While Gu Yu was feeling frustrated and dispirited, little did he know that his girlfriend was turning Shaolin Temple upside down on her end.
Shaolin Temple, the Scripture Room.
The Scripture Room was revamped thirty years ago. Being a major tourist spot in the temple, it was open for visitation on ordinary days. The three-story building had a total area of over 600 m^2 and was essentially a modern library whose collection was categorized into "Shaolin Temple", "Religion", "Philosophy", "Social Science", etc. Also found in the building were multiple sections including reading rooms, storage rooms for treasured scriptures and texts, rooms for ancient books, and so on.
Because of the ceremony today, all monks with official titles had gone off to attend the event, leaving behind a single monk as the doorkeeper.
Xiaozhai climbed straight onto the second floor from outside, where the spacious rooms were completely deserted. With her face covered, she walked furtively around and was mostly disappointed.
"Where's the sweeping monk 1 ? Or Yab-Yum? Or Durga? How come there's nothing here?" she mumbled her complaints. She couldn't help it, for apart from the tall bookshelves and rows upon rows of scriptures and classics, she found nothing. What was more, she saw a multimedia electronic board hanging on the wall of the main hall, which was showing flickering commentaries in PPT slides.
'Come on! You're THE Shaolin Temple and the birthplace of the School of Chan! Modern gadgets like this just look wrong!'
Shaking her head, she took a few turns along the corridor and arrived at a special small hall.
Xiaozhai's face lit up as her eyes landed on a two-meter white jade reclined Buddha displayed in the center of the main hall. The figure had delicate features and graceful lines. It was lying on its side on a lotus bed. Right next to the reclined Buddha, though, was a closed wooden door and the plate on it said "Ancient Book Room".
"Amitabha! Excuse my intrusion!"
She cupped her hands at the reclined Buddha, as if she actually meant any of it. Immediately after that, she swirled around, jumped half a meter up off the floor and smacked the security camera above the door, which squeaked, creaked, and gave up.
She then leaned on the wooden door and pressed her palm against the lock. "Clack!"
This Ancient Book Room was a restricted area of the Scripture Room and had been equipped with a special lock, which required two key-holders to turn the keys in unison to unlock the door. The problem was solved by her sheer force, though. She pushed the door open and walked happily in.
Once inside, she saw more books. Looking around, the shelves were filled with vicissitudes of history and the only existing copies from various dynasties. The most spectacular piece lay on a shelf with a tag "Song Dynasty block-print edition, six hundred volumes of Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra". It was the treasure of the Scripture Room.
Xiaozhai took no interest in any of these. She ignored all the scripture scrolls and focused only on the secret records of martial arts and skills.
"Sitting Positions of Twelve Statues."
"Artistry of Bodhi Saber."
"Artistry of Dapu Gate Staff."
She scanned the shelves one row after another. Suddenly, she stopped her cruising and drew out a yellow and timeworn ancient book. The title on the cover read " Yijin Jing 2 ".
"Tsk, so this book does exist for real!"
Xiaozhai was immediately intrigued. This book was somewhat of a celebrity, especially after being depicted in numerous fictions, TV dramas, and films, which had made it a legend.
Typing the name into google, the results came back with every version of "Yijin Jing" there was. It was impossible to tell which ones were genuine, and naturally, Shaolin Temple had never made the actual content public.
With great curiosity (or a heart for gossip), she flipped the book open. The opening line said, "According to Buddha Sakyamuni himself, those to reach the spiritual state and become immortal need two fundamental properties initially, which are refining and shedding… by refining, we refer to the cleansing of one's bone marrow, and by shedding, we refer to the change of one's tendons."
That was pretty much self-explanatory and she read on.
"The word 'Yi' describes the way of Yin and Yang, which means 'change' in itself. The change of 'Yi' is the change of Yin and Yang, which in turn lies in men themselves. Live a quiet life, letting things take their own course, and one could play Yin and Yang on their palm…"
Xiaozhai scratched her chin. 'Am I reading a Buddhist classic? A Buddhist classic is discussing Yin and Yang with its readers?'
