International Taoist Forum focuses on health and longevity

Gia Fu Feng
Health and longevity have been the focus of the 3rd International Taoist Forum in Southeast China’s Jiangxi Province. In Taoist theory, to concentrate on individual development is to practice the path of the Return to the Tao on a macro level — to be in harmony with nature, if not the universe. 

Taoism is connected with achieving well-being. Traditionally, those practices were reserved for followers, acquiring an aura of mystery.

"To cultivate health, you need to learn the true meaning of life. Only by understanding life, can we pursue the cultivation of longevity, the importance of health," Zhu Heting, a Taoist master from Hong Kong said.

"Health needs a healthy mind first, by minimizing your desires and centering ourselves on stillness. Human lives are in our control," Li Zhiwang, a Taoist master from Singapore said.

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Das Entscheidende

Neulich notierte ich mir im Zusammenhang mit der Schwierigkeit, Taijiquan zu definieren, folgendes:
 Jemand der Schwimmen lernt und sich nicht oder nur mühsam über Wasser halten kann, schwimmt nun mal nicht. Wer mit dem Fahrrad ständig umfällt, weil er es nicht versteht, die Balance zu halten, fährt nicht Rad. In dem Moment, wo das Entscheidende verstanden ist, nennen wir die Aktivität Schwimmen bzw Radfahren.
Nun finde ich den Vergleich mit Schwimmen und Radfahren auch auf Stefan Gätzners sehr lesenswerten Webseite


Qing and Lin or investing in Loss

Taijiquan sei etwas für ältere Menschen, lautet ein verbreitetes Vorurteil. Scheinbar bestätigt wird das durch jene älteren Chinesen, die man morgens in den Parks und auf den Plätzen üben sehen kann, wegen ihrer Kleidung auch als Seidenpyjama Rentner verspottet. Ganz sicher werden die Teilnehmer dieser Übungen keine competition gewinnen, wie sie immer häufiger ausgetragen werden. Damo Mitchell hat ihrem Taijiquan allerdings einen bemerkenswerten Aspekt abgeschaut.

 Artikel (auf Englisch)


