Over the past fifty years, China has undergone a tremendous amount of change. The Wudang Daoists faced persecution, undergone a renaissance and began to spread worldwide. These changes are necessary to understand the Wudang Martial Arts and its origin.
The Mao Zedong Revolution 1966-1976
During 1966 to 1976 China fell into social and political chaos called the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong or also known as Chairman Mao appealed to young people to purge the nation from the old customs: culture, habits, and ideas – also known as the “Four Olds”. The first targets were temples, even now you can see burned temples and ruins in Wudang. The Daoists had to leave their homes and were forbidden to have disciples. During the Cultural Revolution Wudang received less damage than other sacred places because of these reasons:
- During the Civil War, the leader He Long (贺龙) from the communist party suffered a grave defeat and fled to the Wudang Mountains. The Daoist Xu Ben Shan (徐本善) helped He Long to recover from his wounds, as they were both martial artists they became friends and shared their skills with each other. This connection contributed to preventing critical damage to the Wudang temples.
- Li Chen Yu (李诚玉) a Daoist nun had the courage to stay in Wudang, refusing to leave she glued her mouth and sat in meditation on the front stairs of the temple. Unable to eat and drink she sat there for several days. The soldiers also known as Red Guards respected her skill and accepted a handful of high-ranking Daoists to stay in the temple.
- Some Daoists placarded the famous temples with a “Long Live Chairman Mao” sign. The sign was everywhere over the statues and frescoes leaving the Red Guards unable to act as defacing anything related to Chairman Mao is seen as an anti-revolutionary act. Due to this smart idea, the main temples survived and as the political situation changed the hard work to remove these sign began, in some places you can still see the remains of the “Long Live Chairman Mao” sign today.
Deng Xiaoping, the new leader of China during 1978, liberalized the social-economy and began to change the country. In 1979 religious practice became legal and a few years later in 1986 Wang Guangde (王光德) – the Abbot of the Wudang Mountains announced to the public to welcome the Daoists to return home. The most significant people hearing his call are:
Zhu Chengde (朱成德) 1898 -1990
Zhu Chengde, born into a low-income family during his early life he begged on the streets. Around this time he met a Daoist Wanderer and became his disciple. At the age of sixteen, he was forced to join the nationalist army. In 1939 he had to quit for health reasons and became a Daoist priest. He came looking for his master in the Wudang Mountains, but he learned that he had died already. During the Mao Zedong period, he was assigned to a hard-labor brigade where he was assigned to help with wood chopping and fertilizing. As the political reform began, he returned to the Wudang Mountains and continued his practice. His Qi Gong mastery received national attention.
Guo Gaoyi (郭高一) 1921-1996
Guo Gaoyi, born in Henan Province and practiced martial arts since childhood. In his teenager period, he fought in the Sino-Japanese War and met many skilled martial artists during that time. After the war was over, he became a Daoist priest in a temple in Liaoning Province, where he learned the art of Taijiquan from Yang Mingzhen (杨明真) a Daoist from the Wudang Mountains. During Mao Zedong, he was forced to leave the temple and return to his hometown. In 1981 he returned to his master on the White Cloud Mountain in Henan Province, as he passed away, he came to the Wudang Mountains in 1983 and started teaching.
Lu Zijian (吕紫剑) 1893 – 2012
Lu Zijian, known as “Knight of Yangzi” and born into a family of martial artists from Hubei. His mother taught him martial arts at the age of seven. With eighteen years came to the capital Bejing to improve his training. In 1920 he became a member of the Nationalist Military Committee. When the nationalists fled to Taiwan Lu Zijian stayed in China and was forced into a hard-labor camp. Much later in 1980 he won martial arts competitions and built up a reputation for his martial arts skills – which received national attention. Lu Zijian was named “Leading Authority of Chinese Wushu”. There is a rumor that he became 118 years old; however, China stated this claim as wrong since his life was insufficiently documented. The fact that he became old remains true, and Lu Zijian might be the oldest Daoist in history.
Zhao Jianying (赵剑英) 1926 – 2011
Zhao Jianyin, born in Hubei and suffered since childhood from a poor constitution. Zhao Jianying started to study martial arts to improve her health condition when she was six years old. Zhao Jianying helped during the Sino-Japanese War, nursed injured soldiers and taught them hand-to-hand combat at the age of fifteen. During the Mao Zedong period, she lived with her husband in Guangxi Province where she taught martial arts. Zhao Jianying came to Wudang Mountain in 1980 to help to preserve the Wudang Tai Yi Wu Xing Quan (Five Element Form).
Wudang Tradition lives on
Zhu Chengde, Guo Gaoyi, Lu Zijian and Zhao Jianying passed on their knowledge to today’s San Feng Lineage Zhong Yun Long (钟云龙) and Xuan Wu Lineage You Xuan De (游玄德). Enough damage was done to consider the opening of the Wudang school to the public as necessary to preserve the Internal Wudang Martial Arts. Guo Gaoyi was assigned as the Chief Coach of the first reformed Daoist Association Martial Arts Academy, and with the help of Zhong Yun Long, the Wudang school became open for everyone in 1989.
Zhong Yun Long was assigned to a recruited group of young people to pass on the Wudang Teachings. Part of this group was my Master Yuan Xiu Gang and my second Master Xiang Wen Chen (Chen Shiyu), a decade later I became an official disciple of Yuan Xiu Gang and continued my studies a year later at Chen Shiyu’s school, more about my training here.
You Xuan De opened a second Wudang school in the Wudang Mountains in 1994. However, the teachings differ from the San Feng Lineage and these two schools spread in two directions.
As Guo Gaoyi passed away, the San Feng Lineage is lead by Chief Coach Zhong Yun Long as the 14th Lineage Inheritor to preserve authenticity.
Beginning in the late 90s, many of the 15th generation students my masters trained with started to open Wudang schools on the mountain. An Academy lead by the government on the Wudang Mountains appeared; to perform for visiting tourists. The movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and several other media attention helped to improve the reputation of Wudang; drawing a large number of international students. A lot of these students opened Wudang schools in their countries, spreading Wudang outside of the borders of China.
In 2015 our International Wudang Academy became official to promote Wudang Culture worldwide and guarantee the study of authentic Wudang Internal Martial Arts for everyone. Today people around the planet can learn over our online classes or study in our facilities without a language barrier.