One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light

One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light
is the first section in Robert Peng's book,
The Master Key

Installment #2

Chapter One
The Mysterious Mr. Tan 


The Boiler Room Attendant

On May 16, 1966, the Cultural Revolution was launched in China. Within a few years new policies called for the shutdown of religious institutions, and local authorities notified the monks at Jiuyi Temple that they needed to vacate the monastery so it could be converted into an administrative center. The temple was boarded up and the Golden Buddha was padlocked inside. The monks put on civilian clothes and returned to their former homes. Xiao Yao, however, had no family, so there was no village awaiting his return. Now nearly eighty years old, he had no place to go. He spent a stretch of time living in the mountains as a hermit and then decided to leave Snowy Peak Mountain. He wandered hundreds of miles east along the bank of the Xiang River until he reached Xiangtan.

Xiangtan was an industrial city with a large steel production plant that employed tens of thousands of workers. The factory had been built during the 1950s with the help of Soviet engineers. A luxury resort the locals called Yi Suo had been constructed to house the foreigners who managed the factory. After the Soviet engineers departed, Yi Suo hosted Chinese government officials. Flower gar- dens and sweetly scented fruit trees lined the walkways. There were a swimming pool and a restaurant that served gourmet meals. The compound was surrounded by an imposing tall brick wall that shielded it from curious onlookers. 

Xiao Yao applied for a job at Yi Suo and was offered the least desirable position: boiler room attendant. A boiler room attendant is always on call. He lives in the boiler room and feeds the boilers three times a day, every day. His work is solitary, ongoing, and thank- less, and the pay is very low. But despite these shortcomings, Xiao Yao accepted the job and moved in right away. He slept on a flimsy mattress in the corner opposite three fiery ovens. He cooked his own food and shoveled coal diligently an hour before each mealtime. The employees at Yi Suo were unaware of his background. They knew him simply as “Mr. Tan,” the affable, kindhearted boiler room attendant who mostly kept to himself. 

My family lived across the street from Yi Suo on the first floor of a modest three-floor brick walk-up. My father was an onsite construction manager for the factory, and my mother worked as a cook in the factory restaurant. I was the youngest of four children. In 1972, around the time of my eighth birthday, I began to suffer from acute chest pain. My mother took me to the hospital, where the doctor prescribed some medicine, but the pain grew worse. She brought me back to the doctor, who increased the dosage and suggested I stay home and rest for an indefinite amount of time. Although the notion of skipping school thrilled me, the reality of staying home all day alone was distressing. After the first few days my restlessness became unbearable, so I snuck out of the house while my mother was at work. 

Our building was located near the edge of town, so I ventured into the countryside. It was early spring. I munched unripe wild berries growing in the bushes. They tasted sour, but I relished them. I was fascinated by bugs and watched worker ants labor for hours. After a few days of these solitary adventures, I grew bored and decided to sneak into Yi Suo to see the fruit trees and flowers. I scaled a back section of the wall and jumped. As I landed, a sharp pain shot through my heart. I ignored it. The compound was so beautiful compared to the drab streets of Xiangtan that it seemed otherworldly. I explored the grounds carefully, avoiding adults. 

The following day I returned, venturing even farther in. One building in particular caught my interest. It was made of red brick with thick red elbow pipes jutting out from its sides like metal arms. It looked like a big red bug. The door was cracked open, so I poked my head inside. A man dressed in a navy-blue uniform was standing in front of a boiler. I could see a roaring fire through its thick glass plate. The boiler room attendant looked at me and smiled. 

“Do you want to watch the fire?” he asked.

I could have run away, but he had a friendly face and spoke in a soft, reassuring voice. He did not look like a typical boiler room attendant. His hands were clean and his clothes were not stained black. 

“Do you like fire?” he inquired. I nodded. 

“Don’t be frightened. Come in and have a look.” I hesitated. 

“I promise not to tell anyone.” 

I entered the boiler room cautiously. 

“What is your name?”

“Jihui Peng,” I answered.

“I am Mr. Tan,” he said in a strong provincial accent, and then asked, “How old are you?” 


“It’s almost lunchtime. Why don’t you sit down and watch me feed the boilers?” 

He slipped on a pair of thick canvas gloves, opened the heavy plate-glass door, and began to shovel coal into the burner. The fire surged. He continued for a while and then sat down beside me. We both watched silently as the boiler chewed its lunch. 

“Why aren’t you in school?” he asked, finally breaking the silence. 

“I’m sick, and the doctor told my mom I should stay home,” I told him. 

“What’s wrong?”

“My heart hurts.” 

Mr. Tan looked at me for a long while as I scrutinized him. Up close, he looked even friendlier. He had thick eyebrows and big, fleshy ears. His hair was cropped short and black. He looked my father’s age, around forty-five. After a while he stood up and I rose with him. 

“Feel free to come back anytime you like,” he said.

My face lit up. “Really? Thanks, Mr. Tan.” 

To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...

Click on the following to read: Installment #1

Robert Peng is a world-renowned Qigong Master, healer, and author of the book, The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom.

Click here for a free access of the audiobook, 100 Days of Darkness and Light, which is the first section in Robert's book, The Master Key.

Robert's companion resources include:

The Master Key Video Series (4 DVDs of Qigong practices)
The Master Key Audio Series (5 CDs of Qigong practices)
Qigong Ecstasy (45-minute Qigong practice video)
AM/PM Qigong (Two 30-minute Qigong routines video)

Robert was born and raised in Hunan, China. At age eight, he began an intensive apprenticeship under the close guidance of the legendary monk Xiao Yao, an enlightened master known for his profound healing ability and martial arts skill. At age 15, Robert performed a 100-day water fast in a small dark room at a secluded monastery in the remote mountains of Hunan province. He underwent a radical spiritual transformation and awakened amazing healing powers. Master Xiao Yao encouraged Robert to develop his healing skills by studying with other Chinese masters.

After pursuing his training quietly while attending university in Changsha, where he majored in English Literature, at 29 years old he began to teach publicly, and within five years had trained over 150,000 students all over China, Australia, and the U.S. 

With his deep understanding and practice of Qigong, and with extensive life and teaching experience in the western world, Robert has developed a unique way to teach Qigong that people from different cultures can easily understand and follow while enjoying the real essence of this ancient Chinese healing art of wisdom, love, and vitality. 

Robert has been a regular presenter at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Esalen Institute, Integrative Health Symposium, and many other organizations and schools. 

Together with Bishop Desmond and Pema Chodron, he was honored as one of "Top Ten Heroes of 2013" for his contribution to transform "the ancient Chinese healing art of Qigong into today's fast-growing holistic practices — in addition to use as a spiritual practice for inner balance and peace, Qigong movement is gaining acceptance as a gentle movement for chronic illness and pain."

Click here to visit Robert’s website.

Click here to watch and participate in Robert’s 8-minute Qigong practice, Scooping Universal Qi to Empower our Wisdom, Love & Vitality.


Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 22: Healing With The Masters Summit