Martial Arts Altar at the Golden Lion Academy

martial arts altarThe Martial arts altar at the Golden Lion Academy is a Heaven and Earth Altar, it is built to honour traditional deities and pay respect to the spirits of our ancestors. A photograph of the father of the Tsui-Po brothers (Dai Sifu Pier Tsui-Po, Si Gung Charles Tsui-Po and Si Gung Richard Tsui-Po) is situated on the left hand side. Food and drinks serve as offerings.

 The incense also serves as an offering and as an aid in prayer. It is believed to purify the surroundings by clearing the air of evil spirits. The ashes represent impure air that sinks while the smoke represents pure air that rises. This symbolizes the separation of pure from impure – the refinement and purification of internal energies. It is also a symbol of the human body being the meeting place between heaven and earth: as the smoke rises and the ashes fall, we make the connection between earth (yin) and sky (yang).

On the right hand side of the Golden Lion altar, stands a statuette of Guan Gong, also known as Guan Yu. Born in 120AD, he is the epitome of loyalty and righteousness. He was recruited by the warlord, Liu Bei and together with Zhang Fei, they formed a civilian army that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty. Although not related, they formed a close relationship as blood brothers. There is a picture of them situated in the middle section of the altar. All three are vital figures in Chinese martial arts, representing courage, bravery and strength – important qualities for practitioners to aspire.

Guan Yu’s appearance is distinctive. His red complexion and long beard stand out immediately, as does his unique weapon that never leaves his side – a crescent shaped blade mounted on to a long handle, known as the green dragon crescent blade (guandao), which was purported to weigh 88 catties (49.5kg). His red face is borrowed from opera representation where red faces depict loyalty and righteousness. It is also said to be a manifestation of his righteous anger. In later centuries, Guan Yu became a Chinese deity and was given the name Guan Gong.

Situated under the main altar is Tu Di Gong, the Earth God or God of wealth and merit. He is worshipped by most Chinese and is also commonly located below the house door. They make prayers to him for wealth and wellbeing. In China, every village has a shrine to the Tu Di Gong. Villagers turn to him in times of drought and famine. “Gong”, meaning “grandfather” reflects his close relationship to the common people.

Finally, on either side of the altar, hang two plaques or couplets as they are known. Couplets, as the name implies, come in pairs. They consist of two lines of four Chinese characters each. Combined, there are eight characters, “8” being the Chinese lucky number. The wordings are wise saying, philosophical in nature. On the left hand side, the characters say, “bai ren cheng jin”. Literally translated, “one hundred patience becomes gold”. On the right, it says, “hou lai ju shang”. Literally translated, “last to come, is placed at the top”.

It is said, “a picture tells a thousand words”. These eight simple characters on our martial arts altar at the Golden Lion Academy spell a thousand words. Our interpretation of these wise sayings would be that, in anything that we set out to do in life, with patience and perseverance, we will reap the rewards. Even if we start late, we can still achieve our dreams. What better location to place these couplets, than at the Golden Lion Academy, where, clearly, by following these sayings, we will perform well and make significant achievements in our journey of Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Dim Mak.