Zhou Xuan Yun, Daoist Sword (from the series Kung Fu Masters)
Zhou Xuan Yun, Daoist Sword White (from the series Kung Fu Masters)
Sifu Zhou Xuan Yun is a Master of Wudong-style (more commonly spelled Wu-Tang-style) martial arts. He grew up on Wudong Mountain, where he trained in Chinese martial arts since the early age of 10. At age 20, he left Wudong Mountain to wander as a monk for 4 years and to seek out a dialogue with other martial artists. In short, this guy (who resembles a bad guy from a Tony Jaa movie) has the classic hero back story of an old-school Chinese kung fu flick. And now he teaches in Boston!
I met Sifu Zhou through my friend Henry, who some of you might remember from my post Crouching Tiger, Hidden Photographer. We have been planning to do this shoot with Sifu Zhou for almost a year, but were unable to due to scheduling conflicts. While Sifu Zhou had originally wanted to do a shoot in the snow, when I informed him of the logistical difficulties of photographing in a blizzard, he opted for a shoot “under a tree with white leaves.” “Wonderful,” I thought. At least with white leaves we’d have a week or 2 to schedule a shoot, as opposed to a single miserable day, as is the case with shooting in the snow. Now all I had to do was figure out which trees bloom white in Boston (cherry blossoms).
Both of these images are collaged from photos that capture the movements in the “Daoist Sword” form, or “玄門劍” in Chinese. I love that these pictures function both as documents of a traditional cultural practice as well as cool things to look at and ponder. What draws me to this work is that, while it is clearly a work of fantasy, that fantasy is deeply rooted in the traditions of reality.
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