The World Tang Soo Do Association

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8th China/Korea Martial Arts Exchange Archive - Beijing

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8th China/Korea DelegationXu Yin hands me a thin Chinese pancake that he’s just finished wrapping carefully around a small piece of Peking Duck, some vegetables and some spicy sauce. I don’t dare tell him I haven’t eaten meat in 24 years. He speaks barely a word of English, but his impish smile and friendly gestures say it all: “Here’s how we eat this most famous of Asian dishes that I am proud and happy to share with you.”

I bite into it and demonstrate, with my own huge smile, that it’s delicious, and it is.

Xu Yin is part of a small group of Beijing residents who have gathered to dine with us on the first night of the 2001 World Tang Soo Do Association China/Korea Martial Arts Adventure. Most of the 17 people in our group have had little or no sleep during the past 30 or so hours, having flown to China’s capital city from New York, San Francisco, Germany and Australia.

We’d gathered for the first time as a group that morning, at 6:30 a.m. in a small lounge at Inchon Airport outside of Seoul, Korea. There, Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin, who had planned our trip and would now lead us through it, gave us a little preview of what was in store.

“For the next two weeks, you will be in class,” he said. Here, in the cradle of the Asian martial arts, we would spend most of our waking hours absorbing as much of the culture and history of China and Korea as possible.

“The ancient martial arts were developed from the laws of nature,” Kwan Chang Nim explained, noting that some techniques we would see mimick the movements of animals. Because the roots of Tang Soo Do can be traced to China, we would begin our tour there and then make our way back to Seoul before flying home.

“Many of the restaurants we visit won’t have knives and forks,” Kwan Chang Nim warned, demonstrating how to hold and manipulate the thin, metal chopsticks popular in Korea. “You will be served many different kinds of food in the cities we will visit. Be open minded and try everything.”

Next, the Grandmaster introduced each of us to the rest, starting with the highest ranking, Master Stephen Washington, Yuk Dan and director of the World Tang Soo Do Association’s Region 16 (including Australia, New Zealand and the Fiji Islands), and ending with me, a Cho Dan of less than three months.

Forbidden CityThe next morning, my roommate and fellow Cho Dan, Karen Anderson, and I get up early and head out for a morning walk. Cars and bicycles stream along the street and the sidewalks are lively with people beginning their day. Old people stretch and do calisthetics while younger ones breakfast or wait for busses. A couple plays badminton in the confusion. Vendors here and there cook and sell long, unsweetened doughnut-like pastries.

I was beginning to realize how much fun it is traveling with Grandmaster Shin.

We reached Beijing at about 10 a.m., where we piled into our tour bus. There, we met Leo B. Hua, the college sophomore who would be our guide. As we rode into the city, Leo gave us a few details: Beijing is home to 15 million people. A building boom keeps its streets and skylines changing constantly, and will intensify as the city prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

After checking into the Jianguo Hotel and changing clothes, we got back on the bus and headed for our first sightseeing: The Temple of Heaven. A vast walled complex of buildings and courtyards, the temple had been used by ancient emperors who officiated over three major religious ceremonies there each year: one to pray for rain, another to ask the gods for a good harvest and a third to remember the souls of previous emperors.

The temple grounds were crowded with tourists who jostled one another as they leaned to peer into dimly lit temple buildings. To keep us together, Leo held up a green triangular flag that would become a familiar symbol as we made our way through Beijing’s streets and monuments.

We’d keep it in our sights later that night, after our Peking Duck dinner with Mr. Young, who has planned the details of many of the WTSDA’s China tours. A former employee of the government agency that oversees sports, Mr. Young now works for a construction company that is building a large new theater complex in Beijing. He has brought a number of the company’s employees, including its president, to dine with us. I ask Grandmaster Shin about this later and he explains that Asian hospitality dictates that when you host a special dinner, you invite other people to help entertain your guests.

As we leave the restaurant, we can’t help but notice a sea of people moving down a nearby street. “What’s that?” we ask Leo. “Can we go there?”

