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About Chinese Art & Culture

Tai Chi MelbourneThe Shr Jung School for Culture and the Arts
Tai Chi MelbourneCalligraphy, Painting & Poetry - T'ai Chi & the Arts
Tai Chi MelbourneTraditional Chinese Medicine
Tai Chi MelbourneThe Philosophical Schools - Taoism, Buddhism & Confucianism

The Shr Jung School of Culture & The Arts

Professor Cheng Man Ching's
school was named "The Shr Jung School for Culture and the Arts". Master Cheng himself was known by the epigram "Master of 5 Excellences" for his expertise in Tai Chi, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Painting, Poetry and Calligraphy. He was also known for his skill in Chinese chess and flower arrangement.

The following poem written by Professor Cheng hung in the training hall at his New York school and summarised the core principles and ideas for practicing the cultural arts that he taught.

Tai Chi Motto - Cheng Man Ching

May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall.
Not the joy of a sumptuous feast, which slips away even as we leave the table; nor that which music
brings—it is only of a 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 bounds.
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 a fish in crystal waters. This is the joy which
lasts, that we can carry with us to the end of our days.
And tell me, if you can; what greater happiness can life bestow?

Cheng Man-Ching, New York City, 1973

Calligraphy, Painting & Poetry - Tai Chi & the Arts

Tai Chi is one of many arts that helps us to teach us how to live in the world. By revealing beauty and a deep comprehension of the connection between the mind and body Tai Chi teaches us about ourselves and our connection to nature and our relationships with other people.

Professor Cheng Man Ching Calligraphy
Professor Cheng Man Ching Calligraphy by Ken Van Sickle
Image copyright of Ken Van Sickle.

Morgan & Master Maggie Newman
Sifu Morgan with Master Maggie Newman

Master Maggie was an artist in her own right, having spent some time on Chinese brushwork as well as being a world famous dancer and expert in Japanese Kubuki dance. Like Professor Cheng, she explored art as a means of expanding and informing her Tai Chi practice.

Professor Cheng Beautiful Ladys Hand
Professor Cheng Man Ching - The Beautiful Lady's Hand by Ken Van Sickle
Image copyright of Ken Van Sickle.

Master Ken Van Sickled is a professional photographer who is well known for his beautiful photos that archived the teaching of Professor Cheng Man Chin at the Shr Jung School in New York Chinatown in the 1960's and 70's.

Sifu Morgan & Master Ken Van Sickle
Sifu Morgan with Master Ken Van Sickle

Master Earthstone Chu, a student of Master Wang Nien Yien of Taipei is a famous contemporary artist and has developed his own form of freeform Tai Chi dance. His original self experession is a part of his own attempt to express his Tai Chi as a work of art. I attended this performance with a Tai Chi visiting teacher from New York, Sifu Jill Basso who wrote about her impressions of Master Chu's performance.

Earthstone Chu Tai Chi DanceEarthstone Chu Tai Chi Dance
Earthstone Chu Zi Zai SocietyEarthstone Tai Chi Dance
Earthsone Chu

Be sure to check out our section of Chinese poetry in the media section.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Professor Cheng was a dedicated and famous Chinese doctor, consulting many patients every day.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has many branches ranging from acupuncture, to herbs, moxibusion, massage and exercise. This last category covers the practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung and both practices are heavily invested in the principles of Chinese Medicine, in particular, improving and regulating the flow of chi (energy) in the body. When the circulation of blood and chi is unobstructed the practitioner experiences the softness and pliability of a child and the strength of a lumberjack.

Just like Western medicine, Chinese medicine seeks to identify and treat symptoms of illness but it also has a strong focus on prevention of illness through regulating the body's internal health. Internal health as opposed to external exercise, is designed to stimulate and strengthen the internal organs, increase the energy levels of the body and cultivate a happy and relaxed mind and body, the key ingrediants for warding off physical and mental imbalance.

As part of the Willow Tree School curriculum students learn a series of non-invasive, basic self-massage exercises using the acupressure points of Tui Na, Traditional Chinese massage therapy. These are easy to learn and apply and complement Tai Chi & Chi Gong practice and help to keep the body clear of blockages and regulate energy throughout the day.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Points

The Philosophical Schools - Taoism, Buddhism & Confucianism

Professor Cheng said that Tai Chi was part Taoist, part Buddhist and part Confucian. These three traditions form the philosophical foundation of Chinese culture and influence the traditional arts in a number of ways.

