Wudangshan Mountain is a holy land for the Chinese religion of Taoism. It is the self-cultivating center of Zhenwu Dadi (one of the top Taoist legendary immortals), Yinxi (ascetic in East Zhou Dynasty), Tao Hongjing (Jin Dynasty), Sun Simiao (Tang Dynasty medicine master), and Lu Dongbing (one of the “Eight Immortals” in Chinese folklore).
Wudang Taoist Kungfu Culture
The Taoist kungfu culture of Wudangshan Mountain enjoys equal fame to Shaolin. As a Chinese saying goes, “learn Shaolin kungfu in the north, and Wudang in the south”. Shaolin and Wudang represent two major styles of Chinese kungfu: external and internal, respectively. The external stresses strength and velocity of movements with vigorous leaps and falls, while the internal looks gentle and stresses the “internal power”. Popular fictions or action movies often illustrate a Wudang kungfu practitioner as being able to fly over the bottomless cliffs like a crane. And indeed, Wudang kungfu style feels like floating like a cloud, flying like a crane, running like a wind, and staying static like a stone.
According to folk legends, Zhang Sanfeng, a Taoist hermit of Yuan-Ming Dynasties, created the Taiji shadow boxing during his late reclusive years at Wudangshan Mountain, which became the representative kungfu style of the Wudang school of martial arts. Other styles were developed and flourished at Wudangshan Mountain, too, notably: Baguazhang (Eight Trigrams Palm), Xingyiquan (Form and Intention Fist), Liangyiquan or Taiyiquan (Two Extremes Fist), Xuangongquan (Dark Gate Fist), Baxian (Eight Immortals Style), Fuhuquan (Taming the Tiger Fist) and so on. Martial arts with weapons include: Wudang Jian or Wudang Sword. Wudang Sword includes Taijijian (Tai Ji Sword), Taiyi Xuanmenjian, Baxianjian (Eight Immortals Sword), and Longhuajian (Dragon Sword). Other weapons included are Baxiangun (Eight Immortals Staff), Fangbianchan (Monk Spade), Xuangong Dao (Broadsword), Da Dao (Large Broadsword), and Fuchen (Horsetail Whisk).
Wudang kungfu culture is closely associated with Chinese Taoism.
All styles of Wudang kungfu share a few common characteristics. As they are all Taoist martial arts, such Taoist philosophical principles as Infinity (Yi, Wuji), Supreme Ultimate (Tai Ji), and Two Extremes (Liang Yi) were followed by them all. Chinese Taoism emphasizes health promotion, and so does Wudang kungfu. All of its movements aim at adjusting the body both physically and mentally, and putting the human body in a communing state with the outside realm rather than imposing infliction upon outside. Criteria of lightness, easiness, roundness, evenness, flexibility, changeability, steadiness and precision are observed when practicing Wudang kungfu, whose principle is to be hard and strong internally, and round and smooth outside. As a result, taiji shadow boxing, for example, looks gentle and slow, but is nonetheless powerful when it touches you.
“Striking after the enemy has struck” is another interesting principle that Wudang kungfu has inherited from Chinese Taoist philosophy. Harmonious coexistence is to be achieved rather than incessant conflicts and hostility. Taken morphologically, the Chinese character of “武 wu” (meaning martial arts or war) connotes a wish for “止戈 zhi ge”, meaning stopping conflicts. While stressing the pursuit of health, Wudang kungfu dismisses fighting, and advocates use of force only in defensive circumstances. Even though force is indeed used, it tends to absorb and borrow force from the enemy, and strike back with the same force as it has come.
The popularity of Wudang kungfu has reached world-wide.
Perhaps, due to the emphasis on health, Wudang kungfu has become popular with the Chinese public. Early in the morning, it is fairly common to see groups of old men and women practicing taiji shadow boxing or taiji sword to music in parks. Many foreigners have found it beneficial, too, and some of them even make it to Wudangshan Mountain to learn it in person.