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|
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|
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|
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 ;-)