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mainly bustling peasa nts. Incessant smoking,
drinking, card games, loud honking train
stops, fluorescent lights, and noisy eating
was just the beginning. The train can seem
like a market place at times, with passing-
by salesmen loudly announcing their trade,
from fruit, to toothbrushes, to napkins.
China is a country not afraid to face itself
in the mirror. Rich meets poor on the street's
edge, and there is little finesse or refinement.
It ca nnot afford to be subtle. Babies are seen
all over with naked bottoms unashamedly
sticking out, even on public tra nsport. There
is no need to cover up their bodily functions.
In fact, it's more common they will use the
pavement or city squa re to relieve themselves.
I am one for walking around barefoot, yet I
wa s warned (perhaps wisely) that there are
all sorts of alien para sites abounding.
The purpose of my travels was deeper --
to discover the soul of the culture, the inner
alchemy of Tai Chi.
Throughout China, you will find people
of all ages performing exercises, stretches,
movements, even standing still. All roads
lead to Chi Kung (also written as Qi Gong).
Chi Kung denotes internal energy
exercise -- energy work that usually involves
inner ma stery, movement and breath. Yet
Chi Kung can mean virtually a nything
involving Chi. "Kung fu" was so-named by
Bruce Lee to denote excellence. It does not
specifically refer to any particular pursuit of
excellence, yet in common Western parlance
has come to represent martial arts.
Tai Chi always involves a circle to
promote the flow of Chi (or Qi). Chi
involves increasing electromagnetic energy
in the body, hence increasing oxygenated
blood flow to the cells. The cells grow strong
due to increased circulation of oxygen.
When the cells grow strong, the orga ns
grow strong, and health improves. Chi is
tra nslated loosely as "vital energy" based on
"life" as oxygen is life.
Chi Kung exercises often involve
breathing to the Dan Tien (navel) to raise
internal energy. When you expand and
stretch your lung capacity via deep breathing,
the less you have to breathe, and the more
relaxed you will be. One could view Chi as
the electrical current that connects different
channels within the body.
Jing is the vital essence of the body;
Shen is the highest energy in the body. The
ultimate is to unify Shen (life force spirit) and
Dao (tao). Tao is the matrix of all creations.
A Chi Kung practice involves collecting Chi
David G Arenson ND, a naturopath with a spiritual bent, went
to China to study Tai Chi but discovered so much more.
from outside a nd bringing it into the body.
It is rare to find dependable sources
for the study of Chi and authentic internal
strengthening. For centuries, "Qi" held many
secrets and mysteries, guarded by successive
regimes as sacrosanct. Yet, with many aspects
of Chinese culture, it was not just about
preser ving the sacred; it was also that foreign
culture wa s treated with suspicion.
The internal strength of "building
Qi" for health is now spreading across the
world. In China, people come to be treated
for a variety of illness that neither Western
medicine nor TCM can cure, and find
fabulous a nd often unlikely benefits from
practising Chi Kung.
The secret to cultivating internal energy
is to rela x the nervous and muscular skeletal
system simultaneously. Chi animates
the body and makes it alive. This energy
is net worked throughout the body and
especially strong circulations are to be found
in channels called meridians. The Chi is a
network of circulating energy. The Chinese
discovered how to direct Chi in specific
ways to promote longevity a nd vitality and
prevent disease. This energy was used for
healing, a s well as in martial arts.
The goal of Chi Kung is to promote the
flow of internal energy in the body so that the
whole net work of meridians is functioning
optimally. Chi Kung teaches the student to be
rooted to the ground like a tree, yet soft and
relaxed enough to move effortlessly with the
wind without breaking. The tree is calm and
patient, yet ever attuned to its environment.
"The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God."
-- Lao Tzu
Wudangshan, the majestic.
A brillia nt jewel lies in the heartla nd of Hubei
Province south of the city of Shiyan, Central
China. What is it about this mountain that
has inspired generations of travellers and
pilgrims alike to explore its culture ? Feeling
the profound pure energy of the mountain,
it is no wonder that visitors once described
it a s being without equal. These days, more
and more Chinese tourists come here to soak
up the energy, a nd perhaps walk the 1000
"The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things."
-- Lao Tzu
Iwrite these thoughts perched on top
of Mount Wudang, World Cultural
Heritage Site, Chinese National
Heritage Spot and Taoist Sanctuary.
After nearly 10 weeks in China, I'm ready
to descend the tall mountain, and return
to the "Western world". I had drea med
of China long before I set eyes on its
shores. There's something unknown and
perhaps unknowable about China -- and I
resolved to find this hidden essence in Tai
Chi, the ancient Chinese internal martial art,
as much moving meditation a s self defence.
The concept of fate is intrinsic to Taoism,
and I believe that I have a special relationship
to its teachings. Somehow I felt compelled
to discover China and to learn more about
China greeted me with a nonchala nt
radiance from the ultra-modern interior of
Guangzhou Airport. From modest rustic
beginnings, the massive Chinese power
is being unleashed -- awaken the sleeping
Gia nt. Who wouldn't want to find out more
about this behemoth, a nd explore its depths,
discover its closely gua rded secrets?
After almost 24 hours crossing the
country by train, I finally landed at my
destination, Wuda ng Shan. The trains
are long, and divided into three classes
and apparently the most popular form
of transport within China. I spent an
uncomfortable night navigating my way
through sleeplessness with Chinese workers,
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