Chinese Kung-fu 功夫 gōngfu – Part One

Although Kung Fu Panda I and II aren’t the truest depiction of the craft, the movie leaves us thinking : “Wow, I want to be the Dragon Warrior!” As cool as it is, Chinese Gong-fu 功夫 is quite difficult to master, and we’ll explore the different layers of the martial art in this blog series.

The Basics (基本功 jī běn gōng) are a vital part of any martial training, as a student cannot progress to the more advanced stages without them. Basics are usually made up of rudimentary techniques, conditioning exercises, including stances. Basic training may involve simple movements that are performed repeatedly; other examples of basic training are stretching, meditation, striking, throwing, or jumping. Without strong and flexible muscles, management of Qi or breath, and proper body mechanics, it is impossible for a student to progress in the Chinese martial arts. A common saying concerning basic training in Chinese martial arts is as follows:

nèi wài xiàng hé

wài zhòng shǒu yǎn shēn fǎ bù

nèi xiū xīn shén yì qìlì







Which can be translated as:

Train both Internal and External.

External training includes the hands, the eyes, the body and stances. Internal training includes the heart, the spirit, the mind, breathing and strength.


Stances (steps or 步法bù fǎ) are structural postures employed in Chinese martial arts training. They represent the foundation and the form of a fighter’s base. Each style has different names and variations for each stance. Stances may be differentiated by foot position, weight distribution, body alignment, etc. Stance training can be practiced statically, the goal of which is to maintain the structure of the stance through a set time period, or dynamically, in which case a series of movements is performed repeatedly. The horse-riding stance (骑马步/马步 qí mǎ bù/mǎ bù) and the bow stance are examples of stances found in many styles of Chinese martial arts.



In many Chinese martial arts, meditation is considered to be an important component of basic training. Meditation can be used to develop focus, mental clarity and can act as a basis for qigong training.

Use of qi

The concept of qi or ch’i (气 qì) is encountered in a number of Chinese martial arts. Qi is variously defined as an inner energy or “life force” that is said to animate living beings; as a term for proper skeletal alignment and efficient use of musculature (sometimes also known as fa jin or jin); or as a shorthand for concepts that the martial arts student might not yet be ready to understand in full. These meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The existence of qi as a measurable form of energy as discussed in traditional Chinese medicine has no basis in the scientific understanding of physics, medicine, biology or human physiology.

There are many ideas regarding the control of one’s qi energy to such an extent that it can be used for healing oneself or others: the goal of medical qigong. Some styles believe in focusing qi into a single point when attacking and aim at specific areas of the human body. Such techniques are known as dim mak and have principles that are similar to acupressure.

Weapons training

Most Chinese styles also make use of training in the broad arsenal of Chinese weapons for conditioning the body as well as coordination and strategy drills. Weapons training (qìxiè 器械) are generally carried out after the student is proficient in the basics, forms and applications training. The basic theory for weapons training is to consider the weapon as an extension of the body. It has the same requirements for footwork and body coordination as the basics. The process of weapon training proceeds with forms, forms with partners and then applications. Most systems have training methods for each of the Eighteen Arms of Wushu (shíbābānbīngqì 十八般兵器) in addition to specialized instruments specific to the system.


Find a JOB in Beijing

In recent years, many foreigners have flocked to Beijing to look for a job. More than half end up with English-teaching jobs that tend to pay more than most; a few find work with Chinese companies that pay Chinese wages; and the lucky few land jobs in non-Chinese companies that offer expat packages.

  • English Teaching Jobs

1) Full-Time Jobs

The biggest names in English education in Beijing are : EF (English First), Wall Street English, and Disney English. These companies have branches all over China and have a solid recruitment process. They support your visa application and some of them have housing plans as well. Salaries range from RMB 8000 – RMB 20,000 per month ($1,240 ~ $3,100) which puts you in the upper middle-class range.

The biggest inconvenience may be the working hours. Most centers open after 11am and go on until 10pm, and weekends are peak days. However, with bigger companies, you’ll be guaranteed a 40hours/week schedule or whatever was stated in your contract. (Don’t forget to read your contract closely!)

Application : It’s safe to apply for jobs with such bigger companies online. A few of them prefer candidates with at least 2 years of work experience and having a TEFL certificate means you start at a higher pay scale.

2) Part-Time Jobs

A lot of expats find that part-time 1-on-1 English tutoring is the way to go. It’s not hard to find a center that will pay RMB 200/hr ($32) and you’re in charge of your own schedule. Summer is peak season and recruiters put up job posts on any expat sites (e.g. cityweekend Beijing, thebeijinger, etc.)

A lot of people find that they make more money working part-time for two centers than a full-time job. The only downfall is that many of these centers will not support your visa.

  • Non-English Teaching Jobs

If you’re starting out from overseas and submitting job applications online, chances are, you’ll be doing that for a few months before realizing that without any GUANXI (connections), there’s very little hope.

Most expats in Beijing will tell you to bite the bullet and just get to Beijing to look for a job. The truth is, the job market for expats in Beijing is expanding but the competition is also very very steep. However, you’ll probably find a job you’re satisfied with in the first two months of your search. Finding the IDEAL job, however, is another story…

THE KEY : Attend all networking events in Beijing. The more popular networking groups are :

Internations :

FC Club :

Chamber of Commerce groups

Even if you’re just out of college, MAKE A BUSINESS CARD for these events. Talk to anyone and everyone.

Here are some links to look for job posts:


TIP : When discussing salary, find out your monthly payment after taxes. Some foreign companies also offer health insurance and a roundtrip ticket home every year. If you’re also allowed a housing stipend – good for you.



Please feel free to post questions on this post. We love giving free advice!


Beijing Apartment Search- What you need to know.

If you’re  new to Beijing, you’ll find that there are lots and lots of apartments for rent in every part of the city –  but very few are affordable or worth looking at. This is why.

1) Only a handful of websites post apartments for rent IN ENGLISH.

the most popular ones…

– craigslist Beijing  (

– cityweekend Beijing  (

– theBeijinger (

These websites more often than not post real pictures of apartments and the agent will speak decent English, BUT they tend to list only apartments on the upper end and scare away foreigners that are looking for budget housing.

For e.g. recently there has been multiple posts of the SOHO apartments in Sanlitun. These apartments are very very nice, but they’re also around 9000 RMB for a 1BR. Appropriate for some, but definitely not all.

So,what do the locals do?

The most popular website for apartment search is ( The website’s entirely in Chinese and most if not all apartment ads are posted by real estate agents that only speak Chinese. But if you get a Chinese friend to help you with basic words, you might be able to get by.

Here’s a start.


IMPORTANT: More often than not, the pictures of apartments shown on this site are not of the actual apartment unit that is available for rent. The site limits the number of photos each agent can post which is why they get recycled. So make sure you see it for yourself!

If after this, you’re still feeling paranoid about your housesearch, feel free to contact us :


Beijing Courtyard Home: Siheyuan

North China’s courtyard houses are outstanding representatives of traditional residences of China’s Han people. Beijing’s Siheyuan (courtyard with houses on four sides), at the highest level and most typical specimen of its kind, boasts a long history. According historical discovery analyses, the Siheyuan residence appeared more than 2,000 years ago.

The residence is situated in the north of the compound and faces south, mostly consisting of inner and outer yards. The outer yard is horizontal and long with a main door that opens to the southeast corner, maintaining the privacy of the residence. Through the main door to the west in the outer yard are guest rooms, servants’ room, a kitchen and toilet. North of the outer yard, through an exquisitely shaped, floral-pendant gate, is the spacious square main yard. The principal room in the north is the largest, erected with tablets of “heaven, earth, the monarch, kinsfolk and teacher,” and intended for family ceremonies and receiving distinguished guests. The left and right sides of the principal room are linked to aisles that were inhabited by family elders. In front of the aisle is a small, quiet corner yard often used as a study. Both sides of the main yard have a wing room that served as a living room for younger generations. Both the principal room and wing rooms face the yards, which have front porches. Verandahs link the floral-pendant gate and the three houses, where one can walk or sit to enjoy the flowers and trees in the courtyard. Sometimes, behind the principal room, there is a long row of “Hou Zhao Fang (back-illuminated rooms) that served as either a living room or utility room.

