Western Theatre’s method of dealing with Human struggle and conflict with acts of destroying lies, dispelling illusions, or even the sacrifice of the protagonist or other means of resistance in search of Truth. How does Chinese Theatre depict the concepts of Human struggle and conflicts, and why? Is it relatable to Kung Fu’s philosophy in search of the path of resolution?
Western theatre has a deep tradition in the “three unities.” Created by Aristotle in his poetics, they are prominent in most traditional western theatrical traditions. The three unities are that of setting, time, and plot, where the action of the plot takes place in one location, and also takes place in the time of one day. In Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex,” a king discovers that in his youth he had murdered his father and married his mother, in light of this revelation, the king Oedipus blinds himself on the palace steps and banishes himself from his own kingdom. Sophocles’ play and its chorus examine the nature of man’s relationship to fate, and paint a dreadful image that our fates are inescapable, no matter how terrible or unfair it may be. “Oedipus Rex” has a clear message, that there is no other destiny than the one written for us, and free will is an illusion. Chinese theatre presents a different attitude, one that yields to and accepts the unfairness of life but also transcends it. The final message is often presented after the suffering of the protagonist has ended, where then life continues and new possibilities may be realized, like the inevitability of spring after winter.
In “The Butterfly Lovers” the protagonists Liang and Zhu are forbidden by their families to be married, but their suicides are not concluded with Shakespearean soliloquies, instead, it’s followed by a scene where the two lovers transform into butterflies moments after leaping into their grave. This traditional theatrical mechanism of “ascension” in Chinese theatre is fundamental to the cultural expression of Chinese literature. The strengths of the play’s intended messages are not in the form of struggling against a dead end, but rather the spiritual and transitional power that sees past the struggle. Of course, Chinese literature does have its fair share of “dead end struggles,” as seen in works such as “Thunderstorm” by Caoyu, and Bajin’s trilogy, “Home,” “Spring,” and “Autumn.” Yet, these were modern writers who came into the literary world after the May Fourth movement in China, and were, in fact, educated in western literature from their youth, where they found their “baptism through despair” style.
The Fourth Wall
Western theatre is realistic with strong and vibrant character archetypes, with an emphasis on the plot, a good example would be Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Chinese theatre has a freedom in its structure, free flowing and almost spontaneous in its presentation of symbols and metaphors. It could be argued that the tradition takes the concept of theatre as an imitation and while acknowledging the theory, also exposes our reality as a greater form of mimesis. As a result, the characters do not need to be as vibrant. For example, in the “Peony Pavilion” the supernatural events in the plot are more important than the actual plot points in reality that drive the plot, the focus is on the integrity of the ethos and not on the laws or rules that the scripts or cultural customs adhere to. The script instead presents characters who are not distinguished by their morals or ethical drive to succeed against opposing forces, but by their honesty in their emotions, their pureness of heart in the moment of trial. Neither one of the protagonists attempt to challenge or rebel against ideals that disagree with the their intentions. Instead, they are valued for their ability to adapt their feelings and find a greater understanding by transcending and elevating their own spirits and find peace in their dreams. They, at the most dramatic, ignore the ignorant, remove themselves from them so they will not be tarnished, so they can remain pure and free like butterflies to frolic, unbound by the shackles of obstinance and those uncontrolled passions.
The Awakening Dream
In the “Peony Pavilion” the protagonist, Du Liniang, rests in a pavilion in her father’s garden after wandering through the grounds. As she sleeps she dreams of a man, the man is the young scholar, Liu Mengmei. Meeting in the ethereal dream their love blossoms out of her control. Their encounter is interrupted as a flower petal falls to her face and she awakens, unable to find him or even know if he was real she soon dwindles from love sickness. That which she cannot have in life she seeks in death, but is reborn again due to her purity in devotion. In the land of the dead she is told that her love with Liu is predestined, and her death is reversed. She visits Liu in his dreams, and their distance dwindles as he learns of her home and grave. After exhuming her he is arrested for being a grave robber, but she is restored as living and pure. Their journey through the void, through life, death, and rebirth unites them. Their destiny is restored despite the protests of the “reality” of living and their laws.