The Willow Tree School teaches elements of these traditions in their philosophical and physical culture context, in how they can assist us in developing a calm mind and body. In terms of Tai Chi and Chi Kung there is no need to address Taoism, Buddhism or Confucianism in any religious context, nor will our approach conflict with anyone's religious beliefs.

The key point, for the practice of Tai Chi & Chi Gong is to keep in mind that all three philosophies help us to comprehend the interaction of opposites in the world and then present methods to unite them into a single unified whole.


Lao Tzu LaoziTaoism (pronounced as Daoism) is a philsophical school that he influenced East Asia for over two thousand years.

Taoism's founder is Lao Tzu, author of the famous collection of writings the Tao Teh Ching.

Taoist's seek to follow the "Tao", or path way which walks the line between the extremes of yin (negative) and yang (positive) in the inner and outer world. When we say negative and positive we are not referring to a moral state, but rather forms of energetic essence, as you would find in the positive and negative charge of a battery.

The yin/yang symbol which is often seen in the West is called the "Tai Chi Tu" or Tai Chi diagram. Tai Chi has the meaning of unifying the opposite energies that exist in nature into a unified and balanced state.

Taoism in its philosophical sense, attempts to unite the mind and body and define our way of being in the world by embracing concepts of non-resistance, softness and attunement with the cycles of nature and its seasons.

Lao Tzu - Tao Teh Ching - Chapter 63. Do Nondoing.

Do nondoing,
Strive for nonstriving,
Savour the flavourless,
Regard the small as important,
Make much of little,
Repay enmity with virtue;
Plan for difficulty when it is still easy,
Do the great while it is still small.
The most difficult things in the world
Must be done while they are easy;
The greatest things is the world
Must be done while they are small.
Because of this sages never do great things;
That is why they can fulfill their greatness.
If, in life, you agree too easily you’ll be little trusted;
If you take it easy a lot, you’ll have a lot of problems.
Therefore it is by managing difficulty
That sages end up without problems.

Chinese Buddhism

BuddhaChinese Buddhism refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China proper since ancient times after introduction from its original source, India.

Many of these schools integrated the ideas of Confucianism, Taoism and other indigenous philosophical systems so that what was initially a foreign religion (the buddhadharma) came to be a natural part of Chinese civilization, albeit with a unique character.

Buddhism has played an enormous role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese people, affecting their aesthetics, politics, literature, philosophy and medicine.

Japanese Zen Mediation is derived from a form of Chinese Buddhist meditation called Chan. Chan in turn dervied from Pure Reality Taoism. In terms of Tai Chi and Chi Gong practice, Buddist philosophy helps us to transcend the self, calm the mind and unite opposite states into a single whole.

Bodhidharma, the founder of Buddhism in China, arrived in China around 520 C.E., visiting Canton and Lohyang. In Lohyang, he is reputed to have engaged in 9 years of silent meditation, coming to be known as "the wall-gazing Brahman".

He died around 529 C.E. Bodhidharma focused on direct insight about one's own experience, under the instruction of a teacher, discouraging misguided veneration of Buddhas for the sake of superstition. Often attributed to Bodhidharma is the Bloodstream Sermon, which was actually composed quite some time after his death.

"Buddhas don't save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil (since the harmonise opposites). To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature."


ConfuciusConfucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (or K'ung-fu-tzu, lit. "Master Kong", 551479 BC). It focuses on human morality and wrong action. It is a complex system of moral, social, political, and philosophical thought that has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Asia. Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include China (mainland), Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Japan was influenced by Confucianism in a different way.

The basic teachings of Confucianism stress the importance of education for moral development of the individual so that the state can be governed by moral virtue rather than by the use of coercive laws.

Professor Cheng was a dedicated Confucian and named his school "Shr Jung" after Confucius's concept of "Jung Yong" or the "Middle Way" which provides an ethical framework for finding a balanced course through life. The Jung Yong is also known as the Doctrine of the Mean (meaning average, as in a balanced number) or the Golden Mean.

Extract from the Doctrine of the Mean

When joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure have not yet arisen, it is called the Mean (centrality, equilibrium). When they arise to their appropriate levels, it is called "harmony". The Mean is the great root of all-under-heaven. "Harmony" is the penetration of the Way through all-under-heaven. When the Mean and Harmony are actualized, Heaven and Earth are in their proper positions, and the myriad things are nourished.

Confucius said: "The Superior person actualizes the mean; the inferior person goes against it. The Superior person actualizes the mean because they are always with it; the inferior person's non-actualization is due to heedlessness."

How far-reaching the mean is! That is why those who are able to keep it for long are few.

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