Looking into "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" from Perspective of Chi, Tao, Chan &  Compassion

by Michael Chung

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon presents in complete detail all the levels of tao, love and life. In depicting the life story of Yu Chiao-lung (¡§Jen¡¨), it gives an account of how to see your real self and how to comprehend intuitively the tao. Jen's journey can be described as beginning with ¡§the dragon turns into a phoenix¡¨, moving to ¡§the bamboo real heart¡¨, experiencing the ¡§transformation of emotion to compassion', ¡§seeing one's original face¡¨,¡§figuring out natural virtue ¡¨ and ending with ¡§spiritual level, virtuous level.¡¨

This movie was partially based on a famous wushu or chivalric novel in China.  The following information is a discussion of the movie, including background information about the characters and an analysis of the philosophical aspect of the movie. It will start with a brief introduction of the main characters, continue with a discussion of the plot (including the background and relationships of the main characters and an explanation of what we see), and end with the symbolism of the title. Further information on this philosophical discussion can be found at the website www.chikung.org.tw.

The main characters

Li Mu-bai: Li Mu-bai, entered a Taoist monastery and becoming an expert in the Wudan School of swordfighting was well known throughout China for his gungfu. His weapon, Green Destiny, is 400 years old and had special powers.  Although his Taoist practice was already at a high level, he had yet to complete his destiny (in his life). He believes that the blockages which he has lately encountered in his Taoist practice are related to his attachment to this sword.

Yu Shu-lien (¡§Shu-lien¡¨) Shu-lien, also a Wudan expert, was married to Li Mu-bai's classmate Meng, who was killed trying to save Li Mu-bai in a fight.  Shu-lien never re- married. Shu-lien runs a security company which escorts shipments between major cities in China.  She has the four ethical principles (etiquette, friendship, humbleness, sense of achievement) and the eight cardinal virtues (loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, love, trustfulness, friendship, harmony and peace) of Confucianism as well as the virtuous quality espoused by Sung and Ming philosophies that a woman should be unskilled in doing things, thus being virtuous.

Yu Chiao-lung (¡§Jen¡¨)  Jen is the well-educated teenaged daughter of a high government official who has secretly been practicing gungfu since she was a young child. Her maid, Jade Fox, has been her gungfu master for many years. Jen is engaged to be married.

Jade Fox Jade Fox is Jen's maid and secret gung fu master. She has been studying gung fu for many years. At one time she had an affair with Li Mu-bai's master (Chiang Nan-he) in the hopes his master would teach her the secrets of Wudan fighting. Enraged when he wouldn't teach her, Jade Fox killed him and stole a manual which describes the Wudan secrets. She also killed one of his students, Meng. Her preferred weapon is poisoned darts.

Lo Hsiao-hu  Lo leads a band of bandits in the desolate western Chinese province of Sinkiang. His band attacks a caravan which includes Jen and her family. Jen pursues Lo, has an affair with him, and then returns to Beijing.
Sir Te   Sir Te is a member of the royal family and also holds a high ranking government position.  He has been a client of Shu-lien's security company in the past.

Discussion of the plot (including the background and relationships of the main characters and an explanation of what we see).

  (a) The beginning

The three main characters (Li Mu-bai, Shu-Lien, and Jen) in the movie respectively represent Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen (Chan) Buddhism.

Shu-Lien liked Li Mu-bai, but according to her Confucian training, after her fiancé died, she had to remain unmarried despite her youth.  Since she was unable to take the initiative in this matter, she had to wait until Li Mu-bai brought up any discussion of romance between them. Although Li Mu-bai likewise also liked Shu-Lien, he was afraid of hurting his honor and integrity by starting a romance with her. He was a master of a martial arts line, and he was very aware of his face and dignity when doing things, so he was waiting for a suitably opportune time to broach the subject.  Since the time had yet to come, the two throughout the movie maintained a certain distance, so although they thought a lot about the other, they never did anything about their feelings. They only expressed their feelings in an unexpected brushing of hands for a moment. Since these two people admired each other so, but because of destiny were unable to follow through on what they felt, they were unable to experience true romantic love. Li Mu-bai and Shu-lien in their character and their habits of managing things and people were traditional and conservative.

Jen is very different from them. Representing a breath of fresh air and new life, she is the key person in this movie.  She was the spark that made everyone's emotions and love move, and let Li and Shu-lien's feelings for each other to re-open. Because of these things, Jen knew something was missing in her life: she wanted to understand the true mind of people and also know her own original mind. While she was helping people (her boyfriend), she was overcoming herself (overcoming her ego). He who helps other people can help himself. This is like the tao and your original mind working together, yielding wisdom.

