As planned, I spent three days of last week at the Temple of The Five Immortals on White Horse Mountain. I decided to go because I have realised my current school is focused on the physical mechanics of Wushu. I am very happy here because I'm learning so much about my body but the Five Immortals offers students a wider and more detailed education, particularly in the internal aspects of Wushu.
The Temple of The Five Immortals is only open to foreign students and a limited number at that, due to its small size and remote location. To get there from Wudangshan, I took the 202 bus about 50 mins to Shiyan city. From there it was an hour cab ride straight up the mountain to Bailin village, where we began the 45 mins hike up the steep steps leading to the peak where the temple complex sits. Our cab driver thought we owed him more money after dropping us off, so followed us nearly half way up the mountain path before we gave him a extra RMB50. Sweaty and exhausted, he left to head back down the mountain to his car. He was dedicated, I'll give him that much. He was very quiet and polite, too, but I'm not sure that amount of physical effort was worth such a small amount of money. I suppose it was to him. It was an interesting start to our journey.
Anyway, we arrived at the temple just in time for lunch, having introduced ourselves to the ten students currently studying there. After lunch we were shown around the tiny complex and invited to explore the surrounding area at our leisure. You enter the complex through a small stone archway that opens onto a plateau used for training, which in turn leads to the main entrance. This altar and gateway is guarded by a huge red-faced god holding a massive studded bat. The inner courtyard is surrounded on the other three sides by a common room/kitchen, two sets of living quarters and a main altar to The Five Immortals. Beyond that are the latrines, while further up the mountain is the well. Yes, there's no running water up there, so we had to take buckets up there to collect all our drinking water. Besides a couple of funeral pagodas marking the tombs of previous abbots, the only other structure is a small marble altar right at the very top of the peak. It's a genuinely remarkable place and the views are breath-taking.
We didn't meet Shifu until after breakfast the next morning but when we did our already incredible experience became even more valuable. While the students began their daily Kung Fu practise, we, as guests, were invited to sit with Shifu and ask whatever questions we had. We spent the next six hours talking about all sorts of subjects ranging from comparative religion, Qi Gong healing, Kung Fu, tea, our own spiritual and emotional journeys and even UFOs!
Things got a little stranger after lunch when Shifu brought out two varieties of his home made rice wine. He insisted drinking alcohol in small quantities was medicinal but after several hours drinking and laughing, it was hard to deny our drunkenness. Certainly hadn't anticipated a moonshine bender to follow my enlightened talk with a Kung Fu Master.
I spent the next day meditating up on the peak overlooking countless mountain ranges and beautiful valleys. It was yet another incredibly valuable and insightful experience and one I intend to repeat by enrolling at the Temple as a student. Please feel free to visit the website for more information on this remarkable place.
Keith Abraham Playful Dragon