In Chinese interpretation, emptiness (or the void) and reality (or wholeness) are regarded as one in the same. The practice of Chi and martial arts teach this understanding, without it, it’s near impossible to experience. In the west, there is no Kung Fu, so the interpretation of Chinese dreams and plays are different. The “empty states” or “void states” are states that exist but are intangible, such as: Dream states, “Xian” states1, “Xia” states2, and “Ling” states3. These different states are heavily represented in literature. The “Peony Pavilion” represents the Dream state, “The Warriors of Zu” represents the “Xian” state, “Legend of the Mountain” represents the “Ling” state, and “Water Margin” represents the “Xia” state.
The concept of “Jianghu" in Wuxia novels are part of the “Xia” state; “Jianghu” literally translates to “rivers and lakes.” This isn’t a place but a feeling; an intangible network that exists in the void, where and all those who live it also live by its laws. Dictated by personal justice and retribution, where all debts are repaid in full. Sema Qian’s “Shiji" (“Records of the Grand Historian”) has a particular chapter reserved for assassins who have been recognized as Xiake. Xiake, or Youxia are free roaming warriors, like the knight-errant, who took actions to topple a regime or oppressor, often sacrificing their own lives in the process. They were deemed to be individuals of exceptional sincerity and trust, their moral standard and values often exceeding the average. Their discipline and training as martial artists shape their understanding and experience, they see the world and its problems not as we do. Their understanding tempered, and the iron in their swords flexible, they fight in order to unify. Their own desires and needs laid aside, their words were their bonds, and their actions produced results. They righted the wrongdoings of the world with their martial discipline and righteousness. They swore on their duty with their lives, sometimes even sacrificing themselves in the process. From one perspective it is destructive, but this destruction also allows room for higher growth, like weeding a garden or culling a herd.
1.“仙 xian” Celestial spirits, sprites, or fairies. In Chinese culture they are regarded as very refined human souls that once lived mortal lives, most commonly their stories are metaphorical by nature.
2.“俠 xia” Mortal heroes and antiheroes who followed unwritten laws based in checks and balances between individuals, where acts of graces or vengeances were taken upon each other.
3.“靈 ling” The spiritual, afterlife, gods and demons. Found more in stories that draw on religious backgrounds for storytelling.
Real, Unreal, Empty, Whole
“Peony Pavilion’s” major plot point begins with the lovers’ shared dream, some argue that dreams are nothing more than fantasy, and that the waking world is true reality, but is it so? Real and Unreal are varying states but one does not trump the other, they both exist. Falsehood can even be truer than True sometimes. Take an example from martial arts, your opponent makes several consecutive movements to create an opening in your defense. As they draw closer they seem as though they may strike again, but they stall instead. Supposing they have reached the end of their chain of movement, you begin to launch your attack, but then you’re struck by your opponent in your new opening you created when you intended to hit them. The stall in their movement was a fake, empty move. On the surface it appears to be a useless move, a stutter, but in fact the internal awareness of the opponent was present, just not visible to you. The transition from “fake” to “actual” movement is the key to the success of the entire chain of action. “False” moves are deeply connected into the internal workings of our souls, they must be pure and completely free, any lack of trust in your own action and intention and the countless thoughts and fears and concerns come pouring down to inhibit the moment. Like Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei navigating the fluid land of dreams without causing a single splash, they have a harmony that harkens to the “Warriors’s of Zu’s” two celestial swords, one purple, one green, representing Yin and Yang, the opposite poles of Taichi. Who in their desire to forge into one must collide with one another, but if any side lacks trust or carries any doubt within them, there will only be destruction, and no harmony.
