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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

The Shaolin monks of China periodically forsook the scroll to demonstrate their expertise at martial arts. In one instance, Chinese officials, in a desperate last resort, mobilized these warrior monks to take on roving Japanese pirates, or wokou, who were pillaging China’s coast. Because of crumbling law enforcement, a decadent and enticing society, and a weakened grasp on the coastal territories, Ming Dynasty China was a tempting target. This left Shaolin monks as the last line of defense against pirates.

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