Day 5 Wudang Shan

Table of contents for Eric Lee China Tour 2009

  1. Day 1 Chicago
  2. Day 2 Beijing
  3. Day 3 Wudang Shan
  4. Day 4 Wudang Shan
  5. Day 5 Wudang Shan
  6. Day 6 Wudang Shan

I woke up and got ready pretty early.  I went outside in the morning air, but it was still a little too early for everyone to meet for breakfast.  I walked down to a small patio and sat at a small circular stone table that was there and enjoyed the morning sunshine and cool air.  While I was waiting I decided to work on my hand conditioning and began hitting the palms and backs of my hands onto the stone table. In the quiet of the morning the smacking of my hand resounded throughout the courtyard in a steady rhythm.  I received several odd looks from some of the staff and from some other Chinese guests that had been staying there as they made their way to breakfast.  One group smiled as they watched and one of the guys mimicked me and tried slapping his hands onto the stone railing of the stairs.  His smile quickly faded as he winced and shook his hand.  A few moments later an older Chinese woman came very close smiling and watching me for a bit before moving on.  Eventually most of our group came down and was ready and we went to have our breakfast.

After breakfast we gathered in the courtyard waiting for Zhang Shifu to arrive so we could begin our morning practice.  We were going to walk to Purple Cloud Temple (zǐ xiāo gōng 紫霄宮) and train there again this morning.  Everyone knew that it was just a little ways up the road from our walk back the previous night and began to make their way there.  I waited with our guide Helen for Zhang Shifu.  When he was ready he led us to a small path and mentioned that it was a shortcut to the temple.  We walked behind a small police outpost next to the hotel and headed up a set of step stairs that led around and between several homes.  We walked up and then down the stairs cresting a small hill.  Zhang Shifu kept a very brisk pace up the stairs and Helen soon fell behind.  At the bottom Zhang Shifu pointed out a Chinese pear tree that had dropped some fruit and mentioned that it was good for eating, though not the ones on the ground.  He greeted some local people as we reached the bottom of the stairs and came out right next to the temple.  Though we had left later than the rest of our group, we arrived just before most of them and saw them coming towards us from the road.

img_8032We gathered in the courtyard before the main gate of the temple and spent a few moments warming up and stretching.  Then we lined up and began learning more of the Wudang Taiji Quan from Zhang Shifu.  As we practiced buses of tourists arrived.  It was not long before there was quite a crowd watching the foreigners play Taiji with a Daoist master and began taking lots of pictures.  We paid no attention to them and focused on our morning practice.  It was nice to practice in the morning sun in the area of Purple Cloud Temple.  Our practice time was up far too soon and a bus arrived for us to take us to our next spot.  Zhang Shifu rode with us to the Monkey Sanctuary and then bid us farewell for a while.

img_0575We reached the Monkey Sanctuary which is located around a large river.  We made our way across surrounded by the mountains and the beautiful scenery.  We were led to a flat stage area on the river where we were supposed to watch a Daoist kung fu performance.  When we arrived the performance area was pretty empty and there were 4 students practicing and warming up.  We wandered around the area looking at the scenery waiting for the show to begin.  I watched as others took pictures since I had left my camera in my room.  I thought we would head back to change out of our training clothes before going sight seeing but that was not the case.  Our guide called us over and said that there would be no show.  There was no power and their usual performers were all at a tournament in another city.  We finally convinced them to perform a little for us since we did not care about lights or music, we just wanted to see some kung fu.  The performed some Taiji for us, another empty handed set, and an eyebrow staff set and that was it.  They were good, but you could tell that they were fairly new students who have not had a lot of training yet.  We thanked them for their performance and then left to explore more of the sanctuary.

img_0612We walked along the edge of the river which was just beautiful.  We followed the paths deeper in and eventually came to a large wooden platform.  This was the area for the trained monkeys to perform.  We saw several monkeys and the group spent time watching them, feeding them and taking pictures.  I went off for a bit to wander around the area and see what else was around and then headed back to meet the group.  Our guide said she had been there when thousands of monkeys had been in the trees on the mountains that climbed high above the river.  The paths lead on and wound for hours up into the mountains, but it was time to head back.  As we were leaving a Chinese man asked to take a picture of Thomas with his large beard.  Thomas agreed and soon the gentlemen asked Thomas and I to do some kung fu poses together as he took some pictures.  Then I took a few pictures of him and Thomas and a couple of the gentleman performing a few movements of Chen Taiji.  By now most of the group had started back so we began making our way back as well.  Our group made it to the parking lot and waited.  Our guide went to get the other members of the group and then came back to get us.  She decided we would eat lunch here.

