Misconception 3: Not Seeing Beyond the Superficial
When thinking of Chinese kung fu, many will think of Bruce Lee or, maybe, Kung Fu Panda. In reality, the most superior martial arts are not used for fighting. Rather, the culture of spiritual self-discipline that is part of some martial arts schools, often referred to as “cultivation,” has borne the most well-known and miraculous stories.
There is a Chinese saying that “
the best kung fu in the land comes from the Shaolin Temple.” Bodhidharma, the founder of Shaolin Temple Martial Arts, was also the founder of Zen Buddhism, and a Buddhist cultivator. He is known for going inside a cave in Wuru Mountain, near the Shaolin Temple, and sitting facing a wall for nine years until reaching enlightenment. He sat for so long that his shadow entered the stone. The white stone was over 3 feet high, with a black image, vaguely resembling a monk sitting with its back on the rock, which looks like a light ink painting. It was thus dubbed the “wall-facing stone."
Other high-level Buddhist and Daoist cultivators have had similar extraordinary experiences. After Patriarch Huineng (638-713 C.E.), one of Bodhidharma’s sixth-generation disciples, passed away, his body did not rot. In fact, it still remains seated at Nanhua Temple in Guangdong province. Tai chi, familiar to many Westerners, was founded by the Ming Dynasty Taoist Zhang Sanfeng at Wudang Mountain. Zhang reportedly lived for over 130 years.
Similarly, throughout Chinese history, the fields of medicine, astronomy, dance, music, painting, military tactics, literature, poetry, the culinary arts, construction, and other cultural displays have been guided at their highest levels by Buddhist or Taoist cultivation or by Confucian philosophy. They are not limited to tangible objects or visible skill.
In Mainland China today, one may hear people talking about traditional culture or attempting to display it. But genuine Chinese culture is much more complex, profound, and spiritual than simply kung fu moves, dumplings, and lion dances. Sadly, due to the Chinese Communist Party's decades-long effort to systematically destroy it, few people, even in China, are truly familiar with traditional Chinese culture.
Shen Yun’s mission is to give them a chance to glimpse it.
September 14, 2011