After that, the text only amazed her more and she was having a hard time believing her eyes.
"Of a human body, the internal organs affect essence and spirit internally, while all the limbs and bones affect tendons, bones, and muscles.
To change the tendons, the fascia needs refining first, which mainly depends on Qi-refining. However, most people does not know about fascia, which is not the lipid membrane, but the one attached to tendons. The lipid membrane is a substance in the body cavity, whereas the fascia wraps around bones.
To learn this method, one must start from the tangible things so as to facilitate the intangible part… the tangible body must be equipped with intangible energy. The two had to support one another without disagreement. Only then could one obtain an indestructible body…"
Xiaozhai finished the introduction in no time and was stunned—that was unbelievable! The ancient people a thousand years ago had known about membranes already???
She was well-equipped with historical anecdotes of Taoist community, but much less familiar with its Buddhist counterpart. The most commonly accepted version was that "Yijin Jing" was the work of Bodhidharma himself. However, from what she just read, that claim was full of bullshit!
Be it Yin-Yang, spirit, Qi, and essence, or the tangible body and intangible energy… they were all Taoist concepts!
She turned a few more pages. It was a considerably thin pamphlet and a dozen pages were filled with theories. When it was time to talk about the actual practice, the section turned out to have been lost, as if someone had torn it off on purpose.
"There are some pretty nasty secrets here in Shaolin. Well, scratch that, it's the entire Buddhist community…" she muttered to herself, her eyes glinting.
Let's make clear the timeline first. Buddhism was introduced to the eastern countries in Han Dynasty, when Wei Boyang wrote his "The Kinship of the Three, in Accordance with the Book of Changes", introducing the theory of Jindan for the first time in history. During the North and South Dynasties, Dharma came to the east and when time came to Tang Dynasty, Xuanzang carried out his westward journey. It was by this time that Buddhism had been completely localized, establishing the ten schools.
After that, Lü Dongbin brought Buddhist theories into Taoism and laid foundation for the system of Jindan. Quanzhen was established in Song Dynasty, making Jindan the orthodoxical practice of the country… and there was this strange "Yijin Jing", which was claimed to be a Buddhist work, but was filled to the brim with Taoist theories...
Xiaozhai didn't know what to make of it. She simply took out her phone, snapped a few pictures, ignored the missed call from her boyfriend, and briskly turned it off again.
After returning the book to the shelf, she was about to take another tour around when she heard thumping footsteps outside.
A big, plump monk in a yellow robe rushed hastily up the second floor. Guarding the door all by himself, he was having a good time drawing cards in a mobile game when he looked up in passing and panicked. One of the monitors had gone black; it was the one showing the most valuable Ancient Book Room.
After reaching the second floor, he did not check the camera, but ran straight towards the room.
The tightly locked wooden door opened at his touch. The monk jolted. When he saw the window to the right was wide open, he realized a thief had got in.
He ran to the window right away, just in time to see a masked figure descending swiftly like a swallow.
The monk was momentarily puzzled, feeling as if he had entered a wrong time period. 'What year is it now, there are still cat burglars around?' It only took him a second to come to himself, when he started yelling like an imbecile, "Thief! There's a thief!"
"One should think of Avalokitesvara, whose sound is as the cloud's and the drum's, who thunders like a rain-cloud, possesses a good voice like Brahma, (a voice) going through the whole gamut of tones... He who possesses the perfection of all virtues, and beholds all beings with compassion and benevolence, he, an ocean of virtues, Virtue itself, he, Avalokitesvara, is worthy of adoration."
Inside the Heavenly Kings Palace Hall, Shi Mingzong, the monk officials and the devotees were still chanting. They were at the last bit of "The Universal Door" and would finish in two paragraphs. At that moment, a commotion started from the back.
The hubbub overpowered the chanting of the scripture and reached all the way to the ears of Shi Mingzong, who turned his head and darted a look. The temple supervisor also frowned and had to stand up to check.
"What's been stolen? How come there's a thief?"
"I think it came from the back. What's going on?"
