Friday, June 19, 2015

Kung Fu, the 2 of Coins, and the Chinese Tarot

My husband and I recently watched the first (and I believe it's the only) season of Marco Polo from Netflix, about the famous explorer's experience living with the Great Kublai Khan in Mongolia in the 13th Century. It was really interesting to see this ancient culture and society depicted in a modern show, and one of my favorite characters was the blind monk and Kung Fu master, Hundred Eyes. In one episode he is in a training session with Marco, and tells him:

Kung Fu means "supreme skill from hard work." A great poet has reached Kung Fu. The painter, calligrapher, they can be said to have Kung Fu. Even the cook, the one who sweeps the steps, or the masterful servant can have Kung Fu. Practice, preparation, endless repetition, and your mind is weary, and your bones ache, until you're too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe. That is the way, the only way, one acquires Kung Fu.
Photo Credit: Shanghai 2007
This touched me deeply enough that I paused the show to get a notebook and pen to record it. I had never thought about Kung Fu as a philosophy, rather simply in terms of martial arts, and as I listened to this scene, I thought about divination and what it takes to become skilled at it. It's a life-long dedication, really, of daily practice, of living life and reading cards, of finding your experiences mirrored in them, and of becoming intimately familiar with the energies of each one individually, in combination, and in their many permutations. It takes time to become comfortable with the essence of each card, and many more years on top of that to develop a profound relationship with Tarot as a mystical body of infinite knowledge and wisdom. And, of course, even for a skilled reader, the learning never, ever stops. For me, that's part of what makes Tarot so exciting and satisfying.

Two days later I was teaching an English class, and one of my students from China was giving a short presentation on the differences and similarities she'd noticed between her country and the U.S.A. She explained a tea tradition from her region of China, called "kungfu" (gongfu). I had to ask her to repeat herself to be sure I'd understood correctly - kung fu?! She said, "Yes, it means 'to take a long time.'" In her region's culture, tea is served to guests and among friends and relatives, but it is never taken quickly. It is a special practice that is more akin to a ceremony than a social event, where it is expected that participants will sit and converse and drink tea for hours in a parlor together. The preparation of the tea is quite a process, and one that takes time and skill to do correctly.
Photo Credit: Cosmin Dordea
Chinese culture (Asian cultures, in general, I suppose) was never something I was deeply drawn to, though I've always had a lot of respect for the history and traditions of the many countries in that area of the world. But now I found myself wanting to know more, to understand more, about the wealth of wisdom and philosophies available in the Eastern perspectives.

Earlier this month my husband and I stopped by a local Korean Import shop for the very first time to look at their vases, and found an abundance of statues, teas, utensils, vases, prayer flags, sushi platters, Hindu figurines - a wide variety from many countries and cultures from the other side of the world. It was wonderful. I picked up some turmeric and Kuan-Yin tea, and Jorge purchased a small Ganesha to place by his sopera for Orula.

And then a few days ago I was puttering around online and came across the Chinese Tarot, published by U.S. Games, and it clicked: I'm getting it! I have many decks, but none influenced by Asian culture. So I ordered it on the spot, and was quite pleased when it arrived on my front porch early this afternoon! (On a side note, I will have to do a review of this after I explore it a bit more, as it's a bit unusual in some regards!)

In light the developments over the past month or so, I already had a question in mind for the first reading: "How would you describe Kung Fu?"

I pulled: 2 of Coins:
Chinese Tarot/US Games Systems
I admit to being initially pretty annoyed with the image on this card. It looks more appropriate for the 2 of Cups! I checked the LWB and sure enough it was described as "a couple in a happy marriage." WTH! What is this nonsense! (See how even open-minded diviners can be total brutes at times?) While I could see how the idea of "harmonious change" could connect with Kung Fu, I couldn't get past my irritation at the card image, so I left it on my bed for a few hours while I simmered.

A while later, it smacked me upside the head. Okay, the image on this card is not particularly "traditional," it's true. But as I was griping about "happy marriage, $*&#$*^#$...." I realized what I was saying: marriage! Of course! The 2 of Coins is often represented by the yin-yang sign because it's about the harmonious balance of disparate elements that complement each other. That is a great description of a successful marriage. The fumes emanating from my skull began to dissipate.

Still, I was thinking of Kung Fu as "skill achieved through time and hard work." While I understood that flexibility, balance, and fluctuation would be aspects of that, I simply didn't know enough about it to feel like I had a firm grasp on the relationship between the two (card and philosophy). So I decided to do a web search using the terms: Kung Fu Balance Harmony. And this is what I found:

The life goals or three jewels for a Taoist are compassion, humility and moderation. Taoism is about living within nature’s laws and in harmony with the cycle of nature. It is about recognising that everything is interconnected, that everything you do affects everything else around you. Taoists seek to live in harmony with the Tao. Kung fu aims to keep us in harmony and balance. (from The Tao of Kung Fu).

So that's that. I clearly have a lot to learn ;-)


  1. How wonderful it all came together this way. As if tied to some invisible strings. Yes a marriage for the two of coins makes a lot of sense when you think about it :)
    "total brutes" LOL we all can relate to that. I wonder how many of us do keep pulling the cards until we find a "right" answer instead of doing some serious soul searching about the card they've got in the first place:)
    I love it that our tarot journey never stops!

    1. I love it too :) Yeah, I am sure that many readers pull and pull until they find a card that makes sense to their "ego." It's natural, I think, but it's one of those urges that requires discipline in order to let the cards speak to us, even if the message takes a while to get through!!! While I do tend to curb the urge to pull another card, it clearly doesn't stop me from arguing with the one I get!! Haha.....

  2. I have that deck, and haven't used it precisely because of the learning curve. I'm glad that time and google helped you come to terms with the card, and the answer :) I never "draw again", either. There's always an answer in there, we just have to find it!

    1. Yeah, I understand you about this deck! When it came, my first feeling was disappointment because some cards appear to be in line with the meanings, and others are a bit of a stretch, or seem entirely unrelated. I've decided to keep working with it to see how it unfolds while in use!