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Wudang Mountains

The Wudang Mountains (武当山), also known as Wu Tang Shan or simply Wudang, are a small mountain range in the Hubei province of China, just to the south of the manufacturing city of Shiyan.

In years past, the mountains of Wudang were known for the many Taoist monasteries to be found there, monasteries which became known as an academic centre for the research, teaching and practise of meditation, Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Taoist agriculture practises and related arts. As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 AD), the mountain attracted the Emperor's attention. During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), the first site of worship - the Five Dragon Temple - was constructed. The monasteries were emptied, damaged and then neglected during and after the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976, but the Wudang mountains have lately become increasingly popular with tourists from elsewhere in China and abroad due to their scenic location and historical interest. The monasteries and buildings were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The palaces and temples in Wudang, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming Dynasty (14th - 17th centuries), contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Noted temples include the Golden Hall, Nanyan Temple and the Purple Cloud Temple.

Wudang martial arts
According to legend, Zhang Sanfeng (张三丰), is the originator of Wudangquan generally and Taijiquan specifically. He was said to be inspired by a fight he witnessed between a pied magpie (also said to be a white crane) and a viper. Wudangquan advocates the cultivation of morality and fostering of nature in conjunction with physical training.

In kung fu legend, Wudang is often associated with the jian, or sword, much as Shaolin martial arts are commonly associated with the staff. The sword techniques were again supposedly created by Zhang Sanfeng, and as with many arts associated with Wudang are based around internal and soft techniques, avoiding direct clashes with the opponent and instead relying on quickness and borrowing the opponent's power.

The Hall of Yuzhen is the cradle of Wudang kung fu. In 1417, Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhudi (朱棣) decreed Wudang to be the "Grand Mountain" and ordered the construction of the Hall of Yuzhen for Master Zhang Sanfeng.

On January 19, 2003, Wudang Mountain's 600-year-old Yuzhengong Palace was accidentally burned down by an employee of a martial arts school. A fire broke out in the hall, reducing the three rooms that covered 200 square metres to ashes. A gold-plated statue of Zhang Sanfeng, which was usually housed in Yuzhengong, was moved to another building just before the fire, and so escaped destruction in the inferno.

The third biannual Traditional Wushu Festival was held in Wudang Mountains from October 28 to November 2, 2008.

Wudang martial arts in popular culture
Wudang martial arts are featured prominently in Chinese martial arts films, especially in the Wuxia genre of film and literature. Wuxia writers such as Louis Cha and Liang Yusheng have created a fictional martial arts sect known as the Wudang Sect in their works. For example, an ending scene of the famous movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Taiwanese director Ang Lee was set at the Wudang monastery, although not actually filmed there. In some Wuxia films about the Shaolin Temple, characters employing Wudang martial arts are featured as Shaolin's competitors.

It is in reference to this type of film that the American hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan named themselves. In many martial arts movies, however, actors portraying Wudang practitioners are also found in heroic or neutral supporting roles.

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