We western people are idealizing the Chinese world, especially when it comes to Wudang and the holy Taoist saints :). We all are human even in Wudang you will not find anything more, but understanding this five rumors should help to reduce the cultural shock:
1. Taoists don’t eat meat
While this is true for priests it is not a strict rule in general. The normal Taoist population is allowed to eat meat and does so very frequently, even priests tend to eat meat once in a while. These rules are no strict boundaries but from the outside they seem to be. I once asked a Taoist priests about meat, the next day i found him eating bacon. The Chinese culture can be very flexible and simply talking something can mean to focus on it. Some Taoists clearly try to eat more vegetables. In all it is very hard to find a Taoist priest which takes this rule very seriously. The most common excuse was: “Without meat once in a while you have no strength.”
2. In China you eat without/less fat
This is one of the greatest mistakes i have ever heard. In China there was a time when there was no oil available and they simply could not fry properly. Today almost everything in China is eaten with lots of oil, it is a symbol of being rich and being rich is highly respected in China. If you order noodles or rice in a restaurant or shop you can be sure to have much much oil in your portion. I have never seen so many oil products in a supermarket than in China, most come in XXXXL (~around 5-10 Liter) sized plastic bottles. You can also buy “old oil” (dark brown color) in the supermarket which has been recycled, it is often used in restaurants as it is cheaper.
3. In China you eat many fruits and vegetables
Fruits: Again, don’t be fooled here. In Asian countries (also Korea and Vietnam) you almost never eat fruits. This is because most fruits are genetically modified and rich in pesticides. These are not really healthy and you have to peel the skin (apple for example) always. You will find many shelves with colorful fruits in giant XXL sizes which nobody buys (for a reason). If you are on the farm side, there will be once in a while a merchant who grew them himself. If the police does not arrest him for street vending (yes i saw that happen) than the fruits are quickly sold out. The fruit quality is generally very very low.
Vegetables: Here you are right! But not maybe as you think. In China you eat many green leafs and put them for a few seconds in hot water before eating them. Even men would order a lot of green leafs. This green leafs are highly regarded. I only know that one of this vegetables must be Pak Choi, most of them i do not know. Besides that lotus root is also a highly regarded vegetable and eaten very often.
4. Chinese people are so humble, tolerant and respectful
You will be fooled greatly once you speak Chinese language and understand what they say. In fact Chinese society is all about money. People need to find jobs with lots of money. Who has lots of money will be respected in society. It is common for people to show a fancy car or something else which is expensive to be respected. After a long time in China you will see that the culture is not so highly developed (just differently) and most of it is only about the surface. Chinese people are taught to work in a group and this is what they do good. The only reasons to be humble, tolerant and respectful is when the person is lower ranked, is inside a group or system. Once the person is doing his own system or is with equals than this rules don’t apply. Some regions in China are more westernized and simply adopted our western culture. I have been living in Hubei province and most people there come from the countryside which simply do not care or tolerate you much.
5. In China (including Wudang) i can find my peace
As tourist maybe you find it while not understanding anything of what is around you. I know many long term students in China which lived in different regions for about five years. All of them can tell you tales on how annoying the Chinese society is. Some were on the verge to almost become crazy :). China is a country with all extremes and most of it is not balanced! Maybe that is why the teachings of balance, yin and yang and so on are so important. It would simply be too long to count all the flaws i found, but the society certainly lacks empathy in all ways. Peace you can find in your heart mostly. The easygoingness in China will drive a western perfectionist crazy. The language, the actions everything is not clearly defined and not taken seriously as a western country would do.
In fact China is still a great country!
Short term for me mostly! But you will see as many ups and downs as never before once you grasped the language and culture. Makes it easier to find back to your roots – in your country. China was an experience i do miss and will visit again certainly. The country has so much to offer but can make you tired very quickly.