img_0752We went around some buildings to find a restaurant tucked away and sat down outside.  This was a very local restaurant and the view of the river was great.  The food smelled delicious.  They provided lots of food and it was all terrific.  I think this is the best food we’ve had yet.  As we finished up our meal a group of Chinese tourists came to the restaurant to eat as well.  Their tour guides were some of our guide’s students so we were quickly introduced.  The other group heard me speak some Chinese and motioned me over to join them in their meal.  Their smiling faces were very friendly and I would have liked to but I was already stuffed from my own lunch so I politely declined.

img_0756We waited around for Zhang Shifu who was meeting us at the restaurant and got our picture taken with the owner.  Zhang Shifu arrived with swords and his friend who is a tailor.  The day I first met Zhang Shifu I noticed him carrying a two handed straight sword and asked him where we could find one of that quality.  He mentioned that he had a friend that owned the place where they were made and could get them at a good price for us and also inquired if we would like to have Wudang style robes made.  I definitely wanted both and my friend Kevin had been looking for a two handed jian for a while and I was happy to find ones of such good quality.  Zhang Shifu got us the swords for less than I could have even negotiated them down for at the shops on the mountain which were selling for over twice as much.  Those of us getting robes made picked out the type of material and color we wanted and then the tailor measured us.  When we were finished we bid the tailor goodbye and got back onto a bus to head to Tai Zi Po.

img_0797Tai Zi Po (tài zǐ pō å¤ªå­å¡) or Prince Slope Temple is where Zhang Shifu lives and teaches his students.  All of the buildings except one are from the Ming Dynasty.  The one that isn’t had to be rebuilt because of a fire.  Zhang shifu took us all around the temple showing us the various places and explaining a bit about each.  Tai Zi Po is a beautiful temple.  After touring the temple Zhang Shifu joined us for some tea at a tea house in the temple.  We stayed there for a bit and eventually were met by two of Zhang Shifu’s students.  They spoke no English so I talked with one very briefly.   We then gathered in the main courtyard of Tai Zi Po for our afternoon training session.  We spent some time stretching and warming up.  Zhang Shifu’s two students joined us and they warmed up with some great acrobatics and kicks.  He mentioned to me that these two had only been with him a for a few months and had not learned the form we were learning yet so he wanted them to join us.

img_8053We began training and crowds of tourists moved in and out of the courtyard with many stopping to watch us and take pictures.  Zhang Shifu’s students did very well picking up the form bu just watching us practice.  He did not teach them the moves but let them figure them out from our movements only offering quick corrections.  A couple of times Zhang Shifu admonished his students.  I could not understand his words but I could tell by his tone.  One of the students seemed a little lazy and said he was too tired and he had not applied himself during his warm ups.  After each repetition we would line back up prepared to do it again, while Zhang Shifu’s students would go sit down at the edge.  He admonished them and I believe he was shaming them for not being ready to continue when even the foreigners were ready and at attention.  Zhang Shifu had us practice the movements very slowly.  His two students tended to rush the movements and he had to keep admonishing them to move slowly.  When we finished we took pictures together with Zhang Shfu and his students.  It was really great to be able to train with some of his students and for only being there a short while, they were already very good.

When we finished it was time to go back to the bus and head back to the hotel.  As we walked down the path to where the buses would meet us we met a group of Malaysians.  They saw us carrying our large swords and asked if we trained kung fu.  We spoke back and forth in a mix of English and Mandarin.  I told them we trained kung fu and were visiting China and studying with Zhang Shifu.  The older man did most of the talking and was well spoken.  He asked us if we were movie stars.  I laughed and told him no, I said that I was not handsome enough for the movies.  We all laughed and one of the girls smiled and said she thought I was handsome.  One of the guys said, “Well they need ugly people too for the bad guys.”  We all laughed hard at this.  We walked with them to the base of the stairs and said goodbye to them.  We waited for our bus and headed back to the hotel where it was time for dinner.

After dinner Michael, Anne, Anton and I gathered in the hotel lobby to go to a local foot massage parlor.  The couple who run the parlor had come the night before to give some massages to some of our group and we were looking forward to getting some ourselves.  A small truck pulled up and we all crammed in and it took us up the mountain to the area where there were shops and local eateries and we were led to the massage parlor.  I had been looking forward to this and it was nice to drink some tea and get a foot massage.  They massage the arms and legs as well as the feet.  It is a very intense massage that gets in very deep into the muscles.  After all the walking and stairs and two days of training Taiji with some fairly low stances my legs needed it.  At times the massage was painful particularly in my quads from the stances.  After the massage was finished everything felt so relaxed.  We piled back into the tiny truck when we were all finished and traveled back down to our hotel.  I was nice and relaxed and ready to head to bed.  Tomorrow is our last day here.  The time has gone by too quickly and I wish we were spending the rest of our trip here on Wudang Shan.

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