This week's tale, dear readers, is a bizarre one. A borderline-insane, highly-controversial story that walks a thin barbed-wire tightrope between being total bullshit and the sort of head-crushing physical manifestation of awesomeness that can only be described as one of the most badass things ever. A story so conceptually ridiculous that it can only legitimately be busted out in the weeks before Halloween, lest any man fool enough to tell it be laughed straight out of the Internet, damned to an eternal hellhole of self-loathing and pitiful one-bar wi-fi access.
This, my friends, is the story of T'ai Djin, the Kung Fu Werewolf.
I'll begin this mysterious tale by simply relaying the events of T'ai Djin's utterly-nuts life as I have heard them from a variety of questionably-legitimate sources. The way it has been written in the lore of the Shaolin-Do Kung Fu temples, passed down from generation to generation among the practitioners of this deadly martial art, spoken in hushed voices between old masters and curious students alike. Only after I have done my due diligence in reporting the story shall I make any attempt to discuss the veracity of these claims, so for those of you who are already furiously opening up browser tabs so that you can unleash your boundless rage by loudly punching out the phrase "LOL YA RITE KUN FU WEREWOLF WTF DIAF LOOSER" into the subject line of an email, please wait until the ride has come to a complete stop before lifting up on the lap bar. Here we go.
The boy who would be named T'ai Djin was born in the Chinese town of Fukien in 1849. His parents – poor, uneducated farmers that they were – were understandably somewhat concerned when their newly-born boy came out of the womb and was completely Fukien covered in hair from head to toe. Their immediate thought was that this crazy-ultra-body-beard Cousin It motherfucker they were looking at was in fact not a child, but some kind of demonic evil spirit, perhaps dispatched to the mortal realm to devour humans and steal their hair to add to his already-impressive collection of follicles. It turns out he was actually just afflicted with a rather extreme case of the rare genetic disease known as Hypertrichosis, which is also known by the largely more-pronounceable and infinitely more-badass moniker "Werewolf Syndrome", but this was something that was slightly beyond his parents' grasp. Hypertrichosis wasn't exactly a commonly-diagnosed illness in rural China in the late 1840s, so even though it was technically their fault for passing along some moderately-mutated genetic material, T'ai Djin's parents still decided that instead of getting the kid some topical ointment they'd instead just abandon their little demon-baby in the woods so that he could die of exposure and put everyone else in the world out of his misery.
Petrus Gonzales - a true historical example of Hypertrichosis.
If world mythology has taught us anything, however, it's that abandoning your kid in the wild is pretty much the number one way to turn them into a huge raging badass. Not long after the dump-and-run heroism of his parents, the boy was discovered by a wandering group of, would you believe it, wandering Shaolin monks. The monks, correctly observing that this small infant was a human child and not the physical incarnation of evil manifest into flesh, took the kid back to the Fukien Shaolin Temple to teach him some Fukien Kung Fu his ass off.
The monks are the ones who gave T'ai Djin his name, and they were unable to get him adopted to a nice local family on account of his mutant hair growth factor, so instead they decided to train him to become the most ultimate killing machine that ever lived. T'ai Djin, for his part, didn't have a whole lot of incentive to leave the comfort and acceptance of the Temple and his Shaolin brothers to go out and be ridiculed and ostracized by the local population, so this guy instead just spent his life learning how to smash boards with his head and withstand people cracking him in the balls with steel rods all day long without even flinching or changing his expression to anything other than boredom. He learned 200 empty hand Kung Fu styles and became a master of 140 weapons (though why the hell a bunch of Buddhist monks had 140 weapons laying around their home is a little beyond my comprehension), effectively meaning that he was capable of instantaneously killing a man with anything and everything he had available to him at any time ever. T'ai Djin became the Wikipedia of martial arts, absorbing the knowledge of all ten Temple masters and assimilating it into one furious tornado of hairy carnage that makes the WB's Tazmanian Devil look about as menacing as a tumbleweed blowing through the middle of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Eventually the Shaolin masters decided to appoint "The Hairy Master" the first Grand Master of the Fukien Shaolin Temple, where he assumed leadership of the combat arm of the monastery and was tasked with training initiates in the art of pummeling people's
brains into a gray-brown slurry of misery. They were all truly impressed with his radness.