The Endless Landscape
Movement in Kung Fu must be sequential, and have a constant flow for it to have power. This power changes smoothly between strong and weak attacks, between forcefulness and gentleness, between far and short distances, between intentional and fake actions, between real and empty movements. One moment you’re there, the next you’re not, then you’re close, then you’re far, now you’re left, now you’re right, the flow connecting every movement from the position of the body to the variation in your footwork, to the maneuvering of your wrists and hands, the process never stops. This kind of power and movement is impossible to achieve with just strength alone. UFC, and MMA fighters rely on strength training and leverage in their strikes, it causes their attacks to become piecemeal. Plant, draw, thrust, plant, draw, thrust. Even some of the fastest movements are still two or three movements in a combination and are delivered from a planted position, meaning they cannot deliver effective attacks to their opponent while both participants are moving. The combinations they deliver from one position are still, strictly speaking, disjointed movements.
The flow in movement is effective because it is achieved by connecting the multiple opposite aspects of combat, such as, forward and reversed movement, action and stillness, presence and absence, real and fake movement, empty and charged movement, inner and outer positions. Most individuals see only the obvious aspects and therefore miss the opposite aspects, they see the charged move but cannot see the empty move, when we focus only on one aspect we neglect the other.
What is it that connects the moves? They are connected by Chi, with it we have the endurance to quickly transition from one end of an aspect to the opposite, and in that transition it is easy to spot an opponent’s openings, it also is good for finding making an appropriate response in protecting ourselves if we are under attack. Chi in Kung Fu is akin to orchestral music that transitions through different time signatures, that explores all kinds of tones and styles, movements and melodies, under the most harmonious conductor. It transcends all aspects and walks of life, from the most refined to the simplest chores, like riding a horse or driving a car, buying groceries and cooking refined cuisine. Chi allows us to bond and mend with each other, it allows us to walk in harmony with our natural and artificial human environment and is the fuel for our personal quest of self improvement.
Without Beginning, Without End
Dreams are a part of daily life, they seem fantastical and nonsensical, but are extensions of our lives, where our bodies and our minds restore and recalibrate. Life is imperfect, which is why, like dreams, we have theatre, stories, and movies. The one hundred-and-eight heroes from “Water Margin” could have been spared the life of banishment if they had chosen to live as outlaws, completely separate from the emperor’s court. The tragedy they endured was not that they were exiled to Liang mountain after they conformed, but that they remained doggedly loyal after being exiled, and continued to fight for the empire, sacrificing their lives in the conquest of South China. Not all intellectuals and Xiake are logged in history as heroes, in fact many of these types tend to be easily manipulated and expended because they are too invested in the problems and issues their culture and society endure, unaware of the puppet master behind the screen. However, detaching from the interference of culture and politics comes as easily as avoiding direct involvement; that doesn’t mean avoid healthy debate or conversation, but avoid fixation and stubbornness. Once the conversation ends, throw the topic away, by not dwelling on the thought you won’t create a mindset, then it won’t become an obstacle that you will have to break down later in order to progress.
In the “Peony Pavilion,” the dreams and waking life are two parts of the same whole. By coming into fruition through death and dreams, their love appears as though it had neither a beginning nor an end. It is the same state of transition that carries us between the extremes in Kung Fu, shifting from one polarity to the other without end, power that seems empty but is in fact real. The striking moment happens in an instant, and without warning, where total control is established. Dreaming is a state of awareness created by transitory forces that recycle and evolve our consciousness, when we are able to transform the experiences dreams show us the beauty in life, the benevolent side, the positive side. It is like “love at first sight,” or how we feel when we try to describe True Love. For it to work in Kung Fu one must also be “in Love” with Kung Fu. “Six Records of a Floating Life” is a biographical work that presents a gruesome ending, and it is by all accounts real. “Peony Pavilion,” on the other hand while using fiction to depict the imperfections of life, shows us that we may still be able to find solace and peace in our dreams.