Dr Yang Jwing-Ming, hope for the future

I feel awkward taking credit for this story for two reasons. The first has to do with the subject matter. As a martial arts writer myself, I have long found in Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming's work a tremendous source of personal inspiration. When I was a fledgling freelance writer, intelligently-written books on Chinese martial arts were few and far between. Back then, most books made scant offerings: a few pages of introduction, typically a recounting of apocryphal Shaolin legends, followed by a short discussion of the author's lineage and style. The rest were "how to" photos and captions. Dr. Yang's books were thick and informative. Not only did they expand upon those stereotypical introductions, they provided some serious background research and insight on the topic. For the literate martial artist, Dr. Yang's books were a breath of fresh air. They really opened the door to deeper knowledge for practitioners who only read English. I still reference his books today. In fact, if you were to excavate the perpetual avalanche of work piling my desk, you'd find more books by Dr. Yang than any other English-language author. So for me to interview Dr. Yang was like the student interviewing the founding grandmaster.
The interview itself was the second bit of awkwardness. Typically, the process of interviewing a master is a lot like playing ping pong, swatting ideas back and forth, looking for that revealing dramatic volley. Many masters aren't accustomed to the interview process. Why should they be? And frankly, I'm no Letterman or Oprah. So there's a lot that goes into most cover story interviews - as well as a lot of editing - to make the conversation flow for a decent read. But with Dr. Yang, I only asked two questions, and he just ran with them in a cohesive improvised monolog. What's more, he anticipated most all of my follow-up questions. So I feel a little guilty because all I really did was transcribe his answers. It all started with one question.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing traditional Chinese martial arts today?
This biggest problem is lifestyle has changed. Trace back how traditional martial arts were developed. They developed because they think about the ancient society. 99.99% of the people were farmers. They don't have such things as industrial business like today. It ended up that in the daytime, people had a lot of time. Everyone had a small piece of land, and in their extra time they practiced martial arts. My White Crane master, he was a farmer. I asked him, "How long did it really take you to take care of the land, take care of the farm?" He said, "A couple hours a day." I asked, "What did you do for the rest of the time?" He said, "Well, I played chess. I practiced martial arts. Talk to friends." Ancient people had more time to enjoy life than today's people.
People you see today, for example, in the industrial life, you get up in the morning, you go to work, you go to sleep - ain't got no life. This only happened in modern life, in modern times. It actually started in the last century. Now this has become a big problem. The big problem is this art was developed in ancient times by people who had time and had patience.
When people have time and patience and commitment, then they can reach high levels. Classical music is the same thing. In classical music today, we've encountered a big problem. For classical music today, it's hard to survive. For example, a few years ago I was in Vienna. Remember Vienna's choir, Italy's choir, is the most famous in the whole world. I talked to them and they say that every town puts one applicant - they chose one. But today, they can't even find people that want to apply. Because that lifestyle is totally different and people don't want to make commitments like ancient times, (don't) want to reach high levels. Everything is what I call "McDonald culture." Everything is quick, quick, quick. This kind of mental influences heavily destroys traditional martial arts as well. So that becomes a big problem.
In ancient times, anybody who wants to learn martial arts, you'd spend ten years. Ten years and you still learn the basics. You take the rest of your lifetime to live out. Today there's no difference - you play piano, you play violin, ten years, it's all basic and not until there, you get to the advanced level. You see the very famous pianist or violinist, they spend thirty years and they reach a very high level. The question is, can you find those committed people today? That becomes the hardest problem. For example, for my ten-year program, the hardest part is to find qualified students that have that preparation psychologically, and are willing to jump out of today's society and to enter the mountain, to accept the training. Traditional martial arts were developed under ancient situations. So that's why students, they can go to the mountains, they can train there without too much distraction from modern society. And that's why art can reach deep. But today, you don't.
It took me a long time to figure out. How can I preserve the arts without allowing it to get lost? For example, my generation - I was born in 1946 - I was between the old society and new society, especially in Taiwan. So because I still had old society, I could still see my masters' levels when they train. And at the same time, I can enter the new society, because I also experienced the new society as an engineer. So that's why I can see both sides clearly - what happened. And now, how can we use today's mentality to train the ancient way and to preserve the art? It's impossible, because between me and my master, I already lost half of the knowledge. My master spent 23 years with his master. They trained together and practiced together, because it's their life. So that's why my master always said, "You are not really learning martial arts, you are learning the way of life," because you always get into it and that's your life. So 23 years to him is nothing. But today, 23 years, it's a waste. Twenty-three years is so long. But think about it, my master lived with his master for 23 years. How can I train with him only 13 years - and those 13 years we didn't even live together; I only trained in the night time - how can I reach the same level as my master? Only two words - no way. I didn't learn half of what he knew and he took it with him.
That's what makes me so upset, because in 1976 he passed away. In '74, I came to the United States and '76 he passed away. I didn't even know. When my mother came in 1978 before my first son was born, my mother told me, "Your master passed away two years ago." My master lived in the mountains. He couldn't read. He couldn't write. Everything came from my family and passed a message to me. My mother had no mail to deliver, nothing. And I asked my mom, "Why you didn't want to tell me?" My mom asked me a very serious question. She said, "What would you do if I told you your master passed away?" I couldn't answer. My mom knew if I knew that, I would just quit my school and go home for my master's funeral. My mom said, "That's the reason I didn't want to tell you. To me, your school is more important - your PhD is more important - than your master's funeral." It was my mother's love to her son. I understand. So in 1979, I got my first vacation. I went back. Right in front of my master's tomb in the hot summer, and his two kids with me, because I didn't know where was the tomb, so his two kids took me to his tomb.… I just sat there in the hot summer. I feel… I feel so sad. Why so sad? It's not the death. It's the knowledge. He spent all his lifetime on knowledge - he took with him - is dead. How do we get it back? No way I can get it back.
See, that's why that time people asked me, "Dr. Yang, how come you produce so much DVDs and videotapes and books, whatever?" I never hesitate to publicize it. I never hesitate to tell what is real. I know there are Chinese masters that say, "Oh, this is top secret. I cannot tell you." To me, there is no such thing called "secret." "Secret" is dying. Where is the secret? You want to preserve it. It's not really something secret. So for that reason, I swore right in front of my master's tomb. I said, "As long as I'm alive, I will try my best to keep these arts alive." That was 1979. In 1981, my first book was published. When I came back, I started writing. I fulfill my promise to my master.
And so when I was fifty, I started to think. In 1984, I quit my engineering job. I wrote all these books. After teaching twenty years, everything is shallow. Why shallow? It's not because the knowledge is not there. It's because people don't have that kind of lifestyle. They don't have that kind of commitment to get in deep. They don't understand the deep aspect of the martial arts. All those things that they see are the forms. Like for example, take taijiquan. The taijiquan they see so far is forms. What is the essence behind the forms? What is the internal side of taiji? Very few people know. But those people who know, they keep it a secret. But what is the secret? Everything becomes surface. That's why I call it McDonald culture, everything quick, quick, quick. Then I started to wake up. When I was fifty - that was thirteen years ago - I started to wake up and say, "No, I was wrong." I tried to preserve the art for twenty years through writing, publishing, whatever. Everything is still shallow. My students studied with me for twenty years. They didn't even pick up half of what I know. And compare me to my master - I don't know half of what he knew. Just think about it. Within fifty years, the arts dropped down from 100 to 25%.
Who's fault? Is it society's fault or the person who knows the arts and doesn't share with other people? He doesn't really carry that obligation - because that's an obligation. Remember I learned from three masters. I didn't pay a penny. In the ancient times, the master teaches students, it's not because I want to make money. It's because it's an art - continue pass down. It's from the heart. You teach students from the heart, there's no money involved. The only time my classmates and I spend money is my master's birthday and Chinese New Year. We chip in some money and buy some gift. A little bit of money. It ended up always his wife would cook a big meal for everyone. We ate more than what we spent. That's the Chinese way. You look at the ancient times. A lot of masters, they don't even take money from students at all because they want to share these arts to preserve it.
Today I want to take students up the mountain for ten years of training.

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American Wudang

Clad in traditional Daoist robes, Zhong Xuechao looks like he just walked off the set of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While Americans are familiar with robed Buddhist monks like the Dalai Lama, Daoist attire has a distinctly Chinese flair, yin black and yang white accentuated with an assortment of dark-hued blues. Instead of shaven pates, Daoists let their hair grow with the flow. It's long and uncut, tied in a top knot with a signature dragon hairpin. To top it all off, Daoists customarily don traditional hats which are unlike anything seen in the West. The overall appearance is dramatic, as if an immortal hermit mystically escaped from a Chinese painting.
As a Wudang priest, Zhong Xuechao (鍾學超) always wears Daoist robes as an expression of his practice. Zhong, who also goes by Master Bing, is now teachingko in Los Angeles, but in the City of Angels his unique apparel barely attracts a second glance. "There's less staring in America than in China," says Bing in Mandarin. "They don't see many Daoists from the mountains in China. In Los Angeles, most people don't ask. There's plenty of unusual stuff there. Sometimes people ask me where I bought my outfit ? Chinatown? I tell them I got it from China."

Master Bing stands among the first pioneer Daoist priests from Wudang to come to America. While Chinese kung fu masters have been in America for decades and  Shaolin monks have been immigrating here since the early '90s, genuine Wudang devotees are just beginning to arrive. The Wudang community is smaller than those others, but just as outstanding and not just because of the way they dress.
Respecting Wu 
"America doesn't know Wudang," observes Bing. Nevertheless his outfit is regarded with some esteem. Bing is often treated as a man of the cloth. He finds himself answering questions about spirituality and discipline, all asked reverently. "They seem to feel I'm more religious ? more like a Western priest ? instead of Daoist. I recently mailed a sword and the people at the U.S. Post Office took such good care. They felt it was very precious. Maybe the quality of service is better in America, but I feel the respect."
Bing first journeyed to America in 2002 for a week-long visit. He was part of the five-member entourage of Zhong Yunlong, the Chief Priest at Wudang. It was the first Wudang delegation to grace America. Propitiously, 2002 was the 10th Anniversary of this magazine. In celebration, we held a Gala Benefit for the U.S. Olympic Wushu Team. The Beijing Olympics had just been announced, and we were all hopeful that wushu would be the next new Olympic event. Chief Priest Zhong was a guest of honor at that Gala. He was the only master permitted to demonstrate in our coveted Cover Masters showcase who had not previously graced our cover. We rectified that the following year by featuring Zhong on the cover of our September October 2003 issue. It was America's first real glimpse of an authentic Wudang priest.
During Bing's short stay, he was struck by the freedom we Americans enjoy here. These freedoms were more personal than political, like the informality with which children address their parents. Chinese philosophy stands upon three pillars: Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Confucianism establishes a rigid social hierarchy where students bow to masters and children bow to parents. Overhearing some children addressing their parents by name instead of a formal title was a little shocking to Bing. Nevertheless, he was impressed by the atmosphere of freedom and hoped to return to America someday.
When he went home to Wudang, the tourist industry was growing. Wudang enjoyed an economic boost from a spike in tourism in the wake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Bing found himself escorting many American guests around China's mystic mountain. It was a sharp contrast from his short experience in the States. "Life at Wudang Mountain is peaceful," recounts Bing. "We study the Daoist canons and practice kung fu. It makes you focus, slow down the pace, and not live to be so busy and material. We chant in the morning and evening. In some rituals, each character from the canon is chanted for a minute. We chant for at least half an hour a day."
Daoism is one of the most misunderstood traditions in the West. Difficult to categorize into a western box, it vacillates between a philosophy, a religion, a folk custom and shamanism. Ancestor deification, communion with nature and the quest for immortality are all major elements. It is from Daoism where we get the concept of taiji, not just as a martial art but as a cosmological paradigm. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Feng Shui, the Chinese Zodiac and even Chinese food are all deeply rooted in Daoism.

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Zhou Xuan Yun - a Wudang Master for the west

I was born in the year of the monkey in a small village in central China's Henan Province. My grandparents had moved there after floods had destroyed their hometown. Because we were not native to the village, my family endured a lot of bullying. The locals made sure my parents had to use the worst land for farming, and the worst spot for building our house. When I was in fourth grade my grandfather fell ill, and because we needed money for hospital bills, I had to leave school. I worked on our farmland, helping my family plant corn and cotton. Eventually, my parents decided to send me to Wudang Mountain to study martial arts. I was a very active child, much harder to contain than my brothers. It was also my parents' hope that if a member of the family were good at martial arts, the local villagers wouldn't bully us. As a boy, I used to walk for hours to watch kung fu movies on the sole TV in the area. I was always fighting with my brothers in our family's front yard. So, when my parents asked if I'd like to go study, I readily agreed. My father managed to borrow some money from a distant relative, and we headed out on a two-day tractor, bus, and boat trip that took us to Hubei Province.

In 1994, the only martial arts school actually located on Wudang Mountain was the Wudang Daoist Association School. We lived and trained at Purple Cloud Temple under Zhong Yun Long. He trained with Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde and had spent three years traveling around China, searching out the Wudang practitioners who had gone into hiding during the Cultural Revolution. The tuition at that time was about 1,200 yuan per year, about $170. In addition, we had to pay 25 yuan per week for food. Though it doesn't sound like much, it was difficult for my parents to pay so much money. I was by far the poorest student at the school. I remember that when I got there all I had was one worn-out pair of pants, not suitable for training in. I also didn't have a plate to use at mealtime. Lucky for me, the other students were kind and gave me what I needed. By my second year at the school, I had proven myself as a serious student, and my tuition was waived.
When I first arrived at the school, there were over 40 students. Being 13, I was among the youngest. Most of the students were around 18-19 years old. There were also several middle-aged people and older adults who mostly studied taiji. In my third year there, two 13-year-old girls from Sichuan Province also came to study. The two girls got their own room, which we envied greatly. Us boys were 12 to a room. Many students also complained about the food. In Henan, where I'm from, the staple food is noodles. But, in Hubei Province, they eat rice. I remember that when I got to Wudang Mountain, I hated eating rice. I found it hard to digest, and felt nauseous for weeks. I also wasn't used to eating meat. On our farm we had animals, but they were all sold in the markets. We ate meat maybe once a year. At Wudang we had meat three times a week. Many people found the lifestyle difficult to adjust to. Out of the 40 original students that were there when I entered the school, only 20 returned the next year. By the third year, there were less than 10 of us remaining. I think it is safe to say that at Wudang Mountain, for every 200 students who train there, maybe one or two end up sticking it out.
The Way of the Student
The practice was very bitter. We would wake up at 5 am and begin by working on our flexibility. For about half an hour we would practice splits and other stretches. I remember we would fall asleep while in splits. After stretching we would do some basic conditioning: standing in horse stance or doing push-ups. We would stop for breakfast at 7 am, and at 8 am begin the stretching and conditioning all over again. We would also drill basic kicks and punches. The older students, who stood on the sidelines with thick wooden rods in their hands, supervised our morning practice. Their favorite thing was to find one of us slacking. We had class seven days a week. But, we always had a vacation during the Spring Festival. Also, sometimes when they saw that we were exhausted, we'd all be given a day off.

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Wudang Großmeister Zhong Yun Long

aus kungfu magazin 2003

Wudang Mountain
When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon pushed martial arts movies into the Oscar spotlight, it also exposed one of China's most cherished martial treasures, Wudang Mountain. Nestled in the heart of the mainland in Hubei Province, Wudang Mountain is a famous center for Taoism and is believed to be the birthplace of Tai Chi Chuan. According to legend, Tai Chi (spelled Taiji in modern Mandarin) was created by an ancient Wudang master named Zhang San Feng, who was inspired by mystical visions he experienced on that mountain.

Today, the Taoist temples of Wudang are still active. In fact, Wudang's temples are protected as one of 730 registered World Heritage sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Inside those temples, the internal styles of kung fu - Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua - are still practiced by robed Taoist priests. Now they are opening their doors to the public for the first time ever. The Chief Priest of the Wudang Zhang San Feng lineage is Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long. Priest Zhong was our guest during his first visit to America for our Anniversary Gala Benefit last year, and he granted us this first interview for English readers.
Priest Zhong is a peaceful soul with a deep, resonating voice, full lips and prominent cheekbones. There's a slow grace to his every gesture, which makes being in his presence a very calming experience. His thick black hair and shining complexion overshadow the broad shoulders of a seasoned martial arts master. Adorned in traditional Taoist cap and robe, Zhong was quite excited about his visit to America. He was very impressed with our environmental protection policies and was particularly fascinated by my low emission hybrid car. As a Taoist Priest defending one of China's natural wonders, he has a genuine concern for conservation.
Taiji is undoubtedly the most practiced form of martial arts in the United States today. Followers range from strapping young push hands champions to the elderly and afflicted. But according to Priest Zhong, we westerners have a very limited understanding of what Taiji really is. His mission is to reveal the true meaning behind the movements of this most precious treasure of China.
Origins of a Wudang Priest
"I was born in the year of the dragon in Huangxi City, Hubei. Many of my elders loved kung fu and that left a great impression on me. Although my father was a scholar who did not learn kung fu, my granduncle both inspired me and taught me a little. In the old countryside, fights often arose between clans, so everyone studied the martial arts. It was a required skill. So in the countryside where I was born, everyone loved kung fu and it was mandatory to study it. This was my inspiration, the city where I was raised. Everybody there loves kung fu, and for whatever reason everyone knew kung fu back then. That's why I fell in love with kung fu too."