When Li Mu-bai visits Shu-lien at the beginning of the movie, he tells her that he has recently been on a retreat to find out what it is that has been missing in his life. He describes to her a light he had seen while in a meditative state during a retreat; a light which his teacher had never mentioned. Shu-Lien tells him that he had attained the tao (he had reached enlightenment), but he says,  "I don't think I got the tao because I don't have the feeling of happiness. I just feel very quiet and peaceful yet also very sad.¡¨

Li Mu-bai tells her that he left before the retreat was over because he realizes that if he can let go of his mind (and not worry about not worry about whether his use of his sword, Green Destiny, would help people or kill them), he can have his freedom.  This sword is the weapon which made Li Mu-bai famous, so this sword means his life, his mind and his heart, too. ¡§Green Destiny¡¨ means that destiny is not predictable because we cannot grasp it securely (like we can the hilt of a sword).  Now that he wants to retire from sword fighting, he must pass on the sword to someone. If he is able to do this, he will get the tao.  This is why he left his retreat early to give the sword to Shu-Lien to give to Sir Te in Beijing. 

After Sir Te shows off the sword to Jen's father, Governor Yu, Jen steals it practiced with it. Jade Fox know that this sword was Li Mu-bai's,  and had wanted to steal it, too, but was too late. Coincidentally, she meets and fights with Li and Shu-Lien. Jen appears in time to fight Li and save her master.  As they fought, Li noted how similar their sword techniques were, although Jen's technique lacked some refinements. In fighting with her, Li perceived her weaknesses in sword technique and in her mind, so he let her go (neither agreeing to help her nor to kill her off).

 (b) The dragon turns into phoenix (dragon = Jen)

Jen's Chinese given name means ¡§arrogant or proud dragon¡¨. When she appears, she starts the whole story because her life is changing and also connecting with the other people in the movie.  She is the daughter of a high official, of an age to get married, but not yet ready to. She has learned some gung fu from her strange master Jade Fox and this has led her to develop her own opinions and a unique personality. 

The life she lived was a traditional one which did not suit her personality; she wanted to lead her own life on her own terms. Jade Fox had ¡¥opened the door' for her by providing her the sort of changes and opportunities that made her want to experience what real life is, life which could be experienced if she entered a gung fu society far from her home.

The real world of gung fu is not like the traditional routine-filled world we know. This gung fu world has different levels and different sorts of hopes to help us fulfill our own yearning to know what life is.  To enter this world Jen would have to pay a very high price through hard work with her body, mind and spirit. This is like a person who chooses a very untraditional job and then must work very hard to succeed because of it.  Traditional jobs are much less demanding.

When Jade Fox taught her that her life was incomplete, Jen started secretly learning gung fu from the sword manual which her teacher had stolen from Li Mu-bai's master. It contained the secrets of the Wudan style of sword fighting of which Li is a master. As she slowly she discovered that her gung fu was better than her teacher's, she found her life had become frightening to her because she no longer had any boundaries or any direction to follow in pursuing her life. This realization was also frightening because Jen was being extremely disrespectful of her teacher by not passing on what she had learned from reading the manual (Jade Fox was illiterate). The world and universe were before her, but she had no sense of which direction she should follow or how she should proceed. Of course she is not alone in having this problem; it is also the same problem other people have.   From this we can see Jen has a high quality of enlightenment and a high level of spiritual inspiration.

In her youth, Jen traveled with her father to his posting in the remote western Sinkiang province of China. Along the way their caravan was robbed, and the leader of the robbers, Lo Hsiao-hu (Little Tiger) took her jade hair comb. Because of her strange gung fu training she was extremely rigid with a terrible personality and, unable to let go of things, wanted to control everything. Even at such a young age Jen felt she was a top gung fu fighter and had developed for herself a "big face" (an unthinkable thing for such a young female to have!)  So only because she wanted to retrieve an insignificant thing like the hair comb that Lo had taken from her did she pursue and fight him, leading up to their affair. She spent all her efforts in order to retrieve such a small thing! At this time her quality of enlightenment and romantic love level first opened but she felt she wouldn't find any direction she wanted to follow in Sinkiang, so she went home to Beijing.

