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Kungfu Expo

Published: 12 Nov 2009 18:01:51 PST

Kungfu artists from two major Chinese schools will perform during the World Expo 2010 Shanghai 

AWESOME MONKS: Shaolin monks perform hard qigong, which is the art of developing vital energy for health, vitality, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation, in the ancient Guandu Town of Kunming, Yunnan Province, on September 16 (XINHUA) 

The two major schools of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin and Wudang, have agreed to perform during the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, offering a kungfu gala for fans from around the globe.

Agreements were signed on October 29 between Shanghai World Expo organizers and Shi Yongxin, Principal Abbot of the Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan Province, and Li Guangfu, President of the Wudang Mountain Taoist Association in central Hubei Province. It will be the first time that Shaolin monks and Wudang Taoists perform in the World Expo's 158-year history.

Working with martial artists from China, Australia and Germany, the Shaolin Temple has produced a 45-minute kungfu play called Shaolin Temple: Saga of the Warriors Monks, which tells a story of growing young Shaolin monks in four scenes set during each of the four seasons. The play features martial arts, acrobatics and multi-media art. It will be performed at Shanghai theaters for two months during the Expo.

The monks will present 736 kungfu shows during the six months of the Expo, putting on an average of four shows each day.

Shi said the monks would interact with spectators during the shows and teach them some of their methods to strengthen their bodies and maintain good health.

"The monks will also perform the famous Shaolin 72 Stunts that are exclusive to Shaolin martial arts, such as the forefinger deep meditation stunt and the iron cloth stunt," he said.

Practitioners in Wudang, which is well-known for being a holy land in the Taoist religion, have developed the famous Taijiquan, a form of traditional Chinese shadow boxing. They have produced a 30-minute kungfu show called Wudang: Taiji Taoism.

From July to September 2010, the Wudang Taoists will present 276 kungfu shows, amounting to about three shows per day, Li said.

"It will be a first for the Taoist culture, which advocates the idea of harmony, to appear at the Expo. I hope through Wudang kungfu, we can present the world the traditional harmonious Chinese culture," he said.

Li said the Wudang Taoists would demonstrate different ancient martial tactics in addition to Wudang kungfu.

The Wudang kungfu group is a non-profit organization that has never before done commercial performances. The group decided to appear at the Expo to perform an original show, which will be the first time domestic and foreign visitors will be able to witness Wudang kungfu up close. The Wudang performers are all skilled martial artists who are 20 years old on average.

"The audience will be led into a Taoist world accompanied by Taoist music," said Li.

As one of the world's intangible pieces of cultural heritage, Wudang kungfu fits into the Shanghai World Expo's theme of "Better City, Better Life" by letting the world know about Taoism, and the healthy way of life it promotes.

Older Taoist practitioners will be among the performers who have spent almost all their lives perfecting their art and have seldom left Wudang Mountain, meaning that the audience will see genuine and original Wudang kungfu, said Li.

The 50-80 Shaolin monks and the 60 Taoists who will attend the Expo are not only experts at martial arts, but can also speak English.

Shi noted that it would be possible for Shaolin monks and Wudang Taoists to have a martial arts contest on stage during the Expo, depending on "the overall arrangements of the organizers."

"Since Eastern and Western cultures can have cultural exchanges, it is also absolutely acceptable for different schools of traditional Chinese martial arts to do the same," said Li. "Let nature take its course, as we Taoists believe."

The Shanghai World Expo will be held from May 1 to October 31 next year and is expected to attract 70 million visitors.

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