Many people want to go study in China. We often get questions about how to do this.
There are basically two options 1) pack up and move to China so you can immerse yourself or 2) keep your day job and visit periodically. Either way, the challenges of finding a teacher are similar.
If you just want to go to China and tour the major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, or Guangzhou you should probably just join a tour group. They make certain you get to see the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, Terra Cotta Warriors, the River Li, and so forth. They take care of all transportation, meals, and the minimal amount of interpretation you need.
Or you could just do what I did in graduate school. Two of my friends and I bought a plane ticket to China and showed up with a guidebook and some cash. It was a real interesting adventure.
You see, China is not like Europe, where the average westerner can just get off the plane with a guidebook and easily find their way around. At least in Europe, you can recognize most of the signs, even if you don’t speak French, for example. If you don’t have language training prior to going to China, it is like you are mute, deaf and literally illiterate.
However, most of you reading this are probably interested in going to China to study some aspect of Chinese culture. You will need to plan this carefully. If you can join a small group people who have already blazed a trail, then you will be much better off. They’ll know where to go, who to see, how to travel and have access to interpretation.
If you want to find your own teacher in China, this will require some good planning and a little luck. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Cultural Revolution decimated traditional Chinese culture. For example, if you want to get advanced training in traditional Chinese medicine, finding a good TCM doctor or school is easy. They have them all over the place. However, finding a family lineage trained TCM doctor who integrates Yi Jing based medicine and Nei Dan is a challenge. Those remaining are either very old or, if young, educated by someone who was very old. We haven’t found a single exception to this rule.
Consider a few examples of our teachers:
Master Li (Nei Dan, Philosophy, Yi Quan) is over 90 years old. His teachers were born in the 19th century.
Master Li (Buddhism) is in his 50s. His teacher was over 100 years old.
Grandmaster Chen (Tai Chi) is in his 80s. His teachers were born in the 19th century.
Master Chen (Taoism) is in his 40s. His teacher, High Priestess Li was born in the 19th century.
Dr. Chen (Yi Jing, Feng Shui) is young, in his late 40s, but he was taught by his Grandfather. His system has been passed down in his family for over 20 generations!
Dr. Chen (TCM, Yi Jing, Qigong) is in his 50s. His teachers were born in the 19th century.
In case you’re wondering, they don’t have to be named Li or Chen to be our teacher…
Madame Ye (Taoism, Buddhism) is in her 90s; her teachers were in their 90s.
Master He (Nei Dan, Taoism, Healing) is in his 60s, he learned in secret during the cultural revolution.
Once you’ve found your teacher(s), the second challenge is talking to them. Conversational English or Chinese won’t do. You will need an interpreter who is highly fluent in both English and Chinese. They will also need to know classical Chinese, esoteric classical Chinese and Eastern and Western philosophy. Finally they will ideally be a student and practitioner of the traditional arts.
As you can see, finding a good interpreter may even be harder than finding a good teacher. This is the area where the worst ravages of the Cultural Revolution can be seen. There just are not many young people who are getting the required training to carry on the traditional arts. Those that do are the future gems of Chinese civilization, rare and precious indeed.