After Jen comes back home, her father arranged for her to marry the son of another high government official.  On her wedding day, Lo Hsiao-hu comes from Sinkiang to disrupt the wedding procession and kidnap her. As he was doing this, he runs into Li Mo-bai and Shu-lien. After they discover his relationship with Jen, they tell him to go to Wudan Mountain to wait for her.  Jen leaves Beijing on her wedding night, and running into Li, the two of them fight in the old temple. Although it looked like a fight, it actually was a gung fu lesson for Jen because she learned things from Li during the fight.  Li tells Jen that her sword technique needs improvement, otherwise she soon wouldn't be able to fight anymore.  He tells her that the Wudan technique is different from what she had learned: In the way of Wudan you should avoid being so sharp and so strong and not be so suppressing (not so offensive or aggressive to other people). In a fight if you are strong and the way is not so offensive, then you can last much longer because when you are more defensive, you are able to discern the defects of your opponent, and then you can handle the whole situation more easily. He tells her she should bear in mind to attempt to let her self enter into a state of not needing assistance from outside, and not be arrogant on the inside. She should try not to respond to all the external stimuli around her; not argue and not defend something so she not use her mind and can enter a state without desire. Li says in this way Jen would be able to let go of herself and follow the others. If she follows this way, she as well as other people would feel more comfortable. So when she is able to conquer herself, then she will be able to enter the state of absolute humbleness where she will let everyone win, and not defeat others. When she lets everyone win, then she wins.  Therefore she should try to remove her arrogance (control her temper) and not let her offensive forces arise; she should stop all her desires from working around so the tao of swordmanship will be able to function and then she'll be able to become a real gungfu practitioner. 

Jen is touched with Li's world because she was moved by his words. But suddenly she remembers that her teacher Jade Fox had told her that the people of the Wudan school are very bad; that they say one thing, but do something else. So Jen leaves but Li doesn't follow her because he found she had only changed a little. She didn't understand what he had told her; she believed what her master had told her. Li Mu-bai doesn't follow Jen because he knows it is not time yet for her to be more developed.

Since she has embarrassed her family by leaving her own wedding and since she has not yet found what she feels is missing in her life, Jen can't go home. She decides to travel and visit the Wudan School in Giang Hu in order to experience real life and gain some sort of achievement in fighting so other people would know that she is a top fighter.  One day she goes to look for Shu-Lien, but they end up fighting each other. Shu-lien knew that Jen had stolen the sword, but hid this knowledge from other people, and tried in other ways to help her. Jen uses the issue of the sword to provoke a fight with Shu-lien, but actually the root of the fight is their jealousy over Li Mu-bai whom they both love. Although Shu-lien wins the fight, she lets Jen go and doesn't kill her. Li arrives just in time to see Jen wound Shu-lien when she wasn't paying attention after the fight. He gets angry at what Jen did, partly because she was a poison dragon which could not be saved, and partly because he was disappointed since he had thought he had found a disciple to whom he could teach the sword technique. Seeing Jen wound Shu-lien in this manner makes him realize just how evil Jen is.

(c)Bamboo Real Heart

(Jen's real self is coming out because she is emptying into total emptiness like the hollowness of a bamboo stalk)

Li follows Jen and feels her kung fu is better than before. They enter a bamboo forest, an important point in their relationship. In Buddhism, bamboo represents the spirit of emptiness spirit in the vase which the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin carries. This vase contains purification water. The hollow bamboo represents the true mind, so the bamboo forest lets Jen and Li calm their minds. Their pursuit through the bamboo forest like a pair of butterflies is like a butterfly transforming into a higher level.  Li tells Jen he didn't kill her in the old temple because he wanted to see her true mind. Now in the bamboo forest, where they are alone with just the shadows of the wind and bamboo and their own two shadows he seems to know her true mind. This happens because in the bamboo forest they can exchange their energies with each other.  The Taoist concept of taichi emphasizes the relationship between emptiness and reality; this is meaning of the shadows. Their shadows mutually exchange and yield, giving way to each other and Li is confused about whether or not to try and step into her heart. This confusion is like the situation in Chuangtse's story of the butterfly dream; is he a man dreaming of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of a man dreaming of a butterfly? That sort of inter-reactive and unified state of combination of man, mind, environment, and dimensional forces leads to complete transformation and true understanding: a sort of enlightenment coming up to see through other people without needing to use any language.

