A bad Master


After ten years apart, I found Grand Master Lu Ping unchanged. His long hair turned white by the passing of one hundred and nine winters still styled after the traditional Taoist fashion, like a bun on his head. In one hand he held his old pipe, carved out of the clavicle of a brigand who crossed his path 84 years ago; in his other hand was his iron-bamboo cane (1), undulating and deformed by the knots in the wood, from which hung a squash-gourd (2). As he agitated his cane, a faint clicking noise came from the bracelets of human bones that ornamented his frail wrists. He wore them like trophies and tales of the lonely, noble wandering vigilante terrorizing the bandits and the corrupt mandarin officials along the Sino-Vietnamese border came to mind.

Long ago, we had passed several long, sleepless nights together - lost in conversation that only fading coals and empty wine gourds could conclude. He was there before me, the old Taoist monk with his childish smile, and his eyes scouring the depths of my soul as always. His calm and comforting voice brought me back to the moment:

"My disciple, what have you done in Occident with your Kung Fu? Tell me, but first answer my questions: do you still not give explanations when you teach?"

"No Grand Master, it's rather the opposite: I lose my breath in a never-ending torrent of explanations for my student."

He stopped pouring tea.

"But do you still insult them?"

"No Grand Master, I laud them with compliments."

His thick, curly white eyebrows came together in a frown, and his gaze ever inquisitive:

"But, do you still kick them in their behind when they act foolish?"

"No Grand Master, I no longer dare."

He sighed and looked into the distance...

"So you've become a bad Master. We will have to wait a long time before we have a Grand Master in the West."


Tales of Grand Master Nam Anh, 1999


(1) Iron-Bamboo: A piece of bamboo aged and treated over 50 years by various methods, making it as hard as iron while remaining light.
(2) Squash-Gourd: A large dried and hollowed squash used in lieu of a traditional gourd.


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