Supervillain Alert: The Lin Kuei

           Search all you like, but you will never find the “real” Lin Kuei. After months of research, the best evidence I’ve been able to gather argues quite persuasively that the so-called “Chinese Ninja” began less than 30 years ago as nothing more than the tall tale of an American con-artist named Randall G. Brown. Mr. Brown, under the sufficiently exotic pen name “Li Hsing,” wrote two rather insubstantial books, China's Ninja Connection and The Combat Skills of the Lin Kuei: Heritage of the Ninja, in order to cash in on the 1980’s Ninja Craze. (This move would later be repeated by other infamously fake Asians like Ashida Kim, a.k.a. Radford Davis, and “Dr.” Haha Lung, a.k.a. Ralf Dean Omar, who, as luck would have it, also contributed their own “scholarly” opinions to the rather limited amount of information that’s currently available about the Lin Kuei).

           A few years after the creation of this modern myth, if you believe the leading story, a description of this mysterious band of Chinese Ninja and their deadly improvisational art of An Ch'i can be found listed among various other real martial traditions in a role playing game called GURPS Martial Arts. Later on the Lin Kuei were featured prominently in the Mortal Kombat video game series, which is when their name really began to ring out all across the internet. Today, they've even appeared in Disney’s Kung Fu Panda television series, all of which has served to associate the name Lin Kuei (or is it Lin Gui?) inescapably with works of fantasy, muddying the already dark waters of this subject that much further.

           Of course, there is some small evidence to support the possibility of their historical existence; A famous 16th century ninja manual, The Ninpiden, begins with the assertion that what would one day become the art of Ninjutsu was founded many years earlier and further from Japan than is commonly believed, under the Emperor Gao (202 BC – 195 BC) who ruled during the Han dynasty of ancient China. As in Li Hsing’s “myth,” this book also supports the idea that the Ninja’s trademark arts of invisibility, stealth, and deception had passed from China into Japan a great many years later, but, appropriately enough, there is no physical record of such a passage, just old stories passed down from one teller to the next.

           Hundreds of years before even the ancient Han Dynasty the Chinese author Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC) cataloged the use of five different types of Chinese Spy, or Gokan, in his now famous classic The Art of War, a military manual with gems such as, “All warfare is based upon deception,” and “Be subtle! Be subtle! And use your spies for every kind of business.” While these passages are often mentioned in support of the "Chinese Ninja" hypothesis, it really does nothing to confirm or deny the existence of the Lin Kuei themselves.

           I’m sure I’ve overtaxed whatever small interest you might have had for the point of this article long ago, but I just wanted to be very clear about what most “reasonable” scholars will tell you concerning the Lin Kuei, a group who very possibly might be the greatest spymasters the world has ever known precisely because all credible evidence seems to point to their nonexistence. One debunker even cited Dr. Edmond Locard's foundational principle of forensic science, which asserts that "every contact leaves a trace," seemingly oblivious to the irony and naïveté of applying such common criminal standards to a group such as this. While he tacitly admits that an “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” what this very logical man fails to acknowledge is that when contemplating the existence of hypothetically unparalleled masters of deception and invisibility, an “absence of evidence,” as well as a veritable mountain of misinformation, disinformation, and outright fictional accounts of their exploits, could almost be considered an ontological necessity.

           So who or what are the Lin Kuei? Their name means "Forest Spirits," a clue to their kinship with the primal, the spectral, the deep, the dark, and the silent, marking them as easy travelers of that vastly under-appreciated mystery which stretches far beyond the prison frames of our mundane awareness. They're the shadows moving silently in and out of our Johari windows, feral natives of the water margin, eternally unannounced ambassadors to both the realm of men and the realm of beasts, and the swift servants of old Gods who still stir somewhere in between. They're a barely incarnated aspiration towards an ultimate truth with lithe bodies woven entirely out of secrets and spider's silk, like a dream that escapes your memory or a word hidden on the tip of your tongue. Taken from the world as children, or sometimes never even allowed to be born here in the first place, each of them learns how to become quiet enough to travel beyond the third dimension, projecting forward and backward through time, penetrating solid matter, and visiting themselves unseen upon our memories and our dreams, more easily and more often than most of us travel between the TV and the refrigerator. So vast is their access and their influence, so sure are they of every step, that they could easily enter, explore, and then exit from your blind spot in half of the time it would take most of us just to find the courage to let ourselves turn around and try to see them.

           Did you look just now? Would you even dare? Are you sure?

          As I said in the beginning, I'm almost certain that you'll never find the “real” Lin Kuei, but I'm equally certain that this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I for one have decided to do my best to keep at least one eye out for them at all times, and, should you decide to do the same, Good Luck, and, as always, Namaste.

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