National Geographic : 2011 Mar
neighbors at the small house in Yanshi, which had been adorned with dozens of brightly col- ored paper wreaths. Shi Dejian arrived with two of his disciples. Some of Hu's students demon- strated kung fu routines. e hiss and pop of reworks lled the air, alerting the spirit world to the master's arrival. A trio of ute players led the funeral procession out of town to the family's wheat eld, where the master would be buried beside his parents. e mourners led carefully between the muddy rows of lustrous green wheat, careful not to tram- ple the young crop. As we walked behind the master's casket, Hu was still pondering whether to accept the role in the kung fu lm. It would be disrespectful so close to the master's death. And yet he had dis- cussed it with some of the older disciples, who had encouraged him to do it. It would mean that a piece of Yang Guiwu would live on through Hu's performance and, perhaps, inspire future students. A er all, the disciples reminded him, it had been kung fu lms that led Hu to the master in the rst place. Life's wheel had come full circle, the master would have said. j In their future careers Tagou pupils likely won't hit anyone with a staff. Yet the discipline and character they develop while perfecting its use, say their coaches, are weapons they will wield over their lifetimes.