The entire history of Daoism centered on this mountain all the way from Laozi's main disciple, Yin Xi, through the beginning of ritual Daoism with the Five Pecks of Rice sect and Zhang Daoling, outer and inner Daoist alchemy with Chen Poduan, and into the present. The peak of Wudang is surrounded by seventy-two other peaks all leaning toward the center as if bowing in obesiance. We had many incredible experiences here where several strands of our movie all came together.
Many wild medicinal herbs grew and were collected on Wudang as can be seen from the pictures in the hotel area. From there, two paths diverged up the mountain. The one to the right led to ancient temples built into the sides of vertical cliffs some two thousand feet above the lake below. The path to the left went to the summit where there is an active Daoist monastery.
Below the hotel area was the Purple Cloud Palace with the two Dragon and Tiger Palaces protecting it from the front. The Dragon and Tiger Palaces contained a memorial to the sacred turtle. These were very large sculptures of turtles in the center of a watchtower that was open to the Four Directions. The turtles had large stone tablets coming out of their backs. They could also be found in watchtowers in the Cliff Temple area as well as in the White Cloud Daoist monastery in Beijing.
As usual, there are several levels of meaning associated with the symbolism of these turtles:
(1) The turtle is the sacred animal of the North
(2) The North is the direction of the Big Dipper and the North Star, which was seen in ancient times to be the center of Heaven with all other stars and planets revolving around it (much like the 72 peaks leaning in toward the summit peak of Wudang
(3) The Dipper was where the supreme diety of ancient Chinese times lived
(4) In the earliest times he was called Taiyi, or the Great One, later he was called Xuanwu (or Mysterious Firmness), the god of the North who then became resident deity of Wudang
(5) This word wu/firmness originally represented the firmness with which the Source of All Things as Dao gives life and commands them into being out of Divine Will
(6) The stone tablet rising out of the turtle's back represents these commands descending from above
(7) The same word "wu" also means "martial" and gives rise to the implication that Wudang Mountain is a martial arts mountain
(8) While Taijiquan most likely originated from here through the modifications on earlier hard style Chinese martial arts by the Daoist Zhang Sanfeng
(9) Wudang is more aptly a Daoist mountain as signified by the word xuan/mysterious in the name of the god of the North (Xuanwu)
(10) Xuan is an ancient code word for Daoist thought and practice since its inception
(11) This same turtle is thought to be the bearer of Chinse Yin-Yang philosophy in that markings revealing this thinking were discovered by the first Chinese mythical emperor, Fuxi, from the back of a turtle as it rose from the muddy Yellow River. As the Daoist have always said, "the clear understanding rises upwards from the depths while the turbid and obscure sinks down into the depths
In the Purple Cloud Palace, we met an old healer who claimed to know what modern Chinese medicine has lost: that all things are connected like cells in one organism and that if something goes wrong with any given part, there will be trouble in all other parts as consequence. We struck a great rapport with him and he gave us not only medicine that cleared a respiratory infection I had picked up but also a book on his secrets that I hope to translate one day.
It took us two days to reach the Golden Summit of the mountain. Another name for this peak is the Heavenly Pillar, which is also the name of an acupuncture point on the back of the neck (Bladder 10). I discuss this meaning at length in my "Pointnames" book. When we finally arrived, I felt like something came down out of the sky and illuminated me with understanding of the purpose of the mountain with its temples all situated with the most lovely Fengshui. This was to bring down harmony and balance from Heaven to the Earth for All Things. We realized these objectives had much to do with world peace, so we made plans to return. The fact is, I don't think I will ever leave!
Several of the places depicted in these pictures are names of acupuncture points. These include names for the North Star such as "The Great One," the name of the Supreme Daoist God and "Heavenly Pivot," both names for Stomach 23; and "Purple Palace," the name of Conception Vessel 19.
Acupuncture pointnames alluding to mountains, especially Daoist mountains, include "Jade Pillar," the name of Bladder 10; "Posterior Summit," the name for Governing Vessel 19; "Upper Summit" and Upper Range," names for Governing Vessel 20; and also "Facing the Summit," the name for Governing Vessel 1.
Acupuncture pointnames using the word "dragon" include "Dragon Window" (Small Intestine 16); "Dragon Abyss" and "Dragon Spring (Kidney 2); and "Cavern of Dragons and Tigers (Gv1). Acupuncture pointnames using the word "tiger" include "Tiger Mouth" (Large Intestine 4) and "Flying Tiger," an alchemical image (Triple Heater 6).
You can learn more these names in relation to the acupuncture system in Dennis' book ˇ§Energetic Physiology in the Acupuncture Pointnames.ˇ¨
The four-sided stone gate holding the turtle with the stone rising out of its back is called the "Mysterious Gate" and is related to the "Spirit Gate" of Heart 7. To learn more about this acupuncture pointname and the importance of the spirit to healing in ancient Chinese medicine see the Spirit Road section under Beijing in the China 2005 section of this website or for the complete explanation, see