Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wudang Mountains

The Wudang Mountains , also known as Wu Tang Shan or simply Wudang, are a small mountain range in the Hubei province of China, just to the south of the manufacturing city of Shiyan.

In years past, the mountains of Wudang were known for the many to be found there, monasteries which became known as an academic centre for the research, teaching and practise of meditation, Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Taoist agriculture practises and related arts. As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty , the mountain attracted the Emperor's attention. During the Tang Dynasty , the first site of worship - the Five Dragon Temple - was constructed. The monasteries were emptied, damaged and then neglected during and after the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, but the Wudang mountains have lately become increasingly popular with tourists from elsewhere in China and abroad due to their scenic location and historical interest. The monasteries and buildings were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The palaces and temples in Wudang, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming Dynasty , contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Noted temples include the Golden Hall, Nanyan Temple and the Purple Cloud Temple.

In 2003, Wudang Mountain's 600-year-old Yuzhengong Palace was accidentally burned down by an employee of a martial arts school.

Wudang Martial Arts

According to legend, Zhang Sanfeng , the originator of Wudangquan generally and Taijiquan specifically, was inspired by a fight he witnessed between a pied magpie and a cobra. Wudangquan advocates the cultivation of morality and fostering of nature in conjunction with physical training.

The Hall of Yuzhen is the cradle of Wudang kung fu. In 1417, Emperor Zhudi decreed Wudang to be the "Grand Mountain" and ordered the construction of the Hall of Yuzhen for Master Zhang Sanfeng.

On January 19, 2003, a fire broke out in the hall, reducing the three rooms that covered 200 square metres to ashes. A gold-plated statute of Zhang Sanfeng, which was usually housed in Yuzhengong, was moved to another building just before the fire, and so escaped destruction in the inferno.

The third biannual Traditional Wushu Festival will be held in Wudang Mountains from October 28 to November 2.

Wudang Martial Arts in Popular Culture

The Wudang monasteries figure prominently in Chinese martial arts films, especially the genre known as wuxia film and popular literature. For example, an ending scene of the famous movie ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' by Taiwanese director Ang Lee was set at the Wudang monastery, although not actually filmed there. In some wuxia films about the Shaolin Temple, characters employing Wudang martial arts are featured as villains.

It is in reference to this type of film that the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan named themselves. In many martial arts movies, however, actors portraying Wudang practitioners are also found in heroic or neutral supporting roles.