The tourists standing outside heard the fat monk's shout loud and clear. Some of those already bored to death were instantly intrigued, and turned their heads in unison to look.
Across the vast courtyard and between the shadows of the tall trees, a figure jumped down from a building and landed safely on the ground. The figure spun around, ran briskly around the Scripture Room like a light-footed cat, and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
The guarding monks filed out from either side of the hall and chased the figure into the back.
"Who was that female Bodhisattva? It was very bold of her to break into Shaolin Temple at night!"
"How do you know it was a she?"
"The hairstyle, obviously! Damn, this trip is so worth it. Never thought there are still wuxia characters around nowadays!"
Everyone was talking at the same time, all exhilarated. What had just happened was worth bragging for a whole year...
By now, the night had set in and lights were on in the temple. Xiaozhai followed the flagstone path, walking casually, and would glance back every now and then.
The monks chasing after her were running their guts out, but could never shorten the ten-meter distance between them. One small step felt like the other side of the universe. They pursued for a bit longer when someone said suddenly, "Senior Brother, I think she's running into the back mountain."
"The back mountain?"
The one leading the team was happy to hear that. "Call the Warrior Monk School! Ask them for help!"
At the back of Mount Song was Shaolin Temple's Warrior Monk School. It used to be an institute specialized in training warrior monks, but had been transformed into a martial arts school of sorts nowadays.
The guarding monks were mostly graduates of that school. They contacted the latter right away and asked for backup.
Momentarily, the silent back mountain erupted into a hubbub with shouts through the roof. As many as over twenty shaved heads started searching the mountain with weapons such as wooden sticks at hand.
These men spent their days practicing martial arts. With little opportunity to burn out their excessive energy, they were deadly bored when the news of a night burglar arrived. Well, the group was formed in no time and they were ready to search the map.
"There, over there! You lot, go have a look!"
"How many were there? I heard there was more than half a dozen? Man, that's a pack!"
"The thieves these days are so bold. They even have the balls to rob this place. Wait till I catch one. I'll make him… hey, there!"
One of them was sweeping the grass with his stick when he let out a sudden shout and pointed into a direction. The others turned to look—a slim figure had indeed flitted past.
A teenage monk was the closest. Hot-headed, he rushed near on his own.
"Stop running! Stop there!" he yelled as he ran after the figure. The thief seemed to have recognized the green in his voice and stopped a few steps away, then turned back to look.
"Oh my, a cute little monk."
Gaping, the young monk watched the person drift towards him like a spirit. The eyes brighter than stars checked him out and the person shook her head. "A little too rough, though. My Old Gu is much fairer and smoother… I'm not fighting you. Go play somewhere else."
With that, the person drifted away, still in that spirit-like movement, and disappeared into the woods.
Dumbstruck, the young one watched as she moved out of his sight.
He had been here for three years and had found everything they taught rather phony. He had thought about quitting, but could not make up his mind. However, right there and right then, he felt his life was hopeful again.
Activating her energy and leaping out, Xiaozhai made a few light taps against the ground with the tips of her toes and had distanced herself from that crowd within no time. She was going to leave the mountain but seemed to have lost her way. After she left the permanent residence of the temple, she broke into a quiet grove.
She took a brief moment to find the direction, turned southward, and resumed her dashing.
She had traveled half the country just to observe the dynamic of the Buddhist community—and still hoped she could run into a few capable masters. As it turned out, what she found had disappointed and frustrated her, for the Buddhist community was even more extravagant and boastful than its Taoist cousin. With all the unrestrained desires and their craving for worldly wealth, how could anyone expect any of them to reach the enlightenment state?
Fortunately, she had learned something—that "Yijin Jing" was very strange and worth looking into.TL/N: a character from Jin Yong's wuxia novel "Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils", in which a mysterious old monk who has been sweeping floor in the Scripture Room of Shaolin Temple 40 years turns out to be the mightiest kungfu master in the book. TL/N: literally: "Muscle/Tendon Change Classic", a manual containing a series of exercises and coordinated with breathing said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently.