First lesson of Taiji: countering hardness with softness.
Zhang Wuji wondered whether some misfortune had befallen his martial uncles on the way back from the Western Regions. Throughout the whole journey there had been no news of them. If any misfortune had delayed them on their way, the only people left on Wudang Mountain were his grandteacher and the third generation disciples. His third martial uncle Yu Daiyan was paralysed. If a formidable enemy attacked, how could they resist them? Thinking so, he felt anxious. He said clearly: “Elders and brothers, my late father was a Wudang disciple. I am greatly indebted to my grandteacher. Now that Wudang is facing great trouble, the earlier we get there the better. Bat King Wei will accompany me to first to lend aid. The rest of you should arrive in batches. I request that Left Messenger Yang and Grandpa arrange this. ” After saying this, he cupped his hands and left. Wei Yixiao used his lightness kungfu and followed him. Before the crowd could say anything in agreement, the two of them were already outside Shaolin temple. Their lightness kungfu was really amazing, without equal in the world. The two of them did not dare risk even a short moment’s delay. Without stopping they quickly covered ten li. Though Wei Yixiao did not fall behind, after some time he gradually found it difficult to keep up. Zhang Wuji thought: “Wudang Mountain is a long distance away, we can’t keep this up without rest. Moreover there is a formidable enemy in front. We should save our energy for battle.” He said to Wei Yixiao: “Let’s buy a couple of horses from the next town to conserve our energy.” Wei Yixiao had already considered this but he had brought the matter up. He said: “Sect Leader, buying horses will waste too much time.”
Not long later, they met five or six horses approaching. Wei Yixiao jumped up, lifted up two riders and put them gently on the ground. He called out: “Sect Leader, mount up!” Zhang Wuji stopped in his tracks. In his heart he felt that stealing horses like that was not the right thing to do. Wei Yixiao called out: “When dealing with important matters, don’t be held back by trifling affairs. Why worry so much?” He lifted another two riders off their horses. It so happened that those people also knew some martial arts. Cursing, they drew their weapons to attack. While holding on to four horses, Wei Yixiao kicked their weapons out of their hands. One of them shouted: “Who are you robbers? What are your names!” Zhang Wuji felt it would be even worse if they got tangled up any further. So he leapt onto a horse’s back and went with Wei Yixiao. Not daring to give chase, the horse owners could only curse. Zhang Wuji said：“Even though we have pressing matters to attend to, others may also have urgent matters. I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” Wei Yixiao laughed and said: “Sect Leader, this is small matter not worth mentioning. The way the Ming Cult handled affairs in the past… – now that is truly unscrupulous and illegal.” So saying, he laughed loudly.
Zhang Wuji thought: “The Ming Cult is considered an evil sect. There is some truth that. However it can be hard to determine what is righteous and what is evil.” He was the sect leader and yet he had difficulty making decisions. He was even undecided about a minor issue like the horses. Though his kungfu skills were of a high level, there are many matters in this world that cannot be settled with kungfu alone. He hoped to bring Xie Xun back soon, and pass this heavy burden on to him. Yet he was unwilling to simply take the asy way out. At this moment, he suddenly saw two people with silver rods in their hands blocking the road. Wei Yixiao shouted：“Get out of the way!” He waved the horse whip. One man blocked the whip with his staff, another man yelled and waved his left hand. Wei Yixiao’s horse was startled and stood up on its hind legs. Four men dressed in black then came out from a grove. They looked like they were able fighters. Wei Yixiao yelled: “Sect leader go on，let me deal with them.” Zhang Wuji saw that these people are trying to prevent reinforcements from reaching Wudang. Wudang Sect was in a very precarious and dangerous situation. He knew that Wei Yixiao’s lightness kungfu and martial arts is amazing, he could handle these people. Even if he couldn’t win he would be able to protect himself. Zhang Wuji squeezed both his legs to urge the horse forward. Two men in black used steel staffs to block the way. Zhang Wuji bent down, seized the staffs and threw them forward. The two men screamed as their legs were broken by the steel staffs and they fell to the ground. He saw that the four men fighting Wei Yixiao were not weak. He was worried that after he left more enemies will appear, so he helped Wei Yixiao deal with two of them.
Though Mt. Song and Mt. Wudang are in two different provinces – Henan and Hubei, one is in west Henan and the other in north Hubei. So the distance between them was not that great. After crossing the Ma Mountain, to the south was open country and the horse was able to travel quickly. At noon, he passed a small village. Zhang WuJi felt hungry so he stopped to buy some food. Suddenly he heard a horse scream behind him. He turned around and saw a knife stuck in a horse’s stomach. A man quickly tried to hide.
Zhang Wuji jumped up and grabbed that person. Only to see it is another man dressed in black with the front of his clothes splashed with horse blood. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Whose orders are you following? Which sect do you belong to? Has your party reached Wudang Mountain?” That person did not answer despite being questioned a few times. Zhang Wuji did not dare delay any longer, thinking that that once he reached Wudang Mountain he would understand what was going on. He sealed the man’s ‘Da Tui’ pressure point. The sealed pressure point would cause the man to suffer great pain for three days and three nights.
He then got onto his horse and continued his journey. Soon he reached the Three Palaces and crossed the Han River. While on a boat, he stared into the water thinking of the time Zhang Sanfeng and himself met Chang Yuchun and saved Zhou Zhiruo. Her beautiful image surfaced in his mind. After crossing the Han River, he headed south. By now night had already fallen. He continued for another two hours. It was a dark night. The horse was extremely exhausted and could not take it anymore. It collapsed to the ground. Zhang Wuji patted the horse’s back saying：“Horsey, you’re free to go now!” He utilised his lightness kungfu and was quickly on his way.
After traveling for eight hours, he heard the sound of hoofbeats – there was a group of people ahead. He quicken his pace and overtook them swiftly. Because of his speed and the darkness, no one noticed him. From their direction, they are heading for Wudang Mountain. The twenty or so people did not say a word, so he was unable to determine their intentions. But he could dimly see that each one carried weapons. There is no doubt that they are going to cause trouble for Wudang Sect. He thought: “I’ve managed to overtake them so Wudang Sect has not yet been attacked.” After continuing for less than an hour, he met another group of people heading for Wudang Mountain. In total he ran into five groups. The biggest group consisted of about thirty people and the smallest about ten. After seeing the fifth group, he was even more anxious, thinkng: “How many other groups have already gone up the mountain? Have they already clashed with people from my sect?” Though he was not a Wudang disciple, because of his father’s background he considered Wudang his own sect. So thinking, he increased his speed. Not long later reached the mountain and started climbing. Fortunately he did not run into anymore enemies. Halfway up the mountain, he saw someone hurrying upward. It was a monk and his lightness kungfu was amazing. Zhang Wuji followed him from a distance observing his actions.
He saw the monk go up the mountain. At the peak, someone shouted:“Which friend comes to Wudang at this time of the night?” As the sound died away, four people appeared, two Taoist priests and two laymen (non-priests). These were Wudang Sect’s third and fourth generation disciples. The monk said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin has an urgent matter to see Wudang’s Master Zhang about.” Zhang Wuji though with surprise: “So he is a member of Shaolin’s ‘Kong’ generation, the same generation as Abbot Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing. He actually took the trouble to come personally to Wudang Mountain to bring news.”
One of the Wudang Taoist priests said:“Reverend, you has come from afar. Please come in and have some tea.” And soo saying he lead the way. Kong Xiang gave his saber to a priest, not daring to bring his weapon in. Zhang Wuji saw the priest lead Kong Xiang into the Purple Paradise Hall. He squatted down outside the window. Only to hear Kong Xiang say loudly: “Please report to Master Zhang immediately. The situation is urgent; there is no time to lose!” The priest replied: “Reverend, you have come at the wrong time. My grandteacher has been meditating in seclusion for over a year. We haven’t seen him in some time.” Kong Xiang said：“In that case, can you please inform Eldest Hero Song.” The priest replied: “My Eldest Martial Uncle, my Master and the other martial uncles have not returned from attacking the Ming Sect.” When Zhang Wuji heard this he was shaken. So Song Yuanqiao and the rest had really run into trouble on the way back.
Kong Xiang sighed and said: “If that is so then Wu Dang and Shaolin are in the same boat. It would be difficult to escape today’s disaster.” Not understanding what he meant, the priest said: “Senior Martial Brother Guxu Zi is in charge of our sect’s general affairs. I will ask him to come and pay his respects to reverend.” Kong Xiang asked: “Whose disciple is this Guxu Zi?” The priest answered: “He is Third Uncle Yu’s disciple.” Kong Xiang said：“Even though Third Hero Yu’s arms and legs have been injured, his mind is still clear. Let me speak to him.” The Taoist said：“Alright.” He turned around and went inside.
