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 will cost you much 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.

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 four 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, Master Chen Shiyu does not conduct classes in English and needs a translator. I believe Master Tang Li Long of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai sect may speak some English, but I am not sure. 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 Yuan Xiu Gang’s Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy and Master Chen Shiyu’s Wudang Daoist Kung Fu Academy. They also have the best accommodations. 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 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

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