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Week of September 27th: Golden Week

Practice has been intensifying. We are moving into more complicated kicks and kicking combinations, but the hardest new thing this week was the chicken walk: forward and backwards. All the way down in a squat. My thighs and knees had a fit! Master Guan also started full drop back backbends with us. That was good fun to watch. He spotted everyone. There were only a couple of us that could do it. I felt great to among those few. Especially since my spinning kicks leave a lot to be desired. It is great to be better than the cool guys at something. That said, Golden Sunrise can do it all. She is really good.

We finished dragon and spent the first part of the week reviewing 5 element/animal chi gong. Then we started 28 Form Tai Chi, it is great. He is teaching us faster now and showing us the fighting applications as we learn each move. Kailin really wanted to learn a fast form as she was pretty tired of going so slow, but he insisted she do the 28 first. When he started with fighting applications her whole attitude changed. Now she loves it.

There have been several things happening on the mountain. The Taoist hold a ceremony every so often to clear the spirits and energies that have not crossed over to the higher planes. Monday was the night for that at our Purple Heaven Temple. I really wanted to go, but twisted my ankle coming down the stairs after practice and was in too much pain. Hopefully I will see this the next time they do it. We could hear the chanting and drumming. Also the second largest Chinese holiday, known as The Golden Week, started this Friday. It is similar to Independence Day in America. It is really only a few days long, but most people take off a week or more and go away somewhere. That somewhere was Wudang Mountain for loads of them. We practiced at school for this entire time to avoid the crowds. Still we have had all kinds of extra people at school. A large group of Buddhists are here and all kinds of other tourist too. It has been very noisy. We also continue to get new students: Steve is from Ireland, there is a guy from Australia but I don’t his name yet and there is a flock of new Chinese, some of them just here to practice during the holiday. Leelou is from Germany and has been here many times. She was soon followed by a whole group of her friends from Germany. The good news for everyone is that it has been a spectacularly beautiful week.

The one day we did venture out, it was stunning how many tourists were on the mountain. The buses were running non-stop, bumper to bumper, and they had borrowed buses from everywhere. The road was a virtual rainbow of buses. However, dangerous the road normally is, it was way worse, and there were tourist puking on those buses in unison. The main gate to the mountain was transformed into a bus parking lot and no cabs/motorcycles/ toks toks were allowed near. They were running these covered extra large golf cart like things, but they were so full there was no chance of getting on one. This means we walked down town from the gate, which gave us the opportunity to see just how many sword shops there really are.  Apparently, Wudang is famous for its sword production. They make every kind of blade imaginable.  In the end I walked back alone to the gate with a very large pack of laundry on my back. I had a flock of Asian kids following me, in total amazement to see a white woman with that much on her back. Finally, a nice guy took pity on me and gave me a ride in his car to the gate. This has convinced me to try doing some laundry again at the school.

Laundry at school is a whole adventure in itself. We have one washer that washes, but the spinner is broken, and one that spins but the washer is broken. They drain on to the floor, so you stand on bricks to keep your feet dry. Then you have to pray for sun long enough that everything can hang dry. Oh, yes…the machines are right by the men’s very smelly bathroom. Why can’t guys hit the toilet?

I mentioned previously that I twisted my ankle. Fate was on my side as I did it on Monday and I already had an appointment scheduled to see the blind masseuse on Tuesday. I treated the ankle that night and then the next day he did. Master Du is a real find! He not only does fantastic body work, he also does chiropractic, acupuncture, cupping, and “flambé massage”(this is what witness to my treatment are calling it). Flambé massage involves lighting a bowl of alcohol on fire, then picking that fire up with a hand and rubbing it into the affected area…in this case my swollen ankle. Keep in mind the guy doing this is blind! He is assisted by his sister and wife, they can both see, but I still admire his courage. At some point he had to put his hand in the fire the first time. Amazingly it doesn’t burn. It just feels warm. I went in with an ankle that was still too hurt to practice, and after massage, acupuncture (Chinese style, which hurt like crazy) and flambé massage, I walked out with a fully functional ankle. He also adjusted all of me. The next day I felt like had been hit by truck, but I had all kinds of new range of motion. I will be seeing him often and we will possibly exchange some training. He is really interested in coming to the states or the UK for a period of time to work. He would like to make extra money to help support his family. He has one child. He worked on me for 2 hours and only charged me $15. CRAZY!

Wednesday, when I turned up for practice, Master Guan asked me about my ankle and I said it was OK. That I went to the blind masseuse. Turns out he sees him too. He said, “Today you be very sore”. He was right.  Later that evening he came in all flushed and when we ask why, he said he went for a run with some students that just got back from Shanghai. When we ask where, he said to Golden Top Temple. This Temple is at the top of the mountain 3000 steps up from Nan Yin and Nan Yin is a 30 minute walk from Purple Heaven. It takes the average person 2-3 hours to do those steps. I am still waiting to do them till I am fitter. He ran them up and down in 50 minutes!!! That is just insane! If I stayed here forever I don’t think I could do that!

We are continuing to learn Chinese, but I still struggle with the pronunciation. Christy has promised to start helping all of us. She has other interesting skills set too. Sunday we had a girly night in her room and she taught us how to put on a Sari.  Kailin looked really beautiful. She has also been helping Kailin with her math homework. She is an account in real life!

Kailin and I took our day off, Thursday, before the tourist descended, and went to visit Prince Temple(Fuzhen). Two stops lower down the mountain. It was built in 1412AD during the Ming Dynasty. It is a smaller temple than Purple Heaven, but still one of the largest, and is less in use by the Taoist. It is famous for its gardens, architecture (12 beams on one pillar) and a renowned, in residence, artist, who paints amazing scrolls and fans. We were lucky to get through most of it before the afternoon rain. During the rain we had tea and watched this man paint. We skipped the gardens as they are supposed to be most wonderful in the spring. We will come back for that. There is a native tree on these mountains called the Osmanthus. It produces the most wonderful smelling, small flowers. At the temple there is one of these trees that is over 200 years old. They harvest these flowers from all over the mountain and turn them into a wonderful tea.

Our temple, Purple Heaven (Taixuan), was given it’s name during renovation in the Ming Dyansty, but was built during the Xuanhe Dynasty in 1119AD. It is the best preserved of all the Temples and the most used.