Professor Cheng Man Ching
1901 - 1975
Of all the modern Tai Chi masters, none have had the impact of the late Cheng Man-Ch'ing. As a child growing up in China, Cheng suffered from a chronic lung condition and a local doctor suggested that he take up Tai Chi to remediate his condition. Cheng proved so good a student that he not only learned Tai Chi, he also cured himself of his illness through his practice.
In many ways Cheng was a prodigy. He grew up to become renowned in his own country as a master of the "Five Excellences": painting, poetry, calligraphy, medicine and martial arts. When one considers the vast learning and diligent study it takes to master even one of these disciplines, Cheng's achievement becomes even more remarkable. His skill as a physician was said to be particularly uncanny and it is in this capacity that he was brought the the attention of Yang Ch'eng-Fu, the standard bearer and lineage heir to the great Yang Lu-Chan, founder of the Yang Family Style of Tai Chi. It seems that Yang's wife was extremely ill and the most prominent doctors had had little success trying to find a cure for her illness. Yang had heard of Cheng's reputation as a doctor and he agreed to examine her. Cheng was able to successfully restore Madame Yang to health and in gratitude, Mrs Yang persuaded her husband to accept him as a Tai Chi student. Cheng studied daily with Master Yang for years, enduring many hardships to learn the art. Although he later rose to become a great master of Tai Chi himself, Cheng, in typical modesty, always denigrated his own skill with respect to his teacher's. "If Tai Chi was a human body," he was fond of saying, "all I possess is the thumb. My teacher (Master Yang) has the whole body!" No small praise from this highly accomplished individual.
After an illustrious career as a physician, senator and martial artist in Taiwan, Professor Cheng emigrated to the U.S. where he ran a large Tai Chi School in New York's Chinatown section, the old master departed this life on March 26th 1975, but his legacy lives on through his poetry, his painting, those he healed, those he taught and with the many students around the world that has learnt his style of Tai Chi Chuan.
Cheng Man-Ching Chronology
1901 Born in Yungchia, in the Province of Zhejiang
1916 Began studies in painting, poetry and calligraphy in Hangzhou
1919 Published poetry in Beijing
1923 Teacher of Chinese Painting at Beijing Academy of Fine Arts
1926 Began study of Chinese Medicine
1930 Established College of Chinese Culture and Art
1932 Began study of Tai Chi Chuan with Yang Cheng-Fu
1935 "Tai Chi Form and Applications" published. By Yang Cheng-Fu
and Professor Cheng
1936 Practicing medicine full-time
1938 Created the 37 Posture Short Form while in Henan
1939 Teaching Tai Chi Chuan professionally
1941 Married Ms. Yi-Tu. Took the name "Man-ch'ing."
1946 Member of National Assembly for Republic of China
1949 Moved to Taiwan
1950 "Cheng Tzu's Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi" published
1961 "Essence of Gynecology" published
1964 Established the Tai Chi Institute in New York
1975 Died on March 26th, Midnight
The Hall of Happiness
By Cheng Man-Ching
May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall. Not the joy of a sumptuous feast, which music brings-it is only limited duration. Beauty and a pretty face are like flowers; they bloom for a while, then die. Even our youth slips swiftly away and is gone.
No, enduring happiness is not in these, nor in the three joys of Jung Kung. We may as well forget them, for the joy I mean is worlds away from these.
It is the joy of continuous growth, of helping to develop in ourselves and others the talents and abilities with which we were born - the gifts of heaven to mortal men. It is to revive the exhausted and to rejuvenate that which is in decline, so that we are enabled to dispel sickness and suffering.
Let true affection and happy concourse abide in this hall. Let us here correct our past mistakes and lose preoccupation with self. With the constancy of the planets in their courses or of the dragon in his cloud wrapped path, let us enter the land of health and ever after walk within its bound.
Let us fortify ourselves against weakness and learn to be self reliant, without ever a moment`s lapse. Then our resolution will become the very air we breathe, the world we live in; then we will be as happy as fish in crystal waters. This is the joy which last, that we can carry with us to the end of our days. And tell me, if you can; what greater happiness can life bestow?
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Video credit ken Van Sickle/ Photo Credit Robert W Smith