Ryu Ryu Ko and the White Crane temple
By: Joost Frehé – IOGKF England OTGKA
IOGKF England student, Joost Frehe, recently visited Fujian province in China where he travelled to one of the temples that could possibly be one of the training locations from Ryu Ryu Ko’s early years. He documents his journey to the temple and some history on this unique location below…
On a recent trip to Fujian province, South-East China, it was planned to stop by at the site that is referred to today by several Martial Arts traditions (mainly White Crane and Okinawa Goju Ryu) the White Crane temple.
Finding the site was not easy due to the scarce information available. The one thing that seemed clear was that the temple was somewhere on Gao Gai mountain about half an hour of a bus ride from Fuzhou city and a similar distance from Pan Yu village.
Gao Gai mountain actually houses a popular public park called Gao Gai mountain park that houses a large monastery the Miao Feng temple, slightly hidden behind the large statue of Guan Yin overlooking the park's lake and valley.
Although the original site’s current buildings can be seen from the entrance of the park today there is no access to the site from the park’s side entrance of the mountain.
About 10 min on a motorbike away, where the high story buildings of the inner city have not replaced the old low build houses yet, lies just off the village high street, a dusty lane that houses a mixture of industry and military administrative zone buildings that gives entrance to another side of Gao Gai.
This is where the Jiu Long An or Nine Dragons temple can be found, right at the start of the mountain road and much smaller than the Miao Feng temple.
It’s clear that this side of the mountain is the forgotten one, with its main road overgrown and obscured. There are small paths leading to the many family graves that are built alongside the road, often overlooking the valleys, which at this side of Gao Gai includes the military airport.
The mountain is said to be 200 m high and after about 40 minutes walk uphill we finally arrive at our destination, a small valley just minutes away from the top of the mountain, with steps leading down to the entry gate that displays the current name of the site Nan Tian Zhao Tian Jun.
The site includes 3 buildings of which include a very small grey building, a smaller red one and the main building overlooking Fuzhou city with probably the best view you’ll get of the city and its bays.
The middle shrine of the main building is the one we were here for, if only to confirm we’re at the site said to have been the training grounds of Da Chong Lin AKA Pan Yu Ba. Pan Yu Ba studied at the temple under Master Qing Ding who taught Shaolin Monk Fist (Luo Han Chuan) here and is said to have come from Quanzhou city, one of the possible original locations of the Southern Shaolin temple, destroyed in the early days of the Qing Dynasty.
As Pan Yu Ba was the teacher of Master Xie Zhongxiang who on his turn, at least according to some researchers, has been identified as one and the very same as Ryu Ryu Ko, the possibility is held open that Ryu Ryu Ko trained at the temple.
A remarkable hypothesis especially because the temple, according to the Flying Crane branch of White Crane gongfu, is said to have specialized in Fang Chi Niang's White Crane boxing, a link that sometimes popularly is brought forward by the Goju Ryu tradition of Karate.
However when Bushi Miyagi Chojun visited the temple in 1915 it is said to already have been in ruins. If the Flying Crane tradition is talking about the same temple, and if their history is to be accurate, it seems the temple being in use in the 1920's possibly suggests the temple where Ryu Ryu Ko studied Shaolin gongfu to be a different site altogether.
The Gao Gai White Crane temple is said to have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. According to the late Master of Whooping Crane, Ruan Dong it was rebuilt in 1985.
According to local workers the site was redeveloped into its current make-over in or around 2008, given its current name Bai He Xian Shi (literally Temple of the White Crane ‘Spirit’ or ‘Master’) in honour of the aforementioned masters, their spirit and traditions.
Author in front of a side view of the Nan Tian Zhao Tian Jun, Aug 2010 (Above)