Kong Xiang paced back and forth impatiently. From time to time, he tilted his head and listened intently，worrying that the enemy had arrived. Not long later, the priest hurriedly came out. He bowed and said: “Third Uncle Yu invites you in. He requests that the Reverend excuses him for being unable to come out and greet you.” The priest’s behaviour was now even more respectful than before. This was probably because on hearing that a Shaolin monk of the “Kong” generation，Yu Daiyan ordered him to be very polite. Kong Xiang nodded his head and went along with him to Yu Daiyan’s room.
Zhang Wuji pondered: “Third Martial Uncle’s four limbs are paralysed buut his eyes and ears are still very sharp. If I listen outside his window, he might detect me.” He walked towards Yu Daiyan’s room but stopped outside. A short while later, the Taoist priest hurriedly came out of Yu Daiyan’s room. He said in a low voice: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue! Come here.” Two novice priests came up to him and called：“Martial Uncle!” The priest said：“Third Martial Uncle wants to come out. Get the carry chair ready. ” The two novices complied. Zhang Wuji had lived on Wudang Mountain for a few years. That priest was Yu Lianzhou’s new disciple so he had never met him. However, he recognized Qing Feng and Ming Yue. He knew that when Yu Daiyan was carried on his chair by novices whenever he left the room. He watched the two go to the wing where the carry chair was kept and silently followed them. He waited till the two entered the room before suddenly calling: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue, do you recognize me?” The two of them jumped in fright. Looking at Zhang Wuji, they thought he seemed vaguely familiar but they failed to recognize him. Zhang Wuji laughed, and said: “Have you forgotten me? I’m Little Martial Uncle Wuji.” The two of them then remembered the past, and were very happy. They said：“Ah, Little Martial Uncle, you’ve come back! Have you recovered from your illness?” The three of them were around the same age and used to play together. Zhang Wuji said: “Qing Feng, let me pretend to be you and go carry Third Martial Uncle. Let’s see whether he notices it’s me.” Qing Feng hesitated, saying：“That…that is not a very good idea!” Zhang Wuji said: “When Third Martial Uncle sees that I have recovered from my illness and returned, he’ll be very happy. Why would he scold you？” Both of them knew that Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Six Heroes all love Zhang Wuji very much. His recovery and return to Wudang was a very happy thing. He only wanted to play a little joke to cheer Yu Daiyan up; there was no harm in it. Ming Yue laughed: “Let’s do what Little Martial Uncle says!” While giggling, Qing Feng took off his Taoist robe and shoes, and exchanged them with Zhang Wuji. Ming Yue tied his hair in Taoist fashion. He now looked like a little novice priest.
Ming Yue said：“You want to impersonate Qing Feng but you don’t look like him. We’ll say that you are a newcomer and that Qing Feng broke his leg so you replaced him.” Zhang Wuji laughed：“Good idea……” The priest outside the room scolded：“What are you two giggling about? Taking so long to get here.” Zhang Wuji and Ming Yue stuck out their tongues and carried the chair into Yu Daiyan’s room. The two of them lifted Yu Daiyan into the carry chair. Yu Daiyan had a solemn expression on his face and he paid no attention to who the novices who carried him were. He said：“Go to the small compound at the back of the mountain to see grandteacher!” Ming Yue answered: “Yes!” He lifted the front end of the carry chair while Zhang Wuji lifted the back end. Yu Daiyan could only see Ming Yue’s back; Zhang Wuji was hidden from his view. Kong Xiang went along with them but the priest did not dare follow without Yu Daiyan’s orders. The small compound where Zhang Sanfeng meditated was deep in the bamboo forest at the back of the mountain. The forest is dense and dark – other than the sound of birds chirping, not the slightest sound could be heard. Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji carried Yu Daiyan to the front of a small compound and stopped. Yu Daiyan was about to call out when suddenly they heard Zhang Sanfeng say：“A eminent reverend from Shaolin comes to my humble residence. Please forgive this old Taoist for not coming out to welcome you.” With a ‘ya’ sound，the bamboo door was shoved open and Zhang Sanfeng came out. Kong Xiang wore an astonished expression on his face, he was shocked that Zhang Sanfeng already knew he was a Shaolin monk. But then he assumed that the priest had already come to report. Yu Daiyan knew his Master’s martial arts were growing more and more profound. By the sound of Kong Xiang’s footsteps alone, he could tell which sect he belong to. Zhang Wuji could hide his presence from Zhang Sanfeng because his inner power was much grater that Kong Xiang’s. He saw that though his grandteacher’s face was glowing with health, his bread and eyebrows are completely white. He had aged quite a lot since their separation. He was both happy and grieved. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he hurriedly turned his head away.
