Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Chinese Folk Religion and Taijiquan...

Four famous generals from China's distant past, including Yuchi Gong and Qin Qiong now worshipped as "Door Gods" 
A couple of weeks ago I broke the journey home from Chenjiagou, making a stop in Kota Kinabalu on Borneo island for a week to visit relatives. One afternoon we took a drive to the small settlement of Tuaran to eat the noodles the town is famous for. A couple of streets from the restaurant was an
Calligraphy reads- "Jing Gang Subdues the Demon
unexpected bonus - replete with a colourful ten storey pagoda, the splendidly named "Temple of Dragon Mountain"! While the Malaysian-Chinese locals I travelled with described it as a Daoist Temple, puzzlingly a large sign painted on a wall next to it described it as Ling San Buddhist Temple?

Temple of Dragon Mountain
In the West it is often assumed that there are clearly demarcated lines between China's different philosophies. However, in the day to day lives of the Chinese the lines are in reality more blurred. Walking through the temple the philosophies of Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism co-exist harmoniously: statues of the Daoism's iconic Eight Immortals and various deified warriors from the China's distant past; a giant smiling golden Buddha; figures from the Buddhist classic Journey to the West including Tripitaka and his companions the Monkey King, Sandy and Pigsy; and a statue of a benevolent looking Confucius sitting solidly in a prime spot. These are accompanied by many images and figures from fearsome Jing Gang subduing demons to murals of various dragons and other colourful beasts, deities and young maidens. 

I read an article recently by Chen Jinguo, a scholar of the Chinese Folk Literature and Art Society, who suggested that folk religion represents a core element of Chinese cultural self-awareness. While Professor Han Bingfang of the Institute for Research into World Religions at the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing went so far as to call Chinese folk religion the "core and soul of popular culture". 
Confucius
Chinese martial arts, including Taijiquan, being an important component of Chinese culture have inevitably been influenced by these forces. Taijiquan is often simplistically referred to as a Daoist martial art. A cursory examination of its names shows that it too draws from this common culture: the Chen Family Rules are typical Confucian standards of idealised behaviour adopted by many clan groups; the underlying philosophy of naturalness and of using softness to overcome hardness are clearly drawn from Daoism; while the postures in the form such as Jing Dang Dao Dui (Buddha's Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar) show the influence of Buddhism. What all three philosophies have in common is the idea of an integrated universe balancing the three components of "heaven, earth and man". 

and the Monkey King!