- What are the benefits of studying and practicing Tai Chi?
- Is there anything a student should consider before coming to Wudang to train with Master Bing?
- What does a typical Daoist training day look like in a temple?
Hobbies and Interests: hiking, swimming, photography
Favourite Books: Tao De Jing
Most Influenced by: Grand Master Zhong Yunlong and my Grandfather
Relevant Link: https://www.facebook.com/adrianbye/videos/10106325526830344/?pnref=story
This edited transcript is less than 25% of the interview. You can listen to the full interview, above
Adrian Bye: Today I’m here with Master Bing. Master Bing runs the Wudang Dao Institute here in Wudang. Master Bing, welcome, and thanks for joining us.
Master Bing: My pleasure.
Adrian Bye: Master Bing, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from?
Master Bing: I’m from China, Hubei Province, in Huangshe. My real name is Zhong Xuechao.
Adrian Bye: Good for us you are Master Bing. This is not so common.
Master Bing: All my students call me Master Bing, my Kung Fu brothers call me Bing; my Master calls me Bing. Bing is my nickname. My master is my uncle, and my uncle always called me my nickname. So everybody just followed him. It’s not so common in China.
Adrian Bye: When did you first come to Wudang?
Master Bing: In 1992.
Adrian Bye: Why did you come? Can you tell us about that?
Master Bing: My father wanted me to come to my uncle to study Kung Fu with him. So basically my father wanted to bring me to Wudang. He’s a Chinese doctor. He wanted me to choose – do you want to be a doctor, or do you want to be a Kung Fu Master? And I said, I like to visit Wudang Mountain and then decide. I liked Wudang Mountain and I stayed with my uncle to learn Kung Fu. That’s how I started.
Adrian Bye: So your choice was either to get into Kung Fu or to do Chinese Medicine. How old were you when all of this happened and you had to make this decision?
Master Bing: I was seventeen.
Adrian Bye: I’ve been told that Chinese kids are sent to Wudang because they are difficult children and it’s a way to teach discipline. But I don’t think that was your case, right?
Master Bing: No. A lot of kids come because the parents find it hard to teach them; they want someone strict. The kids like Kung Fu too, so they send them to Wudang or to Shaolin.
Adrian Bye: You were training with your uncle, right? Which school was this?
Master Bing: It was near the Shao Temple, the Purple Heaven Temple.
Adrian Bye: So you are up in the mountain, living up on the mountain?
Master Bing: Yes. First I lived in a temple, in the Purple Heaven Temple with my uncle.
Adrian Bye: You then became part of Master Zhong’s academy, the Grandmaster of Wudang.
Master Bing: Yes, that’s my uncle.
Adrian Bye: So your uncle is the Grandmaster of Wudang?
Master Bing: Yes.
Adrian Bye: You came straight to work with the top Master. How long did you train for?
Master Bing: I started in 1992. I was training all the time. In 2006 I left to go to the United States; all the time I followed my Master.
Adrian Bye: Let’s talk about the training. What kind of training did you do and what did a typical day look like back in 1992?
Master Bing: In 1992, I remember we first got up very early, at four o’clock. But when you’re used to it it’s not a big deal. A lot of times the teacher doesn’t have a watch; sometimes they get up at one o’clock and they don’t know. Then they finish the class at two o’clock and they don’t know. That happened a couple of times. Later we got up like at four-thirty, then maybe five o’clock. Everyday we got up at five o’clock. We start at five o’clock till seven, then breakfast like seven-thirty. At eight-thirty, training again until eleven. Eight-thirty till eleven is the morning training, so five to seven is the early morning training. Lunch is at twelve o’clock. Afternoon is some rest. Dinner is five-thirty. Six-thirty till nine or nine-thirty in the evening is the evening training.
Adrian Bye: What were you training during the day?
Master Bing: First the basics. Stances, body condition training. Stretches, then the basic Kung Fu kicks, the JiBen Quan basic forms. After six months probably, we started with weapons, started with swords.
Two years later I started Tai Chi.
Adrian Bye: What was the food? That was Wudang in 1992. What was Wudang like then? I imagine there was almost no town.
