My travels have, at long last, taken me to far-off Old Dali, Waterfall City: on one side you have Lake Erhai, big, blue, and shining, on the other you have a great wooded mountain with Shinto-buddhist temples nestled amongst the hills and valleys of the rising slopes. A city which calls unerringly to artists, musicians, writers, poets, warriors, transient hippies, enlightened souls, and smiling rogues alike. A city like no other. It is here that we are called, a clarion cry blasting forth through our beings until we finally come to rest in this most holy of places. I have come here without so much as knowing that it was meant to be so, my soul has yearned for this place, silently urging me onward towards destiny. I gladly answer the call.
In the short time I have spent here, I have met such people here, nobles borne say true – gunslingers and sorcerers, god kings and philosophers. I have found a community, welcoming arms spread wide, beaconing me. The Dali Hump – a corner of pure paradise, Eden found: the hostel turned home, the strangers turned friends, the friends turned family. Managing the Art Studio, painting, writing, creating, manifesting. With the ending of each week I bid farewell to those I quickly come to love and welcome those unsure of this strange Bohemian Kingdom, as was done for me by others who have realized the full power contained herein; where minstrels and painters play or paint for room and board, like the days of yore we have found our way back by hoof and foot. Glorious is the power of rebirth!
I now begin my studies of Shaolin Fist Kung Fu, demanding of my body, my mind. Beginning each day as the cresting sun breaks across the land like a great golden deluge, we run – we run and we sweat and we focus, stretching both the limits of our physical bodies and the limits of what we thought possible. Utterly surprised to find such a miraculous location, the temple is a nod to days gone by. This is a testing of the self: as the caterpillar, once trapped within his trans-formative prison, reborn unto the world anew – through pain and trial, struggling to become a glorious creature of the blue sky-world. Leaving behind all which he has known, leaving behind the mundane world of feeble belly crawling across unfeeling earth and rock – Icarus born unto the sky, reaching forth toward the golden kingdom on high. Welcome to my butterfly’s existence. No more trapped within the confines of my self imposed prison, welcoming the warming touch of the sun’s golden rays, soaring mightily toward the future.
There could have been no better place for me to continue my “post-secondary” studies, Wu Wei Si: founded by a young Shaolin monk some 20 years past, bringing to the far south the discipline and training he received from those far-off fabled temple grounds. He is a man given to a great smiling disposition, laughing and welcoming all those who wish to glimpse the work he has wrought, feeding those who have the inclination to stay a while. His student, my teacher, HappyCloud as his name translates, is a man of unwavering strength and resolve, given to bouts of raucous laughter, rallying the younger monks and softly urging the weak-bodies foreigners into finding the limits they so furiously built for themselves were merely skin deep. His skill is unquestionable, his strength intimidating – especially for a man of only 5′ 8” – impressive doesn’t begin to describe it. He is like a young Quai Chang Kane, for those that know the reference, wise and patient yet possessed of a steel-hard demeanour. He is one bad ass mofo. The students, young, uncaring, highly skilled, like real world Lostboys: ChungLong, only 13 and mastered all 20 katas – I myself having only finished my first kata and now onto the second – teaches the other boys the various arts of weapon play: spear, sword, hooked swords, whip and more are all within his realm of knowledge – also the unofficial liaison to the foreigners as his command of English is astounding. The two twelve year olds, who are more interested in play than strict mastery of Kung Fu, instead of matching teddy-bear costumes they wear the orange of those dedicated to a monks life. Lee, the 22 year old whose only been practising nor for 6 months but looks as if he’d practised his whole life, the Rufio to ChunLong’s Peter Pan. And if they are Pan and Rufio then surely I am John, curious and intelligent, decked out in all his gentlemanly livery – top-hat and spectacles and sleeping shirt abound – eagerly swabbing his face in their pseudo-tribalistic warpaint ready to do battle with pirates at a moments notice.