A place with a punch
Everybody is kung fu fighting in Dayu village, where White Crane boxing originated. Yang Feiyue reports.
People are punching the air. They’re of all ages. Some are armed. That’s often one of the first sights visitors encounter upon entering Dayu village in Fujian province’s Yongchun county.
The small settlement holds huge esteem among practitioners of White Crane boxing, which is said to have originated here.
White Crane is the parent of the Wing Chun kung fu fighting style, which is featured in such blockbusters as 2008’s Ip Man. The film features the life of Wing Chun master Ip Man, who teaches Bruce Lee.
Ip Man’s real-life i nstructor actually learned kung fu in Dayu, says the village’s chief, Zheng Peixin.
Folklore claims White Crane was created by a local woman named Fang Qi’niang in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Fang is said to have been inspired by the movements of the martial art style’s namesake waterfowl. It’s said to be a mix of soft and hard moves — as is the locomotion of a crane. It’s not easy. Veins pop from fighters’ heads and arms. Combatants widen their eyes, grit their teeth and occasionally yell.
They swing traditional weapons like swords with dazzling speed and precision. One wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end.
“At least half the villagers practice White Crane,” Zheng says.
The ancient tradition today draws tourists.
Cartoons of boxers adorn some buildings’ exteriors and give the names of the movements they’re performing.
The village opened a museum dedicated to the fighting genre in 2009 to explain its development and profile its masters.
White Crane theme hotels have also opened.
And, of course, visitors can take classes taught by locals like Pan Qiongqi, a master who runs a club near the village. Pan has practiced since age 5.
“I practice two hours a day,” he says.
“If I don’t, I crave it. My family has studied White Crane for four generations. I’d hope to carry it forward around the world.”
His opportunities to perform for and teach visitors have increased in recent years, he says.
An annual large-scale festival fea- turing the fighting style runs on the 24th day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar, this year falling on July 27.
Over 100,000 visitors arrive in the village every year.
Dayu’s pristine environment also endows it with allure that goes beyond, yet seems befitting of, kung fu.
The village hugs the waistline of Dapeng Mountain, the abdomen of which it has sculpted into terraces. Ravines plunge between the peaks.
Ancient trees, including centuries-old camphor and banyans, unfold from the soil.
Tea flowers and hyperactively aromatic osmanthus girdle pathways and local homes.
Authorities led villagers to clear out mountainside and riverside dumps several years ago. They then planted calliopsis, helianthus and daylilies.
Rapeseed blankets terraces in blazes of bright yellow.
Blossoms bloom in Dayu all seasons.
The village committee ordered the creation of a tea garden in 2012.
About 14,000 tea trees cover 2 hectares.
A 300-meter corridor of wooden frames is filled with flowers and vegetables, including Chinese wisterias, roses and chayote. Snake gourds dangle upside down from the structure, like pear-shaped bats.
The influx of visitors has also led to the construction of inns and eateries.
Some villagers have converted their farmhouses into tourism businesses, offering local specialties. Visitors can take lessons in how to make them, how to perform native incense rituals and how to create paper-weaving paintings. They can also help with agricultural work.
Ideal ecology endows local produce like oranges, loquats and jiaobai (wild rice stems) with natural quality, coaxing tourists to join harvests.
Visitors can understand how such a magical environment conjured such a masterful martial art form.
And it remains a spectacular setting to experience the resurging fighting style’s legacy.
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Dayu village in Yongchun county, Fujian province, draws an influx of visitors for its martial arts tradition, natural landscape and folk culture.
From top: Dayu village is said be the birthplace of White Crane boxing, the parent of the Wing Chun kung fu fighting style; local villagers practice White Crane boxing; a woman makes and sells local snacks at a rural house.