Saturday, January 3, 2009


Pamela Hiley; through her dedication to the practice of Taijiquan and Qigong over 30 years, has established many contacts within the Taijiquan and Qigong community in China. Therefore, she felt it auspicious to celebrate her 25 year practice in Norway with a journey to the roots of her inspiration. For this, Pamela personally made a special visit to Beijing to meet with the Directors of the Beijing Taiji Association, the Head of the Beijing Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the leading Taiji Masters in Beijing to assure that the visit by the Centre to China would be a valuable experience for both the students of NTS and the Chinese practitioners we would meet.

The planning process was also aided by the Chinese Embassy in Oslo, which has close contact with the Norsk Taiji Senter. The Embassy connected NTS with Mr. Wang Xinchao of The Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. He helped arrange the tour with Mr. Wang Xianguang (Harry) from Peace Travel in Beijing. 'Harry' was also our valuable guide and interpreter during the two weeks.

With the combined efforts of these people and the organizing committee at the Norsk Taiji Senter, the group was provided with a unique program. Covering long distances, each stop provided a marvellous opportunity for the participants to enhance their knowledge and self development as practitioners of the art of Taijiquan. We were fortunate to meet some of the best representatives from the different styles of Martial Arts, and we were humbled by their willingness to demonstrate and share their art and knowledge with us.

Please enjoy the enclosed video as an introduction and a taste of some of the experiences from our trip to China.

14 March 2008 - Oslo to Beijing

Day 1, the group arrived in Beijing and hit the ground running. We continued running, ‘literally' behind the constantly waving flag of our guide Harry! A sight we learned to keep a close eye on in the extremely crowded places we visited!

We were also warmly welcomed with our first Chinese meal. This meal helped us to acclimate to the custom that each meal began with hot green tea and the end being signaled by the arrival of melon!

After lunch we visited the Temple of Heaven and discovered the amazing park where many people gathered both in the morning and the evenings. It was a fascinating sight to see the varied activities: singing, playing games, exercising, practicing Taiji, dancing! The atmosphere was almost like a village festival, and yet this was the end of an average working day. We felt very comfortable joining in the activates.

“My first meeting with the Chinese on their own turf carried a surprise, for here I met people with their arms stretched out towards the heaven at any hour of the day. I heard powerful shouts of ”huu” in the park, and who cares whether you walk backwards on the street? At last a culture in which I did not stick out when I let my qi flow freely.” Tone Mari

15 March 2008 - Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace

The second day started early with morning practice in the gardens of the Temple of Heaven. The park was humming with a variety of activities already at 7AM.
“The Temple of Heaven, where 'thousands' of Chinese practice their morning gymnastics every day. Some do Taiji, some with swords, others with fans, some do Qigong, while others dance swing, or train with a ball or badminton. As for me, I was most impressed by elderly gentlemen who wrote poetry with water on the pavement and after 10 minutes the beautiful calligraphy faded away.' Pål Jakob
Once inside we found an auspicious spot and began our practice. Soon we were being watched by curious and amazed Chinese. At the end of the practice, we were given an encouraging applaud and nods and smiles of approval. How strange it must be to see visitors practicing in their park. Here were foreigners to Beijing, men, women, young and old, embracing the traditions of China. A way of extending a hand in friendship.After practice we went to the Forbidden City. As we walked through Tiananmen Square we noticed the Olympic Clock ticking away the days and hours to the opening day.
We also noticed an abundance of police and soldiers in the square, keeping an eye on the crowded streets. We approached the narrow walkways leading to the entrance of the Forbidden City, being reminded by the guards lining the walks, that we were not to stop and take pictures, but to keep moving into the 'city'.
The day also included a visit to a silk factory and The Summer Palace of Empress Xushi.

