White Dragons Of Wudang Mountains

SHIYAN, Hubei - On a sweltering afternoon, a group of Europeans in traditional white Chinese shirts and dark baggy pants sit in a big circle on a lawn meditating. After about half an hour, they start to practice tai chi in pairs, pushing each other's hands.


They are from the Wudang Five Dragons Tai Chi School in the Wudang Mountains, Central China's Hubei province. The mountains attract tens of thousands of foreign kungfu fans every year, not only for its deep Taoism culture but also for its legendary Wudang tai chi martial arts.


Unlike other kungfu schools in Wudang, the two teachers are both German, rather than Chinese. "With other schools and teachers, it's difficult for students to understand because most Chinese kungfu masters don't speak English," says the 34-year-old Norman Torok.


Established this year, the school recruited its first group of 20 students in April from such countries as Germany and Greece. The tuition is 500 euros ($710) per month including accommodation and food, and there is a discount for long-term learners. They live in simple bungalows near the Five Dragons Palace, one of eight sacred palaces in the Wudang Mountains.


The palace fell into disrepair and is being rebuilt. As the only highway to the palace is not open to traffic, few people bother to walk for more than one hour for a visit. "The Five Dragons Palace is one of the oldest temples here. Moreover, it is much quieter compared with other temples which are open to tourists," says Ismet Himmet, another teacher with the school.


Himmet and Torok call their one-year training 'Wudang Principles' as they think the knowledge behind the forms of tai chi is always about the principles. Both of them were martial arts trainers in Berlin's Wudang Academy.


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