One-to-one Kung fu training with Grandmaster Yap Leong (in 'Chinatown' in Little Newport Street) on a regular basis means I have spare time to shop and see some of London's sights. London visits in 2012 for those interested in Chinese Martial Arts, Culture and Feng Shui etc. for business, pleasure and for the Olympics can be enjoyed even more with a little insider knowledge.
Han Jen: British Museum
Regularly visiting the British Museum's excellent Chinese Section on the First Floor means a Han Dynasty straight-sword (Jen) always catches my eye, like the Shang Dynasty Bronze Ritual Vessels from around 1500 BCE. Visiting the Museum is always a delightful and educational experience.
Han Dynasty sword-technology advances produced longer, stronger blades. The iron sword has a lacquered scabbard and carved wood fittings with an interlaced design. Pommel, guard, slide and chape are decorated with Dragons and Snakes. Founded by Liu Pang in 206 BCE, such was China's regard for the Han Dynasty's virtues that its People still refer to themselves as Han Jen / 'Han swords' today.
However, if you plan to visit this Summer, the Museum Cafeteria prices hardly represent value-for-money (particularly for families). 'Joy' Chinese / Thai Buffet within 100 yards of the Museum's Main Entrance offers 'eat-your-fill' for around the same price as one Museum sandwich 'Mr Wu' (Wardour Street Chinatown) is even cheaper (I can recommend both) . Next big British Museum Exhibition is BP-sponsored 'Shakespeare: Staging the World' 19th July-25th Nov 2012. Be prepared!
'Chinatown' and Covent Garden
'Loon Feng' (Dragon Phoenix) Supermarket on Gerrard Street or 'See Woo' on Lisle Street usually provide a couple of weeks' supply of medicinal Chinese Herbal Teas. Many are delicious, provide a wonderful start to the day and are also remarkably cheap. Before Qigong, Apothecary or Acupuncture, the Chinese recommend 'Food Therapy'-eating and drinking according to certain principles which re-balance internal systems (1) (2)
'Guangwha' (Newport Place) probably the UK's foremost Chinese Bookshop and source of related artefacts and materials is also a favorite port-of-call. Take nearby signs warning of Pick-pockets operating locally seriously. Such events are reported on a daily basis, whilst other individuals blame themselves, thinking they've been careless and 'lost' something.
Nearby Covent Garden Market, only a short stroll away, also merits a visit. The Monday Antique Market often has Chinese items like Buddha or Kuan Yin figures and Chinese Feng Shui coins available inexpensively (3).
My final pre-training destination is always Shaolin Way (Little Newport Street) Grandmaster Yap Leong's Martial Arts Store adjacent to Leicester Square Tube Station. There, alongside the many Martial items: weapons, equipment, uniforms, DVD's etc. on display and in-store is a wealth of information (and expertise) relating to contemporary Martial Arts, especially Chinese Martial Arts and Qigong.
(1) Liu Zhengcai 'The Mystery of Longevity' (1996) Beijing, Foreign Languages Press (3rd Edition) devotes a whole section to this.
(2) 'Martial Arts Ezine: Red Dragon' Issue 68, May 2012, reviews the above.
(3) Look for coins from the reign of Qing Emperor Chien Lung.