When Li and Jen can't see their ego, then their real mind is born, and their basic quality appears. When their basic quality appears, they automatically resonate, allowing them to see a bigger mind (their buddha quality is coming up). So when our ego disappears, our true mind comes up, our basic quality is established and linked with the buddha quality for each person involved thus permitting intuitive interaction: language and explanations are no longer necessary to understand the real mind of each person involved.  At this time Jen can understand Li will transmit the gung fu to her as well as feel his sincerity to teach her the way of Taoist gung fu. In addition, she can feel his romantic emotion for her, which is still a bit stagnant. As they fight in the bamboo, whenever Jen falls or descends, Li pulls her up, indicating his ability to help her go up to a higher level of practice.

Passing through the bamboo forest, they come to a small deep mountain lake, which is located at a lower elevation than the forest itself. In the bamboo forest there were shadows, but the lake has no shadows.  The shadows represent the obstacles from which true mind is revealed in overcoming obstacles we lessen the strength of our ego. The lake is crystal clear very much like a mirror, which means we can clearly see our mind's five poison and five perceptive emotions. This means the problems of a distinguishing mind (ego) appear, so the true mind disappears.  A better situation is found in playing a game of poker or bridge, in which much is hidden from your knowledge so your control of the situation and your ego is very limited, so your true mind can appear.  When Jen asks Li if he still wants to have the sword back, he says yes. Jen tells Li he can have the sword back if he can beat her in ¡¥three steps'. Li replies that if he wins, he wants her to be his student.  Jen doesn't respond because she doesn't think Li could win, but he beats her after just one step. After Li gets the sword back and Jen refuses to be his student, he gets very angry and throws the sword into the lake. The sword, which represents mind and ¡§ego¡¨ also represents Li Mu-bai.   Jen could easily have agreed to be his student, but as they were fighting, Jen realized that Li has a stronger feeling about their relationship - not one of teacher and student, but a lover's relationship.

As for Li, the first time he fought with Jen was like meeting another expert swordsman; the second time fighting in the old temple he was transmitting Tao; the third time fighting in the bamboo forest he found she had learned everything which he could teach her in the old temple and she had learned it very well. He admired her and was very moved (in his heart and mind). But when they arrived at the lake, Li changed. Li was very conscious of his face/dignity as a martial arts master, so he found he could not ask Jen to be his friend. Instead, he said he wanted to be her teacher. As for Jen, with her strict, rigid and direct personality, she didn't want to be Li's student; she wanted to be his friend. She couldn't promise to be his student. Given the short time they had together at the lake, they neither could accept the situation nor express their unknown feelings, so Li threw the sword into the deep lake.

When Jen follows the sword into the deep lake, it means that she and the sword are united as one Tao: the sword and person live together or perish together. As she dives into the lake and retrieves the sword, she falls  unconscious and is  floating in the water¡K with the sword in her hand. The sword represents Li Mu-bai. At this time Li finally understands Jen's mind.  As he deliberates about whether or not to save Jen, Jade Fox appears, rescues Jen from the water, and spirits her away.

Li follows Jade Fox and Jen to a cave. When he enters the cave, he doesn't see Jade Fox but finds Jen unconscious from some poisonous incense her master had given her. When Jen does try to stand up, through her dizziness she sees Li and asks him, ¡§Do you want the sword or me?¡¨ he doesn't answer. He finds the incense burner, throws it away and gives Jen an antidote to let her wake up. Following this he gives her a chi transfusion.

Actually, Li is unable to answer her because he wants her as a lover, but his face/dignity does not allow him to say so. (He was unable to remove his mask.) The chi transfusion he gives her was different from the traditional way to save a person using Tao: he includes his heart so he could make the special connection with her where they could communicate without using language or explanation.  This is a continuation of the language-free dialogue which they had earlier in the movie.

Earlier in the movie, Li and Shu-lien had had a conversation in a pavilion in which he had said, ¡§Life is an illusion¡¨ to which Shu-lien had replied, ¡§Life is very real. When you hold my hand, I feel reality¡¨. Li experienced the feeling as very temporary, very ephemeral. Shu-lien experienced the feeling as everlasting. These differing responses to the same event show how they were not well matched to be lovers. Although they shared the continuity forces of similar backgrounds, their real qualities (life and love levels) were not matched. Consequently, their relationship was like that of a traditionally ethical husband and wife who are married not for love but because of traditional forces.

In the cave, when Li gave Jen the chi transfusion by putting his hands on her back, he got the direct feeling of a human mind/heart. This is a direct instinct that links them together, not through some obligation but through real forces that keep them together.  Such a linkage is real and enduring/everlasting, unlike Li's holding Shu-lien's hand which was a short ephemeral feeling for him.  Li and Shu-lien were not destined to be lovers because they were concerned more with dignity/face concerns.  Since Jen's direct rigid personality is so totally different from Shu-lien's strong sense of responsibility, Jen could break through her level and directly feel the human mind, directly feel Li Mu-bai's body, mind, and spirit.  Although Li had practiced Tao to a very high level, he still had obstacles and blockages, so she moved his emotions.

