The protector of Wudang Mountain is the Dark Warrior (玄武 Xuánwǔ). The Dark Warrior is a turtle intertwined with a snake. It is one of the Si Shen (四神), four Chinese astrological figures that symbolize the cardinal directions and elements.
North – Xuan Wu (玄武) the Dark Warrior – Water
Soth – Vermillion Bird (朱雀) – Fire
West – White Tiger (白虎) – Metal
East – Green Dragon (青龙) – Wood
The center (Earth) is sometimes referred to as the Yellow Dragon.
The 72 peaks of Wudang Mountains look like the flames of a fire. So a statue of the Dark Warrior was placed on top of the mountain to create balance and harmony. Putting water over fire also produces steam, which is associated the non-material Qi energy of the body.
During the Northern Song dynasty the name Dark Warrior was changed to Perfect Warrior (真武 Zhēnwǔ) to avoid using a character from the Emperor’s name (the character 玄 meaning “dark”). By the Ming dynasty, a humanized version of the Perfect Warrior had become one of the most important deities in China.
In human form, the Perfect Warrior can be recognized by his long, unbound hair, bare feet, sword, and the armor he wears underneath his robes.
Similar to the Shakyamuni Buddha, the Perfect Warrior was also born a prince. He left home to study the Dao when he was still a teenager. Eventually he came to Wudang Mountain. On Wudang Mountain there is a river called the Sword River (剑河) that divides the temples from the village below. It is said when the Empress came to bring her son home, the prince dragged his sword in through ground and it created a river.
The temples were a lot harder to get to in ancient times because there was heavy brush. There was a crow who helped the Perfect Warrior as he climbed. Whenever the prince lost his way, the crow would help him find his path. In China, crows are said to bring misfortune, but on Wudang we consider them good luck.
Legend has it that the Perfect Warrior practiced on Wudang Mountain for forty-two years. One day the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝) decided to test him. While he was meditating a woman appeared before him and wanted to help brush his hair. The Perfect Warrior pushed her away and she fell off a cliff. He was very upset and jumped off after her. As he fell, five dragons appeared and lifted him up to heaven.
Flying up to heaven, the Perfect Warrior said, “非真武不足以当之” meaning “Only the Perfect Warrior will suffice”. The characters “Wu” and “Dang” were extracted from this quote (Fēi zhēnwǔ bùzú yǐ dāng zhī) , giving the mountain its name.
Both the Dark Warrior and his human form, the Perfect Warrior were used by the ancient Chinese to understand and commune with the divine. As a totemic representation of the North, and the element water, the Dark Warrior is a part of five element cosmology. The Perfect Warrior is a man who attained oneness with the Dao, representing ideal human po