The dream-like sates in theatre are a fantastical reality in Chinese theatre, like The Temple of the Three Dimensions in “The Warriors of Zhu.” Entering this temple we see our countless past experiences. That which has passed may seem to be gone, but it actually remains, it merely changes aspects. When we practice Kung Fu some moves seem to be incredibly mundane or simple, but if we approach it with the same spirit as Du Liniang, then the pavilion becomes the seat as well as the portal of ascension. The practice is something beyond rational understanding and specification, all we know is the pavilion sits on a mountain with clouds obscuring the way. The more we desire for material or quantifiable gains, such as, riches, fame, love, and happiness, the more we are lost. If, however, we fall deeply into our dream and remove ourselves from the shallow qualities of reality, we find the pavilion sitting inside of us, with peony flowers blossoming all around. Another example found in “The Legend of the Mountain,” is depicted in the act of pilgrimage and transcribing holy text for the dead. Are these actions truly for the dead, or are we exorcising our demons by the process of examining our true self in the act of participating in something greater?
There are many ways to learn and practice Kung Fu, by and large the phrase actually means more than martial arts, but discipline as a whole. Yet, how often do we actually find our way into “it?” How do we know when we’ve reached our path? Whether we go or not, many never find the pavilion lost in the depths. However, catch a glimpse of the pavilion and we may pause, our awakening turning over slowly into growth, growing until we find and reside in paradise. There is no prescribed method to build this experience, but our dreams prove to us that it is possible. When we lose our need for proof the method will naturally reveal its way, there you will find peony flowers and the pavilion in its radiance. Kung Fu teaches us that progress is earned in morsels, bits that create a foundation, one move and one understanding at a time. As we relax more and more in Kung Fu, our passion will emerge to us without beginning, without end, we find the impetus to dive deep within, where we will find true Kung Fu.
With A Beginner’s Heart
The “empty states” can fulfill us where we may be lacking in our own nature, it rounds us out so that greater achievements in life are possible. Where do we find these “empty states?” In Kung fu. When Kung Fu skill has reached a certain level, the practitioner enters a surreal dream-like state, through the application, correction, and reapplication of their moves against their opponent, the practitioner finds an unspoken power that belongs only to them. Many students experience this process. They may have a move they want to use but can’t properly apply it, only succeeding one or two out of ten attempts. Then, suddenly it clicks, and it is like watching a completely different fighter, the process feels like a dream, they find it impossible to explain how they did it. When they try again, they think hard on it, but their thoughts are like a lamp in the darkness, removing the shadows only to reveal nothing. The feeling is lost, and the person returns to the way they were before. Du Liniang journeyed through three separate dreams to find Liu Mengmei, and as not all things truly end, nor are clouds truly empty. How do we know the true nature of Love?
All of humanity search for their dreams, and the dreams and dreamers vary. Some leap off the precipice of waterfalls, traveling a greater realm without obsession, without doubt. They are able to tread in such a way because their hearts have seen their true selves and felt their spirit. The other dreamer rides a storm, without a paddle, without an anchor. They go where the ocean throws them, they have no control. Drifting smaller, never forgetting their obsessions, sleep filled with nightmares, they never awaken to steer.
To find ourselves awakening in the garden of dreams, is to dream without possession, to hold one’s Love without obsession, free from its snares, and free to live between life and death. Life, death, rebirth are an aspect of the Tree Dimensions, truly living is to exist within all three. The Love we find that has no beginning, nor end, the Love that seems to have always been present, that which drives us away from forfeiture and abandonment, is but the sincerity and devotion that we find in the beginner’s heart of hearts.
The True Self
Most of us are strongly restricted by the “realities” of life, once our bodies or minds exhibit the symptoms of a greater issue, be it mental or physical health, it becomes very difficult to correct the problem. Chi practice, coupled with the practice of Kung Fu, allows us to slowly see the root of our problems, with time we begin to get a grasp on the abstract aspects we need to change. We can find Truth without needing to be grounded in reality. Everyone has to potential of purity, purity in their nature, in their hearts. If we are able to activate it, then we have the quality that Mencius and Wang Yangming described as Liangzhi and Liangneng , gaining these skills gives us the skills to expand the breadth of our lives.
