Written by Julia Ruston
As you may have heard, Kung Fu is one of the world’s oldest forms of martial arts. Throughout the years, Kung Fu has developed many different variations and styles of discipline so there is something out there for everyone! This 5000-year-old practice is so much more than just a sport as it integrates elegance, strength and philosophy. This article will take you through the 5 best Kung Fu destinations to visit when travelling China. Whether you’re just interested in the history of this ancient practice, or fancy watching a live performance, read our list to plan your Kung Fu trip at your best!!
1. Dengfeng, Henan
Located in the area of Zhengzhou, Henan Province, Dengfeng carries an interesting nickname: “The Land with the Greatest Number of Tough Guys”! Developed at the feet of the Songshang Mountain, the sacred mountain of China, the city is home to the “Centre of Heaven and Earth”, a cluster of 11 ancient religious monuments bringing together the Buddhist, Taosist and Confucian traditions in one place, all enlisted in the UNESCO world heritage. Among them stands the famous Shaolin temple, a 1,500 years-old a majestic architectural complex ago, which is home to the original Shaolin Kung Fu, the most influential style of Kung Fu in China, With over 60 martial arts schools, Dengfeng is considered the homeland of Shaolin martial arts and Zen culture. If you want to experience what it’s like to be a Shaolin monk, then look no further. Get ready for a full immersion in this Mecca of Kung Fu!
2. Cangzhou and Yongnian, Hebei
Want to follow the steps taken by a long line of warriors and Kung fu masters? The Hebei province is the place for you! Cangzhou and Yongnian are two cities located in Hebei which are home to some of the most influential styles of Kung Fu arts: Chinese Acrobatics and Tai Chi Chuan. The city of Cangzhou located in the Southeast, is particularly relevant to the development of kung fu practice. Considered to be the birthplace of acrobatics, the city was of strategic importance during wartimes when local people had to learn Kung Fu moves to protect themselves in order to survive. This is why practicing Kung Fu has been so prevailing in this city since Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 A.D.). With more than 50 Kung Fu schools it is a great place to learn or perfect your skills. Especially since it is home to many Kung Fu masters like Ding Fangxian, Huo Diange and Zhang Zhijiang!
The other great destination, Yongnian, is the hometown of Tai Chi Chuan. This county is home to the Guangfu Ancient Town, a world-wide place of pilgrimage for Tai Chi fans. This small walled city is surrounded by a big moat and is definitely worth checking out!
3. Foshan, Guangdong
Foshan is famous for being known as “the capital of Chinese Kung Fu”, so it is a must in your list! It is the hometown of one of China’s most recognized icons: Bruce Lee as well as his master; Wong Fei Hung. If you are a Bruce Lee fan, you must visit the Bruce Lee Ancestral House. This testament to Bruce Lee’s roots, built by his grandfather, is located in the Shang Village area. Another interesting characteristic of this city is the Foshan Lion Dance. This Lion Dance is developed from Kung Fu and incorporates dance, kung Fu moves whilst accompanied by drums, gongs and cymbals.
4. Mount Emei, Sichuan Province
This mountain is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. This beautiful and scenic area rich with history and nature, designated as a UNESCO world natural and cultural heritage site. It is also the origin of Emei Kung Fu. This is one of the three major Chinese martial arts, along with Wudang Kung Fu and Shaolin Kung Fu. One characteristic of Emei Kung Fu is that its movements are inspired by monkeys as it imitates how the animals flail their arms. The style of Emei Kung Fu is characterized by a mix between the vigor of Shaolin and the softness of Wudang Kung Fu. It merges techniques of both and advocates for a combination of movement and stillness.
As China’s capital, you can find pretty much everything you want! But, as mentioned, there are many authentic smaller destinations to experience authentic Kung Fu as Beijing is a huge city. One thing I would definitely recommend is going to watch a live Kung Fu show there! There is a very famous show named Kung Fu Legend which is performed in the Beijing Red Theatre. This show tells the growth of a young monk who tries to fulfill his dream of becoming a Kung Fu master. This 80-minute show is mostly without any speech as it centers around Kung Fu actors presenting dance and acrobatics.
There you have it, 5 amazing locations full of historical, cultural and philosophical insights and knowledge about Kung Fu. As you can see, you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate these amazing places, there is something for everyone! So, if you are planning to travel to China, make sure to check out at least one of these destinations and learn about this ancestral martial art that is so embedded in Chinese culture and lifestyle.
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