Beijing’s Siheyuan is cordial and quiet, with a strong flavor of life. The courtyard is square, vast and of a suitable size. It contains flowers and is set up with rocks, providing an ideal space for outdoor life. Such elements make the courtyard seem like an open-air, large living room, drawing heaven and earth closer to people’s hearts; this is why the courtyard was most favored by them. The verandah divides the courtyard into several big and small spaces that are not very distant from each other. These spaces penetrate one another, setting off the void and the solids, and the contrast of shadows. The divisions also make the courtyard more suited to the standards of daily life. Family members exchanged their views here, which created a cordial temperament and an interesting atmosphere.

In fact, the centripetal and cohesive atmosphere of Beijing’s Siheyuan, with its strict rules and forms, is a typical expression of the character of most Chinese residences. The courtyard’s pattern of being closed to the outside and open to the inside can be regarded as a wise integration of two kinds of contradictory psychologies: On one hand the self-sufficient feudal families needed to maintain a certain separation from the outside world; on the other, the psychology, deeply rooted in the mode of agricultural production, makes the Chinese particularly keen on getting closer to nature. They often want to see the heaven, earth, flowers, grass and trees in their own homes.

Certain appropriately sized square courtyards of Beijing’s Siheyuan help absorb sunshine in the wintertime. In areas south of Beijing, where the setting sun in the summer is quite strong, the courtyards have become narrow and long on the north-south side to reduce the amount of sunshine.

The unparalleled advantages of the Beijing Siheyuan ensured its existence for many years throughout history. This creation left behind by ancient working people is a precious historical treasure.


sìhéyuàn = courtyard house

guójiā bǎozàng = national treasure

798 Art Zone 七九八艺术区

798 Art Zone in Beijing is always compared with Greenwich Village and SOHO in New York. Also known as 798 Art District and DAD (Dashanzi Art District), “798” is located in the Dashanzi area, to the northeast of central Beijing. The area occupied by 798 was once the place for Beijing North China wireless joint equipment factory (718 Joint Factory), which was designed and built by the experts of former G.D.R in the 1950s.

From 2001, artists in and around Beijing began to move into 798 factory because they thought the factory had unique advantages for art creators. They made use of the architecture features of Bauhaus (Bauhaus is a German architecture feature formed in the 1920s.)  The artists decorated the factory and turned it into a special art exhibition and creative room. Now 798 is now becoming a cultural landmark of Beijing.

798 Space is a new rising, avant-garde and trendy space that hosts high-level cultural, artistic and commercial activities. More than 100 cultural institutions including publishing, architecture design, fashion design, furniture design, music performances, film and art studios are set up here.  798 Art Zone was awarded as one of the 22 best city art centers by Time Magazine in 2003.


Useful Vocab:

yìshù = art

gōngchǎng = factory

huàláng = art gallery

duōyuán wénhuà = multicultural


Tian’anmen Square 天安门

Tiananmen is a large city square in the centre of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen Gate (literally, Gate of Heaven’s Pacification) located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City.   Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world (440,000 m² – 880m by 500m). It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.

File:Tiananmen Square Visit.jpg

Monument of the People's Heroes and the Great Hall of the People

Monument in front of Mao's Mausoleum on Tiananmen Square

Used as a massive meeting place since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by the 38-meter (125 ft) high Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian’anmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, better known as Qianmen as to the south. Along the west side of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. Along the east side is the National Museum of China (dedicated to Chinese history predating 1919). Chang’an Avenue,  which is used for parades, lies between the Tian’anmen and the Square.

Useful Vocab:

Tiān'ānménGuǎngchǎng = Tiananmen Square

zhèngzhì = politics

Máozédōng = MaoZedong

Forbidden City 故宫

Once the abode of 24 Ming and Qing emperors of the Celestial Empire, the Forbidden City is a fittingly awe-inspiring sight. Enclosed behind its moat and 9.9m-high walls are 980 buildings, vast courtyards and long corridors that occupy a total area of 720,000 square meters.

Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

It’s alleged that as many as 1,000,000 workers and 100,000 artisans participated in the construction of this imperial palace, which began in 1406 and was completed in 1420 during the reign of Ming dynasty emperor Yongle. Destroyed by fires and other calamities, many of the buildings were rebuilt and expanded during the Qing dynasty.

The Forbidden City is divided into two parts based on its layout and function. The Outer Court is the front part. The Inner Court is the back part. They are separated by Qianqingmen (the Gate of Celestial Purity).

Useful Vocab:

gùgōng = Forbidden City

huángdì = emperor

cānguān = visit; tour

xīshìzhīzhēn = a rare treasure

Wangfujing Snack Street 王府井 小吃街

Wangfujing Snack Street

scorpions on a stick

Small food stalls fill the narrow so-called “snack alley” that springs of the stopping street of Wangfujing. Here you find the usual snacks that Chinese just love, like BBQ sticks, pig stomach and candied fruit, but the main attraction are the exotic sticks. We are talking insects, worms and, even weirder, seahorses and starfish. The big black scorpions go down well, but the starfish is extremely bitter!

candied fruit

street food favorites











We suggest you try the stick-scorpions at least for bragging rights! It’ll be an experience to remember, and to take pictures of!

Useful Vocab:

xiēzi = scorpion

xiǎochī = snack

tánghúlu = sugar-coated fruit on a stick

The Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple) 雍和宫

The Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple) is a temple and monastery of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism located in the northeastern part of Beijing, China. It is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. The building and the artworks of the temple combine Han Chinese and Tibetan styles.

Yonghe Temple Board

Maitreya Buddha

In one of the buildings of the temple called the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses, there is a 26m tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of white sandalwood. This statue is one of the three artworks in the Temple which were included in the Guinness Book of Records in 1993.


Some Useful Vocab:

xīzàng = Tibet

fójiào = Buddhism

sìmiào = temple

zōngjiào = religion

The Great Wall of China 长城

The Great Wall of China is located in northern China and was built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. Most of the wall was built in parts since the 5th century BC. One of the most famous parts is the wall built by the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang between 220-206 BC. However, the majority of what remains was built during the Ming dynasty.

We generally refer to the Great Wall in three different sections: Mutianyu, Badaling and Simatai.


Level of Climbing Difficulty : Low

Tourist level: Medium

Mutianyu is located some 90km north of Beijing, and like Badaling, is a recently renovated section that’s very popular. Mutianyu lies in rugged territory and reaching the Wall from the main gate involves a strenuous climb up a steep stairway, but fortunately there’s a chairlift. Once on top, the views of the Wall undulating down wooded canyons and up mountain ridges are breathtaking.

Admission Fee: CNY 40
Opening Hours: 8:00-16:00
Cable Car: CNY 35 (Single trip), CNY 50 (Round Trip)
Slideway: CNY 55


Level of Climbing Difficulty: Medium

Tourist level: Very, very crowded

Only 70km away by superhighway, Badaling is the closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing and can be visited in half a day. Moreover, its proximity to the Ming Tombs means both sites can be seen in a single outing. Badaling was completely restored after 1957. It has a chairlift and fast food restaurants and can be very crowded with hawkers and tourists, but all that fades away once you leave the parking area and begin to walk along the Wall.

Admission Fee:CNY 45 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31); CNY 40 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
Opening Hours: 06:30-19:00 (Summer)   07:00-18:00 (Winter)


Level of Climbing Difficulty: High

Tourist Level: Low

The Simatai section is a dramatic testimony to Ming engineering skills with one section as steep as 85 degrees. Only partially restored, Simatai allows athletic visitors who climb past the first watchtowers to see the Wall in its wild, crumbling state. Less intrepid visitors can take a gondola. Simatai is 110km northwest of Beijing.

Admission Fee: CNY 40
Cable  Car: CNY 20 (Single Trip), CNY 30 (Round Trip)

Remember this before you go to the Great Wall:


It means: If you fail to reach the Great Wall, you are not a true man (or a true Han-Chinese).

So this is why you’ll find toddlers climbing the Great Wall with their parents!!!

Trip information from