Wudang Mountain in Hubei province is by far my most favorite place in China. Although the country still holds many places left to be explored and discovered, I can’t imagine any other patch of land will fascinate me as much as the holy mountain that gave birth to TaiChi, Qigong, Kung Fu, Chinese traditional medicine, Astrology, and the never-ending quest for immortality. Given, I am a down-to-earth person and not at all easily swayed by spirituality of any kind, I can’t deny that being here reveals an inexplicable connection with something deeper than what I can see, smell, and touch. This connection, invisible to the senses, is called the dragon’s breath－an energy that is part of everything. Or more adequately put, everything is part of this energy: Chi.
Ascending the twenty thousand hand-carved steps to the golden palace, my journey up isn’t just accompanied by the sight of mysterious (Mr. Miagi-like), long-haired, pointy-bearded masters that practice kung fu or meditation each time the path curves around another incline. Nor does my breath falter solely at the sight of the ancient temples I pass along the way. It is mostly the overwhelming feeling that fairytales are alive in this place that stirs my wonder. Wudang is a land where crouching tigers and hidden dragons are alive and roaring.
It has long been a wish of mine to stay on the mountain for a longer period of time and unlock some of its ancient secrets. Lili Fan, one of the main characters in The Fire of Dawn, came to life after my first visit here last year. In Black Dusk, the sequel, Leah and Max will visit Lili’s home, and thus it’s only natural that I would expand my research on the area. However, it isn’t easy for an outsider to get the inside information.
Luckily, against all odds, the universe has dealt me an amazing hand. On my way, my path crossed that of master Shi Ning, who has spent his entire life on the slopes of Wudang. For years he has wandered around the Southern Grotto Palace, where tourists gather and find shelter for the night, in search of an author with an interest in the legends of his home and his specialty as a Taoist monk: immortality. The amazing thing is: he has offered me free stay, food, TaiChi lessons, and any information I need, including the opportunity to interview some of the ancient humans that still roam the mountain after a hundred years. In return, I will help him write his story. How crazy is that?
Thank you universe!
V.V. Aku: writer, mother, rock-climber, kung fu addict. and explorer, lived in China on the border of Tibet with her Black Yi family for over a decade. She recently moved back to The Netherlands where she devotes her time to writing book and scripts for film and TV.