(d) Transformation of emotion to compassion

When Li Mu-bai is  halfway through giving Jen the chi transfusion, she awakes quite by coincidence just as Shu-lien arrives. When Shu-lien sees them together, her mind understands the situation between them. At this moment Jade Fox also returns and upon seeing Li she shoots darts at them. Li was unable to use his sword fully to deflect them, so the best he could do was to use his own body to absorb the dart and in this way took in the poison from the dart.  His gung fu should have allowed him to avoid the darts, but because his emotions are moved and consequently his mind is distinguishing things, he is  vulnerable and one of the darts hits him as he tries to protect Jen.    At the beginning of the movie, Li had been trying to throw away the sword because it represented his rigidity, body, mind and spirit as well as his external mortal achievement. To attain a high level, he would have to let go of his body, to get the tao and understand more.  When Jen stole the sword and their relationship grew because of the sword, Li could not totally let go of the sword. This brought emotional changes and their predestined relationship. This relationship with Jen which involved much giving and taking, insisting and letting go helped him reach an absolute high state of nirvana.

This poison dart had the same poison with which Jade Fox had poisoned Li Mu-bai's own teacher. When Jen realized that Li Mu-bai had saved her, she did not realize that she was helping Li Mu-bai enter the state of nirvana, neither did she feel their predestined relationship. Her awareness at that time had totally disappeared because she knew he had used his life to save hers. Her distinguishing mind and ego had returned.

When Jen says she will get the antidote for Li, he believes her but since Shu-lien is there, they are unable to say anything else.  At this time Shu-lien wants Li to conserve whatever original/real chi he still has left so he could have a peaceful death, and not speak at all. He says that he had wasted a lot of things in his life, so he doesn't have any real (original) chi left; he feels that since what he wanted to love, he couldn't love, and what he wanted to do he couldn't do, the least he can do is to tell Shu-lien his feelings for her. This proves that he certainly did have feelings for Shu-lien, certainly love and certainly fate. Their levels of relationship were inadequate to overcome the many blockages between them and be able to connect.

Since it was their fate to have insufficient forces to overcome these blockages, their relationship was like that of most husbands and wives: their love had an ethical level and a desire level, but no romance level.  Although Li and Shu-lien had not married each other, the relationship in which they waited for each other had its own type of ethical relationship. The relationship between Li and Jen was different; the consequences of the two times they fought caused  their superficial relationship to opened up. They were able to break through their face and dignity step by step to directly reach a higher sensation and spiritual level. In this way  their relationship was  like a diving dragon and hidden tiger. The forces steadily accumulated, transformed deep inside and finally opened them up. They were able to break through and express their feelings, and enter the spiritual level and romance level standard. This emotional relationship is like a hidden dragon and crouching tiger.

Li Mu-bai dies before Jen returns with the antidote. Shu-lien tells Jen she wouldn't kill her and that she should go to see Lo Hsiao-hu who is waiting for her at Wudang Mountain.  She also tells  her, ¡§If there is anything you want to do in this lifetime, don't put it off. You must complete it, and in this way you will not have any regrets.¡¨  After this, Jen has an affair with Lo Hsiao-hu in order to finish their sensual relationship. On the second day Jen goes  with him to the mountain peak and remembers the Sinkiang legend he had told her about a wish being true if you could survive a leap from the top of a mountain. She tells Lo, ¡§The mountain is beautiful. You bring many wishes here and I bring many wishes.¡¨  Lo's wish is for Jen to return with him to Sinkiang; Jen's wish is unspoken: she just leaps from the mountain peak into the valley below.

