A MERRY FUKIEN XMAS!
Although, there was no snow in Fujian (Fukien) XMAS 06, I did find Santa Claus! Everywhere, in small shops and supermarkets, Santa images were bringing in the 'biz' to China. And not only Fujian! In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of folks crowded the festive XMAS street celebrations that were topped off by one of the most spectacular fireworks displays you'll ever see! Santa makes regular stops in China these days!
I boarded an overnight bus in the Pingshan area on my way to Fujian Province during the 2006 holidays. It was a sleeper without seats. Instead, each person has a small supine compartment with a raised back (just big enough to stretch out). I never did get to sleep and sometime before day break we made it to Fujian's Quanzhou City where I said goodbye to all my newly found bus friends and made my way to the Overseas Chinese Hotel for some R & R.
Quanzhou is an ancient city. It has many historical vistas that are easily accessible by foot or tri-cycle style rickshaw since the city is comparitively small.
Once, Marco Polo, in the 13th century, wrote that Quanzhou "is one of the two ports in the world with the biggest flow of merchandise". Today, the main streets flow with internet cafes, Gucci, Rolex, Lexus and Mercedes Benz.
Yet, Quanzhou retains its traditional charm and has many historical and cultural sites of interest, such as, the largest Kwan Gong (Guan Di) Temple in China!
Shown right, the Temple is over shadowed by the high rise buildings in the foreground. Outside walls are decorated with Dragon and Tiger motifs.
Inside, wall murals depict the life of Guan Yu among his many statues. I tried snapping a few shots inside but security said no. Reason being, not to disturb the steady stream of visitors praying for protection. (R) Looking out the hotel window.
Hopping on a 'rickshaw' is the best way to get off the beaten track and head down those alleys and lanes. This old woman shown below was about 70 and she peddaled me and Huang Yan around for half an hour or more
in her 'two seater' rickshaw without ever huffing or puffing. She had been doing that for 45 years...We finally arrived at Kaiyuan Temple, built around 686 AD. It is marked by a pair of very tall pagodas set in huge grounds and is the most popular tourist spot in Quanzhou. I found the ancient history and culture of Quanzhou with its modern day mix, most interesting.
L- Huang Yan strikes a pose in front of one of the Kaiyuan Temple Pogadas...they are set far apart.
Although, I had some business in Fujian, I was also looking for the 108 Crane style. To my surprise, the easiest thing to find was Wing Chun style and the most difficult was 108.
In the picture below, I'm (kneeling in the center) chatting with some Quanzhou old timers about Fujian boxing styles. The oldest among them was about 88. They stated that Crane today was hard to find. And that it was divided into the old and new versions which split about 80 years past. The old version contains the 108 set.
Accordingly, they stated that Wing Chun was most popular in Quanzhou and could be found most anywhere during morning exercises in the Parks.
Some days later, I travelled down to Xiamen, a lovely coastal city (pop. 1.25 million). Hong Kong is just a short boat ride away!
The Portugese, British, Dutch, and French, all tried to establish trade ports here and their architectural influence can still be seen in the shaded backstreets, quaint parks and colonial villas.
The slogan "resist the Qing, restore the Ming" likely came from Xiamen battle cries. Many Ming dynasty rulers fled to Xiamen and nearby Jinmen.
Hulishan Fortress (L) houses what once was the world's largest cannon (not shown). The fortress was built in 1890 to deter foreignors from entering Xiamen.
The rock walls of the fortress also house one of China's largest antique gun and sword museums. Shown below are a few of the hundreds of antique weapons on display.
Lighting inside these stone chambers was not conducive to making pics!
Anyone interested in China's antique weaponry will find Xiamen's Hu Li Shan Fortress worth the visit.
After a few more excursions here and there, I decided to stop in at Nanputuo Temple, built more than one thousand years ago.
Its huge with an enclave of several hundred monks living on the grounds. And yes they do practice martial arts!
You can't get a good shot of this Temple as its just way too big. It sits on the side of mountain and has dozens of small buildings, halls, temples and shrines. Thats Huang Yan below, nestled among the turtles, caged birds and butterflies at one the many smaller shrines.
I questioned many of the resident monks about their training. Most said they trained 18 Buddha style. Also, there was Tai Chi, Xing I, Ba Gua, but surprisingly very little of the Fujian southern styles. No Crane boxing.
One of the monks named 'Da Xing' invited me to his study / library where we drank tea. He had internet connections, a small library of books on a wide variety of subjects, and lots of paintings and calligraphy he had drawn. He was a professor of Indian Sanskrit language and trained martial arts. We had some small exchanges about southern / northern differences. Later, he supplied me with the daily schedule of Nanputuo's student-monks as shown below.
0430 Wake up (clapping of wooden blocks)
0450 Meditation or Sutra Chanting (Great Hall)
0615 Breakfast (Dining Hall) Observe Silence
0645 Apartment (anything)
0700 Cleaning Temple Grounds
0800 First Class (Buddhism/Social Science)
0900 Second Class (Buddhism/Social Science)
1000 Third Class (Buddhism/Social Science)
1055 Lunch (Dining Hall) Observe Silence
1130 Walking Meditation and Chanting
1145 Apartment (personal time and rest)
1400 First Class (Buddhism/Social Science)
1500 Second Class (Buddhism/Social Science)
1600 Meditation or Sutra Chanting
1730 Dinner (Dining Hall) Observe Silence
1800 Apartment (personal time)
1830 Self Study (Classroom / Library)
2000 Apartment (personal time)
(I didn't want to take a picture and Monk Da Xing wouldn't take one alone). If you have what it takes to be a monk, Nanputuo is accepting students! For me, it seems like too much Buddhism/ Social Science. So, I carried on to the local vegetarian restuarant for some fake shrimp made of tofu. I have to admit it was good though!
Still having not found the Crane 108 boxing, I resorted to some old fashioned tactics - I let my fingers do the walking through the yellow pages. But alas, there were only three martial arts schools listed in Xiamen, a contemporary wushu school for competitions, a Tae Kwon Do school and a kind of spa kick boxing. Fortunately, one of the TKD teacher's friends knew a friend who knew a crane boxer. So, all said and done, the Crane boxer and his four students ended up in my hotel room late that night.
We had some hour or so of discussions and some demonstrations. Of course, I opened the conversations with, "I'm not here to challenge you or say that mantis is the father of crane, just to make friends and have some friendly exchange". And thats what happened.
However, I soon discovered that this Sifu Lin was teaching Five Ancestor style not Crane. And they didn't have 108. Instead he taught what is said to have come from five styles; Da Zhuan, Tai Tzu, Lohan, Monkey Style and White Crane. The movements resembled Crane and Mantis. Three steps, four corners, eight directions, etc. But, the question of a common root is better left for another report.
When questioned about 108, Lin Sifu stated the previous story that a separation occured some 80 years past and only some lineages of the old style crane retained 108. I encouraged Lin Sifu to write down his Five Ancestor story and he said he would if I would come back again!
Fujian, with or without Crane boxing, is still one of my favorite places in China. I encourage everyone to have a merry Fukien Xmas, at least once!
Roger D. Hagood
Back | Top | Next