16 March 2008 – The Great Wall, Ming Tombs and Beijing Opera

We rise early to another morning session in the park, but this time we race the expansive park to meet with a noted Wushu Master who will be training for the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in August.It is an honour to be with the group and they welcome us to their practice. Our attempts are greeted with encouragement and acceptance. Their flowing, dance like moves are powerful and inspiring.On our way to see the Great Wall of China, the group was invited to meet with Chen Lianyong, Chen style Taiji Master and director of Nankou Hospital of Changping District of Beijing.
“He tells us that he uses Qi to treat his patients and that his patients learn Taiji and qigong to heal themselves” Magnhild.
We observe his patients and some of the staff watching us from the windows. We are not sure if they are impressed or entertained!
“He selects Bjarte, Pamela's son, to stand in a deep and challenging position. Through Harry, our guide and interpreter he encourages Bjarte to 'Relax, Sink, Breath in the Dantien’, the challenge being able to relax even in a difficult position and that muscle strength is not enough, one needs the power of the mind. Taiji and Qigong are meditation in movement” Magnhild.The Great Wall is great and as we travel through the country side to the spot where we will climb, we see glimpses of its extensive 6000 km domination snaking across the horizon and we understand the significance of its powerful presence.
“It is an extraordinary structure and it appears like a dream, as the wall goes on and on, into valleys and over mountain tops, reaching as far as the eye can see.” Pål Jakob
Before returning to Beijing, we visit the Ming Tombs. In the evening we attend the Beijing Opera. Not knowing the language did not hinder our enjoyment of the performance. We realized that no matter where you live the basic human emotions of love, jealousy, hate, and fear are a part of us all and we easily recognize the situations, needing no interpreter.

17 March 2008 - Lama Temple, Drum & Bell Towers, Hutong

Our fourth day brings us to the Lama Temple in Beijing which is rather auspicious, as it coincides with the start of riots in Tibet, and protests in different cities around the world in connection with the Olympic flame lighting ceremony. Little foreign news reaches us since TV channels go dark when these events are being broadcasted.
We visit the Drum and Bell Towers; Reminders of ancient Beijing. They had functioned as the morning and evening signals in the old days.A bicycle rickshaw tour of a Hutong provides us with a view of the old architecture which is quickly disappearing under the glass and steel of the modern Beijing. We eat lunch in local homes, experiencing a simplicity that most foreigners might find difficult. But the food is superb!The next phase of our program is to delve deeper into the culture and philosophy of Taiji. Therefore, we leave Beijing and travel south to Wudang, Shaolin, Anyang, and Lou Yang which have strong connections to Taoism and Buddhism, where Taijiquan and Kung Fu developed and is still taught in the temples and schools dedicated to them.
A journey to Xiangfan in the evening, provides yet another amazing experience. We travel to the National Airport and immediately realize the number of people in China. Our eyes search desperately for Harry's blue flag in the crowd. Long queues for security and finding the gate made it a relief to finally board the plane!
When we arrive in Xiangfan and disembark onto an empty tarmac we realize we are in the Province and the empty waiting room is a relief.
Traffic rules seem to be interpreted freely and we rumble down the main road into town, sometimes in the middle and other times serving to avoid bicyclists who suddenly change their minds and wish to travel in the opposite direction. Strangely enough the driver seems calm, almost unnerved by the irregular movements of the vehicles on the road.

18. March 2008 - Wudang

Day Five is a journey through the heavens to the top of China, Wudang Mountain, one of the holy Daoist Mountains in Hubei province, Central China. On the highest peak is a temple made of bronze, transported in parts from the capital long before the cable car that we were fortunate to use, was installed.
“Now we are in Wudang Mountain! Trees everywhere are blossoming pink and white. The shapes of the mountains are different from anything I ever have seen before. The mountain seems happy. Here and there are tea fields. In one of these there is a Chinese shaped scarecrow with a straw hat. We got into a cable car (two and two) and had a 40 minute lift over the blossoming tree tops, wild flowers and beautiful mountains. At once at the top I felt the mountain top's quietness.” MariWudang is the area believed to be the birthplace of Taijiquan. The story tells of how the monk Zhan San Feng came upon the idea that ”softness is stronger than hardness”- the main philosophy of Taijiquan. He observed a snake resting in the sun in the courtyard of the monastery. It came under attack from a crane, the snake made repeated evasive coiling moves and the bird had to give up, thus giving San Feng the idea of yielding in fighting to gain the advantage. The story was beautifully depicted as a mural in the entrance to the court yard.
After returning to Earth, we are invited to Ziaxiao Palace (Purple Sky Palace), a Temple built in 1413 and a place with a rich history connected to Taijiquan and Taoism. We have the honour of training with Head Taiji Master Zhong Xueyong, and two of his top students at the Martial Art Institute of Daoism, at the Purple Sky Palace.
It is a wonderful experience to practice in these special surroundings under the fading rays of the day's sun, the chanting and beating of drums coming from the Temple and the excellent guidance of these dedicated Taijiquan practitioners.