Master Bing: Yes, the Wudang town was very small. We come to buy vegetables, or buy rice once a week. Every Sunday we come to town, take a bath.
Adrian Bye: What did you do on the weekends? Did you go out with friends?
Master Bing: On the mountains, there is the school and the temple, and a few farmers. You can only go to the temple. Hiking. And we pick up firewood every week for cooking,
Adrian Bye: Who paid for your training? How much did your training cost back then?
Adrian Bye: So two thousand RMB, that’s like three hundred dollars for the training, and for a hundred RMB in food, that’s like sixteen dollars. Obviously there’s inflation and things like that since then, but I guess life was pretty cheap.
Adrian Bye: What kind of food were you eating? Was it Daoist vegetarian food?
Master Bing: We eat vegetables and rice. Rice all the time. And potatoes, cabbage, whenever there is new veggie we buy it. Then once a week we have meat.
Adrian Bye: What kind would that be, Fish or pork?
Master Bing: Pork, always pork. The cook is one of the students who cannot afford the food, so he cooks. So every few months, every year we have another chef.
Adrian Bye: What was your goal at this point when you were seventeen, deciding what to do? Was your goal to become a Master?
Master Bing: By then I just needed to learn the form very well, as good as my senior brothers, that’s my goal.
Adrian Bye: How many brothers, how many people were at the academy at that time?
Master Bing: Around thirty, then it grew to fifty; seventy the most.
Adrian Bye: You stayed in the academy till 2006? By that time you had studied a lot of Tai Chi, Kung Fu. What other things did you study?
Master Bing: I studied the I Ching, too, and all about Kung Fu. Tai Chi, IChing, Bagua, Weapons, and the two persons fight forms.
Adrian Bye: You weren’t a Daoist at that point. Would you consider yourself to be a Daoist?
Master Bing: Yes, I’m a Daoist.
Adrian Bye: Did you convert to be a Daoist at some point, or did you just gradually decide you wanted to be one?
Master Bing: I like the Daoist way, the Daoist philosophy, so I choose to be a Daoist.
Adrian Bye: Was there a point when that happened or did it happen gradually?
Master Bing: I came to Wudang in 1992, and then in 1995 the Temple chose eight from the Kung Fu school, eight students, to live in the Temple. I think that’s the point to become a Daoist.
Adrian Bye: You were living in the Temple and also started martial arts. In 2006 this is a big jump to be in Wudang having studied the Chinese philosophy and lots of martial arts to then move to the United States. What prompted that?
Master Bing: There is a Chinese in the United States. He came to Wudang and my Master [and him] become Kung Fu brothers. He had a school in Colorado, so he invited me to come and teach in his school. My Master agreed, so he brings me to the United States in 2006. I stayed with him for one year.
Adrian Bye: How long did you stay in the US?
Master Bing: I stayed with him for one year. Later then I went to California. I came back in 2010.
Adrian Bye: How did you find your first time in the US? That must have been a big change, coming from Wudang and living in New York?
Master Bing: In 2002, I was in the United States for two weeks for a seminar with my Master, the same master in Colorado, Master Chen. I was in his school in New Rock. I watched a lot of Hollywood movies, so I knew a lot already.
Adrian Bye: While you were in the US, was this the point when you became a Master? You were then teaching others, right? Before that you were just a student in your uncle’s academy.
Master Bing: I don’t know how I became a Master, when or who gave me the Master. People just started calling me Master. Even myself, I don’t know when they started calling me Master.
Adrian Bye: How did you find the comparisons teaching in the US versus China? The relationships are different. In China the Master is the boss, but in the US the Master is not so strictly the boss.
Master Bing: In Wudang, most of the time you train the students. You can be very strict. You can tell them to do one thing for thirty minutes, no problem. But in the United States I myself have to lead the class. You do what I do. So I do everything, I train everything. I do kicks; they follow me. In China here, in Wudang, you just say, do kicks for one hour, then you can do your own thing.
Adrian Bye: Whereas in the US when you say, do kicks for one hour you have to do the kicks for one hour as well.
