(reproduced from https://shaolin.org/general/legends-of-southern-shaolin/legends30.html)
When soft breeze blew, the bamboo made soft sounds. Photo taken from http://pictures-and-images.com/content/bamboo-grove-photo.html
One day after kungfu training, Li Chooi Peng went to the back hall of the monastery. She looked up at a ceiling and saw a swallow feeding its young. It reminded her of her mother feeding her. Her desire to go home to see her mother arose in her heart.
She went to see her sifu, the Venerable Chee Seen. Kneeling down she said, “I have ascend the mountain (i.e. have learned at the Shaolin Monastery) for more than 6 years. For such a long time, I have not seen my mother, and am now thinking of her. I long to return home to have a look. I wonder whether sifu would allow.”
Chee Seen said, “This is your filial heart. How can I deter you? Moreover, you are already 14 years old. There is a difference between male and female. If you remain in the monastery, it may not be convenient. However, according to the rules of the monastery, for those training martial art, if they want to descend the mountain to return home, they must go through the Lane of Wooden Men.”
Li Chooi Peng’s face revealed some concern. In these few years at the Shaolin Monastery, she had seen some sihengs (i.e. senior kungfu brothers) being hit by the Wooden Men, and had to be carried out.
Seeing her expression, Chee Seen smiled gently. He consoled her and said, “Your kungfu has reached a singular stage. I am sure you could fight your way through the Lane of Wooden Men. I’ll take this opportunity to have a look.”
The next day Li Chooi Peng would fight through the Lane of Wooden Men. Chee Seen asked monks to prepare kungfu medicine in case of any injuries due to being hit or felled and being cut by sharp blades. These Wooden Men were devised according to various ways of attacks. If ones kungfu was not extraordinary, he would be injured by the Wooden Men.
Li Chooi Peng entered the Lane of Wooden Men. She employed her best, focusing on defending against the Wooden Men, fighting and moving forward, and eventually she went through the Lane.
The Venerable Chee Seen was very happy. He said, “You have successfully completed your kungfu study. Now you can go home.”
Thinking that she would soon see her mother whom she had not seen for many years, two rows of warm tears flowed from her eyes. She knelt down and continuously knocked her head on the ground to thank the Venerable Chee Seen.
Chee Seen said, “There is no limit in learning kungfu. There are many capable and skillful people in the world. You must never be self-satisfied. After returning home, you would have entered ‘streams and lakes’ (i.e. the martial world). Whatever tasks you meet, you must handle carefully.” He then gave her 20 taels of silver, and accompanied her down hill.
Humans were not grass and trees. Who didn’t have feeling? Li Chooi Peng and her sifu had been together for six years. Now they were to be separated. Li Chooi Peng felt very sad. She let out her emotion and cried loudly, kneeling on the ground and knocking her head without standing up.
Although the Venerable Chee Seen was a man outside the phenomenal world, having discarded ‘five dust and six thoughts’ (i.e. all emotions of society), he was still moved. He bent his body forward, gently tapped on Li Chooi Peng’s shoulder, and said.
“So young in age. Why do you feel so touched? In future there will be a lot of opportunities for us, sifu and student, to meet. Quickly stand up. Your kungfu brothers will laugh at you.”
Li Chooi Peng stood up and dried her tears. “Sifu,” she said, “I’m going to leave. Please take good care of yourself.”
“Good, good. You must take care on the way. When you meet your mother, please send my regards.”
Following her sifu’s advice, Li Chooi Peng dressed like a man. After seven days, she arrived at Guangdong. But ‘heaven did not make things beautiful’ (i.e. the weather was bad). It had been raining continuously for four days. Li Chooi Peng could only stay in her inn and chat with the inn-owner.
On the morning of the fifth day, the rain stopped. Li Chooi Peng took the opportunity to go out for a walk. She looked east and west (i.e. everywhere), and soon forgot her route, and walked to the countryside.
The rain had just passed, and the atmosphere was fresh. The road was besides some rice field, wild flowers smiled at her, old trees reached the sky, and the green shade of the surrounding was like the open tail of a peacock. Looking at nature is like seeing a beautiful painting. In such a surrounding, Li Chooi Peng’s heart was extraordinary bright and cheerdul. Viewing the distant hills, testing the water of a stream, lingering beneath some shady trees, Li Chooi Peng forgot to return home.
She went forward, and vaguely heard the ringing of copper bells amidst the forage. Li Chooi Peng heard it, and its sound cut her ears like a blade. She went further forward, and soon a temple appeared.
The temple was beautiful and majestic, and on top was hang a board with three crystalline words, “Silent Cultivation Nunnery”.
Li Chooi Peng wanted to enter the nunnery to have a look, but the door was close, and there was no one around. Besides the nunnery was a small lane. She followed the lane and reached the back of the nunnery.
At the back there was a small garden. There were green bamboo plants at the sides of the garden. When gentle breeze blew, the bamboo made soft sounds. The door of the garden was also close, so Li Chooi Peng could not enter.
Then sounds of “herit” was heard, with much force behind the sounds, like someone training kungfu inside the garden. Li Chooi Peng was curious. She employed her art of lightness, and jumped over the wall, hiding herself behind some bamboo plants.
She saw a nun of middle age practicing kungfu. Her movements were elegant with internal force. When she saw the nun performing a beautiful movement, Li Chooi Peng involuntarily shouted, “Good”.
The nun immediately stopped her kungfu practice. Li Chooi Peng realized her mistake and swiftly jumped over the wall wanting to escape. But the nun jumped over the wall after her, and shouted, “Stop running!”
Li Chooi Peng stopped, and turned around to face the nun, who eyed her suspiciously.
“I was just passing by this place,” Li Chooi Peng explained, “and was captivated by its beauty. I heard someone practicing kungfu, so my curiosity was aroused, and I jumped over the wall to watch. Actually this was unbecoming of me. I didn’t know that this would encroach on ‘sitai’. May sitai be generous like a broad vigorous stream, and forgive my ignorance in intruding.”
(“Sitai” meaning lady kungfu master, was an address to someone senior.)
Seeing that Li Chooi Peng was bright and elegant, and did not look like a ruffian, the nun said, “It looks like you have practiced a few years of kungfu. Causally perform some kungfu movements to justify what you have said.”
Li Chooi Peng held her hands in greeting, and said, “Little person here is ignorant, and has made sitai angry. How can little person repeat the mistake.”
“Don’t you want to leave this place?”
Li Chooi Peng thought to herself, and dared not refuse. So she performed a kungfu set.
The nun was surprised. Li Chooi Peng’s kungfu movements were like those of her kungfu. Li Chooi Peng’s stance and techniques were also first class.
So the nun asked, “From whom did you learn your kungfu?”
“I’m a student of the Venerable Chee Seen of the Shaolin Monastery.”
The nun grasped her palms together and said, “We came from the same root. Water and fire almost mixed. I didn’t show manners to a guest, please excuse me. The Venerable Chee Seen is the teacher of my distant uncle, Wen Leong Yuk. Since I came here, it has been many years since I saw the Venerable Chee Seen. How is his health?”
“Wen Leong Yuk is my siheng. I am his simui Li Chooi Peng.”
(“Siheng” meant elder kungfu brother, and “simui” meant younger kungfu sister.)
Seeing that Li Chooi Peng dressed up as male, the nun was surprised. “Simui Li Chooi Peng?”
Li Chooi Peng understood what the matter was. She took off the cloth that covered her head, revealing a flow of black shining hair. She also told the nun that her sifu advised her to dress like a man.
Wong Kiew Kit
12th January 2018, Sungai Petani