19 March 2008 - Xianfan to Luoyang

Our local bus leaves the village late and our driver speeds down the mountain road making each turn an intimate meeting with one's seat neighbour. We are grateful when the bus stops to pick up two Female Daoists and we feel that the rest of our journey is protected. (It is interesting to note that there are mostly women Daoists at the Temple). We do arrive safely, but only to be hurled into another transportation experience - travel by train. We are fortunate that we have a collective group ticket and the station personnel are obliged to herd us through to the correct platform. Chaos occurs as we pile on to the train in a car with open compartments and rows of bunks that reach to the ceiling. We quickly adapt to the system of 'Confucianism' and realize that we are providing entertainment to the Chinese passengers who were surely not used to foreigners accompanying them. However, we soon settle in and find our place among our fellow passengers and share songs and laughs and even a game of Mah-jong.

20 March 2008 – Shaolin

On our journey to Shaolin, we make an unscheduled stop at the Geological Museum which exhibits fossilized animals, flowers and dinosaur eggs, millions of years old, statues of former rulers and a huge jade ship. We are given a quick lesson in the art of selecting quality jade, which we realize will be handy as we exit into an amazingly large shop filled with crystals, stones and jade and cheerful assistants ready to aid us in our purchases.
The Monks at Shaolin have been practicing Wushu Chan since 600 AD. Shaolin is the place where the wandering Indian monk Bodhidharma chose to settle, bringing with him Buddhism around 800 AD. Here developed Chan Buddhism, which has had great influence on the various martial arts from this part of the world. The Chan teaching of pure meditation and silencing the mind yet being fully alert is together with the Daoist conception of Qi energy, the two founding concepts of Taijiquan. But whilst Taijiquan focuses on calmness in movement, the Shaolin Kung Fu is explosive and puts a lot of energy in to hard Qigong practice, as was evident from the deep finger holes made in the tree trunks lining the alleyway to the inner temple complex.“The training room was the last Temple we came to and the stone floor was marked with deep grooves where the monks had stood and trained. Yet another strong experience.” Magnhild
But Shaolin is not only a holy temple. It is also a place for study of the connectedness of the philosophy and Martial Arts. There are permanently more than 30.000. Kung Fu students living and training in a huge number of schools set up by various masters. So, after our tour of the temple and the pagoda forest, the adjoining old grave yard with ashes from past abbots, fighting monks and scholars, we are very fortunate to be invited to train at Dang Fan School.We cause a disturbance as we enter the courtyard of the Dang Fan School and the children, who were having a short rest from their training, gather around to watch as the instructors train us in Kung Fu. The children's faces are bemused as they watch, what they surely thought were rather clumsy moves.
As practitioners of Taijiquan, the movements of Kung Fu are a challenge, but under the masterful tutelage of the four Shaolin Monks we manage to make fairly good progress and we hope a good impression. After the hard training, we are given a unique opportunity to witness the well trained skills of the Shaolin Monks and their students. Some of the children were very young, but their discipline and meditation skills are beyond our comprehension.We are happy to be able to stay in the Shaolin Temple and fortunate to be able to travel a short distance to witness the most amazing outdoor performance of the 'Zen Music Shaolin Grand Ceremony.' The theatre is built into the surrounding countryside, using nature as the background. There are over 700 performers and the sound of the drums, the singing, martial art moves and the visual effects takes one breath away. We sit enthralled, feeling privileged to be in the countryside experiencing a performance that challenges Broadway and London's West End.

21 March 2008 - Chenjiagou

The morning mist covers the mountains but does not hinder early morning practice.
Back on the bus to Chenjiagou Village, which to us is a rather large city, is the home of Chen style Taijiquan. We are given instruction by Master Chen Erhu and his aunt. We are told that she is known as the Queen of Double Swords and one of the Four Flowers of China. We are honoured she takes time to give us a demonstration of her talents, before she has to run off to make a TV program.Wherever we travel, we are always warmly welcomed and this day, our host Master Chen Erhu invites us to his local village where his Grandmother lives. Master Ehru's Grandfather was a 4th generation Chen Master.His grandmother took the visit quite graciously, which was rather surprising, as it must be quite a shock to see 28 foreigners pour through her garden gate and fill her small yard. Our visit also attracted the neighbours and soon more guests squeezed their way in. Master Ehru's Grandmother remains calm and disappears into her house and quickly returns with bags of sweets, which are distributed fairly to guests and neighbours. As a gratitude for her hospitality, we perform a Norwegian song, which is loudly applauded by the neighbours and the children, again language not interfering with the visual entertainment factor. As a parting gift, we present the Grandmother with a typical Norwegian cap!As we leave the garden, we are surrounded by many children who love having their pictures taken, insisting that they see the pictures before we leave.
As we make our way down the path to our waiting bus, we realize we are being followed by Master Ehru's Grandmother, who makes sure we safely arrive at our destination and wave’s good bye. Again, we are reminded that there are some things that cross borders, like the love and concern of a grandmother.