As you can probably imagine, crazy tales of badassitude tend to be associated with things Werewolf Kung Fu Grandmasters, and T'ai Djin was no exception. One story claims that he walked into a convention of Shaolin Masters so that they could all check out how awesome he was, but as soon as this dude entered the room he flipped the fuck out, pulled a knife from his belt, and threw it straight up into heaven with enough force to puncture God. Everyone was sitting around like, "WTF dude", when all of a sudden this fucking Japanese ninja assassin fell down from the rafters with a knife wedged directly through the frontal lobe of his brain. T'ai Djin claimed that he heard 13 people breathing when he entered the room, but could only see 12 men, so he echo-located the ninja and eliminated him immediately.
Another story claims that he was the master of the Dim Mak, or the "Werewolf Death Touch", which is a seriously real thing, except that I added the word "Werewolf" to make it sound even more badass. Basically, this shit is where you're supposed to run up to some fucking chump and go totally Jean-Claude Van Damme from Bloodsport on him, simultaneously exploding every organ in the dude's torso by just smashing him with a couple of fingers:
Now imagine those eyes peering out at you from behind the most utterly out-of-control beard in this history of beardage and you're starting to get the idea. Some stories claim that when this guy would get bored of beating the shit out of Shaolin monks all day he would run out into the woods and wrestle bears to death just for the hell of it. He also led the Shaolin warrior monks on missions to help protect the populace of Southern China from, no kidding, coastal raids by Japanese pirates. To be perfectly honest with you, I hope to crap that this story is true, because nothing in the world makes me happier than imagining a Werewolf Shaolin Kung Fu Monk taking on a ship full of Japanese Ninja Pirates. Seriously.
T'ai Djin is also credited with burning down the Shaolin Temple, though apparently he did it in a good way. I guess the Emperor of China was getting all pissed off about how awesome the monks were, so he sent a huge-ass army to trash the place and murder everyone inside. T'ai Djin found out about this, and, knowing that defending the temple was strategically impossible, he just had his people remove everything valuable and torch the place to the ground. A last stand would have been nice, sure, but there's also something kind of cool about this guy becoming the first Grandmaster of the Temple and then torching the entire place into ashes before he could abdicate to a successor.
Legend has it that T'ai Djin left a note for the Emperor's men. It read:
LOL LOOSERS YOU MARCHED ALL THIS WAY 4 NUTHIN NOW DIAF PLZ
Things weren't really the same without the temple, though, and eventually T'ai Djin died in 1928 at the age of 79. This in itself is pretty damn impressive though, considering that Hypertrichosis is usually a terminal illness. According to the legend, he passed down his entire wealth of knowledge to a young disciple before dying so that his legacy of awesomeness would go on.
Now for the bad news – there's really not a ton of info out there that lends any credibility to this admittedly-awesome story. The only real sources I was able to track down on him were from websites supporting the martial art he was purported to study – a school that as far as I can tell was founded by an Indonesian guy in Kentucky in the 1960s (who, to his credit, claims to have learned his skills from T'ai Djin's prized pupil). I know there's not much reliable info out there on many of the great martial arts masters (even Jubei, Musashi, and the legendary Wong Fei Hung are tough to find good info on) but it's kind of a bad sign when there's more info out there on Tai'jin, the Horde Priest Trainer in World of Warcraft, than there is on a supposedly-real human being. It's not super-reassuring.
However, I would argue that this mysterious history only serves to make T'ai Djin's legend that much more intriguing. He's like the Boba Fett of Kung Fu Werewolves. The fact that we might never know his true history or identity only serves to make him that much more badass.
P.S. Tiger Balls.
The Human Marvels
A Brief History of Shaolin-Do
The Complete List
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