“RBG, Pray for Us and Our Democracy”

Unlike Christianity, Judaism does not have saints. Nevertheless, the Jewish religion must find a way to honor a Giant of Constitutional Law that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She should be honored among those courageous women of Biblical times and named as a “Woman of Valor,” a monumental matriarch of justice and equality in modern times.

Meanwhile, other religions that do honor the righteous, both living and the dead, as saints should definitely consider canonizing Ruth Bader Ginsburg for all she did for all of mankind, for men and women alike, and especially under-served and underprivileged minorities.

If the Roman Catholic Church can canonize both Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa as saints, why not RBG, who did more to raise the level of justice and equality for all than either of the other two? A tireless champion of not only women’s rights but those for all minorities, RBG continued to the end fighting for all of us despite being ravaged by cancer in her later years.

But most religious leadership is dominated by men, so don’t expect any such movement as canonization any time soon. Of course some conservative fundamentalists, whether Hebrew or Christian, may consider what I’m asking as blasphemy. However, the real blasphemy is for Trump and McConnell to nominate a person who is fully unaware, unable or unwilling to fill the shoes of RBG in an honorable and righteous manner with equality and justice for all. Though tiny in stature, those shoes took such huge strides in changing the views on Constitution Law.

So, what can we the people do? Well, after this time of mourning when we pray for RBG and those she left behind, we can then pray to her. Yes, that’s right, pray to Saint Ruth whenever you see those disgusting tweets and hear the hypocritical soundbites from White House staff, cabinet members, unqualified temporary heads of agencies and, last but certainly not least, Senators. And you will see and hear tons of them leading up to a vote on the Supreme Court nominee and the general election.

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just something simple but sincere: “Dear Saint Ruth or Dear RBG, please look after the health and welfare of our nation in these trying times and protect our beloved democracy. Thank you.” Or even simpler: “RBG, pray for us and our democracy.”

That’s it. If you have any prayers that you personally would like to mention, you’re welcome to add them to the comments below. Poetry, as always, is more than welcome.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Passionate About Judaism’s Concern for Justice

11/28/2019 Thanksgiving Day

My one and only commentary this month comes appropriately on Thanksgiving Day. It is not exactly a commentary but commendation to all those ancient masters whose voices from antiquity speak and touch me deeply. It is their voices, their observances of which I read, absorb and comment on throughout the year. Therefore, I am most thankful to Laozi, Zhuangzi and those very ancient ones that came long before them who looked at the configurations of the Heavens and read their Signs and observed our Earth and uncovered its Patterns. Thus they came to understand the axiom of Life and Death and passed it along to the sages who succeeded them.

And I, too, would like to pass along my heartfelt thoughts to all of you as I wish you and all humanity (yes, including the President) a Happy and Joyous Thanksgiving.

In Stillness

One crow streaking across the overcast sky
in a damp and gloomy rain.
Then stillness
Moments later, two crows come together
and fly off in unison over the valley.

The young trees stand in perfect stillness,
then a sudden wind jolts them back and forth.
Moments later, they return to stillness,
as thought never disturbed.

A perfected heart-mind must be like this.
Resting in stillness and never moving
until inspired by “THE CHANGES”
in the flow of the Tao,
and always returning to stillness.

A perfected heart-mind never waits,
but rests in stillness.
For in waiting there is anticipation.
But in resting, there is a joyous stillness,
undisturbed by the machinations of an egoic will.

In that resting there is an intuitive knowing,
Not of knowledge,
but of a deep inner trust.
Only a restful heart-mind at peace
can sense the subtle fluctuations
in the flow of the Tao
In that inner trust there is virtue and power.

See Hexagram #61 Inner Trust and have a Happy and Joyous Thanksgiving

OCTOBER, 2019

 

10/30//2019

I thought we would end October with a little diversion from Laozi and Zhuangzi and take a brief look at the most ancient Taoist text of all, the “I Ching” (the Book of Changes). Laozi, Confucius and Zhuangzi were all greatly inspired by the Changes. We might say that the Changes was the very root of their works and Chinese philosophy in general.

From Wang Bi’s Commentary on the I Ching (“Changes”) Appended Phrases, Part I, Section 4:

“The ancient sages created the “Changes” (the I Ching) to provide a paradigm of Heaven and Earth, and so it shows how one can fill in and pull together the Dao of Heaven and Earth. Looking up, we use it (the Changes) to observe the configurations of Heaven, and, looking down, we use it to examine the patterns of Earth. Thus, we understand the reasons underlying what is hidden and what is clear. We trace things back to their origins then turn back to their ends. Thus, we understand the axiom of Life and Death.” (The hidden and the clear involves images that have form and do not have form. Life and Death are a matter of fate’s allotment for one’s beginning and end.”

Wang Bi’s Commentary on Chapter 35, Dao De Ching:

The “Great Image” is the mother of the images of Heaven. (The images of Heaven are the sun, moon, planets and constellations. The “great Image” image is another way to refer to the Dao.) It is neither hot or cold, warm or cool. Thus, it can perfectly embrace the myriad things, and none suffers any harm…The great image is formless. As soon as there is a form, distinctions exist, and with distinctions, if something is not warm, it must be cool, if something is not hot, it must be cold. Thus, an image that has a form is not the great image (the Dao)”

Continuing Wang’s Commentary on the I Ching, Part 1, Section 4

“When material force consolidates into essence (jingqi), it meshes together, and with this coalescence, a person comes into being. When such coalescence reaches its end, disintegration occurs, and with the dissipation of one’s spirit (youhun), change occurs. If one thoroughly comprehends the principle underlying coalescence and dissipation, he will be able to understand the Dao of Change and Transformation, and nothing that is hidden will remain outside his grasp.”

In Section 5 of Wang’s Commentary, he analyzes the reciprocal process:

“The reciprocal process of yin and yang is called the Dao. What is this Dao? It is a name for non-being (wu); it is that which pervades everything and from which everything derives. As an equivalent, we dll it Dao. As it operates silently and is without substand, it is not possible to provide images for it. Only when the functioning of being reaches its zenith do the merits of nonbeing become manifest. Therefore, even though it so happens that the numinous is not restricted to place and change and is without substance, yet the Dao itself can be seen: it is by investigating change thoroughly, that one exhausts all the potential of the numinous. and it is through the numinous that one clarifies what the Dao is. Although yin and yang are different entities, we deal with them in terms of the unity of nonbeing. When the Dao is in he Yin state, it does not actually exist as yin, but it is by means of yin, that it comes into existence, and when it is in the yang state, it does not actually exist as yang, but it is by means yang that it comes into being. This is why it is referred to as ‘the reciprocal process of yin and yang.

(It is important for me to point out that the choice of the word “state” is not quite right. The Dao, the infinite, absolute Oneness, doesn’t have any “states,” and for that matter neither does a process. A phase or stage may be a better choice of words. As an analogy, we can liken the reciprocal process of the Dao to our own phases of waking and sleeping. which like yand and yin, are different phases. Thus, when the Dao is in its Yin phase, it is dormant. Unlike our own sleep phase, the Dao’s dormancy can last for eons. Does this mean that the Dao is completely still, empty. No, that is why Wang Bi states “it does not actually exists as yin.” Let’s use the analogy of breathing to explain. When we are in our sleep phase, Yin, usually at night, are we completely empty and still? Do we exhale as we enter our Yin phase then never inhale and fill up? No, not at all. Though we are dormant, we continue our breathing cycle throughout the night despite it being an unconscious process. The same is true for our waking phase, Yang. Our breathing cycle, though usually not a conscious process unless there is a problem, continues from exhale to inhale throughout the day. The same is true for the Dao. At this moment, the Dao is in its Yang phase, having manifested as the living Universe or Nature. Still, the Dao cannot be said to actually exist as yang because its energy cycle of Yin stimulating Yang and vice versa continues through the present eon.)

Continuing Wang’s Commentary on the I Ching, Part 1, Section 5:

That which allows the Dao to continue to operate is human goodness (shan), and that which allows it to bring things to completion is human nature (xing). The benevolent see it and call it benevolence; the wise (zhi) see it and call it wisdom. It function for the common folk on a daily bases, yet they are unaware of it. This is why the Dao of the noble man is a rare thing! {Here, Richard John Lynn, the translator comments: The noble man embodies the Dao and applies it as function, but if it is merely the benevolent and wise, then they are limited to just what they see of it, and if it is the common folk, then it functions for them on a daily basis, but they are unaware of it. Those who truly embody this Dao are they not indeed rare! Thus, as it is said, “always be without desire so as to see its subtlety.” This is how one can begin to talk about its perfection and address its ultimate meaning.}

(Again, I must point out that the last line which Lynn quotes – “always be without desire so as to see its subtlety” – is the exact wording he uses for Wang Bi’s translation of Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1, paragraph 3. Then in the very next paragraph, Lynn’s translation has Laozi stating “And always have desire to see their ends.” Confusing? Wang Bi explains: “Subtlety is the absolute degree of minuteness. As the myriad things reach completion only after originating in minuteness, {Think back to how each of us started as infinitesimal fertilized cells in our mothers’ wombs}, so they are born only after originating in nothingness. Thus always be without desire and remain empty, so that you can see the subtlety with which things originate.” Then after the fourth stanza, he adds, “Ends here means the ends to which things revert. If anything that exists is to be of benefit, it must function out of nothing. Only when desire is rooted in such a way that it is in accord with the Dao will it prove beneficial. Thus always have such desire that you can see those ends to which things finally arrive.”)

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween, and see you in November.

10/13/2019

We start off October with one of Zhuangzi’s famous parables, the story of Cook Ting (Ding)

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

“A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until – flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

COMMENTARY: This is a follow up to Zhuangzi’s other classic parable in Chapter 1, the Butterfly Dream, in which Zhuangzi co-stars as the lead character in his own parable along with a butterfly. Uncertain as to whether he is really Zhuangzi dreaming that he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that he is Zhuangzi, he doubts his own existence. Instead, this Self that he has always known himself to be, may actually be a completely different Self. Or, perhaps there is no self. It is obvious the parable points out a stage of self-doubt in Zhuangzi’s life. However, some have said the point is that Zhuangzi actually finds himself in a Buddhist-like state of No-Self, the final goal. But is it? Is that what Zhuangzi really intended?

Well, in the very next Chapter, we find the parable of Cook Ting (Ding) above and realize that this No-Self phase is not a final goal, but to Zhuangzi and Cook Ting. it is only a transition toward the final goal?

Cook Ting says: “When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. (This is the state of ordinary mind or Cheng Xin) After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. (This is the Butterfly Dream stage of No-Self) And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. (This stage is the real final goal of discovering the True Self or Chang Xin.)  I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. (This is following Nature or following the Tao, which is how we reach the Ultimate Self.) So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.” (Laozi advice of not allowing small problems to turn into huge ones).

The final two paragraphs with Cook Ting explaining how he cares for his knife is, as Lord Wen-hui points out, an analogy of caring for one’s life. In the last paragraph Cook Ting alludes to Laozi’s account of sages in antiquity who were adept at practicing the Tao (Chapter 15, Tao Te Ching) as being cautious and vigilant. Practicing wu-wei and following the flow of the Tao, Cook Ting uses caution and vigilance when he approaches a complicated section of the ox.

This parable then is a transition from the Butterfly Dream to a summary of how to reach the final goal or Chang Xin, the True Self which Zhuangzi unveils in full detail a few chapters later in the discussion between Confucius and his disciple Yan Hui in an exercise called the Fasting of the Mind.