4.“良知” good conscious; good knowledge. Having the ability to see, or seek, the positive outcome in a situation.
5.“良能” good capability. Having the ability to act in the same positive capacity. Action tends to be far more difficult than observation.
In Kung Fu training, when the body, heart, mind, and spirit of the practitioner enters the highest state of balance, the individual enters waking a dream. All the troubles and shackles of dreary everyday life dissolve in an instant. The Chi forces we experience begin to transform into tangible wisdom, and the sensations are picked up back into in the body becoming a silent power inside the practitioner’s vessel. In Buddhist tradition, this experience is also referenced to as the discovery of the Buddha Nature, and True Self; the Buddha Nature joins with any environment, and the True Self originates from our deepest roots.
Fighting Without Conflict
Kung Fu is different from UFC and MMA’s athletic combat. The point of combat in the octagon is to knock the opponent unconscious, defeated. This limits what the participants learn from the experience. We treat Kung Fu as a form refinement, a discipline executed with etiquette. The fist extends and stops once it strikes the opponent, we don’t aim for each other’s faces. The Confucian example is demonstrated by his own example when faced with competition, which happened fairly regularly. Confucius was a renowned archer, when it a good mood he would demonstrate his skill to curious crowds and perform tricks that took incredible skill and discipline. Most of all, how to accept a challenge: 揖讓而升，下而飲 . When Confucius was challenged he kept to the tradition of etiquette. Greet the competitor politely and when it ends, spend time with each other, drink tea, chat. The course of competition is not the sole activity of the meeting. The winner is not the one with more points, but he who can “tap the target with his arrow. ” The goal is not to knock your opponent unconscious, but to remove our wasteful traits and weakness and preserve the good through practice and discipline, and refine the beautiful and sublime in our existence. This kind of existence can fulfill the expectations and formality required of “real” life, but is still flexible and unbound, free and knows when to step up to the occasion, and when to close a blind eye to the demand of the rules.
6.A partial quote from Confucius’ Analects, Chpater 3, Line 7. A refined man does not engage in petty disputation, but if he must compete he will not cower. Like a game of archery, bow to one another before you take your bow, when all is said and done, sit and converse over tea. If it comes to conflict, do it with refinery.
7.射不破其蒙皮: Confucius was known to be able to loose an arrow with great speed that could tap a hanging sheet of leather without piercing it.
The process of training teaches us to gage the right amount of stress with relaxation, so that our bodies, minds, and spirits can work in unison, generating a powerful presence of forces that allow us to face even the greatest struggles and disappointments in life. Even when our emotions rocket out of control we can swiftly regain control and settle the dust, we can be independent from the control of our excess passions. We can break free from the shackles of the Five Poisons . This goal of transcendence and being is common in traditional Chinese culture, theatre, and literature. Western theatre and novels consist of very volatile conflict with the Self or the Other with very dramatic consequences. The plot process usually begins with Conflict, leading to Rejection, finding its effect in Destruction, and finally resolved with Reconstruction/Reconciliation where we find the desired conclusion. Expressions such as these find their inspiration from reality, Western theatre has very strong emphasis on recreating reality on stage, differing from the Chinese imagination found in their literature and theatre.
Beauty of Transition
In “Romeo and Juliet” the male and female protagonists’ death is the final solution to quell and end the feud between the two families. The Chinese “The Butterfly Lovers” doesn’t address the end of the feud, because feuds never truly end. Only in fiction do you have peaceful resolutions wrought by violent ends, reality is in constant struggle and battle. After centuries, Christianity and Islam’s religious war has still not ended, and peace is not on the horizon. Romeo and Juliet’s story ends with their deaths, and reality ends with their perceptions. However, Liang and Zhu transform into butterflies that fly away from their grave, this is a reference to Chuang Tzu’s “Butterfly Dream” from “The Unifying.” In the dream, does Chuang Tzu dream that he is a butterfly, or does the butterfly dream that it is Chuang Tzu? Reality and Imagination, whole and empty, what is the difference? From Chuang Tzu’s philosophy there is no separation between the opposite states, emptiness is space, as wholeness is space, reality is space and imagination is also space. Only by seeing the imagined, the ideal, as reality can life reach its full potential.