The street is a long-time shopping district, an expensive one, he explains as we move into the wide flow of people, who fill the street as well as the sidewalks. A towering bungee jump ride set up on one side of the street makes it seem a little like the Wildwood, New Jersey boardwalk on a crowded Saturday night.

Changing of the Gaurds at the Forbidden CityAfter lunch, we head for the Summer Palace, a beautiful complex of ancient buildings and porticos surrounding a lake. I am again amazed at the artistry of the roofs and the elaborately carved and painted eaves under them. It is the same in most ancient buildings and Leo tells us the intricate blue and green designs must be repainted about every three years.

Lots of people stare at us. We are taller than most of the Beijingers we pass and we are only Westerners around. We smile and say hello or “Nee How,” the Chinese word for hello, and nearly everyone smiles and returns the greeting. We find a huge empty lot and stop there to stretch and do some forms before heading back to get ready for more sightseeing.

Today’s excursion: Tiannanmen Square, the huge concrete plaza made famous in 1984, when Chinese soldiers killed 300 students and demonstrators--a small part of a crowd of about 1 million who had been assembling there daily for about a month to demand democratic reforms.

A long line of people snakes along part of the square, waiting to file past the tomb of Mao Tse Tung, founder of China’s communist government. The wait was beyond two hours, so we don’t join the line, but Leo explains that 3 million people view the carefully embalmed remains of the former Chinese premiere every day. Many of them are tourists, but some are Beijing residents who come every day to pay their respects.

At the far end of the square is the Forbidden City, another vast, walled remnant of ancient, Emperial China. Here the emperor lived in a complex of buildings, all with roofs made of the same yellow tile. Yellow was the color of royalty, so only the Emperor’s buildings could have yellow roofs, Leo explains. There are no trees in the city —emperors didn’t want to allow their enemies a place to hide—except in one beautiful little private garden.

Great Wall at BadalingAfter the meeting, we headed for the plane that would take us to Beijing. People stared curiously as we walked along, all dressed identically in tan pants, white shirts, black shoes and navy blue blazers, the dress uniform of the WTSDA international delegate.

After the day’s tours, we head to a cloisonné factory, where we watch artisans making the colorful enameled jewelry, bowls, vases and other items before shopping at the factory’s store. After this, a street market, where we bargain for silk, painted scrolls and other treats.

Not all of us are bargaining for goods, however. Mr. Jim Molinaro, Sam Dan, has come to China with a mission: He’s determined to drive a rickshaw and has found a driver who will at least listen while he gestures his request to go for spin. The driver, who speaks no English, is suspicious, but after many minutes and the promise of a few Yuan, he lets Mr. Molinaro climb onto the bike that propels the rickshaw.

Then, afraid to let the vehicle out of his sight, he jumps into the passenger seat next to Mr. Tom Sekula, Sam Dan, who is already settled in for the ride. As they take off, suspicious driver watching Mr. Molinaro’s every move, the rest of us howl with laughter.

That night: Beijing Opera (fantastic, even as we fight to keep our jet-lagged eyes open).

The next day: a Ming Tomb (not the famous one with the thousands of terra cotta warriors, but one carved deep down into a mountain): a trip to a jade factory (real jade will scratch glass; marble fakes will not) and, one of the high points of our trip: Juyongguan, one of the most famous passes of the Great Wall. We gather for a group photo (something we’ve done already many times this trip) in front of a sign quoting Chairman Mao: “No one is a hero until he has been to the wall.”

As we climb the thousands of the Wall’s steps that lead up the side of a mountain, we can see more and more of the Wall stretching majestically over green mountains and finally disappearing in the distance.

Great Wall at BadalingThat night at dinner, we present Leo with gifts, thanking him, not only for an excellent tour, but for giving so much of himself. He has been with us 12 hours a day, rounding up team members who become separated from the group and explaining what’s in the dishes we are served at meals.

But it’s on to Zhengzhou, a city vastly different from Beijing and one less than three hours from one of our most important destinations: the Shaolin Temple.

 

Respectfully Submitted by Kathy Haley, Cho Dan, Tang Soo Do Karate Academy

 

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