38062216253068615Our week started with rain, which gave us the opportunity to relocate training inside the temple of the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion Guan Yin.

We thought that somehow the rain would put a dampener on our training regime, but it actually added a new dimension enabling focus on proper technique using stationary methods – this led to us doing hundreds of kicks and punches in classic Kung Fu postures especially Ma Bu (horse stance) and Gong Bu. Our focus still at this point in the program has been to continue to build a strong foundation and proper basic techniques of Ji Ben Gong.

518161288225482770On the third day we were introduced to a new practice : Da Gong, which is considered as hard Qi Gong. There are three stages – the first is “Heaven”,  the second “Human” and the hardest “Earth”. The training of Da Gong basically involves special breathing combined with striking one’s self to strengthen the body and increase the Qi. This technique has many benefits including promoting good health, massaging of internal organs, increasing circulation and generating a specific core power.

The temple of Guan Yin provides a unique atmosphere for training, one of the other nice benefits of this space is the small beehive on the outside wall. Luckily our busy neighbors also acted as our weathermen alerting us to the next sunny day…

667410902627201588Fortuitously the sun arrived  just in time for one of the temples most significant periods of celebration. The birthday of Xi Wang Mu- the Queen Mother of the West, is a three day celebration that also combines the feast day of the Five Immortals- so imagine Christmas and Easter together 🙂

Starting on the third day of the third lunar month, each day opened to a soundtrack of popping crackers, incense and hundreds of well wishers and worshipers who traveled from far and wide. Knitted out in our new beautiful Taoist outfits, we did our very best to be guardians and guides to the temple, taking on every manner of job, from fire guards, to designated Pao Zhang (firecrackers) specialists, we rang bells for worshipers, changed thousands of incense sticks, posed for pictures and had friendly conversations with curious 209319196089454942visitors who wanted to know all about where we were from.

Throughout what could have quite easily been a very stressful time was actually a great bonding experience for us all. Not only did we get to interact with a diverse range of people, we also got to experience the wider community of locals and friends of the temple, who turned up in force to make golden paper boats as presents for well wishers, stoked fires, cooked food and laughed with us- they were amazing.

The festival was a perfect conclusion to the second week of our temple experience, providing us with yet further authentic insight and experience into Chinese people and their culture.