8.Five poisons originate from the Buddhist concept called “Klesas” in sanskrit, similar to the Seven Deadly Sins. They include: greed, wrath, ignorance, sloth, and doubt.
The Theatrics of Truth
The experience we gain when we treat dreams as real, and a part of our life is different from the current sentiment of “it’s good to have a dream.” The dream in that regard is a wish and a desire and makes us crave success, making people think that as long as they persist they will be rewarded, when in reality those who actually fulfill their dreams are one in a million. In Chinese literature dreams are a realm, a part of reality and not just perceived truths revealed through our imagination. Much like Kung Fu, the effective move is more of an encounter than a quest. When we “encounter” the move, we get a glimpse of the truth, like finding a key. The elusive key allows us to see the deepest and purest meanings, it shows us the basic laws which all things follow. If we can understand the parameters of the key and enact it we gain a true perspective, it teaches us how to approach the Yang side of life, and reach ultimate balance.
A lot of the problems of humanity comes from its pessimism, seeing things from a negative perspective, reacting from the Yin side, starting from a point of emotion, a life from this origin would be foul whether it was rooted in reality, or in one’s imagination. It would make no difference. The fouled perspective is self wrought, the beauty we find in our dreams is because of the honesty and truth that resides in our hearts. If our hearts and minds are not pure, undedicated, then we will never find the higher parameters of knowledge, our dreams will have no beauty.
Not Fighting for Victory
In Chinese literature, the themes of the Real and Imagined, as well as the colorful realms of Truth and Emptiness are best represented in “The Warriors of Zhu.” Within all of us, there is a constant battle of two forces, that of the divine, and that of the monstrous. Their struggle is endless, and we cannot permanently exorcise our inner demons, it shouldn’t be our objective anyway. We should nurture our divine virtues to their highest potential, and transform our inner demons and monsters into deities themselves. Without the monsters, the inner struggle ceases, then there is no pressure, no burden and pain to bear, no growth or perspective to understand what it is to be divine, or positive, or Yang. That is why Confucius praised the classics and their emphasis on “我武為揚 (Wou wu wai yang), “ or, “Progress and self-examination through Kung Fu.” Kung Fu serves many purposes, self-defense, and martial discipline that can allow us to protect our homes and nations, but also as discipline in peace, the real purpose in Kung Fu is growth. The Yijing says, “The Scholar grows daily through taking action, their persistence is their power” (天行健，君子自強以不息). These mantras remind us that to be human means to face struggle, “to err is human.” We will find ourselves controlled by our own emotions and powerless, but only through correcting ourselves, moving towards the positive and the good, does the weakness and darkness inside us become a motivation to drive us to become better. This shows us that there is no question of what is real or imagined, and there is no issue regarding the natures of good or bad. The mistakes we make show us where we are lacking, and only by seeing our flaws and weaknesses do we then know how to advance to the good and find betterment. That is why we say that Kung Fu is not the fight for victory, but rather, a practice of restraint and etiquette. Through Kung Fu we find the foundation to build our inner temples on.
Theatrics, Dreams, and Waking Lives
Shakespeare’s Hamlet tried to be righteous and just, but failed. He tried to be cunning and malicious, but failed. He tried over, and over again to seek revenge and couldn’t bring himself to act, finally he sacrificed himself to succeed. In Chinese theatre, there are not many characters and explosive as Hamlet, the majority are characters who endure in silence. This makes some of us beg the questions, “That’s it? Just like that? No regrets?” Sure, some do have regrets, but some also find it tolerable, because the joy and pleasure we seek while surviving heartache and loss can be actually pleasurable. However, those who feel that joy had in suffering is still suffering will truly suffer.