Master Bing: Yes, they just follow me all the time, at least in my class. The time is very different. Here it is eight hours per day. There it’s one hour per week.
Adrian Bye: You spend like six months every year in the US, right?
Master Bing: Yes, three to six months.
Adrian Bye: What do you do in the US? Which cities do you visit?
Master Bing: From 2007 till 2010 I lived in Orange County. So every time I go back my base is there. Then, in Boston, I have another base. Now my teaching classes are growing, so I went to Minneapolis three or four times already; then San Francisco, Maryland, the State of Maine. Each time I go back I go to these places.
Adrian Bye: You go out to the US once or twice a year and teach classes in those places. What type of classes are those?
Master Bing: It’s Wudang Kung Fu forms. Qi Gong, the Five Element Qi Gong I taught in every place. Then Wudang Tai Chi, Tai Chi 108, or the Sword. So basically I go to each place and teach a form, a Wudang form.
Adrian Bye: Some of your students like it so much that they come to Wudang, right? How does that work?
Master Bing: In Wudang Town I rent an apartment. They stay in the apartment. And I train them in Wudang. Sometimes we go on a mountain, sometimes just on my roof. They come for one week to two months.
Adrian Bye: How many students come here to do that?
Master Bing: So far, altogether maybe fifty.
Adrian Bye: Now you have decided to open an academy here in Wudang?
Master Bing: Yes, I’m looking around. It’s hard to get a place in Wudang. You cannot buy land; they are very strict. I’m still in the process to have a piece of land to have my school.
Adrian Bye: So what are your plans? Or what is your dream, your vision of an academy? What’s your goal here?
Master Bing: To have a school in Wudang. If I have a school in Wudang, I would teach most of the time in Wudang. Then I would go to other states, other countries three months or less. I would teach in the school every day.
Adrian Bye: There are not many Masters here that speak English. That’s pretty important.
Master Bing: Yes.
Adrian Bye: One of the things people talk about a lot with Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Kung Fu; how does it make you feel? Can you tell us a little bit about how these things make you feel and what they change in you?
Master Bing: Tai Chi and Qi Gong make you concentrate; it’s like a meditation. They say Tai Chi and Qi Gong are a moving meditation. They quiet your mind; you get energy from the inside. The chi flows better; you open all the joints, relax muscles, control the body better, relax in the heart.
Adrian Bye: What are some of the benefits some of your students have by studying Tai Chi? What sort of things did they tell you that happened to them?
Master Bing: They tell me [they have] better energy; they fix problems, like a shoulder problem, a neck problem; they do compare to their friends, they look younger, they don’t have so much pain, they don’t need to go to hospitals; better health, better energy.
Adrian Bye: When do you think will you be launching your academy?
Master Bing: I don’t know, I’m still applying for a piece of land. If they allow me to use it or not, we don’t know.
Adrian Bye: If you do, what should students think about before they come to Wudang? What should they have in their mind to prepare themselves? How can they qualify to be the right kind of student? Because living here is not like in the US, this is Central China. Who would be the right kind of person that might want to come to your academy?
Master Bing: The right person? I think whoever wants to experience the Wudang Mountain, or like to learn Tai Chi or Kung Fu, they can come. We have different levels. You can join different classes, different programs.
Adrian Bye: Since I’m actually living here, this is maybe a little bit of a western perspective. Life is different. You have to be comfortable using a squat toilet, not a western toilet; you’d be eating mostly vegetarian food. Especially when you’re up on the mountain the electricity may not be too reliable, but maybe in some areas it is better. You can almost think of it a little bit like camping. My suggestion would be to train with Master Bing in one of his events in the US, and then come here and try it for a short time if you like it. And if you like it, maybe you come here for a longer time.
Master Bing: Yes.
Adrian Bye: But take it step by step. China is changing a lot; the city has grown ten times in twenty years. That’s a pretty astounding growth. So when you come, you’re coming in the middle of a society that is changing a lot. It makes things incredibly interesting, but it also brings a lot of challenges. Master Bing is one of the really good Masters in Wudang. Thank you for doing this interview. I’m really grateful.
Master Bing: You’re welcome.