THE LANE OF WOODEN MEN
Six years passed by. Because his heart was focused at revenge, Wu Wei Thien progressed rapidly, especially when he was taught by the abbot of the southern Shaolin Monastelyry, the Venerable Chee Seen. (“Chee Seen” is in Cantonese, and it means Extreme Kindness. In Mandarin , “Chee Seen” is pronounced as “Zhi Shan”.) Wu Wei Thien could break a 7-inch wooden beam, and jump to a height of more than 10 feet.
The more he progressed, the more Wu Wei Thien thought of taking revenge for his father’s death. One day he was sitting beneath the Venerable Chee Seen and expressed his wish to return to Guangzhou to avenge his father’s death that had bothered him for 6 years.
The Venerable Chee Seen said, “Or mi tor fatt. Let wrongs be passed. I thought that 6 years would have erased the blockage in your heart. But you still think of revenge and say that your father’s murder cannot be forgiven. You should know that vicious people like Chiew Thien, heaven will punish them. Why must you still think of descending the monastery to take revenge, and thus add to your own suffering?”
(“Or mi tor fatt” is in Cantonese. In Mandarin, the phrase is “O mi to fo” which means “Amitabha Buddha”. It is often mentioned by Buddhist monks and nuns as well as lay persons to mean “good day”, or “how are you?”)
Wu Wei Thien just prostrated on the floor, but said nothing.
The Venerable Chee Seen, seeing that Wu Wei Thien did not change his intention, sigh and said.
“If this is the case, I don’t want to deter you. According to the rules of Shaolin Monastery, anyone who wishes to descend the mountain, must go through the Lane of Wooden Men. If you insist on descending the mountain, you can try going through this Lane tomorrow.”
(The Lane of Wooden Men was a chamber with 108 wooden dummies that could perform various kungfu attacks. Only skillful Shaolin disciples could go through this lane and pass the test.)
Wu Wei Thien prostrated again and thanked his sifu (i.e. kungfu teacher).
The next day Wu Wei Thien fought his way through the Lane of Wooden Men. But his kungfu, though good, was still not up to the standard of graduating from the Shaolin Monastery. His head was hit by a staff from a wooden man, and he fell on the floor.
The Venerable Chee Seen quickly ordered the mechanism of the Lane of Wooden Men to stop. Wu Wei Thein was carried out. His head was bleeding without stop. But after medication and some rest, he recovered.
Wu Wei Thien knelt before his sifu, the Venerable Chee Seen.
“You need not be impatient, but undergo some bitter training. When you are successful, I shall allow you to return. Otherwise, if I allow you home, you will be defeated and may die at the hands of opponents. You are impatient to take revenge, but your kungfu is still far from the attainment of success. If your kungfu is weak, not only you cannot take revenge, you will also damage the reputation of Shaolin. You are not a stupid person, certainly you understand my “bitter heart” (i.e. my intention and arduous effort.).
Wu Wei Thien continuously knocked his head on the ground to thank his sifu’s advice.
Hence, Wu Wei Thien further used his heart to practice (i.e. he practiced harder and longer). His kungfu progress was even more. The Venerable Chee Seen was very happy, especially when Wu Wei Thien listened to and followed his words. Chee Seen taught his student his specialty, the Flower Set.
Wu Wei Thien was very grateful that his sifu taught him the secrets of the Flower Set. After another two years, he could train and apply the Flower Set very well.
But all the while he was thinking of revenge. To descend the mountain from the Shaolin Monastery, he must pass through the Lane of Wooden Men. There was a saying that “once bitten by a snake, a person is scared of ropes”.
Wu Wei Thein was carried out from the Lane of Wooden Men. Whether he could successfully fight through it was a serious question. So he thought of another way to leave the Shaolin Monastery. But all the routes were guarded by monks day and night. Without Chee Seen’s order they would not let him through.
Wu Wei Thien had come to the monastery for over eight years. He knew all the routes well. He remembered that there was a drainage hole at the back of the monastery, which would enable only a person to crawl through. So he made up his mind to escape the Shaolin Monastery through this drainage hole.
At night, after gathering his belonging and some money which Mui Chooi Fa gave him eight years ago, he crawled though the drainage hole.
When he was outside the monastery, he listened attentively at what was inside. The Shaolin Monastery was quiet without any noise. Facing the monastery wall, he knelt down and made a vow.
“Today I leave the monastery and descend the mountain. If I fail to avenge the murder of my father, and establish the glorious reputation of Shaolin, I would be punished by heaven and struck by lighting.” He then knocked his head on the ground three times and headed towards Guangzhou.
After leaving Guangzhou for many years, and now he was back, he experienced deep emotions. Finding some familiar lanes, he reached the door of his family house, and he wished to see his mother.
He knocked at the door and a stranger came out. Wu Wei Thien was shocked. He found that a different family was occupying his former house. After asking his neigbours, he found out that his mother had died eight years ago, and Miu Chooi Fa and the Fong brothers kept the news from him.
Recalling that his father was murdered, and his mother was dead, and he could not see them, his heart was like pierced by a knife and tears flooded to his eyes.
He found a swallow’s nest hanging from a ceiling, and although the swallow was out, the nest seemed to talk to him. His eyes looked, and memory rose from his body. Scene after scene of eight years appeared before him.
He said to himself, “Even a swallow can be grateful to its father and mother. I am a man, but if I cannot avenge the wrongs done to my father and mother, I am worse than animals.”
Wong Kiew Kit,
10th January 2018, Sungai Petani