Culture influences how we think, therefore novels and plays will naturally differ between cultures. Stories written from the viewpoint of Chinese philosophy will be harder for a western audience to accept, in part because they can’t see the world as depicted in Chinese culture.
A Scholar’s Gathering: Songs, Poetry, Growing Art in the Garden
Wang Kar-Wei’s “The Grandmaster” seems to talk about fate and chance encounters, but those kinds of events are not so much accidents, but closer in nature to reunions. Chinese Kung Fu has fallen far from its past glory and it will be very hard for it to reach its watermarks again. The Hollywood consumers also don’t understand, the audience at Canne’s film festivals wouldn’t either, their praises and criticisms come from a different set of values. The many worlds on the Chinese stage, the many universes under one ceiling, the teleportation between space and time with a change of prop, gesture, or a single word. Wells of meaning and emotion emerging in the simple wave of a sleeve can confound the untrained eye. Words spoken or sung as deeply and disciplined as Kung Fu. One punch and one step, one breath out and one in, one man lying and one standing, one move made and one made to deceive, all reside under the basic natural laws of being, and is visible through all experiences. We are the collection of our personal experiences sown in patters on the same tapestry that follows a universal rule.
Kung Fu teaches us to see where we once were, and how we were lacking, to walk as Buddha amongst the world, one step at a time. Within every river, the same moon is reflected, each path reflects the same whole. Finding the path of Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream, or the butterflies’ dream of Chuang Tzu. Like the famous Cook Baoding, who could butcher a bull in one sitting with unspeakable speed and assuredness, facing challenges head-on, pausing only to cut precisely through a difficult moment. This supernatural power cannot be discovered by using knowledge to explain the path, rather it is the act of walking the path as its vindication. This is the path, or Dao, of Kung Fu, this is the realm that lies in Chinese theatre, which non-western theatrical traditions and Kung Fu aspire to.
The Meeting of Yin and Yang
Chinese Kung Fu and theatre both address the nature of the emptiness and wholeness being one in harmony, this concept permeates the culture’s paintings, calligraphy, music, dance, literature, architecture and other philosophies in the arts, and is fused with the philosophical understandings of Chinese culture. It incorporates the Dao, where the focus is not only on human beings or the individual, but also the universe and all that reside in it. The emphasis is on the harmony of my Self with All, not to the separation of I from the world. Kung Fu is the best way to study Dao. Whether our Kung Fu is established or powerful, whether it is to be attained or not only matters if the path is actually taken, or merely appreciated for its beauty. There are multiple observations, disciplines, and paths to find beauty and goodness in life, it only matters that you seek it.
Western theatre adheres to the Three Unities as law in search for the Truth, therefore the world they find falls short of the world that can be, or is. Instead, with this knowledge we observed the pain and struggle of the human nature and spirit, and the incessant pursuit for truth transforms the suffering into obsession, fanning the passions of the human heart. Chinese theatre is like Kung Fu, first comes the marriage of benevolence and etiquette, first we address ourselves, correcting us to respect the peace them, and through discipline we bind our bodies to our hearts and minds so that our actions represent our spirit, within and without. We train and refine our Chi to fuel our Spirit, the Spirit is then returned to the void, like the key we chance upon, they allows us to walk from encounter to encounter. We carry ourselves to approach nothingness, entering the world behind the wall with no cracks. When dealing with Reality we can wash the restrictions of reality away like foam, when we act on the Imaginary we can treat the structureless world like that of Jinaghu as though it had borders. The Jianghu seems to be a created space but does actually hold a place in reality, the Jianghu of theatre may seems to be passionless, but it has its passions. Chinese theatre and Kung Fu are two comparable bodies of Yin and Yang, emptiness and wholeness, imagined and real parts of the singular body of a whole.
Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI