Are you familiar with the Wu-Tang Clan? Although I could not tell you the name of even one of their songs, the widely-recognized unfuckwithability of the RZA, GZA and their ilk has not escaped me. Like most white people, I believe that doing almost anything associated with the Wu-Tang Clan will be considered cool by other white people, including making W-shaped hand gestures and/or dating someone with the last name Wu.
But even those more fluent in the Wu-Tang discography may not know that the Wu-Tang Clan got its name from a 1981 film called Shaolin and Wu-Tang. To quote Wikipedia, "The film is about the rivalry between the martial arts schools Shaolin and Wudangquan." Shaolin is what we usually think of as kung fu, and Wudangquan is what we usually think of as tai chi. Which was invented deep in the mountains of northwestern Hubei province in a mountain range called Wǔdang Shān (武当山).
And we went there! Take that, other white people! We went to a place unheard of by fans of or even the Wu-Tang Clan themselves, to a place where to even begin to explain to a local who the Wu-Tang Clan are would be an exercise in futility, yet itself is the birthplace of the Wu-Tang name. How is that not the very epitome of cool? If I'm being completely honest, this is kind of why we went to Hubei in the first place. Beautiful vistas, Taoist temples blah blah blah; essentially we just wanted to tell people that we went there. You can bet your ass I'm informing the next person that even tangentially references the Wu-Tang Clan that I climbed the eponymous mountain.* Also, tai chi was invented there, and that's mildly bad-ass as well.
But street cred aside, it really was beautiful. And completely worth the five-hour train ride from Wuhan. Plus the three hours spent trying to find the actual mountains from the train station (a year in China has trained me to ignore anyone that shouts at me from a strange car attempting to take me somewhere, and yet, at Wudang Shan, that's evidently exactly how you're supposed to get there. We spent a good half an hour ignoring a dozen confused bus drivers). Plus by the time we finally got there it was too dark to head out on the path so we had to spend the night on the mountain. But it all turned out fine because we woke up at the [butt-]crack of dawn and we climbed that sucker in three hours flat, leaving just enough time to barely catch our train back to Wuhan. Isn't it great how the endorphins earned from hiking up a mountain just happen to coincide with the treat-for-the-eyes you get at the top of said mountain?
Also, in the funny English department, the following sign appeared at the parking lot at the base of the tallest peak:
"When you are in the scenic spot, the fireproofing must be recorded in your heart."
And that's exactly what it says in Chinese.
*Thanks to my good friend Henry Smith, I actually own a Wu-Tang shirt. But, in an unbelievable lack of foresight on my part, I failed to bring it on this trip. Sorry, Henry.