Chen Xili, Grandmaster Chen Quanzhong’s son, joined us at the hotel for an early morning class. Students reviewed the Eight Directions (Energies) of Tai Chi and he answered their questions. Afterwards, we loaded up our bus and headed to Wudang Shan. It is only about three hours from Xian to Wudang on the new highway, but our driver wanted to allow 5-6 hours in case something happened. He was right. En route, we had to stop at one of the major tunnel while they cleared a wreck. A large cargo truck was overloaded and the rear tires blew out, crunching the rims. The car behind him was traveling too close and rammed into it.
We had about an hour wait, so we filed off the bus and started doing Tai Chi and the Eight Brocades, creating much excitement among the local Chinese. They got out of their cars to watch and take pictures with the group Americans. Since highway-closing wrecks are not uncommon in the tunnel a few enterprising locals have developed an impromptu market. They showed up with baskets of fruit and vegetables for sale. A few even brought cigarettes and Bai Jiao for the stranded travelers! We hope the drivers of the other cars aren’t drinking the rocket fuel, but it probably helps the passengers. Once the road was open we headed to Wudang without incident.
Wudang Shan is a protected sanctuary. The natural beauty of the place is evident even at the base. Mountain peaks ascend into the mist like an ancient Chinese painting, while clear mountain streams cascade down the sides. The Feng Shui of the place is sublime; drawing many Taoist hermits over the centuries looking to complete their immortality training and ascend to the celestial realms. But first they had to get up the mountain. In the old days it was a long slow hike, almost a test of the sincerity of the aspirant. Modern roads and tourist associations have made the climb less physically challenging, but there is a test of a different sort!
We had to leave our tour bus and transfer to the mountain’s small buses. They only allow their trained drivers on the roads since they are narrow and winding, clinging to the cliff with a small rail between you and a shear drop to oblivion. Of course, it doesn’t stop the driver from driving like a bat out of hell. Any mishap is likely to result in the entire bus plummeting thousands of feet down the side of the mountain. They zoom with many near misses but, thankfully, no real hits. They have some unbelievable bus driving Kung Fu! One interesting feature is that the front section of the bus has the seats facing each other. This means that as they whip around the curves, you will be thrown across the bus unless you grab the hand rail above your head for the duration of the 40 minute ride. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was part of the monks’ Eagle Claw training. That is, until you notice that the locals have better sense than to sit in those seats. They graciously leave them for the Lao Wei.
Our hotel is in the mountain, just a five minute walk from the Purple Cloud temple. You would have to be a Taoist priest to live closer than this! The teacher we selected for the group joined us for dinner after we checked into the hotel. Master Wang, a disciple of Master You Xuan De, learned both the Xuan Wu and Zhang Sang Feng school martial lineages. A very personable and open teacher, he has vast knowledge of Taoist cultivation practices as well. Already a master become becoming a Taoist priest, he is a lineage inheritor of the original form of Xing Yi, called Xin Yi, which was passed down to him directly from the Dai (Tai) Family. The Dai family is credited with combining martial arts with Taoist practices to create this awesome internal art.