helped me get on the train, then sat with me until it began to move. He hopped off, wished me well, then saluted as the train left the station.


No votes yet