 (e) Seeing one's original face

Jen is not an ordinary person; in her life she has always wanted to find the boundary, to find the true world, real force, real ego, but from the first she has not found them.  When she discovers that her own gung fu skill has surpassed her teacher (Jade Fox), she suddenly felt that there was no direction for her to go in her life, until she runs across Li Mu-bai. He is like a bright lamp which lights  her way and leds her in a direction.  She also discovers that what he had to say was not the same as what her own teacher had said. Slowly her goodness and humanity as well as the yang spiritual level portion in her mind/heart emerged, and the evil and devil portions were reduced.  Li transfers the tao to her, and this allows her to transcend her problems.  She knows what he tells her is not only about Tao, but also about emotions, including the emotion between a master and disciple, as well as emotion between a man and a woman.  For Jen, discovering a direction in her life happens because she opened her own vision. On the other hand she wanted to prove her self in order to complete herself and her life through gungfu by verifying herself. When she was able to verify herself she would be able to apply it to daily life and be able to understand completely what was going on so she could overcome her ego.  Jen's gungfu was originally something wicked, but from what Li Mu-bai taught her, slowly this yin became yang and the more she saw, the more clearer it became. Her quality of enlightenment increased and advanced to a higher level, and whatever she saw of the beauty of life became even larger.  Starting from Lo Hsiao-hu's juvenile impulsive desires, and passing through Li Mu-bai's more complete relationship with real concern, sacrifice, letting go, entering the tao, opening up the way of enlightenment allowed her to rise slowly to a higher world of real love, and her life rose even higher.  Her life allowed her to be enlightened through their relationship and experiences to directly apply and experience what she learned and understood. In particular, with her complete life levels and raised forces, she could enter all worlds; although her life was short, the levels she came across were very profound. Although she didn't ask for or search for love, the love she experienced was very deep. She didn't think to ask for the tao, but she entered a high level of tao because she could merge with the sword and reach the state of totally letting go and forgetting about herself and her environment.  She had mastered merging with the sword at an early age, and was able to avoid distinguishing between the physical world and herself. With this real emotion, she combined real love with the tao and interacted well with any person.

The Dharma King of Yin Yang, also directed by King Hu, talks about how in one's practice one practices both yin and yang. Most people are not half-yin and half-yang; they have to complete the half yin with the half yang or vice versa. When they do this, then their practice of tao is complete. You need to be half yin and half yang as well as have strong gung fu and strong predestinated relationships to fulfill your consequences.  Then you can combine your yin and yang, build up your love to be real love, real mind, tao, original mind and Buddha mind.  Some people have a single or independent practice while others have a double practice with another person. Each of these practices has its own problem. Single practitioners like monks or nuns have a difficult time to enter the state of single practice because they can't complete their half-yin, half-yang balance practicing alone.  Double practitioners (most ordinary people) find it easier to enter the state of double practice, but they face the same problem that the warriors from Zu Mountain did. In that Tsui Hawk movie, the two warriors each had a different colored sword (one green [yin], one purple [yang]) but the two had to be combined through unspoken cooperation without consciously using them.  Only in this way could they save the world.  This is just like both swords symbolizing the different angles from which males and females handle things. It is very difficult for ordinary people to achieve the wonderful state of completing the double practice.

Pure individual practice is not so easy to complete. For instance, Li Mu-bai practices a sort of individual Taoist practice from his school. His yin is not entirely complete, so his gungfu will remain stuck at the level of entering emptiness. Only after he can complete the transformation of his mind and enter the tao can he enter the state of emptiness. So he is unable to reach the high and complete level of tao. This is common among many Taoist practitioners because they aren't able to finish the first level of perfecting their body by strengthening their chi, so it will be very difficult for them to enter the second level of absolute emptiness by perfecting their mind.  For instance, in the Catholic church, priests and nuns are not allowed to marry, so some of them left the church and got married. They understand that they will not be able to break through by following an individual single practice. Because of this the Protestant church emerged to allow which allowed their religious to marry. This can also be seen in the Chinese school of Chan Buddhism (in which monks and nuns cannot marry) and also in the Japanese school of Zen Buddhism (in which monks and nuns can marry). From this we can understand that it is not reasonable to set limitations in the physical level for practitioners.  Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns eat meat, while Zen monks and nuns d not, yet both are asking for the tao and completion to the state of buddha's quality.  Therefore, we can understand that due to the elemental qualities of some people they may not have a strong desire for things on the physical level, but other people do have such desires. If we ask a person with a strong desire on the physical level not to get in touch with any emotions, affection and sexual relationships, then he will not be able to perfect his or her gung fu and they will be far away from reaching a higher level.