Kong Xiang put his palms together and said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin pays his respects to Master Zhang of Wudang.” Zhang Sanfeng returned his salutations saying：“There’s no need to be so polite. Please come in.” The five of them entered the small compound. On the table was a teapot and a teacup. There was a rush cushion on the floor and a wooden sword hanging on the wall. Other than that, the room was bare. Kong Xiang said: “Master Zhang, Shaolin Sect has suffered the greatest catastrophe in its history. The Demon Cult launched an unexpected sneak attack on us. From the abbot Kong Wen downwards, all have either died in battle or have been captured. I barely managed to escape. The Demon Cult is now heading for Wudang. Today the fate of the martial world rests in Master Zhang’s hands.” After saying this he cried. Zhang Wuji was shaken, he knew Shaolin had met with a tragedy, but he never imagined the whole sect was destroyed.
Though Zhang Sanfeng had been seeking enlightenment for a hundred years, this sudden sad news shocked him and he was momentarily speechless. Collecting himself, he said: “The Demon Sect is really savage. How did the Shaolin experts fall to the Demon Cult?” Kong Xiang replied：“Martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing and their disciples, together five main sects besieged Brightness Peak. The monks who stayed behind waited calmly everyday for good news. On that day, there was a report that they had returned from a great victory. Abbot Kong Wen was delighted with the news. Accompanied by the temple disciples, he went out to welcome them. We saw martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing leading the disciples who had gone along, returning to the temple. They had even captured several hundred prisoners. When they entered the main courtyard, the Abbot asked about details of the victory. Brother Kong Zhi gave yes, no answers. Brother Kong Xing stared at the ground and said:‘Brother look out, we have fallen into the enemies’ hands. The prisoners are our captors…’ At the moment of the Abbot’s shock, the prisoners took out weapons and suddenly attacked. My sect’s people were caught off guard. Also, the most skilled fighters went on the Western expedition, those who remained behind were weak fighters. The escape routes from the courtyard blocked by the enemy. After a fierce fight, we were finally defeated. Brother Kong Xing died for our cause at the scene…” After saying up to here, he broke off sobbing. Zhang Sanfeng said sadly: “The Demon Sect is really ruthless. How can anyone be prepared for such an evil trick?” Only to see Kong Xiang open the yellow cloth bundle he had carried on his back. Inside was an oil-cloth. He opened the oil-cloth to reveal human head. The eyes were wide open and the face angry. It was one of the three Divine Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Xing. Zhang Sanfeng and Zhang Wuji both knew Kong Xing’s appearance. As soon as they saw it, they could not help exclaiming in shock. Kong Xiang sobbed：“I risked my life to retrieve martial brother Kong Xing’s body. Master Zhang, how do you think we should take revenge? ” So saying he placed Kong Xing’s head on the table, and prostrated himself on the ground. Zhang Sanfeng bowed back.
Zhang Wuji thought back to the fight on Brightness Peak. Divine Reverend Kong Xing was generous and heroic, a worthy great master of Shaolin. Now that he had suffered death in the hands of an evil person, his head and body separated, Zhang Wuji was sad.
Zhang Sanfeng saw that Kong Xiang knelt on the ground crying for a long time. He helped him up saying：“Brother Kong Xiang，Shaolin and Wudang are one family. This blood debt must not…” Just as he said that,there was a loud ‘wham’ sound as Kong Xiang’s two hands hit him on the stomach.
This happened extremely suddenly. Though Zhang Sanfeng’s martial arts were profound and amazing,he never expected that a top Shaolin expert who had come from far to bring news would attack him. At this moment, he even thought that Kong Xiang had lost his mind momentarily due to grief, and imagined he was an enemy. The next moment he realized that this could not be. The palm used to hit him was Shaolin’s “Diamond Prajna Palm”. Kong Xiang had attacked with full force, using all his internal energy. His face was pale but there was a hint of a fierce smile.
Zhang Wuji, Yu Daiyan and Ming Yue were so shock they were rooted on the spot. Yu Daiyan was paralysed, so he could not help his Master. Zhang Wuji was young and inexperienced, he did not realize that Kong Xiang had struck a lethal blow. The two of them could only let out an exclaimation. Only to see Zhang Sanfeng stretch out his left palm and tapped Kong Xiang lightly on the head. Though this tap was soft and gentle, it was as hard as iron. Kong Xiang’s skull was smashed and he dropped dead to the ground without uttering a sound. Yu Daiyan said urgently: “Master, you…” As he said this, he stopped. He saw Zhang Sanfeng sit down with his eyes closed. White mist was coming out of his head. Suddenly he opened his mouth and coughed out fresh blood.
Zhang Wuji was shocked. He knew his grandteacher’s injuries were not light. If the blood had been black or purple, with his unparalleled internal energy, he would be able to recover within 3 days. But the blood he coughed up was fresh and it spurted out. This meant he had suffered severe internal injuries. At this time, he wondered: “Should I reveal myself to help grandteacher?”
Just at this time,the sound of footsteps approaching could be heard, someone had arrived outside. From the hurried sound of the footsteps, the person was very anxious. But he did not dare rush in or make a sound. Yu Daiyan said：“Is that Ling Xu？What is the matter？” The welcoming priest Ling Xu said：“Third Martial Uncle, there is a big group of Demon Cult outside. They say they want to meet Grandmaster. They swore with vulgar words, saying they want to annihilate Wudang Sect……” Yu Daiyan shouted：“Shut up！” He was afraid Zhang Sanfeng would be distracted, causing his injuries become worse. Zhang Sanfeng slowly opened his eyes and said：“Shaolin’s Diamond Prajna Palm is really powerful. Unless I have 3 months to take care of my injuries it’ll be difficult to make a complete recovery.” Zhang Wuji thought:“It looks like Grandteacher’s injuries are more serious than I thought.”
Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say：“The Ming Cult is launching a large attack on us. Ai, I wonder if Yuanqiao, Lianzhou and the others are safe？Daiyan, what do you think we should do？” Yu Daiyan did not reply. He knows that except for his Master and himself, all the third and forth generation disciples remaining on the mountain had mediocre martial arts. Going out to fight would be the equivalent of suicide. The only thing to do would be to sacrifice his life facing the enemy to give his master a chance to escape and recover, and take revenge in the future. So he said：“Ling Xu, go and tell those people that I’m coming out to meet them. Let them wait in the Hall of Triple Clarity.” Ling Xu obeyed and left. Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan’s master-disciple relationship was very old and they understood each other very well. Hearing this, Zhang Sanfeng understood his intentions. He said：“Daiyan，life of death, victory or defeat, these are unimportant things. But Wudang’s martial arts legacy must not disappear just like that. During my meditation in the past eighteen months I have comprehended the essence of martial arts and created Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword. I’ll teach it to you now.”
Yu Daiyan was stunned. He had been paralysed for such a long time, how could he learn martial arts? Moreover the enemies were already at their doorstep – there was no time to learn martial arts. He could only say:“Master！” Beyond that he was speechless. Zhang Sanfeng laughed a little and said：“Since the founding of Wudang, we have done many good deeds. If there is any justice in the world we will not be destroyed like this. This Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword that I have created are completely different from all other kinds of martial arts. Stillness defeats movement, and that which moves first overcomes that which moves later. Your master is already more than a hundred years old. Even if I don’t run into a powerful enemy, how much longer can I live？I am happy that I have created these martial arts at the twilight of my life. Yuanqiao, Lianzhou, Songxi, Liting and Shenggu are not here now. Except for Qingshu, there are no extraordinary talents among the third and fourth generation disciples. Moreover he is not here too. Daiyan, you are the one who can bear this heavy burden. It matters not that Wudang Sect is humiliated today. So long as Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword survive, Wudang Sect’s name will live on for thousands of years.” After saying this, his spirit lifted up heroically, the presence of powerful enemies no longer bothered him. Yu Daiyan obeyed, he understood his master wanted him to bear the enemies’ insults. The main priority is to ensure Wudang’s martial arts survive.