der zwölfteilige Brokat - ausführliche Vorschau

über google books kann man sich nun von der unterhaltsamen und lehrreichen Qualität dieses außergewöhnlichen Buchs überzeugen. Es ist im Buchhandel als gebundene Hardcoverausgabe und als Paperback erhältlich.


Boxing Methods of the Internal School


[also known in abridged form as 內家拳法 Boxing Methods of the Internal School]
by Huang Baijia [1676]
[complete translation by Paul Brennan, Aug, 2014]

Wang Zhengnan mastered two arts: boxing and archery. But although there have been many extraordinary archers throughout history, Wang was the best boxer.

Shaolin is the peak of refinement for the external arts. Zhang Sanfeng was a Shaolin expert, but he turned the art on its head and thereby created the internal school. Obtaining just a little bit of it is enough to defeat Shaolin. Wang Zhengnan learned it from Dan Sinan and was the only one of his students to obtain the entire curriculum.

When I was young, I did not train at all for the civil service exams, for I preferred doing things that were a little more extreme. Once I had heard about Wang’s fame, I bundled up some provisions and went to the village of Baozhuang to learn from him. Wang was extremely proprietorial toward his art and very picky about accepting students, but he was happy to take me in and teach me. (There were five kinds of people who he would never teach: those who are devious, those who love to fight, those who are addicted to booze, those who gossip, and those who are klutzy.) There was not enough space in his house, so he trained me instead at the neighboring Iron Buddha Temple.

His art has many colorfully named combat techniques, such as: Reaching Punch and Rolling Chop, Punch Across the Center to Each Side, Swinging an Elbow to Force the Door, Waving an Iron Fan Against the Wind... There are many acupoint targets, such as: points which cause death, muteness, fainting, coughing, as well as the bladder, the “croaking toad”, the “jumping ape”, or Qu Chi [outer part of the bend at the elbow ...

There are many prohibitions against bad habits: do not be lazy, sluggish, or slouching, do not raise your shoulders, step like an old man, stick out your chest, stand too upright, pamper your legs, lift your elbows, sprain your fists, stick your butt out, bend at the waist, engage randomly, or put out both hands with the same reach.

The key principle is practice. Skill will only be achieved through practice. It is not necessary to seek for someone to copy, only to respond to opponents with whatever works, up or down, left or right, forward or back, and to notice the correct moment to engage.

There are thirty-five hand techniques to practice: chop, erase, shake, knock, bump... There are eighteen stepping techniques to practice...

These elements are all used within the Six Lines and the Ten Sections of Brocade, each recorded in verse. [The name “ten sections” is obviously not the same kind of thing as the “six lines” seeing it has twelve lines of verse. What exactly the “sections” are is a mystery.]


Considering that these poems are obscure and brief, and therefore hard to hold in the mind, I have added detailed explanations for each of them so as to preserve the material for posterity


Although the Six Lines set and the Ten Sections set are for the most part the same kind of material, the Six Lines emphasizes toughening the bones while the Ten Sections emphasizes loosening the joints.

Wang looked at what I had so far recorded, then smiled and told me: “I’ve practiced this stuff my whole life, but I often still seem to have trouble remembering it all. How’ve you made it is as clear as this? I don’t think your skill in the art will ever be able to live up to this record you’ve made of it.”