Traditionally, the Taoist type of individual practice starts from the level of perfecting our body in order to transform and promote our chi system. In this way, we have a perfectly balanced physical and mental state.  As we perfect our self, we will be satisfied inside and not demanding anything more from out side ourselves. Then we will have a much stronger and better chi system.  With our complete chi system, our mind and spirit will have a chance to reach a much higher level to understand tao. However this gungfu is so difficult to practice.  Finishing the first level of only such a first level completing our body by transforming and perfecting our chi system will take more than 20 years to finish.  Each of the three other levels also require at least five to ten years to complete, depending on your quality and understanding.  In addition, people usually misunderstand the double practice way because they misunderstand the sexual relationship. Actually, a perfect individual practice is a prerequisite for a perfect double practice because the perfect individual practice yields yin and yang, male and female first, until both sides have reached to a very high level of balance. This doesn't require any physical touch between them, nor are they allowed any. This process requires a very high degree of control both physically and mentally. In other words, it's a sort of tao combining chien the creative and kun the receptive (the first two hexagrams of the I Ching), as well as yin and yang together. Because ordinary people are not complete, this way of practice is very difficult. Though they try to achieve completeness through individual practice, they still have a lot of defects so they don't know to let go of them self. When two ¡¥incomplete people' get together for double practice, more problems develop because if their mind is not balanced and empty enough, the person with whom they are practicing will trigger their minds. Double practitioners must perfect themselves to a very high level before they are allowed to enter the state of double practice. In this way, there will be more interflow between their body and mind and much deeper spiritual understanding.  Letting go of our own ego and ridding the merit of the others opens up our mind to detect the defects and problems that hide within the deep side of our mind and body. Then we will be able to respect other people, to understand other people, to accept other people and to show a much higher state of respectfulness toward ourself. Then our gung fu will be much higher. As our gungfu gets higher, our enlightenment is much higher and we will come up to the point of level of unified assimilation of Buddhist practice.  When we are getting higher and higher in this way, we have much better communications, fewer conflicts, more happiness, and delight in each of the levels.

(f) Entering tao through the learning of virtue quality

Shu-lien respects the Confucian types of morality so she is well educated, reasonable, controlled and very well organized mentally and physically.  She is very considerate of other people, but she suppresses herself (controls her temper well, is not impulsive or emotional) and lacks only inspiration and spirituality.  When she firsts meets Jen, Shu-lien understands what Jen is doing and so she asks Li Mu-bai not to pay much attention to her. However Li said that if he has is a predestinated relationship with her, then it would be good to accept her as a disciple because if you see a good piece of jade, you need to refine and polish it until the jade is improves.  If you don't do this, then the jade will be wasted.  When he talks about a predestinated relationship, he feels that if he has the chance to help another person pass through nirvana, that it is his mission is to do so. After Shu-lien hears this, she doesn't argue or explain anymore. We know that she understands what is going on but she likes to keep other things in their original state and to keep the moral standard. She also shows what she thinks should be but still she accepts what other people insist on.  Since she owns and manages a security guard company, we understand that she has a big sense of mission to maintain what already exists. This is not only her own life, but also her calling, so she is unable to break through in her sensational emotional level.  Her predestinated relationship with Li Mu-bai is not as good as the relationship between Li and Jen. and what we see is a sort of old husband and wife type of feeling between Shu-lien and Li Mu-bai. Shu-lien is a good person who although she knows something, never grumbles or gossips; although she is unable to marry Li Mu-bai,  she has never complained.  She was quite satisfied with only having mental communication with Li Mu-bai.

Shu-lien is an example of Confucian balance.  She loves Li Mu-bai so much that when Jen enters the story, Shu-lien must be very jealous but she didn't show it. Rather, she acts as if a sister to Jen.  Later when she fights Jen at the martial arts school, Shu-lien wins, but lets Jen go. Shu-lien's spirit of harmonious balance is the Confucian ¡§spirit of profound nature¡¨, ¡§demonstrating the greatest compassion of equality of all life¡¨, ¡§letting everyone have what they need (and not what they want)¡¨, and ¡§suffering as others suffer.¡¨

Although Shu-lien's levels of love and life are not very complete, her level is still a good level for us to reach.  It is very difficult to practice to the level of half-yin, half-yang. Although her practice has not raised her level to half-yin half-yang because she has an incomplete sense of beauty, she cannot see ¡¥big beauty'.    When you have  certain practice which is not complete, there is an effect where we can pull the whole together.  (Absolute beauty is a variable with a small defect in it. This is like the taichi symbol in which yin is embodied in the yang, and yang is embodied in the yin. If it were pure yin and pure yang, then it would be lacking something.)

(g) Spiritual level, Virtuous level

Jen has a strong romantic level, enlightenment level and spiritual level.  She is totally different from Shu-lien.  Jen does not like to follow tradition; she doesn't want to be a woman who must get married at a specified age and have a family of her own.  She doesn't need the ethical level.  She has her own reason which comes from her heart/mind which is close to Chan Buddhism's concept of true mind.  Jen is spoiled (not affected by the traditional world), which is a negative type of freedom. It's totally through people's heart where without thinking you can completely understand the true mind.  From her long practice of gung fu, she raised her life level.  Jen's romantic and not using mind level emerged at an early age.  When she was 10, she felt her gung fu had surpassed Jade Fox's level, and in fact felt that no one else's gung fu was better than her own. But she also knew this was not true and she felt quite lost.  She started to search for a direction for her life to follow, but she couldn't find it and felt afraid.  Once Li Mu-bai appeared, she felt a true master had come, giving her a direction and touching her heart.  Jen represents Chan Buddhism. On one side she appears evil but behind the evilness is a high level of goodness and humanity, a deep emotion and a love of beauty.  Her  poison dragon transforms into a real dragon and true mind, original nature and tao all emerge.  Jen found  the tao from Li and could feel big emotion and true mind. Finally she completely understands Li's motivation so she completes her life by leaping from the mountain peak to the valley below.

Jen's name in Chinese means ¡¥arrogant or proud dragon of the jade family'.  Her problem is how to change from a proud  dragon to a tao dragon, and resolving this problem requires her to sacrifice herself. This means to kill her mind and remove her rigidity or let go of herself and sacrifice herself. When Li transmits the tao to her he tells her he wants her to be his disciple. She asks whether it would be okay to change her. At this time she is not so certain and unstable. Li says if we join our relationship as master and disciple, then it will be like our lives are linked together. When any changes happen, they would merge together to face them, no matter if they are good or bad changes, positive or negative changes.  He will go all out without consideration to so do. Jen has a good quality jade which needs to have a good refinement process to complete her life and verify his learning and gung fu.  To achieve this level requires letting go, seeing your five poisons, then the ¡¥dragon' (emotions) and ¡§tiger¡¨ (poisons) will disappear and the splendor of life appears and life is completed.  At that moment you can be either dead or alive, depending on the circumstances at work.  As for Jen, because Li was dead, she leaped off the mountain. This does not mean that she would die in the normal sense of the world, but would complete her life.  Of course, if you complete your life while you are still alive, there are many things you can do, not just leaping off the mountain!

When Li Mu-bai saw the light during his meditation, he felt he hadn't achieved the tao and he didn't feel any happiness.  On the contrary, what he felt was a very sad feeling.  He understood the tao and was halfway into the tao, so he was able to open the door to the tao for Jen. The transfer he gave her was the way to let her in.  She would have to find the way out. So although Jen died, she didn't really die.  Li had not achieved a completed level of tao because he had his own problem.  Although he had this problem, in the end he used his life to compensate for his problem, sacrificing himself to help people, at the same time achieving  a spirit of a profound nature.

Jen represents true Chan  (Zen) Buddhism which is not limited to sitting in meditation in a serene monastery.  Chan is not just a theory and not just worshiping gods and not just sitting meditation: it is the combination of the three plus our experiences as we go through our life and love levels where as you attain the quality of understanding you can merge internal and external experiences together, and apply it to your self and daily life. Chan is an attitude, behavior and a concept of being receptive to everything.  Nothing holds Jen down; nothing fastens her down. Because she mastered herself at an early age, she has the wisdom to not tell her master Jade Fox that her gung fu is not well-developed. Instead, she knows how to hold her tongue and maintain the good relationship between them. Later when Jen meets Li Mu-bai, this self-discipline allows her to go to a higher level.  Jen's discipline allows her to accumulate energy while she is studying with Jade Fox. When she meets Li, both her good and bad forces are released, and things begin opening up for her, leading to her reincarnation. When she dives into the lake to get the sword, she is reincarnated the first time. When she leaps off the mountain peak, she is perfecting herself.

[symbolism of the title]¡§Tiger¡¨represents the seven emotions (happiness, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hate, desire) and six sensory pleasures derived from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, the five poisons and 5 perceptive emotions. ¡§Dragon¡¨represents the human spirit. ¡§Tiger¡¨represents yin,¡§Dragon¡¨represents yang. Tiger represents human [desire, longing, aspiration, urge]; Dragon represents human consciousness of a higher (spiritual level.) The dragon is called ¡§hidden dragon¡¨ because people can't see it because they cannot see their real mind.  This movie gives an account of how to see your real self and how to intuitively comprehend the tao. 


Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI