🇨🇳 Foshan - Wong Fei-hung

December 17th, 2016

We eat lunch at a family style restaurant around a large round table. The meal is warm and the hot broth restores us physically, emotionally, and mentally. When we're done we’re led back out to the cold wet cityscape. We stand outside cowering against the wind for nearly half an hour before the buses arrive. Had I known we’d have so much time I would have tried to go buy coffee at the nearby mall complex. The ride to our next destination is only long enough to tease us about warmth.

We arrive at the Wong Fei-hung Memorial Hall. It’s raining and we are once again huddled under my small umbrella trying to stay dry. We’re finally admitted through the small gate. The guards move to stop us, Ruth and I are the only two westerners in the group and I’m sure they think we’re just joining the crowd. The group leader tells them it’s okay and we’re allowed through the turnstile.

There’s a lot to see here, but the rain doesn’t encourage much exploration. We follow the tour guide who provides a steady stream of Mandarin for us to listen to. We follow the group past some statues and artwork, though the crowd of umbrellas held by the shorter Chinese around us obscures most of our view.

Through another gate there’s a wide long courtyard. We find a tall stage and two actresses are performing some high pitched singing. Older looking men on the sides of the stage strum stringed instruments and hit drums. It’s as Chinese as you can imagine.

The wet benches stand vacant, the small audience preferring to stand to the sides under awnings and umbrellas to watch a short segment of the drama before moving on. I get the sense most people aren’t planning to stick around and watch today.

Further down there’s another gate and a moat-like square pond. A collection of turtles huddle together in the corner as well as the hard shelled creatures are able: not very.

Inside the temple are statues of… gods? There’s different poses and it’s difficult for me to ascertain if it’s one person in many poses or many different people. They tower eight to ten feet tall, some leaning forward ominously. One of the statues has the middle finger of his right hand extended and I wonder if that has a different meaning or if it’s always been a derogatory gesture.

In the chambers beyond a huge bronze statue sits behind an altar. It weighs some impressive amount which is completely meaningless for me to comprehend. The far wall is covered in weapons.

Beyond the temple is a small collection of rooms with information about Wong Fei-hung. He was a famous Chinese physician and martial artist. They made many movies and TV shows about him, though he’s less famous than Bruce Lee. There’s a recreation of his workshop and our new Chinese friends tell us the guide is informing them that the movie portrayed the room as much bigger than it actually was.

Ruth jokes that as a martial artist and a doctor Wong Fei-hung could necessitate his own medicine.

“Here’s a cure for a black eye.”
“I don’t have a black eye…”
“Now you do!”

They give us half an hour to explore, but nearly everyone just wanders to the exit and waits. Once we’re all gathered, we leave and walk down the block towards a small area of shopping complexes.

We meet a small group of school kids who are enthralled with Ruth’s purple hair. The teachers ask if she’ll help them make a short video and Ruth spends the next 20 seconds or so repeating some Chinese with them for a cell phone video. Then they get a group photo together.

“I hope I make the class newsletter,” she says as we continue on our way. We still don’t know what she said in Chinese.

We now have about half an hour before the buses show up to explore this new location. All I want to do is sit and get a hot coffee. We stop at Pacific Coffee and both get a cappuccino. Maybe we should have tried to explore a little bit more of this location, but it’s nice to rest, even if it’s not particularly warm inside the shop.

Back home we walk to town and have a meal of warm noodles. The brisk walking helps us to warm up and the delicious meal provides a pleasant end to a fun, though cold, day.