Fit And Fab

Gongfu master climbs to relax

Master Pang in action. He takes half an hour - or 5,000 steps - to climb the 1,500m-high Song Mountain to reach Damo cave at the top, two to three times a week.
Master Pang in action. He takes half an hour - or 5,000 steps - to climb the 1,500m-high Song Mountain to reach Damo cave at the top, two to three times a week.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The Shaolin monks are in Singapore to perform their extraordinary acrobatic feats. Team leader Master Pang Jianxun tells Ng Wan Ching about his way of life

Q What's your secret to looking so fabulous?

A Lots of exercise. I practise gongfu for five to six hours every day. In the mornings, I run for half an hour.

I also maintain a peaceful mind through meditation. I live with younger fellow monks and they make me feel the power of youth. 

Q Was there a time when you weren't fit and fab? What happened and how did you get out of it?

A No, I meditate and exercise daily. I don't go through such changes in my life.

Q What is your diet like?

A My diet is mainly rice and noodles, and the products of beans, vegetable and fruit.  

Q What are your indulgences?

A Playing ping pong and basketball. There is a ping pong table and a basketball hoop at the temple school.

Q What do you do to relax and how do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

A I climb Song Mountain two to three times a week to relax. It is about 1,500m high and it takes about 5,000 steps - or about half an hour - for me to reach Damo cave at the top.

I sometimes climb there on all fours. I don't wear special clothes to climb, just my temple garments and shoes.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A Communicating with people who love gongfu, teaching others gongfu and my own gongfu practice sessions.

  • Bio Box


    AGE: 38

    HEIGHT: 1.75m

    WEIGHT: 65 kg 

    His Buddhist name is Shi Heng Song and he is a gongfu master from the legendary Shaolin Temple in China's Henan province.

    He is the head of the Shaolin Warrior Monk Troupe and Orphanage.

    His interest in Buddhism and Shaolin gongfu started when, as a boy, he watched the 1980s film, The Shaolin Temple.

    The hit movie, which starred Jet Li, made him want to live the life of a monk.

    In 1989, he completed his primary school studies and became a pupil of the temple. He started studying Buddhist philosophy and gongfu.

    The monks who live in the temple number only a couple of hundreds. However, those who are ordained and running temple schools or other temples number as many as 100,000.

    Those who are under 18 years of age have to pay a few hundred dollars a year to live and study at the temple.

    Anyone, regardless of age, race and gender, can strive to become a Shaolin monk, through studying in a temple school. 

    Master Pang now travels with his troupe, taking the Shaolin: Wheel Of Life show all over the world.

    He said: "We perform to represent the history of the temple and to demonstrate real gongfu skills to the best of our abilities."

    Neither his parents nor his younger sister, who is married and a housewife, practise gongfu.

    You can catch Master Pang and the 20-member cast performing at MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, till Sunday. For more information, go to

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A Definitely a big no. I think people should accept themselves and what they have been given.  

Q Do you think you are sexy?

A I don't think so.

Q What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your body?

A I like my legs most and I am not very satisfied at the moment with my arms.

My legs have benefited from my frequent mountain climbing. They are very muscular.

Q What are your must-dos before and after fitness sessions?

A I always do warm-ups before a workout and drink a lot of water afterwards. I also make sure I have enough rest.

Q How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?

A It is already a part of my life. For me, practising gongfu every day is like the need to eat every day.

Q What is the biggest sacrifice you have had to make to get to your current size today?

A I didn't sacrifice anything. In fact, I benefited a lot from practising gongfu every day.

Q What do your family and friends say about your active lifestyle?

A Some of them want to learn from my lifestyle. They think it is a very healthy and enjoyable way to live.

Q How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia?

A Not extensive at all. I just wear my grey outfit from the temple.

Q What is your most prized possession?

A There is nothing that is most prized to me.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Gongfu master climbs to relax'. Print Edition | Subscribe