Journey to Wudang Mountain: The Home of Taoist Gung Fu — Part 3

Dylan will be writing about his solo trip to China through a series of articles titled “Journey to Wudang Mountain: The Home of Taoist Gung Fu.” This is Part 3 of the series. Follow along to see how he got there, what his Gung Fu training is like, and how he deals with international travel alone. Read Part 2 here.

Watermelon Day

Tang bought a watermelon today. Watermelon is special. Watermelon brings people together.

Today was a normal day at Wudang Dragon Gate Kung Fu School. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to the most irritating whistle which indicated food. I stumbled out of bed and down to the cafeteria. Wudang special breakfast — rice. Rice everyday, rice three times a day, always rice. Rice, rice, rice. I went back and laid in bed after eating the delicious grain that would give me energy for my training soon to come. Within an hour, another whistle blew. Time to go train.

We trained for a few hours with a little break in between. Being early morning, it had not started to get hot. Our coach called us in. “Wow, off early today,” I thought. We lined up like little gung fu soldiers and our coach shouted a few things in Chinese, then pointed at the mountain behind him. He turned to point at me and a few other students. “Uh…oh…”

We followed our coach — having collected shovels and old rice bags — through the school, out the back, and up the mountain. Some of us were designated diggers and some were carriers. I was a carrier. As the bags were filled with the dark soil, the other carriers and I strained to put the bags on our shoulders. We walked up five flights of stairs to the rooftop to find a dozen long, deep planters. These wooden planters were huge and we had to fill them. One by one, rice bag by rice bag, we filled the planters with dirt. Each trip felt like it would be my last but I continued on, trying various different ways of holding the bags to use different muscle groups.

An hour later, Vincent, the student from France, said “Shooo Sheee… coach said it, I don’t know what it means?”

“Yes!” I cried out. “It means rest, man. It means rest.”

I returned to my room. Tang showered and then I showered. I got out of the shower and put shorts on my still wet body. Tang shouted from the bedroom, “Watermelon!” I came out of the bathroom to find Tang cutting through an enormous watermelon with a tiny knife. He turned and smiled, “We share, for us.” Tang had pretty decent English and my mandarin was pretty bad. We got along well, we always laughed as we would try to explain complex topics in each others language. Google translate was certainly helpful. He handed me half of the watermelon and a spoon. “I haven’t used a spoon in two weeks,” I thought. We sat there and devoured cold watermelon while the fan blew the hot summer air on us. We laughed as we munched away. We just laughed and ate.

We laughed because we had trained together. We were brothers, in a way. We trained, ate, and slept together. But it was the training that brought us close, all of the school, not just Tang and I. We were bound as brothers and sisters. We understood the tightness and stiffness we felt in our legs every morning and night. We understood the feeling of total exhaustion and not being able to move. We understood the joy of finally getting that movement right. We understood the peace that each other felt in certain moments while practicing. Gung fu is for family. That is why we laugh eating watermelon and that is why watermelon is special.

This reminds me of another day where watermelon came into play. We were all training hard at our different arts. Sweat pouring in hot 98 degree Wudang heat. A large farm truck pulled up through the stone gates. It was piled high with watermelons. A man got out of the truck and chatted with the woman that ran the kitchen, Master Wang’s sister. She shouted something in Chinese across the yard and Chong Qin repeated it in English for us: “Get watermelon if you want.” The western students and I ran over to the truck picking through the various watermelons. Tang picked out three and I picked out three as well. I paid for them all. Twenty yuan! Which is about three dollars American. Six massive watermelons for only three dollars! These would sustain us through the next week of practice in between sessions.

Keep your eyes and nose peeled for my next post about the delicious food found in Wudang town. Thanks for reading! HI-YAH!

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