Chinese martial arts have a rich history that extends back to a legendary origin almost 5,000 years ago. Tradition has it that the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, invented the first martial arts in 2697 B.C. In 209 B.C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried in grand style with a life-sized terra-cotta army, and some of the warriors were posed in stances seen in Chinese martial arts even today. A continuous lineage is difficult to trace, but it's clear that China's fighting styles have a heritage dating back at least to Qin's reign.

Most of the armed and unarmed arts of China don't seem to originate with one man, though - be he emperor or commoner. Traditions of wrestling, primitive head-butting games, and (later) systematic training in combative arts existed across China. Several periods of Chinese history are especially interesting from a martial-arts perspective.

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