Notes from Song Mountain

On the Go

Presently enjoying another visit to Song Mountain in China, Veena sent us an email and photographs documenting her experiences.

Hi everyone, love and blessings from Song Mountain! I just love being here, feeling at home, whole, peaceful and content. Meditations happen often – I find myself slipping into a silent aware space and just sit on my comfy chair on my beautiful balcony from which I can partially see the mountain, and bliss out.

And every day amazing things, big and small, happen!

For example, great excitement a few days ago when Zeyuan, the kungfu master’s gorgeous little grand-daughter said her first words: “Bye, bye!” In English! Whenever I leave the school she is encouraged to wave goodbye to me and everyone says, bye, bye and I say bye, bye so she has picked this up. I think my legacy to Shilipu village will be those words as all the babies and their mothers know them!

Another astounding thing that has happened is that I found some Chinese herbal patches which are stuck onto any arthritic joint. The result is totally incredible! While I have the patches on, all pain goes and I can walk normally, even without a limp, after painfully hobbling around for the past eighteen months. The patches have reduced the inflammation and swelling and I can even bend my right knee now. It means I can walk up the mountain to the school – about 1½ miles – and enjoy being in touch with nature and the energy of the mountain. Just phenomenal! However, I don’t yet know if the patches will have a lasting effect. I spoke with the kungfu master, Wu Nanfang, and he suggested I go for some acupuncture with a doctor he knows in the town of Yangshi on the other side of the mountain. I will definitely try that.

Song Mountain
Dongzhe and Zeyuan
The Event
Some of the 100,000 kungfu students
Musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments
Veena at Shaolin temple with Chengeng
Chengeng, a young man of Zen

Last Friday I proudly managed to walk up to the school to have lunch there and say goodbye to some westerners who were leaving. Was sitting chatting with them when Master Wu Nanfang came up with the wonderful Chinese student and friend, Chengeng, to translate. The question was, would I like to go to see the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony of the International Kungfu Festival which is happening at the moment. The actual event is by invitation only. The Master’s friend Liu, a lovely man, works for the Dengfeng City Council and is responsible for all the electrical operations to make the event function. Of course I said yes, and the result is some of the photos I am showing you. The Chinese are just about as good as the British at putting on magnificent pageantry and the sights were amazing. The roughly 100,000 kungfu students in Dengfeng line the 13-kilometre road from the city to the Shaolin Temple – all in brightly coloured gear and holding brightly coloured flags. Once at the temple we watched the rather boring opening ceremony but got to see lots of kungfu displays. Sometimes the sheer number of kungfu students is mind-boggling!

At the end of it all, Liu invited us to a magnificent dinner with some other people. When the Chinese lay on a celebratory meal, the result is also mindboggling – the dishes just keep on coming. Of course you can’t eat all of it but the Chinese have the tradition of doggy bags so all the left-over food is bagged up and parcelled out for everyone to take home!

Then yesterday evening I was busy on the final edit of the kungfu book that I am doing for Master Wu Nanfang when I got a message on the WeChat app on my phone from Chengeng: ‘Veena, where are you now?’ I replied saying I was at home – and then didn’t hear anything further. Having had experience of the spontaneous happenings with my Chinese friends, I was prepared for something to happen − repaired the make-up and brushed the teeth – but nothing further materialised. Had just decided to start getting ready for bed when there was a knock on the door and the exquisite Dongzhe, the Master’s new daughter-in-law, mother of Zeyuan, appeared with her phone with Chengeng on the line. Would I like to go to the mountain theatre performance − now!

I have spoken before about this breathtaking performance because I have seen it four times already – but was totally happy to see it a fifth time because it is also a mindboggling performance. So I quickly put on some warm clothes and ran downstairs with her to her car. Fifth time around, this show was as stunningly beautiful as ever but with an addition which I have never experienced before – it was a full-moon night and the whole mountain was lit up with the light of the moon. Surreal! For those of you who don’t know, this performance takes place in an open-air theatre set into a valley in the mountain and the stage is about half a kilometre wide, surrounded by the mountain. Goats and horses are part of the performance.

What a gorgeous surprise!

And another little thing. I always say ‘Nihao’ (hello) to the villagers when I pass them, and on my way back from my walk this morning I passed a neighbour, an old lady, who was cracking walnuts on the wall with a hammer (this is a walnut-growing area). When I said Nihao she motioned for me to sit on the low wall and proceeded to feed me walnuts. Then two of her friends came and we all sat on the wall talking to each other in our respective languages, not understanding the words, but totally understanding the good feeling in that present moment.

Related poem
Walnut Season on Song Mountain by Dhiren

Prema VeenaVeena is a regular contributor –
Veena is the author of A Mountain in China
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