A place with a punch

Ev­ery­body is kung fu fight­ing in Dayu vil­lage, where White Crane box­ing orig­i­nated. Yang Feiyue re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE | TRAVEL -

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.

Con­tact the writer at yangfeiyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHOTOS BY YANG FEIYUE / CHINA DAILY

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.

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