22 March 2008 – Anyang

Day 9 is in Anyang, considered a small town in Chinese context, with approximately 5 million citizens. It is a 3300 year old city, which was capital during the Shang Dynasty. Here is also the archaeological site of the earliest Chinese writing.
As our bus approaches Anyang's People's Park, we notice that the area is filled with people and we hear music and see all the trappings signalling a town festival is in progress. Curious to see what is happening we gather at the windows of the bus and suddenly we see a bright red banner which reads:
”Welcome the Olympics Norway – Anyang Tai Chi Culture Friendship Campaign”
We suddenly realize that the 'festival' is in fact a welcoming ceremony in our honour and we feel awed and humbled. Hundreds of brightly dressed performers had devoted their time and energy to welcome us to their city! As we step from the bus, we feel like rock stars, as people push to be near us and as the beat of drums and a ‘dragon’ weaves a path for us into the Park.Not only Taiji practitioners, but local politicians, business men and I Ching scholars took part in the official welcome. After the obligatory speeches and gift exchange, the colourful performers proudly display their skills with swords, fans, and music. Then we are welcomed to join the festivities and show our Taiji skills. The audience watches in awe as these strange foreigners in white silk Taiji suits show that the ancient Chinese traditions are being honoured beyond their borders. As we come to the 'single whip' a loud applause and shout of joy rings from the crowd.Although only a short time in Anyang, we feel we have made good contacts and friends, many follow us back to our bus and give us hugs and throw kisses as if we were departing family.The following Day we found we were front page news in Anyang newspaper: Here is a short extract:
“China and Foreign Tai Chi experts practice Wushu”
“On the afternoon of March 22nd, 28 people from the Norway Taiji Centre came to the ancient capital - Anyang with their great interest in Chinese traditional Zhou Yi Taiji. They appreciated the performance of Taiji and communicated with experts of Anyang in the People’s Park.”
But our adventure in Anyang did not end in the park! Back on our bus, we were given a police escort to the Museum created from the findings of the excavations of the Zhou Dynasties (1400-1100BC) where there were discovered Turtle shells which showed the first development of Chinese writings. More than 150 000 'Oracle Bones' had been discovered here. Inscriptions made on tortoise shells, using hot pins that made cracks and patterns on the shells, forming the base for divination. This tradition later developed into the I Ching.

23 March 2008 - Handan

Day 10's visit is very special for us, as it is to Handan in Yongian County and practice with Zhang Guosheng, 5th Generation Yang style Taijiquan. The same Yang family form that Pamela Hiley teaches at the Centre in Oslo.“Zhang Guosheng explained that a serious Taijiquan practitioner also studies poetry, calligraphy, painting and medicine, (the five Excellencies) and at the same time it is important to keep practicing the Taiji form.” Hilde Barstad.
Handan is home to Yang and Wu style Taijiquan, and we practiced on the plateau roof of the city’s old fort where the emperor used to look down on his assembled troops.
In the afternoon some of the group visited the Yang family village, where we visited the original Taijiquan Yang family home. There we met a man of the 4th generation and he was pleased to give both a demonstration and instruction. When we demonstrate our form he is elated and beams:
“Old style, very good!”
“...and he corrected Pamela. 'Relax, sink in the Dantian.” Magnhild

24 March 2008 - Beijing

Exhausted by our intensive journey, but elated by the warm welcome and enthusiasm we received wherever we travelled, we return to Beijing. Of course, no trip to Beijing is complete without the traditional 'Peking Duck', a breath taking Kung Fu show, and a visit to the market.

25th March 2008 – Beijing to Oslo

It is our last day, but there is no discussion of how to use the last hours of our journey. We return to our starting point, the Temple of Heaven and a last opportunity to practice Taijiquan with the Olympic troupe.
On the bus to the airport we say our farewells to our hosts who have helped in making the trip a fantastic success. Harry, our guide, is presented with a Norsk Taiji Senter suit and he is filled with gratitude.He confesses that he had not studied Taiji before but we have inspired him. It is strange, here we are, all the way from Norway and we rekindled the love of an ancient Chinese art. We also give a brilliant crystal to Mr. Wang, from the Beijing Taiji Association, as a symbol of the connection we have through our 25 years of practice in Norway.

Final remarks

”The details of the experiences are many, because the trip unfolded as an everlasting climax'. Tone Mari
'This Jubilee tour will live a long time within us’ Hilde Barstad
“The Chinese Jubilee study tour has been a culmination and exchange of energy between Norway and China which will serve as a close catalyst for all the dedication and practice laid out as a tapestry in Norway during the past 25 years.