The first part where Kungzi (Confucius) instructs his disciple, Yan Hui and details the “Fasting of the Mind” occurs in Chapter 4. The follow-up, where Yan Hui returns having completed the full practice is written in Chapter 6. Bear in mind that the Cook Ting parable which appears in Chapter 2 is actually a very brief summary of the entire process.

The prelude to the actual detailing of the Fasting of the Mind in Chapter 4 is quite long, so I will summarize. It begins with Yan Hui coming to Kongzi (Confucius) to ask permission to take leave after years of studying with him. Yan Hui explains that he wants to go out into the world and put what he has learned from Kongzi into practice.

Kongzi asks him how he intends to do this. Yan Hui replies that he wants to go to the State of Wei, where the ruler has become an autocratic tyrant and has wrought great devastation upon the people of Wei. Yan Hui wants to see if he can restore Wei and save the people. Kongzi asks him how he plans to do this.

Yan Hui tells him that he wants to take what he has learned from Kongzi and derive some standards and principles from it to apply to the situation in Wei. Kongzi tells him that he is more than likely to get himself killed. If he is following a certain course, it is best not to mix in anything extraneous which will lead to multiple courses because that will cause anxiety and confusion. Kongzi then proceeds to give Yan Hui a lengthy lecture on real Virtuosity and Cleverness. Then he asks Yan Hui how he plans to get around these all of these problems.

With each solution that Yan Hui puts forth, Kongzi has a wise rebuttal, detailing why each one will not work. Finally, in total frustration, Yen Hui said, “I have nothing more to offer. May I ask the proper way?”

“You must fast!” said Confucius. “I will tell you what that means. Do you think it is easy to do anything while you have [a mind]? If you do, Bright Heaven will not sanction you.”

Yen Hui said, “My family is poor. I haven’t drunk wine or eaten any strong foods for several months. So can I be considered as having fasted?”

“That is the fasting one does before a sacrifice, not the fasting of the mind.”

“May- I ask what the fasting of the mind is?”

Confucius said, “If you merge all your intentions into a singularity, you will come to hear with the mind rather than with the ears. Further, you will come to hear with the vital energy rather than with the mind. For the ears are halted at what they hear. The mind is halted at whatever verifies its preconceptions. But the vital energy is an emptiness, a waiting for the presence of beings. The Course alone is what gathers in this emptiness. And it is this emptiness that is the fasting of the mind.”

Yan Hui said, “Before I find what moves me into activity, it is myself that is full and real. But as soon as I find what moves me, it turns out that ‘myself’ has never begun to exist. Is that what you mean by being ‘empty’?”

Confucius said, “Exactly. Let me tell you about it. With this you can play in his cage without impinging on his concern for a good name. When he’s receptive, do your crowing, but when he’s not, let it rest. Do not let him get to you, but do not harm him either. Seeing all possible dwelling places as one, let yourself be lodged in whichever cannot be avoided. This will get you close to success. It is easy to wipe away your footprints, but difficult to walk without touching the ground. It is easy to use deception when you are sent into your activities at the behest of other humans, but difficult to use deception when sent into activity by Heaven. You have learned how to fly with wings, but not yet how to fly without wings. You have learned the wisdom of being wise, but not yet the wisdom of being free of wisdom. Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you, and the empty chamber within you will generate its own brightness.

“Good fortune comes to roost in stillness. To lack this stillness is called scurrying around even when sitting down. Allow your ears and eyes to open inward and thereby place yourself beyond your mind’s understanding consciousness. Even the ghosts and spirits will then seek refuge in you, human beings all the more so! This is the transformation of all things, the hinge on which Shun and Yu moved, the lifelong practice of Fu Xi and Ji Qu. How much more should it be so for others!”

(Fu Xi was one of the early proponents of the I Ching. Ji Qu or sometimes Ji Zi was a semi-legendary Chinese sage who is said to have ruled Gija Joseon in the 11th century BCE.)

So there we have it. Zhuangzi full From Chapter 6, the co

 

Yen Hui said, “I’m improving!”

Confucius said, “What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve forgotten benevolence and righteousness!”

“That’s good. But you still haven’t got it.”

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, “I’m improving!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve forgotten rites and music!”

“That’s good. But you still haven’t got it.”

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, “I’m improving! ”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I can sit down and forget everything!”

Confucius looked very startled and said, “What do you mean, sit down and forget everything.’-”

Yen Hui said, “I smash up my limbs and body, drive out perception and intellect, cast off form, do away with understanding, and make myself identical with the Great Thoroughfare. This is what I mean by sitting down and forgetting everything.”

Confucius said, “If you’re identical with it, you must have no more likes! If you’ve been transformed, you must have no more constancy! So you really are a worthy man after all! 23 With your permission, I’d like to become your follower

Thus both Cook Ting and Yan Hui realized their True Selves.

Be well. See you next time.

 

SEPTEMBER, 2019

09/08/2019

Chapter 51 Tao Te Ching

As I promised last month, we would start off September with Chapter 51. This is not only one of the most significant chapters in the Tao Te Ching, but in all of spiritual literature, including the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Holy Bible. Below are several translations of Chapter 51 to give you a feel for the different way it has been interpreted.

 

Here you will find commentaries on the meanings of verses and stories from Laozi, Zhuangzi and other early Taoists regarding their philosophies and practices. At the end of each month, all of the commentaries for that month will be posted in our BLOG.

AUGUST, 2019

08/16/2019

Let’s return now to Laozi’s Tao de Ching. Today we shall take a look at Chapter 9, a very important chapter that illustrates one of the main principles of Taoism. Next, to Wu Wei, moderation and knowing when to stop are vital to most sincere Taoists.

“A bow that is stretched to its fullest capacity may certainly snap.
A sword that is tempered to its very sharpest may easily be broken.
A house that is full of jade and gold cannot remain secure for long.
One who proudly displays his wealth invites trouble.
Therefore, resign from a high position when your mission is complete.
This is the Universal Way of a life of deep virtue.”

Translation by Ni Hua-Ching, 1995.

Again Laozi is telling us to use moderation in all things, and, above all, know when to stop. Whether it’s food or drink. Moderation means don’t try to fill yourself to capacity. Stop when you are 70% or 80% full, not 100 or beyond.

Whether it’s jade or gold, jewelry, furniture, paintings,cars don’t go overboard. Whether it’s your body or your home, instead of looking stately and refined, it will look garish, opulent – two words that are synonymous with “ugly.” Did you ever see a person who has a large ring on every finger? If so, then you know what I mean by garish, opulent, ugly. Furthermore, when you go overboard, you take away from items that look truly exquisite when given prominence, but are totally lost in a sea of acuterments and are appear no different from a hoarder’s place littered with junk. Not to mention the fact, that such a display of wealth, like Laozi says, invites trouble.

The same is true of money. People who hoard money and work their butts off to make deals and make more money are truly pathetic. Whether it’s money they constantly seek or praise or fame, the result is the same, a sadly pathetic, self-centered nerd. It isn’t wealth, per se, that is damaging. It is seeking wealth for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement that destroys love, friendships and other relationships. There are many wealthy financiers that have amassed fortunes and have established foundations to help others share in their wealth. They regularly pay their fair share of taxes and give to charities. So, here it is the intent that makes seeking wealth a detriment or a worthwhile activity. By asking the Universe, the Tao, how may I serve and how can the wealth I earn benefit others, your work and your financial acumen become tools for the Tao and the Te to distribute and spread the wealth to the rest of mankind.

Remember, none of this is truly yours, not your money, your possessions, your businesses.not even your very life. All of this belongs to the Tao. The Tao is responsible for everything in the Universe and beyond.

Next up is Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching, a verse of comparisons and contrasts that, like Chapter 9, expound further on the Taoist lifestyle.

08/22/2019

As promised, Chapter 33 of Laozi’s Tao Te Ching: Self-Denial versus Self-Criticism.

He who knows others is knowledgeable.
He who knows himself is wise.
He who conquers others is physically strong.
He who conquers himself is truly mighty.
He who is contented is rich.
He who acts with persistence has a will.
He who does not lose his root will endure.
He who dies but is not forgotten has longevity.


COMMENTARY: Before I begin, I would like to say that some of you are not going to like this. Perhaps, most of you will not like this. So, I must apologize in advance should I offend anyone.

Many study this chapter and concentrate on the last two lines. Here Keping Wang has translated the very last line correctly as it was written in the oldest versions of the text discovered in the MaWangDui Caves just last century. Prior to those versions, some translators assessed the line differently and combined it with the previous line, building a case for immortality. The translations would be something like “He who keeps to his root will endure and will not perish but remain eternally present.” That would certainly make Laozi roll over in his grave, for he had no uncertainty that death would befall each and every one of us no matter how enlightened. The last two lines are about cultivating one’s “heart,” in other words, one’s daily living, not immortality. Thus, living from one’s “root,” the Tao, will leave a lasting impression on others in one’s everyday affairs, one’s writings, one’s art, friendships and relationships, and on nature, itself, which, in a way, is a form of immortality.

The true emphasis in this chapter is not on the ending but on the beginning, the first four lines. Despite many variations, the general semantics of these lines for the most part have been kept intact. However, Laozi’s true intent has been confused. Martial artists, in general, and tai chi and qigong players, more specifically, are partly responsible for this distortion, not to mention meditation gurus. There is a line in the Tai Chi Classics: “I know you, but you don’t know me.” This line generally means that you know where your opponent’s center is at all times, but he/she does not know where yours is because you are able to hide it quite skillfully. Well, this is not the “know” Laozi had in mind. In fact, he would say that you don’t truly know your opponent or yourself.

Laozi here is emphasizing that deep inward knowledge that goes to the very heart of our character. Back in his day, life was complicated enough. People were not so easy to discern. They by no means wore their hearts on their sleeves but kept it hidden deep underneath all the layers with innuendo, deceit, selfishness, not only hidden from the world but hidden from themselves by a facade of benevolence and generosity. In this case, if one were to somehow discern the true character of others, he/she would be considered quite knowledgeable, truly intelligent.

So, by “knowing,” Laozi is referring to discerning one’s true character, ours or others. And, as difficult as that was in his day, imagine the complexity and illusiveness in our modern world. We have so many technical innovations to hide from and hide behind that it is virtually impossible to discern a person’s true character. Add to these, the psychological shadings, the self-denials and the repressions, the Freudian concepts of infantile sexuality, libido, the Oedipal complex, transference or the Jungian archetypes: the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother, the maiden, and the anima and the animus. Is it any wonder that you need to be a genius to truly know someone? Laozi says that a person who can do that, such as Freud or Jung, is knowledgeable, which means highly intelligent – but not necessarily wise.

Wisdom, on the other hand as Laozi tells us, arises when we are able to dig deeply inside and cut through all the self-denials and buried feelings that we have repressed over the years and truly come to know ourselves. It is not sitting on a mat and taking deep breaths as some meditation gurus advise or visualizing beautiful, calming scenes or vibrating light rays. It is not following your thoughts until they dissipate, leaving your mind empty. It is not your mind that needs to empty. It is your heart, the very core of your being. That is exactly why Laozi says: He who conquers others is physically strong. But…He who conquers himself is truly mighty. 

Emptying and clearing out our hearts requires an enormous amount of intestinal fortitude, persistence, and spiritual strength to cut through all those self-denials and repressed feelings that we have not only hidden from the world but have hidden from ourselves. It requires a supreme act of self-criticism rather than the self-denial we have become used to.  Reciting affirmations and platitudes are nice. Going around feeling you are pure awareness, consciousness or emptiness is just another form of self-denial, one more case of avoidance. None of these things can take the place of self-criticism and deep introspection.

Refusing to accept responsibility is another form of self-denial. Often, we are aware of things that we have done that we are not so proud of. But we shift the blame to others – parents, siblings, teachers, close friends, lovers – as though they were responsible for our actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one can force you to do anything unless they are holding a gun to your head. You chose to follow the crowd and do what they were doing. You chose not to be an outcast. Years later, looking back on those actions, we tell ourselves it was not our fault. So emptying the heart is as much about accepting responsibility as it is about plunging into the depths of one’s heart of hearts.

Once you have toughed it out and emptied your heart, then the final four lines of Chapter 33 will fall into place. You will naturally feel contented with what you have. After persisting to empty the heart, you will feel that your will is strong enough to persist in anything. Finally, you will know yourself and, therefore, know your root, which is the Tao, and that will endure for the rest of your life. Everything you do will be in harmony with the Tao and Nature, thus leaving a legacy that will endure far beyond a long life.

I hope this commentary helps you to better understand Chapter 33 and what needs to be done.

Until next time…Peace.

 

08/28/2019

We end August with a look at Chapter 52 of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 52 seem like a natural thematic progression from Chapter 33 above. So, we will circle back and cover Chapter 51 in September.

Chapter 52

There was a beginning of the universe
Which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
From the Mother, we may know her sons.
After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother.
Thus, one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

Stop its apertures,
Close its doors,
And one’s whole life is without toil.

Open its apertures,
Be busy about its affairs,
And one’s whole life is beyond redemption.

He who can see the small is clear-sighted;
He who stays by gentility is strong.
use the light,
And return to clear-sightedness –
Thus cause not yourself later distress.
– This is to rest in the Absolute.
Translation by Lin Yutang

COMMENTARY:

In the Lin Yutang edition, he titles this chapter “Stealing the Absolute,” which refers to the final verse. Discussing the opening verse, he states:”In this chapter, Mother refers to the Tao, source of all things, and her sons refers to the things of the universe, which are Tao in its manifested forms. By recognizing that all things come from the same source and by keeping to the unity, one achieves an emancipation of the spirit which overcomes the individuality of things.”

There are several astounding insights in this opening verse. First of all, Laozi unequivocally asserts that Tao is the source of all life, simply by referring to it as the Mother of the universe. Also, as Lin Yutang contends, the Tao actually manifests itself in all the things within the universe. Laozi then instructs us to keep to the Mother (the Tao, the Unity) rather than the individual appearances.

However, it is by scrutinizing, observing the sons’ appearances that we get to know the Tao as their origin and “Thus, one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.

As in Chapter 33, the second verse advises us to go inward by stopping the openings (the apertures). In other words, our five senses. Then Laozi adds “close its doors”  – to seeking external knowledge “And one’s whole life is without toil.”

In the third verse, Laozi describes what will happen if we do not take his advice and leave the apertures and doors open, busying ourselves with external affairs. “And one’s whole life is beyond redemption.”

In the final verse, Laozi again uses contrasts and comparisons “He who can see the small…” is another reference to turning within and scrutinizing both ourselves and others. “He who stays by gentility”  mean knowing how to yield is strength. Finally, to use your inner light for understanding ourselves and others is actually using the light of the Tao – the Absolute. This is the reason Lin Yutang decided to title the chapter “Stealing the Absolute.”

I hope this commentary has made it easier for you to understand the chapter and to better follow the Tao. As I mentioned in the beginning, we will circle back and cover Chapter 51 in the September edition.

 

Here you will find commentaries on the meanings of verses and stories from Laozi, Zhuangzi and other early Taoists regarding their philosophies and practices. At the end of each month, all of the commentaries for that month will be posted in our BLOG.

JULY, 2019

07/03/2019

We start July off with the first two verses of Chapter 47 from Laozi’s Tao Te Ching. Although most of the accepted translations are consistent, their meaning has certainly been misinterpreted by both Western and Eastern scholars alike. Chapter 47 begins with: Without going out-of-doors, one may know all under Heaven. Without looking out one’s window, one may know the Dao of Heaven. Many Western scholars have called this pure bunk. Taking Laozi quite literally, they wonder how anyone can know everything there is to know. Can a sage tell you who will win the World Series or the Super Bowl? Can he or she know all the answers to the most perplexing questions facing quantum physicists? No, of course not. But Laozi, when he writes all under Heaven, was not referring to mundane, worldly things. To Laozi, all referred to only those things that truly matter. To illustrate the point, there is a quotation from the great martial artist, Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, which is the Japanese equivalent of Tai Chi. Sensei Ueshiba states: Keep to your Path, and nothing else will matter. When you lose your desire for things that do not matter, you will be free. To both Ueshiba and Laozi, those things that we see or study or imagine are eye and mind candy – things that do not matter. They are the externals of this world. What matters to a true sage is Li, the Chinese term for Principle. So, when Laozi uses the term all, he is referring to the principles that have created and set in motion all under Heaven. If you understand the principles underlying matter, you can infer what will happen. That creator and master of the entire cosmos is, of course, the Tao, and one of the Tao’s underlying principles is its constancy. Because the Tao is constant, it is possible for us who live in the present and an ancient sage, who lived 2500 years ago, to know how things were at the beginning to time without stepping out-of-doors. Wang Bi, who commented on both the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, some 2000 years ago in the 3rd Century wrote: The Tao has its great constancy and Principle has its perfection, so hold on to the Tao of old to preside over what exists now. Although we live in the present, it is possible for one to know how things were at the beginning of time. Another underlying principle is the congruence of all things under Heaven.  No matter how disparate beings are, no matter how varied our paths in life, we all come to the same end. Therefore, commenting on Section 5 in the Commentary on Appended Phrases, Part Two of the I Ching, Wang Bi writes: The Master said: “What does the world have to think and deliberate about? As all in the world ultimately comes to the same end, though the roads to it are different, so there is an ultimate congruence in thought, though there might be hundreds of ways to deliberate about it. So what does the world have to think and deliberate about? (Both Wang Bi quotes were translated by Richard John Lynn.) There is as well a subtle subtext running through the Tao Te Ching, which is somewhat evident in Chapter 47, that of isolation. Whether one runs off to a mountain cave or shuts himself/herself off in their home, the intent is the same – to isolate oneself from the myriad distractions of society and to develop an inner sense of contentment and quietude. Only then can we hope to unite with the Tao. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, has a completely different attitude. His is a sense that “I live in the world but not of it.” There is yet another way of looking at Laozi’s remarks in this chapter. Keping Wang, a present day author and commentator on the Tao had this to say regarding Chapter 47: “With more and more people practicing qigong as a form of traditional Chinese breathing with stylized movements for spiritual meditation and as more of its effects have come to be rediscovered, some scholars have come to realize the implications of what Laozi says here.” Wang goes on to mention Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, and how he reached supreme wisdom or enlightenment after sitting under a tree for 49 days. “Since then such notions as ‘inner or heavenly enlightenment for attaining Buddhahood’ have come to be used in Buddhism. Correspondingly, in early Daoism, there are such similar notions as ‘understanding without seeing’ and ‘contemplation in depth’.”  Here are a couple you can try. This first one is  Bone Marrow Cleansing, Xi Sui Jing.

 

This next one is Qi Gong Breathing from Shaolin Temple Europe

 

07/06/2019

The final two verses of Chapter 47 seemed even more preposterous to Western scholars than the first. However, if one understands the concepts behind Laozi’s opening verses, then these final ones naturally follow.

The further one goes out, the less he will know. This simply means that one does not live in the One, trusting it and following the Tao, but instead he follows society and places his trust in the many outside. He can never discover the inner principles working the Universe with all the diversified theories, opinions and beliefs floating around outside his door. They will only bring him confusion, not true knowledge.

Thus the sage knows without moving about (in the external world),
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without doing.

Here Laozi is basically stating what I have explained above. The sage doesn’t need to run around out in the world or look about to see what sights he can find. Instead, he focuses within where he finds his true nature and thus understands the nature of things without seeking it externally. This verse also alludes to Taoist meditation, which Keping Wang explained in his commentary on Chapter 47. The early Daoists were quite familiar with meditation and the value of contentment and quietude as were the Rishis of India even before Shakyamuni. The final line, “Accomplishes without doing,” refers to another subtext that runs all through the Tao Te Ching – Wu Wei – often translated as the practice of non-doing.or non-action. What wu wei really means is take no conscious or deliberate action but instead act spontaneously with the flow of life, the flow of the Tao and not with the urges of an egoic mind. Speaking of flow, next time we will stay with the Tao Te Ching and look at Chapter 48, which flows naturally from the concepts explained here in Chapter 47. So, until next time, Be Well and Go with the Flow…

07/11/2019

Like Chapter 47 which proceeds it, Chapter 48 has been misunderstood by some Western scholars. Why would anyone want to pursue the Tao if it makes one lose more and more each day, they ask. So, let’s have a look: The pursuit of learning means having more each day, The pursuit of Tao means having less each day. Having less upon less, one eventually reaches the point where one takes no action, yet nothing remains undone. Again, the is typical Laozi, where the statements at first seem rather contradictory. However, upon closer look, we see what the Master intended. If he were, like many self-help gurus, trying to stoke our ambitions and the pursuit of worldly success in the form of greater wealth, position and esteem, then, by all means, one should pursue worldly knowledge. But Laozi’s focus is on our spiritual well-being and eventual discovery of who and what we truly are. In Chapter 47, Laozi advised that it was not necessary to go out into the world to learn all you needed to know. One could discover the truth about oneself and the principles underlying the world by staying right at home. So too, in Chapter 48, he tells us that it is not necessary to run off to a university to gain more knowledge in order to live the perfect life. In fact, he suggests that we lose what we know – the concepts, beliefs, opinions and preconceived notions – in order to know the Tao. Thus, it is not a matter of gaining more and more each day but losing more and more until we are at the point of wu wei (non-action) or taking no deliberate action. Laozi realizes that conscious, deliberate action, which is often quite rash and always egocentric, can lead to mistakes and sometimes utter failure. However, no conscious action (wu wei) is spontaneous and natural and will result in nothing being undone. Laozi then closes the chapter, this way: One who takes all under Heaven as his charge always tends to matters without deliberate action. But when it comes to one who takes conscious action, Such a one is not worthy to take all Heaven under his charge. Because one tries to implement actions from his own egocentric pursuits, he is not fit to lead, manage or govern. He is trapped by his own ambitious concerns and enslaves his very soul and eventual salvation with the padlocks and chains of insufferable advancement. I remember years ago, it was the standard to have a high school diploma for employment. A few years later, a high school education was of much less value. A college degree became the standard. Then a few years later, it was necessary to have an advanced degree, especially a doctorate. So what if you were up to your neck in student debt? Now it’s not only an advanced degree but a dual major, and student loan debt has gone through the roof. So, it is not only ourselves, but society as a whole that drives us. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with advertisements on billboards, on TV, on the internet. All encouraging us to buy more, to acquire more for our own good, it would seem. But what about our spiritual well-being? How can we acquire that? What price salvation? Well, in Chapter 48, Laozi gives us the answer. The price is everything we have acquired – not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Give up everything that is not essential and especially all those concepts, beliefs and ambitions that keep us chained to the powertrain of society. Next time we will step away from Laozi and take a look at some of Zhuangzi’s work, particularly a story that follows up Laozi’s admonitions in Chapter 48. Thank you and Be Well.  

 

07/27/2019

From the Zhuangzi, the Book of Zhuangzi Section EIGHTEEN – PERFECT HAPPINESS “IS THERE SUCH A THING as perfect happiness in the world or isn’t there? Is there some way to keep yourself alive or isn’t there? What to do, what to rely on, what to avoid, what to stick by, what to follow, what to leave alone, what to find happiness in, what to hate? This is what the world honors: wealth, eminence, long life, a good name. This is what the world finds happiness in: a life of ease, rich food, fine clothes, beautiful sights, sweet sounds. This is what it looks down on: poverty, meanness, early death, a bad name. This is what it finds bitter: a life that knows no rest, a mouth that gets no rich food, no fine clothes for the body, no beautiful sights for the eye, no sweet sounds for the ear. People who can’t get these things fret a great deal and are afraid – this is a stupid way to treat the body. People who are rich wear themselves out rushing around on business, piling up more wealth than they could ever use – this is a superficial way to treat the body. People who are eminent spend night and day scheming and wondering if they are doing right – this is a shoddy way to treat the body. Man lives his life in company with worry, and if he lives a long while, till he’s dull and doddering, then he has spent that much time worrying instead of dying, a bitter lot indeed! This is a callous way to treat the body.”

COMMENTARY: I think you get the picture without much explanation from me. Zhuangzi’s message is quite clear: the things we chase after that we think will make us happy cause us much more harm than good. Those who live a life of wealth and luxury usually wear themselves, “piling up more wealth than they could ever use. In the end, our health deteriorates from all the stress and pressure and drives us to an early grave. The outcome, though the path is very different, is the same for those who worry and fret because they do not have the so-called finer things in life. As Zhuangzi intimates perhaps an early death would be much better than a lifetime of worrying. So, whether one is rich or poor it does not matter. In the end it is all the same. The poor struggle and die trying to get what they don’t have. The wealthy struggle and die trying to get even more of what they have, searching and striving constantly for more pleasure and more comfort. But what about those people we look up to and consider good human beings? Do they ever find true happiness? Let’s hear what Zhuangzi has to say…

“Men of ardor are regarded by the world as good, but their goodness doesn’t succeed in keeping them alive. So I don’t know whether their goodness is really good or not. Perhaps I think it’s good – but not good enough to save their lives. Perhaps I think it’s no good – but still good enough to save the lives of others. So I say, if your loyal advice isn’t heeded, give way and do not wrangle. Tzu-hsu wrangled and lost his body. But if he hadn’t wrangled, he wouldn’t have made a name. Is there really such a thing as goodness or isn’t there?”

COMMENTARY: Here Zhuangzi is speaking of good officers and ministers of the government, “Men of ardor.” like Tzu-hsu. But we can apply this to the politicians, missionaries, doctors and nurses, soldiers and general volunteers and do-gooders of today. Tzu-hsu spoke out against the unjust policy of his sovereign. When his advice wasn’t heeded, he did not stop there as Zhuangzi suggests. Instead he continued to wrangle with his king and was eventually put to death. In the end, he stood up for what he believed in but lost his life. Was the honor he gained by his actions worth it? Did it bring him happiness? What about Mother Teresa in the modern era? Did her years of charitable work bring her happiness? Yes, she helped many, and maybe even saved a few lives. But her personal writings revealed a crisis of belief, her loneliness, her desolation. How should we think about that? Zhuangzi leaves that decision to us…

“What ordinary people do and what they find happiness in – I don’t know whether such happiness is in the end really happiness or not. I look at what ordinary people find happiness in, what they all make a mad dash for, racing around as though they couldn’t stop – they all say they’re happy with it. I’m not happy with it and I’m not unhappy with it. In the end is there really happiness or isn’t there? I take inaction to be true happiness, but ordinary people think it is a bitter thing. I say: perfect happiness knows no happiness, perfect praise knows no praise. The world can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. And yet inaction can decide this. Perfect happiness, keeping alive – only inaction gets you close to this!”

COMMENTARY: Actually, that is pretty good advice. Now I must remind you, as I mentioned in my earlier comments on Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, by “inaction” Zhuangzi is not speaking about no-action, but rather no deliberate, premeditated action, no scheming day and night and wondering if you are doing the right thing and how it could turn out or what could go wrong. Instead, he means “ziran” natural, spontaneous action, action which is initiated by nature and the natural Way of things. Then Zhuangzi concludes…

“Let me try putting it this way. The inaction of Heaven is its purity, the inaction of earth is its peace. So the two inactions combine and all things are transformed and brought to birth. Wonderfully, mysteriously, there is no place they come out of. Mysteriously, wonderfully, they have no sign. Each thing minds its business and all grow up out of inaction. So I say, Heaven and earth do nothing and there is nothing that is not done. Among men, who can get hold of this inaction?”

COMMENTARY: If this sounds familiar, it should. Zhuangzi is reminding us of Laozi’s advice in chapter 37 of his Tao De Ching: “The Tao invariably takes no action. And yet there is nothing left undone.” And again in chapter 38: “The man of the superior De (Virtue, Character) takes no action. And thus nothing will be left undone.” More from the Zhuangzi next time.  

07/30/2019 The next two stories are from section 18 of the Zhuangzi “Once a sea bird alighted in the suburbs of the Lu capital. The marquis of Lu escorted it to the ancestral temple, where he entertained it, performing the Nine Shao music for it to listen to and presenting it with the meat of the T’ai-lao sacrifice to feast on. But the bird only looked dazed and forlorn, refusing to eat a single slice of meat or drink a cup of wine, and in three days it was dead. This is to try to nourish a bird with what would nourish you instead of what would nourish a bird. If you want to nourish a bird with what nourishes a bird, then you should let it roost in the deep forest, play among the banks and islands, float on the rivers and lakes, eat mudfish and minnows, follow the rest of the flock in flight and rest, and live any way it chooses. A bird hates to hear even the sound of human voices, much less all that hubbub and to-do. Try performing the Hsien-ch’ih and Nine Shao music in the wilds around Lake Tung-t’ing when the birds hear it they will fly off, when the animals hear it they will run away, when the fish hear it they will dive to the bottom. Only the people who hear it will gather around to listen. Fish live in water and thrive, but if men tried to live in water they would die. Creatures differ because they have different likes and dislikes. Therefore the former sages never required the same ability from all creatures or made them all do the same thing. Names should stop when they have expressed reality, concepts of right should be founded on what is suitable. This is what it means to have command of reason, and good fortune to support you.”

COMMENTARY: The moral of this story is fairly easy to see. I could some it up in one brief cliche: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The point is everything, man, beast, bird or fish, should live according to its nature. Though we are all equal, we are not all the same. In fact, each one of us is different from everyone else. We speak different languages, eat different foods, read different books, enjoy different sports, different music, practice different religions. Realizing this will help each of us accept what others are doing according to their nature, not ours. And acceptance has a tremendous healing effect on us and on those around us. Just remember the title of that popular Ray Stevens’ song: “Everything is Beautiful…in its own way.”  

This next one has a key lesson for all martial artists… Chi Hsing-tzu was training gamecocks for the king. After ten days the king asked if they were ready. “Not yet. They’re too haughty and rely on their nerve.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “Not yet. They still respond to noises and movements.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “Not yet. They still look around fiercely and are full of spirit.” Another ten days and the king asked again. “They’re close enough. Another cock can crow and they show no sign of change. Look at them from a distance and you’d think they were made of wood. Their virtue is complete. Other cocks won’t dare face them, but will turn and run.”

COMMENTARY: The true warrior must drop all emotionality before they get into the ring. They need to let their competitive nature take over and drive them, not their wills or their their desires to win or the fear of losing face. All of these must be dissolved until only their fearless nature is reached. The same is true for sages as well. They must drop all emotionality and all worldly desires. Like a sculptor cutting away at marble, chipping off chunks and pieces here and there until the correct image appears, all must be cut away until one’s De (Virtue or True Character) is reached.

It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of one of the truly great martial artists of his time, Grandmaster Hawkins Cheung. He died on February 3rd after a long illness. Grandmaster Cheung will always be warmly remembered in the hearts of all of his students, friends and martial arts masters who knew him.

The following is a brief sketch of Grandmaster Hawkins from his website,www.hawkinscheung.com

:

Hawkins Cheung was recognized as the most senior Yip Man Wing Chun instructor in the U.S. in recent years, as well as one of the top practitioners in the world. He began his extensive martial arts training with Grandmaster Yip Man in Hong Kong as a youth and continued his training over a span of almost twenty years, up until the Grandmaster’s death in 1972.

Sifu Hawkins Cheung was widely known in the martial arts world for testing and proving his practical Wing Chun skills on the streets in Hong Kong, alongside Bruce Lee and Wong Shun-Leung in the 1950′s. Sifu Hawkins Cheung also held a third degree black belt in Goju-Ryu Karate. In the late seventies, Sifu Cheung moved to the U.S. to help promote the art of Wing Chun.

Throughout his career, Sifu Hawkins Cheung had instructed many students from various law enforcement agencies, including the F.B.I., as well as members of some elite U.S. military special ops- capable units, such as the Marine Corps’ Force Recon.

Sifu Cheung had been featured in many martial arts publications, including Black Belt, Inside Kung Fu and Martial Arts Illustrated.
In addition, he had prepared and trained actors within the entertainment industry for action roles in motion pictures, both in the U.S. and Hong Kong.

THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS

 

CAUTION: When browsing through a school’s website, be aware of superlatives and hyperbole. Always read between the lines. When watching videos of these Wudang masters, do not imagine yourself doing what they are doing. Stick with reality. Also, if they have written any informative articles on any aspect of the internal martial arts, be sure to  read them. And, as mentioned at the end of Part II, Daoism and the internal martial arts go hand-in-hand in Wudangshan. Therefore, if your religious beliefs or lack thereof may prevent you from honoring the rules and rituals of a particular school or temple, always check with them directly for any questions you might have before you travel.

Keeping these points in mind, let us begin our rundown of the more important internal martial arts schools and temples in and around Wudangshan.

China Wudang Kung Fu Academy (DaoistKungFu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shixing. Established in 2007, the schools new 5-star, 16-million yuan facility opened in 2013 and occupies over ten thousand square meters, in a quiet and peaceful environment surrounded by mountains. It is the largest, wholly-contained martial arts school in Wudang with 130 comfortable rooms in a four-level student building with hot water facilities, classic meals mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), air conditioning, Wifi, spacious yards with ample traditional training equipment, and its very own Taoist Temple. They teach a full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. . Everything that you need to learn more about Chinese culture could be found on the school territory: the Taoist Temple, a clean, up-to-date kitchen, a special hall to practice painting, the Hall of White Tiger Hall, the Hall of Green Dragon- the places that are decorated with Chinese calligraphy, where they practice in case of the poor weather. There is a large room for tea ceremony and a place where you can learn to play traditional Chinese musical instruments. Check website for latest fee changes. Last posted 7600 RMB for single room; 6600 RMB for double room. For Taiji teachers and those who want to be, they have an excellent 6-month certification program for only 40,000RMB double room and 45,000RMB single room. You can extend your stay for 3-months of self-practice at only 4,000RMB double room and 5,000 single room per month.

Chen Shixing YouTube Channel:  China Wudang Kung Fu Academy

Of particular interest:

An Introduction to China Wudang Kung Fu Academy

CCTV Highlights of Master Chen Shixing

Wudang Taiji – Six Basic Skills

Demonstrating Taiji Applications

Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy (WudangWushu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Yuan Xiu Gang. The school is currently in a transition to newer facilities. They are still in Wudangshan just a few kilometers from the old school at YuXu Temple. The new school is near the Wudangshan Stadium and Taiji Lake, which is part of the new Taiji Lake tourism area, the Chinese government’s idea of improving upon Nature by mixing environmental protection with the rich heritage of Wudang culture. Supposedly diverse forestation and landscaping have been completed around the lake. During this transition, new students coming to take part in the Health Class and specific workshops/courses will be directed to the new location next to Taiji Lake as the Academy is fully relocating to the new area. This is one of the largest schools at Wudang. You can also expect the accommodations and food at their new location to be among the finest in Wudang. Both Master Yuan and his coaches are bilingual and teach a full range of Wushu, taiji, qigong, weapons as well as calligraphy, music and Mandarin. And the prices are very reasonable. The Monthly rate for a single with A/C is 8100 RMB ($1265), a single without A/C is 7500 (1172), a double with A/C is 7500 (1172), a double without A/C is 6900 (1078),

Yuan Xiu Gang YouTube Channel Wudang Wushu (Mostly performance and group videos)

Of particular interest:

Teaching a Master Class in Spain

Learning Gongfu from Master Yuan

What is Internal Alchemy? (audio volume low, read subtitles)

Preparing for Meditation

Demonstrating Taiji 28 with international class (the perfect form)

Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Academy (/wudang.academy/learning-with-master-chen-shiyu/), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. School is located at Huilongguan (Returning Dragon) Temple. Huilongguan is the first temple after passing the entrance to the National Park of Wudangshan. Clean, comfortable rooms with hot water facilities, mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), Wifi available. Both outside and inside training areas with traditional training equipment, a medium-size school usually with no more than 30 students. A full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. Very clean, up-to-date kitchen. Monthly rate for luxury single with separate bathroom 9900 RMB ($1550), standard single 9500 ($1485), single with public toilet 6800 ($1062), double with A/C and separate toilet 7900 ($1235), with public toilet 6900 ($1078)

Chen Shiyu YouTube Channel: Chen Shiyu (Mostly performance videos), A more extensive list here: YouTube Videos:
Master Chen Shiyu

Of particular interest:

Tour of the kitchen facility

Explaining the Principles of Taiji (Mandarin)

Leading a Taiji 13 Class

Wudang Bagua Form

Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy (TaoistWellness.com, a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Gu Shining. The school is located in a picturesque valley below the central tourist bus route between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen Temples near Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33). This is a new website with videos by George Thompson. The old website had some glaring inconsistencies especially regarding prices and the courses thought by Sifu Gu. I cannot say that I am sure the new website has corrected all the inconsistencies regarding his courses. If you have a particular area of study you are interested in, for example, bagua, xingyi, tuina massage or acupuncture, make sure you email ahead to find out if it is indeed available. But, it should be noted that where Michael Weichhart is the most experienced and proficient of the Wudang posters, George Thompson is perhaps the least with only four months of formal martial arts training, yet he talks incessantly throughout the posts on his channel. So, stick with those videos specifically on the Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy channel (See link below).

As noted in Part II, the accommodations are rather Spartan with smaller rooms, mostly doubles, some with A/C some without, a smaller shower building with an Asian style toilet, and one single bedroom with a Western toilet. The facility is adequate for about six or seven students. More than that and it becomes rather tight. The community room is not large enough to hold taiji classes on rainy days. The dining area adjacent to the kitchen is small, and the kitchen can use a major clean up as well as updated remodeling and menu. On the plus side, though Master Gu Shining may not have as extensive a skill set as the other four San Feng Pai masters, it must be remembered that he spent years obtaining a college degree and teaching high school English while the other masters were training. Nevertheless, he is perhaps the most congenial and accommodative of any master at Wudang. Since his classes are very small, only about four to six students generally, he has time to work one-on-one in English with each one. And that should account for something, but perhaps not the 9000 RMB monthly price tag (a substantial increase). Much too much compared to other facilities for a small, shared double with only one outside Asian style shower room, no rain-proof indoor training area, and a kitchen in need of a major clean up and modernization  But for 7000 – 7500 RMB tops, it may just be a good value for a raw beginner.

Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy Youtube Channel Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy

Of particular interest:

Five Animals Qigong instructional video

Taiji 33 Performance Video with View of training yard

Taiji 33 Back View, performed off-site

Talk on Wudang culture in small community room

Wudang Dao (WudangDao.com) a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Zhong Xuechao (also called Master Bing). Slightly larger than Master Gu’s facility, as of the 2017 renovation and construction, the school had 7 rooms, without air conditioning. It will be hot during the Summer months, from June to end of August. Rooms have bed, blanket, sheet set and pillow. Students must use public lavatory (most likely Asian style) and shower. Work was to have been completed by September, 2017. Also a long 40-minute walk to the main road to catch the Mountain Tourist Bus. If you need a ride to town, Master Bing drives his car to town twice a day every two to four days.

I do not know if any part of the facility has been upgraded since 2017, but Master Bing has told me that his community room can hold three to five students for indoor practice on rainy days. As I mentioned in Part II, Master Bing has an extensive following in the U.S. and tours America every year generally from January to May. So, he has little need of a much larger facility in Wudang. To make sure the accommodations are adequate, he divides his Wudang schedule into three modules: Easy, Medium and Difficult, and teaches each separately for two weeks with about a 10-day break between modules. Each module will have one form or technique as well as a qigong, foundation exercises and an easy, medium or difficult hike. He limits class size to 12 maximum to avoid overcrowding and to provide individual corrections.

If your own schedule and location work out, you may be able to study with Master Bing at a city near you on his U.S. tour, and then later at Wudang. Master Bing has one of the most extensive skill sets at Wudang as he has been studying martial arts since he was six years-old, first informally with his uncle, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long, the 14th generation Wudang Master and head of the Wudang San Feng Pai. Then right after high school in 1992, Master Bing began formal study at Wudang.

Master Zhong Xuechao (Master Bing), Wudangbing YouTube channel: WudangBing

Of Particular Interest:

Spontaneous Qigong, Formless Form

Five Animals Qigong with Instructional ending

Taiyi Wu Xing 5 Element Form

Two-person Sword Form in Virgina

Fire and Water two-person sword form

Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy (Wudang-Academy.com). Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long, a disciple of You Xuan De. At the top of their website, it states: “A small and secluded academy…” So, I would anticipate the school to be exactly that – small and secluded. Although this is the largest of the three Spartan schools, perhaps averaging a dozen or so students. Even their booking site, StudyMartialArts.org, lists this facility as “Spartan.”  According to WGFHA website: “Students should be prepared to meet the simple living conditions here, bunk beds, shared shower rooms and squat toilets, insects and the humidity (especially in the Summer). That just about sums it up. The price is slightly out of line for a triple room – $7500 RMB for 1 month. That is more in line with a standard double room. However, if the teaching is exceptional, then it may well be worth it. But I have no idea if that is the case. The training looks a bit over-the-top to me, but… See for yourself.

Master Tang Li Long, YouTube channel: (WudangAcademy)

Of Particular Interest:

WGFHA Introduction (also on Home Page)

Tang Li Long Promotion

Impressions of our new school (2013)

Forms and Applications

Push hands (tui shou)

Wudang Skill Training (Gong Li)

Wudang Taoist Wuji KungFu Academy (DaoistGungFu.com) – Another 15th generation Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng, a disciple of You Xuan De and a graduate of the Chinest Daoist Academy. Wuji Kung Fu Academy is no doubt head and shoulders above most other schools in Wudangshan when it comes to size and comfort. It can accommodate up to 280 students. Despite such the vast size, the website claims that all classes are taught personally by Master Chen, the first student in Mt. Wudang to attend graduate studies at the Chinese Taoist Association. Instead of a dormitory or temple, students are housed at a 4-star Wudangshan hotel, the QiongTai Hotel. The monthly fee is very reasonable considering the 4-star accommodations, 10,000 RMB for a private single room and 8000 RMB for a double room. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how good his translators are. And you will definitely need a good one if you are not fluent in Mandarin. Also, all of his taiji and qigong is painfully slow and IMHO not necessarily inline with most Wudang styles – But you be the judge…

Master Chen Li Sheng, YouTube channel: (Chen Li Sheng)
Of Particular Interest:

An Introduction to Chen Li Sheng

Master Chen’s School in Wudang Mountains

Explaining Internal Basics (If you’re not fluent in Mandarin, go somewhere else)

Teaching Amsterdam students internal taichi (No Sound, No English?)

Teaching Taiji Quan (His translator hopefully is very good. Again, No Sound!!!)

Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School, (Wudang-kungfu.net), 25th generation of longmen pai (dragongate), the 23rd generation of chunyang pai (pure yang energy lineage) and 13th generation of songxi pai (the flowing river lineage) Master Wang Xing Qing. The school has two locations. There is the main school located at the foot of Eastern side of Wudangshan in Plum Valley near Taiji Lake. You can reach it via the public bus #202.  The other location is the school’s Mountain Retreat on Wudang Mountain. The main school has a large training ground and was newly furnished in autumn 2011 with proper western standards such as: western toilets, high-speed internet access, air conditioning and comfortable furniture.

While the school and surroundings look very upscale, I am not certain if I can say the same about Master Wang Xing Qing’s lineage. During the restoration of Wudang Daoism and Kung Fu after the Cultural Revolution, several Longmen (Dragongate) Pai masters guided that process as I pointed out in Part I of The Wudang Experience. Yet, they decided to initiate just two lineage schools, first the San Feng Pai under Master Zhong Yun Long and then later Xuan Wu Pai under Master You Xuan De, because Master Zhong had crossed Northern China to learn and bring back San Feng Pai forms while You Xuan De traveled to Southern China and returned with Xuan Wu Pai kung fu. But Master Wang did not study under either of them. Instead, for whatever reason, he claims that he was raised through the secret guidance of his first master Jia He Xuan, who taught him the old original style of wudang internal martial arts and kungfu. But isn’t that what Master Zhong and Master You brought back to Wudang?  It sounded a bit far-fetched to me especially since I could find no historical details on Jia He Xuan. But if you feel Master Wang is the real deal after doing your due diligence, then go for it. Prices are very reasonable: 8000 RMB for a single, 7000 RMB for a double for one month. FYI: Master Wang apparently does not speak English but uses translators.

Master Wang Xing Qing, YouTube channel: (Wudang Dragongate)

Of Particular Interest:

Welcome to the Wudang Dragongate School

Master Wang teaching Taiji Basics in Russia

Internal Wudang Daoist Kungfu

Constructing a Meditation Platform (good exercise!)

Rooftop Meditation

Basics of Traditional Wudang Boxing

Training in the Mountains

Wudang Dragongate Training Tour

And last but not least, the Mystery Temple. Why do I call it a “mystery?” Well, see for yourself…

The Five Immortals Temple, (www.fiveimmortals.com) Master Li Feng does not specifically claim to be a disciple of any named master but of many anonymous masters. So, right there, some may decide to proceed slowly and read with a sceptical eye. Like Master Wang Xing Qing above, Li Shifu does claim to be a Dragongate and Pure Yang Sect inheritor as well as a High Priest but does not credit any particular master as his teacher. The website states, “Five Immortals Temple is a small and secluded place in the Wudang Mountains of China, welcoming all who seek to shape themselves in the Taoist Arts.”

So, again we have a school that is considered small and secluded…

“Our goal is to produce coaches of a high-standard, masters of medical treatment, and the recovery from illness, people sharing the same path of the Wudang Internal Alchemy practice. Through study, the ultimate goal is to open one’s own Wudang Kung Fu school to instruct Kung Fu, to establish a longevity space, a healing center, to transmit the theories of longevity, to help even more people by easing the pain and suffering of illness, to make people return to naturalness and to co-exist with the harmony of Heaven and Earth..”

And to get your new business going, they offer certification that doubles the non-certified course fee. This may relate more to those with an entrepreneurial spirit rather than those who merely want to improve their kungfu or taiji. But what is unique about the Five Immortals Temple is that they give you a first-hand opportunity to decide if it is right for you.

“Future students can also choose to first visit the temple for 3 days to inspect the conditions, at which time food and accommodation will be free of charge. One must study and take part in the temple’s everyday chores and tasks – for example being in charge of temple halls, lighting incense, sweeping, cleaning, and so on. One to three people are accommodated per room; the diet is vegetarian inside the temple.”

They caution, however: “This place is not a school or martial arts academy, this is a temple and this is a home for a family. This is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. That is why one must respect the temple rules and Taoist precepts. One must be able to endure bitterness, follow the plans and arrangements with discipline, unite and mutually support each other with love, compassion, kindness, as well as understand the concept of gain…”

Master Li Feng (Li Shifu) YouTube channel Five Immortals Temple

Of Particular Interest:

An introduction

Wudang Five Dragons Bagua

Daoist Medicine

Wudang Chun Yang Yang Sheng Gong

 

There you have it, a compilation of the top masters and their schools at Wudangshan. If you are planning a trip to Wudang or think you might like to visit there in the future (And you should because the natural beauty and energy is off the charts), keep an open mind as you view all the links. Don’t expect to have a lay back, comfy stay. After all, this is training, and it was not meant to be a vacation. Instead, see if any particular school or master seems to resonate with you. Remember, this is all about internal kung fu, so listen to your own inner voice and feel what resonates the most with your internal energy.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to write them in the comments area. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

THE END

 

Of all the grandmasters who trained the current generation of teachers at Wudong, 14th generation grandmaster Zhong Yun Long is the most well known and best documented. Not as much is known about You Xuan De and little if any of Jia He Xuan. So, here is a Hong Kong TV documentary “Kung Fu Quest,” that has scenes of the two 15th generation San Feng Pai masters Yuan Xiu gang and Chen Shiyu instructing students. It also has scenes with their master, the head of San Feng Pai ,Zhong Yun Long, teaching Taiyi Wu Xing Quan.

 

Here is another video of both Masters Chen and Yuan with their master, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long.

 

Finally, Here is a link to a 9-part Wudang Documentary posted by Michael Weichhart’s Wudang Academy.

What You Need to Know

After reading this article, you may be disappointed to find that Wudang is not what you thought it would be. On the other hand, you may be elated to know that it is more than you imagined. In either case, do not let anything I have written either postitive or negative about any school or teacher discourage you from visiting Wudang. No matter which school, master or program you select at Wudang, the very fact that you are standing amid this sacred mountain with its Golden Summit is reward enough for any amount of money you have spent on lodgings and programs. Though the school or program you select may be completely wrong for advancing your goals, nevertheless, in Wudang, you are emersed in Nature, in the Dao. Unless you are addicted to your smart phone or tablet, you have the unparalleled opportunity to go without a car, a TV or iTunes and YouTube, and instead tune into Nature just as the ancient Daoists did thousands of years ago.

Many journey to this mountain every year to take advantage of just such an opportunity. Living close to Nature helps them find stability and clarity in their lives and relationships. Very few places on Earth contain the immense power and energy you will find here if you manage to quiet the chatter. You may even find a qigong course that improves your health or a martial arts master who can advance your taiji and tui shou. And then again maybe you won’t. The mountain with all its rich culture and Daoist traditions welcomes you anyway and offers you the unique chance to find what you have been looking for nearly your entire life – the real you – as long as you approach with an open mind and leave all your expectations back home.

There are many ways to do Wudang. You can just hop a plane to China and then find a connecting flight or a train to take you to Wudang, traveling as a tourist, hunt for a school and a program that will fulfill your aims instead of . Of course, winging it like this can get expensive as you hop from one school to another, spending a night or two here and there or reserving a motel room near one of the large temples and school-hopping during the day. Another way is to do your touring via the internet and YouTube. But either way do your due diligence before you go and decide what it is you want.  Is it qigong or taiji or wushu? Is it hand forms or weapons?  Maybe you are interested in meditation or Daoism and its philosophy. Maybe calligraphy or learning Mandarin. Or maybe you enjoy hiking mountain trails and visiting temples and other historic sites. Or maybe you like to do a little of each. That’s fine as long as you realize what you ultimately want to get out of your trip.

Michael Weichhart is a 16th generation Wudang lineage holder, a disciple of 15th generation master, Yuan Xiu Gang, and has also trained with 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. Weichhart is a frequent poster of Wudang videos on YouTube and teaches Wudang wushu at his Wudang Academy in Vienna and offers online courses as well. Weichhart’s experience and talent both as a taichi player and videographer are unquestioned. Listen to his knowledgeable remarks on what you should know about Wudang before you go and having the proper mental attitude.

Michael’s Website: Wudang Academy

FIRST THINGS FIRST: HOW TO GET TO WUDANG? The key words here are PLAN AHEAD. If you want to get the best airline deals to China, then you need to book months in advance. It is now early June as I write this, the perfect time to plan for a September or October flight. If you want to travel in the Spring, then book by December or January. If you plan to go in the Summer, book by March or April.

How much will it cost? I have used Cheapo Air (CheapoAir.com) on several occasions for flights to major cities in China and India. By booking several months in advance, a round trip ticket costs between $400 – $500. You can also purchase travel insurance through Cheapo Air for around $30 – $50 depending on which options you take. But don’t book all the way through to Wudang. Instead, book to a major city like Beijing or Shanghai. If you book all the way through, it may cost you more, and you may only have hours to make a connecting flight, no time for sightseeing. So, decide how much time you want to spend in Beijing or Shanghai and what you would like to see. You can book private tours online in any major city in China along with side trips to nearby cities. You can book a hotel through cTrip.com (the Chinese version of trip.com).  Do not use booking.com or hotel.com – quotes are all high end.

Now the next leg of your journey is directly to Wudang. You can go two ways: by train or plane, either of which you will book through cTrip.com. If you plan on taking the train (there are no high speed trains to Wudang), you will have to take a regular train which will take approximately 19 hours from Beijing and about 22 hours from Shanghai. And you MUST book a soft sleeper. They are very comfortable, and you will be able to get your usual seven or eight hours of sleep, unless you are still suffering from jet lag. The cost from Beijing is about $75; from Shanghai about $85 – $90. Or you can simply take a plane from either major city. A 2 1/2-hour flight will cost $98 – $121.

For GROUP TRAVEL PACKAGES, you can book the entire package through Cheapo Air at http://www.cheapoair.biz/group-booking.html. Or RewardsTravelChina.com, E-mail chris [at] rewardstravelchina [dot] com for the best quote in the market for group bookings and corporate travel.

TO SUMMARIZE: first you decide ahead when you want to go. Then book your best deal on CheapoAir.com, Usually that means a flight to either Beijing or Shanghai. But you can also book flights from the U.S. to Xiamen, Wuhan or Xi’an (rail travel from these cities to Wudang are much shorter). Once you have the arrival times for China, figure on at least an hour or 1 1/2 hours to get through Chinese Immigration and Customs. Now decide if you want to spend a day or two or three touring the local sights in your arrival city or save your time and money and go directly to Wudang. Whichever you decide, you will book on cTrip.com. Please note, the plane does not land in Wudang proper but at the Wudangshan Airport which is in Shiyan, a 40-minute taxi ride to the Wudang Residential Area (which is actually considered the Dan Jiang Kou district of the city of Shiyan or Laoyin.)  The taxi will cost between 100 – 130 RMB ($16 – $20). The ride from the Wudangshan train station is much shorter and will cost about half that amount or you can take a city bus #202 depending on the time of day for 4 RMB. (Cheap, huh?)

What is not cheap is the entrance fee to Wudangshan National Geopark entrance gate, 240 RMB (nearly $40 USD) includes 140 RMB Geopark entrance fee and 100 RMB for the Wudang Mountain Tourist Bus. You can take the bus all around the central peaks of the mountain which include Purple Heaven Temple, NanYan Temple and Golden Summit without any additional charges. Keep in mind, there is a three-day limit on your entrance fee/bus pass. If you manage to hook up with a martial arts school, they can usually extend the pass to 3 months. But if you leave the mountain and go back to Wudang Town, you will have to pay an additional 50 RMB for a bus pass to return to the mountain. Or you may want to visit temples and schools on the Eastern or Western peaks of Wudangshan in which case you will have to pay the additional Tourist Bus fare unless you can walk or hike to the school. The 240 RMB entrance gate fee is waived for seniors of retirement age. They just pay 55 RMB for the bus pass. Some schools like the Wudang Gung Fu and Health Academy and Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy are located near the confines of Wudang Town, so you will not have to pay any fee other than local bus fare for visiting them. But eventually, you will probably want to go up the mountain and visit some temples, caves and other historic sights.

OUR SUBTOTAL for travel to this point is $400-500 USD RT airfare to China. $200-240 RT within China to Shiyan or $150-180 RT train fare. $10 – 20 taxi fare. 240 RMB ($40 USD) Wudangshan entrance fee and bus fare. $800 – $980

EXPLORING WUDANG: If you want to look around first on your own and sample several different schools, you will need to book a motel through cTrip.com. Do not use Booking.com or Hotels.com. Their quotes are high-end. If you are looking at schools around Wudang Town, then you can stay at the Wudang International Youth Hostel located at No. 2 Park Road adjacent to the more expensive Laoying Hotel ($34) and near the partially restored Yu Xu Gong Temple. Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s training ground for his Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy has been adjacent to the temple, but they are in the process of moving – more on that later. In any case, you can get a simple but clean room with air conditioning/heating, two double beds and a western style bathroom for about $17 USD/night (less if you book 2 or more nights). They also have an inexpensive cafe and bar with excellent American fare. Their vegetarian pizza is terrific. If you need to get additional RMB, your ATM card will work at the Bank of China directly across Taihe Lu (the main road through Wudang Town) from the hostel.

To book hotels on the mountain, agaIn use cTrip.com, not Booking.com or Hotels.com. There are several at the small village in the NanYan Temple recreational area like Wudangshan Taiji Hotel (about $40 USD), Jiulong Villa ($52) and Wudang Shenlong Hotel ($20 USD). You can also buy food and other supplies there to avoid the expense of returning to Wudang Town to shop. It is the last Tourist Bus Stop before turning around and driving down the mountain to the town. There are also a few on the road just beyond Purple Heaven Temple like Wudang Mountain Tianlu Holiday Resort ($50 USD) and guest houses as well further along the same road between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen temples like Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) just up the Hill from Master Gu’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy..

SELECTING A MASTER AND A PROGRAM that will work best for you requires the utmost due diligence. Pictures and videos of the various sites may not help. They can be touched up, edited and shot at other sties away from the school grounds. Even watching individual videos of masters performing various forms are sometimes shot in slow motion to give the performance an extra artistic, flowing appeal. Other videos are sometimes sped up to make the performer’s skills seem incredibly super human. You need to remember that Wudang masters began studying martial arts as young children and have been practicing formally for some 20 to 30 years. Don’t expect to imitate them in any way, shape or form. The only reason to watch performance videos is to decide which hand, weapon or qigong form you would like to learn.

As for selecting a particular master and his program, I would suggest you watch their instructional videos rather than performance videos to see how they teach. I have included videos and links in my next blog (Part III) that should help you decide on a master and a program of study.

Another important aspect of chosing a school is language. If you speak fluent Mandarin, then language is no problem. If not, then you must make a decision. Do you want to attend a school where the head master speaks English or it doesn’t matter. For me, it mattered. So, I chose the school with a master who was fairly fluent in english and would be able to teach me what I had chosen to study one-on-one and not through assistants or coaches.

Of the five main San Feng Pai schools, three of their lead masters speak English, namely Master Yuan Xiu Gang, Master Zhong Xuechao, and Master Gu Shining, who is probably the most fluent of the three as he has a degree from Hubei University and has taught English classes in the local high school. As far as I know, Masters Chen Shixing and Chen Shiyu do not conduct classes in English and need translators. I believe Master Tang Li Long of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai sect may speak some English, but I am not certain. The other Xuan Wu Pai mater Chen Li Sheng does not speak English and requires a translator. The same for Li Shifu of the Five Immortals Temple.

Does the size of the school matter to you? Do you want to attend a school based on its reputation, which will generally have more students? Or, would you prefer a lesser-attended school with much smaller class sizes. Of the San Feng Pai sect, the two largest schools are Master Chen Shixing’s China Wudang KungFu Academy and Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy. They also have the best accommodations. Master Chen Shiyu’s Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Academy is a medium size school at Huilongguan (Returning Dragon) Temple. Another fairly large school with comfortable accommodations is Master Wang Xing Qing’s Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School of the Longmen Pai sect. Located in the Plum Valley near Tai Chi Lake, on the Eastern foot of Wudang Mountain, it is accessible by the local bus so you do not have to pay the entrance fee. By far one of the largest and most comfortable of all the schools is Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng’s Wudang Daoist Wuji Kung Fu Academy. Their website states that it can accommodate up to 280 students, most of whom are housed in the four-star QiongTai Hotel at Wudangshan. Abbott Li Sheng Feng’s (Li Shifu’s) non-affiliated Five Immortals Temple on White Horse Mountain is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. It may have slightly fewer students than the San Feng Pai schools due to its more secluded, less visited location. Since it is a mountain temple, you can expect the accommodations to be rustic but still provide a modacom of comfort.

There are three smaller, lesser known schools whose accommodations are spartan – possibly a level or two above camping. The only difference is they provide a mattress (usually not as comfortable as the soft sleepers on a train), blankets and a roof over your head. An Asian style squat toilet and community shower are still better than a hole in the ground but not by much. The larger of these spartan facilities is Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long’s Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy. Expect to inhabit a three-person cabin or dorm room with bunk beds and community squat toilets. The other two are both San Feng Pai schools. Master Gu Shining’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy is located just down the hill from the Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) mentioned above. It has only one single room with a Western style bathroom but no A/C heater. The other rooms are small doubles with A/C and an outside Asian style shower room. There is a small community room with capacity for only one or two persons to practice on rainy days (about 11 or 12 per month). One large plus, the facility is on a very picturesque hillside with tea plants, bamboo and walnut trees. Master Zhong Xuechao’s (Master Bing’s) Wudang Dao Academy is slightly larger than Master Gu’s. The renovation of these older farm buildings was completed in September, 2017. Master Bing tells me that his inside practice room can accommodate three to five persons on rainy days. If you need to get into town, you can usually hop a ride with Master Bing. Otherwise, it is a 40-minute hike to the main road to catch the tourist bus. Master Bing does not have a larger facility since he tours the U.S. the first part of every year from January to mid-May then returns to Wudang Dao for the remainder of the year. His very reasonable prices reflect the less than comfortable conditions but are not indicative of the high quality of training he provides.

What about religious beliefs? While most kungfu and taiji styles have little or no affiliations with religious orders, Shaolin and Wudang are the exceptions – Wudang much more so than Shaolin. Once you visit Wudang, you will find there is no getting away from Daoism and its ties to the internal martial arts. Everywhere you go there are statues, caves, and relics devoted to Daoist saints and immortals, not to mention the numerous temples and ruins spread across the mountain. Even more in line with Daoism are the martial arts schools and temples, where you are reminded everyday that the roots of kungfu and taiji lie in Daoism. This is especially true of martial arts training that occurs within an actual temple like the Five Immortals. Here you are asked to actually take part in the prayers, chants and rituals and follow the rules of the temple during your stay. This may be fine for most visitors who view it as part of their Wudang adventure or perhaps as partaking in a cultural art form. But for some who have beliefs that will not allow them to honor any religion or worship any sort of deity, then you should probably forego the entire Wudang experience. But, if in doubt, always contact the particular facility and ask whether or not their regulations require taking part in Daoist activities.

In the next part, you will discover where to locate a particular school’s website and contact information.

Coming Next: The Wudang Experience, Part III,

THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS

The Wudang Myth Exposed

Prior to the Cultural Revolution, Wudang martial arts were practiced virtually in secret. There were no martial arts schools on Wudangshan. There were no students. Only the priests that resided at the various temples were taught qigong, taiji and kung fu – no one else. Then along came Mao Zedong and his Red Guard. All hell broke loose on all of the sacred mountains across China as priests, nuns and monks were murdered or beaten and driven from their temples.

During the 1960’s and 70’s Daoist activity at Wudangshan was almost completely halted. By 1979 when the Cultural Revolution ended, there were no more than 20 monastics living on the mountain.  Most of the Daoists had experienced relocation into labor camps.  Only the eldest ones were allowed to stay in the temples. Many were beaten by the Red Guard, and none were allowed to take on disciples.  Li Cheng Yu, almost 100 years old at the time, escaped beatings by gluing her lips together and sitting on the temple steps in meditation without food or water for three days. Amazed by her skill, the Red Guard let her remain along with a few high-ranking Daoists.

However, many martial artists did indeed flee China and filtered into Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Eventually some made it to the United States as well. That exodus gave rise to a myth with widespread origins which has become quite commonplace in taiji and martial arts circles. Many believe that today’s Wudang kung fu and taiji are newly-invented external styles that may provide health and wellness but have no internal foundation or internal power and bear no relevance to the Wudang lineages prior to the 1960s.

It is the aim of this blog to show that nothing could be further from the truth. (Of course, these critics when they mention health and wellness are only referring to physical health. Wudang Daoists, on the other hand, consider health of the mind and spirit as the ultimate aim of Taiji, but more on this later)

So then, how did this myth get started? Well, let’s back up a few decades.

Since students naturally have a special fondness for their teachers, those with masters, who had fled China, felt as though the very best of the best had left. Appalled by stories from embittered masters who had lost status and wealth, they felt that no master with any skill whatsoever had survived on the Mainland. Either they had been slaughtered on sight, beaten to death, forced into labor camps or had escaped the country. But they forgot to consider that, even in a labor camp, one can cultivate his qi and polish internal skills chopping wood and carrying heavy bags of soil. In fact, their skills may have become more developed than masters in foreign lands who taught students during the day then sat around drinking, smoking and gambling all night.

The truth of the matter is many Daoists had indeed fled their temples, but not all of them escaped to other countries. Many mingled among the farmers and laborers in their hometowns and began working in the fields, others in restaurants and kitchens, and still others in labor camps. Tasks like digging, planting and carrying bags of grains or grinding rice and cooking over a hot wok gave them a chance to secretly hone their skills. Even today Wudang Daoists practice the Convenient Shovel (Fang Bian Chan).

In 1979 chairman Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 established reforms to open up China, which effectively brought an end to the Cultural Revolution and eased the repression of  religious freedom.  This began a slow trickle of Daoists returning to Wudang.  Most importantly for the San Feng Pai sect, Guogaoyi 郭高一 (1921-1996) and Zhuchengde 朱诚德 (1898-1990), both dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters, returned in 1980-81.

Born in Shangqiu, Henan Province, Guo Gaoyi as a child practiced the rudiments of Erlang Quan and Shaolin Quan. Later, he met high-level Taiji masters, Yang Kuishan and Guo Yingshan, while fighing in the Sino-Japanese war as a teenager. After the war he took vows at a temple in Liaoning Province where he studied Wudang Sanfeng Taiji quan from Yang Mingzhen (杨明真). During the Cultural Revolution he was forced out of the temple and returned to his hometown. In 1981 he entered a temple on White Cloud Mountain (Henan Province), where was ordained as a Daoist under Priest Tang Zhongliang, a Longmen Pai Taijiquan master.  After the death of his teacher, he moved to Wudang Mountain and began teaching.

Master Zhu as a young boy met a wandering Daoist and was accepted as his disciple. In 1932 he was forcibly conscripted into the Nationalist army. In 1939 he was discharged for health reasons and became a Daoist priest. He came to Wudang Mountain looking for his master, who had already passed away. During the Culture Revolution he was assigned to a hard-labor brigade where he chopped wood and carried fertilizer. After returning to Wudang Mountain, he continued his practice and received national attention for his qigong skills.

At that time, the 13th generation leader of San Feng Pai was Wang Guang De 王光德, who also became the head of Wudang Daoist Association once religious practice was legalized in 1979.  Master Wang was a local from the nearby town of Danjiangkou who had been studying under various Daoist masters since childhood – having taken Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) master Li Cheng Yu 李诚玉 (1885-2003) as a master from a very young age.  Later he studied Gongfu under Xiao Yao Wan 萧耀宛 (1911-1997), the 12th generation head of Wudang San Feng Pai.

These three, Masters Wang, Guo and Zhu became the teachers of the 14th generation of Wudang students, which included a 19 year-old disciple, Zhong Yun Long, who came to Wudang in 1981. Zhong, a native of Huangxi City, Hubei Province, a hotbed of kung fu styles, was no stranger to external martial arts.

In Zhong’s own words from a 2003 Kung Fu Magazine interview with Gene Ching, he explains: “Under my first master, I studied Yue family boxing and Yang family boxing. That’s Yue as in the famous Song General Yue Fei, and Yang kung fu, not Yang Taiji. This Yang was another general from the Song Dynasty. According to legend, all the men in the family were generals that died in battle, so the women of the family had to become generals to defend the country against the Jin invasion. Anyway, I studied with that master for about six years, and then at 18, I went to Shaolin Temple to study for about six months.”

Next on the list, Wudang: “At 19, I came to Wudang to study formally. Mostly, I studied under masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chende. Wang Kuangde also taught me a lot. At that time, Wudang was not as open as it is today. Not everybody could go there to study. They had rigid restrictions on who could be accepted as students.”

Zhong went on to explain what it was like in those earlier years: “Back then, the living standard was very hard. The old masters were very strict. They only taught me in secret at night, so no one would see it during the day. There were no kung fu schools up there. The only people who could learn Wudang kung fu were formal priests. Wudang had very exacting rules about who you could teach and who you could learn from.

“Then, in 1984, the Wudang Taoist Association was founded and that began to open things up. Before that, only the older Taoist priests lived in the temples. Due to China’s turbulent recent history, there was a missing generation. All the masters from the last generation are very old. I am the part of the younger generation of priests to come in. It was the first time they recruited new blood for the Wudang Association and I was among the first recruits.”

In 1985 master Wang, as the head of the Wudang Daoist Association, put out a call for Daoists scattered by the Cultural Revolution to return to Wudangshan. Among the several that answered his call were two famous masters: the Bagua master Lu Zi Jian 吕紫剑 and the Daoist nun and master of eight immortals sword Zhao Jian Ying 赵剑英.  Both returned in 1986.

Born into a martial arts family in Yichang, Hubei Province, Master Lu began training with his mother at age 7. At age 18, he moved to Beijing and studied Baguazhang with Master Li Changye and Xingyiquan with Master Yu Shirong, and finally he returned in Chongqinq, Sichuan Province to study Taijiquan with Master Li Guocao  In the 1920s he served as a member of the Nationalist Party military committee. When the Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan, like many, Master Lu stayed in mainland China and served in a labor camp. In 1980s he won a number of martial arts competitions, garnering national attention. Then in 1986, he answered Master Wang’s call.

Master Zhao was born on Wudangshan. She was a very sickly child. When she was six years old, a soldier noticed just how sick she was and offered to teach her Kung Fu, an art form that literally saved her life. Though she was a girl and it was uncommon at that time for girls to learn Kung Fu, it was her passion for Kung Fu that shaped her life. She began studying martial arts to improve her health. When she was 15 she became active in war efforts during the Sino-Japanese War. She nursed injured soldiers and taught hand-to-hand combat. In the early years of the Communist Party she lived with her husband in Guangxi Province where she taught martial arts. In 1980, after two decades of silence, she came back to Wudang Mountain and is credited with preserving Wudang’s Taiyi 5 Element form.

Along with Master Wang, Masters Zhu, Guo, Lu, and Zhao were at the core of a renaissance of martial arts activity at Wudang that had not been seen since the fall of the Qing dynasty. Decades of turmoil were ending and a new resurgence emerging. And soon, a new leader would arise.

At the time that he put out his call for Daoists to return to Wudangshan, Master Wang also gave fourteenth generation San Feng disciple Master Zhong Yun Long 钟云龙 the enormous task of traveling around China to search out the different Daoist masters who had fled from persecution during the calamities of The Cultural Revolution and to bring their practices back to Wudang so they would not be lost.  Zhong spent 3 years seeking out and training with different Masters including Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修 in Laoshan, famous for his unbelievable kicks.  A tradition of kicks that remains strong within the San Feng lineage to this day.

(The San Feng Pai Xuan Zhen style, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems. This Dark Gate style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修)

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Grandmaster Zhong recounted his arduous three-year trek: “In winter of 1985, the Wudang masters asked me to go down the mountain and spend three years to search for lost Wudang masters and schools. I first studied under Gansu Chen Ye and inherited Wudang Bashenmen (8 Immortals Gate) In spring of 1986, I traveled to Lao Mountain in Shandong and studied Xuanmen Wuxue (dark gate martial study.) That autumn, I went to Zhongnan Mountain in Shaanxi to study Huan Yen Dan Ba (Taoist alchemy) under Gansu Li Yue. I continued my studies on Zhongnan Mountain through the spring of 1987, inheriting Wudang Xingyimen and Baguamen. Then in June I was ordered to return for the first Wudang open tournament.”

Through his travels and training, master Zhong amassed a huge body of knowledge ranging from Daoist martial arts to inner alchemy and healing practices.  In 1989 together with master Wang, Zhong founded the Daoist Association Martial Arts Academy at Purple Cloud Palace, with Master Guo serving as head martial arts instructor and Master Zhu as head qigong instructor.

Why is all of this important? Well, from 1966 to 1979, not only had Wudang lost a generation of experienced Daoist-trained martial artists but also an entire generation of novice recruits. Perhaps, even more importantly, until Master Zhong returned from his journey across China, Wudang had lost decades, if not centuries, of structure. Master Zhong brought back the missing elements to complete that structure and dispel those critics who claim that the new generation of Wudang Daoists replaced that structure with newly reinvented forms.

Taken from Wudang Houston’s Wudang San Feng Pai History, the structure of San Feng Pai is currently composed of the following sets:

First the Martial Set:

  1. Taiji Gate 太极门
  2. Xingyi Gate 形意门 (form mind)
  3. Bagua Gate 八卦门 (eight trigrams)
  4. Baji Gate 八极门 (eight extremes)
  5. Xuan Zhen Gate 玄真门 (the mystic work from Kuang Chang Xiu)
  6. Eight Immortals Gate 八仙门 (Baxian)
  7. Six Harmonies Gate 六合门 (Liuhe)
  8. Nine Palaces Gate 九宫门 (Jiugong)

Tracing these 8 categories, you begin to see the disparate strands that contribute to present-day San Feng sect. Taijiquan comes principally through two dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters (Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde), while Xingyi comes from both northern (Shang Ji 尚济) and southern lineages (Huang Wan Yang 黄万祥).  Bagua comes from another dragon gate master (Liu Cheng Xi 刘诚喜), while Bajiquan is simply comprised of the standard Jing Wu Academy set. Xuan Zhen Gate, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems (this style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect Master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修).  The eight immortals style he learned from a wandering Daoist Gansu Chen Ye 甘肃陈爷 during his travels in Hunan province.  And the last two gates are elaborations of Xingyi and Bagua respectively.

The second Set is San Feng Health Cultivation 三丰养生功

This middle section of the San Feng Pai curriculum is not organized like the first or last sections.  There is a proliferation of health cultivation techniques, from the five elements qigong 五行气功 to standing and seated eight pieces of brocade 八段锦.  There are also classical medical qigong sets like the five animal frolics 五禽戏 and “expelling the old and taking in the new” 吐故纳新.  Aside from this there is martial qigong, like iron body 筒子功, iron arm 铁臂功, iron palm 铁砂掌, iron throat 铁脖功, mystical two-finger skill 二指玄功, and Taiyi Qigong 太乙气功.  Later there are forms of health cultivation which border on inner alchemical practice like the Three Heaven Gate Enlightenment Training 三天门悟性气功 (also known as Tongzigong 童子功).  These techniques were transmitted primarily through Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) Masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde.

The Third and most secretive set is the San Feng Elixir Path 三丰丹道

The highest level of San Feng Pai is concerned with the practice of inner alchemy.  Most of these teachings are closely-guarded secrets.  The first step is known as “establishing the foundation,” 筑基 and it is divided into the following parts: regulate the body  身體要正常, engender sufficient energy 能量(陽氣)要充足, purify the heart and lessen desires  清心寡欲.

After this, one begins the practice of refining the heart 練心, which has two parts.  This is followed by regulating the breath 調息, which has three methods, the last of which is turtle breathing 龜息.  At this point one is ready to begin training in cosmic circulation method 周天運行法.

In training the cosmic circulation method one begins with small cosmic circulation 小周天, which has two sections – collecting the medicine and leading it to the stove 采藥入爐 and regulating the fire timing 調理火候.  After the creation of the small medicine 小药, the fruit of the above practices, one proceeds to large cosmic circulation 大周天, which has several parts. Through this practice one moves on to embryonic breathing 胎息, after which he or she can begin the second phase of the inner-alchemical enterprise.

So, you can see from the above training and structure, Wudang Taiji and Kung Fu are focused on developing internal power as opposed to purely external force. As for health and wellness, there is so little here that most outsiders can begin to comprehend. It is the ultimate aim for Daoism and Taiji to unite and bring about the total union of the body, mind and spirit, which includes all six individual energy bodies and two universal ones. Until that is accomplished, one’s Taiji, even though at a very high level, is not complete.

It is important to understand Master Zhong Yun Long’s thoughts on this final point since, as the 14th generation leader of San Feng Pai, he had the responsibility of training the 15th generation of disciples who would become the current masters of Wudangshan like his nephew Zhong Xuechao, who began informal study with his uncle at the age of six then formal study at Wudang after high school in 1992, Yuan Xiu Gang, (Shi Mao) Wudang Daoist Traditional Internal Kung Fu Academy at Yao Ling, Chen Shiyu, The Wudang Daoist (Traditional) Martial Arts Academy at the Temple of the Returning Dragon (Huilong Guan 回龙观), and Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy, to name a few.

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Master Zhong explained it this way: “Wudang kung fu is one of two main streams of Chinese martial arts. Shaolin kung fu is famous for its strength and explosive power, its external power. Wudang kung fu is exactly the opposite. Softness or yin power is used to overcome hardness. Stillness overcomes motion. Four ounces overcomes 1000 pounds. Of course, it also has a hard part. There is external power. Wudang forms appear soft on the outside, but internally it is really hard. By hard, I mean qi, because internal forms cultivate qi. When you train in this, the qi is very strong and becomes hard inside. But on the outside, touching and seeing it, it is very soft. It’s also like lightning when it comes – fresh and electric. When it explodes, fajin (explosive power) is like thunder.

“These days, mainstream Wudang focuses on Taiji. But Taiji is the big brother, so to speak. Beneath Taiji are three concepts: Liangyi (literally “two gifts” but it can be analogous to “heaven and earth”), Taiji (literally “grand utmost”) and Wuji (literally “void utmost.”) We say Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred different styles. He took these specific styles, ideals and philosophies and focused them on the life nourishing culture that is Taoism to invent internal martial arts. According to Taoist beliefs, from Wuji arises Taiji, from Taiji arises Liangyi. Liangyi became sixiang (literally “four elephants” – this represents the four pillars or forms) and this created Bagua (eight trigrams, same as used in I Ching divination). From this we say ‘one created two, two created three, three created ten thousand.’ This philosophy is the foundation of internal form. That’s why Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji are all under the Taiji umbrella.

“Yin and yang combined together in balance creates Taiji. When you separate yin and yang, we call it Liangyi. Liangyi separates the hard and the soft. Put them together and they become Taiji. Within the taiji is the Tao of life nourishing culture. Before, I said that Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred styles and mixed them with Taoist life nourishing culture. What is really meant by this is that our style has combined the methods of tuna (breathing methods), daoyin (stretching techniques), caibu (collecting and nourishing) and hunyuan (akin to qigong). Now under Taiji there are three different levels, first Liangyi, then Taiji, then Wuji. But if you talk about the form itself, it also has different levels. First is tuna, the breathing method, second is caibu, collecting and nourishing, and third is called hunyuan. Hunyuan means combining yin and yang, so it’s an internal meditation method. These three levels comprise Taijiquan technique.

“We use internal power to support external movement. Through many years of study, Wudang has developed many internal forms. In different periods, each form had a different creator. And each creator had his own basic form to base the foundation of his style. At Wudang, we have a basic entry-level form called Wudang changquan (long fist) but this is not like Shaolin long fist. It trains the stances, hand techniques and body techniques, combining all of them together.”

Grandmaster Zhong  stated that he mainly focuses on Taiji and explained that Wudang Taiji consists of 15 forms. From there it branches out into 18 weapons.

Back in 2003, Master Zhong had a final message for his readers, a message that is still very relevant today, and one, which all those critics of Wudang Taiji should take to heart:

“I want to send a message to the readers that Taiji is not just the Taiji form itself, because it is misleading in the world today. People talk about Taiji and think Taiji is just the form. But as I told you, it’s not just the form. It’s the three main concepts, Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji. Not only are these in the form, they are the philosophy of daily life. Not only are these the daily philosophy, they are Taoist culture. It’s our ancient culture, our ancestor’s culture. The form you learn is not just for self defense. It can also help you develop your intuition and your hidden potential. When you learn this – the style, the form or the internal technique – it can also help you slow the aging process and enjoy a longer, more prosperous life. Wudang Taoist culture is not only in martial arts, but also in learning qigong and nourishing life. This is very important. Wudang Taoist culture is a treasure of our ancestors and our nation. Now Wudang Mountain has opened the doors. Not only me but all the masters of the mountain are willing to share this treasure with the world.”

For further reading, here is a list of sources that I used for this blog:

The Chief Priest of Wudang Mountain by Gene Ching, Kung Fu Magazine, Sep/Oct 2003. View Here

Wudang San Feng Pai History, View at WudangHouston.com

The Truth About Wudang History, View at Daoistgate.com

Old Wudang Masters, View at innersecrets.at

Wudang Teachers, View Here