One of the most beautiful buildings near the center of the compound. If you look closely you can see woman lighting incense in front of the building. She lights incense to send signals to the gods above.
Yin yang symbol surrounded by the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Yin and yang represent balance and harmony in the world, while the zodiac animals represent a twelve-year cycle which depicts possible personality characteristics of a person born during a certain year.
My teacher is watching a master calligraphist write traditional Chinese characters in his drawing studio. I was privileged enough to stand and watch him write to the rhythm of music created by one of his friends playing a stringed instrument known as a 古琴 (Gu Qin).
While studying abroad in Chengdu, China, I have been able to explore many unique topics in more depth than I could have ever imagined. Before I decided to study abroad in China I was very interested with the Chinese philosophy of Daoism. In fact, it wasn’t until I began researching for an English term paper about the subject that I decided to travel to China in the first place.
Given my interest in Eastern philosophy, when I heard that there was a “Daoism and Traditional Chinese Culture” class offered at Sichuan University I became incredibly excited and hopeful that the class would be available for me to enroll in upon my arrival in China. As luck would have it, I was able to secure a seat in the class and begin to learn about Chinese philosophy and religion from an expert in the Daoist studies. Professor Zhang not only took time to teach some preliminary information on the subject’s beginnings, but he also made it his goal to get the class out of the classroom to explore the some of the ancient religious sites nearby.
For one of our class field trips, we visited a place known as 青羊宫 (Qing Yang Gong). Qing Yang Gong was only a short bus ride away from my university, as it is located in the northwest part of Chengdu, in the Sichuan Province. Qing Yang Gong is the oldest and largest Daoist temple in southwestern China and is comprised of many different buildings within its enclosure. It is believed that the founder of Daoism, 老子 (Lao Zi), was reborn at Qing Yang Gong to attain his immortality, and later revealed the 道德经 (Dao de Jing, classic of Daoism) to Yin Xi, the keeper of the pass and last man to speak with Lao Zi before he left the earthly realm for Mount Kunlun, the gateway to paradise. It is because of this story that Qing Yang Gong has earned historical and cultural significance today. It is safe to say that any person who visits Qing Yang Gong will be able to feel the peaceful clarity in the air and enjoy their time there thoroughly.
When I was still living in America a little over a month ago, I had the privilege of coming into contact with a very special person to me. During my sophomore year at Towson I had become very interested in China and Chinese philosophy—namely Daoism. Since I was eager to learn all that I could about Daoism, I found myself searching on the internet for any scrap of information that I could grasp about the philosophy. Through my searching, I came across the e-mail address of a man named Li Quan. As it turned out, Master Li Quan had been training in traditional Chinese kung fu for longer than I have been alive, and operates a traditional school only a short distance from my place on Sichuan University’s campus. So, I reached out to Master Li Quan and asked if he would be able to teach me while I was staying for a semester in Chengdu, China; there was an astounding “yes”.
Me in front of a meditation alter that is in Master Li Quan’s training place. He calls his home the kung fu family – because every person who joins it is treated as a member of this wonderful family
Master Li Quan with movie star and martial artist, Keanu Reeves. Keanu Reeves sought out my master when filming/directing his recent film “Man of Tai Chi”.
Master Li Quan training a young girl on the far left of the photo. Here we can see much of his traditional equipment like: iron rings, stone weights, wooden poles, etc.
With my busy school schedule and other responsibilities, I cannot spend as much time at his school as I would like (considering it is about a 40 minute bus ride away from the campus), but I try my best to go at least two times every week. Master Li Quan is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and he always greets me happily. He speaks English fairly well, but requires that I speak in Chinese to him whenever I am able—this is great because I am trying to learn as much of the language as possible. On top of the strenuous exercises that he puts me through at his traditional school, he also teaches me about Chinese culture and Daoist philosophy. He feels that the only way to learn Chinese kung fu correctly is if it is coupled with lessons in the culture and language, too.
It is safe to say that I leave his training place very sore every time I come and go, but it is a feeling I look forward to. When I leave China in December to return home, I plan to continue practicing what I am being taught right now. There is an old Chinese saying that goes: “师父领进门，修行靠个人” (shifu ling jin men, xiu xing kao ge ren), it means that the master will show the way, but it is up to the individual (student) to discover and learn for himself.