Please contact us if you have any information regarding errors or omissions in the above list or the information below.
Cheng Man Ching was a Tai Chi teacher in Shanghai and Taiwan in the formative years after Yang Cheng-Fu developed his new large-frame Yang style. He became well-known in Taiwan and throughout the world due to his political connections in Taiwan and having been written about and endorsed by famous American Martial Arts writer Robert W. Smith. He is most famous for moving to New York in 1964 becoming one of the first people to openly teach Chinese internal martial arts to Americans.
Because CMC was around during the early days with Yang Cheng-Fu in Shanghai, and later moved to Taiwan and then New York, he had a great number of students from different times and places. As such there may be some confusion or misunderstandings that may arise due to the literally hundreds of people who learned from him all having their own versions of stories and history surrounding their teacher. Also, as an icon representing the first steps of Tai Chi in the West, people may be given to fantastic stories about him. He was of course a skilled Tai Chi player but he was also a human being like you and me. It is my intent to explore the human side of Professor CMC in my collection of the following excerpts.
About two years later there was a national martial arts competition in Nanjing, and Zhang Laoshi took first place in the bare-fisted competition. Along came Zheng Manqing, who had studied both taijiquan and tuishou with Yang Chengfu. He saw Zhang Qinlin and realized how good Zhang's gongfu was. After the competition was over, Zheng Manqing asked the National Martial Arts Federation president, Zhang Zhijiang, and Pu Bingru's father to sponsor Zheng and recommend him to Zhang Qinlin. Zhang Zhijiang was an influential figure in the martial arts world. “OId Man Pu” was a high-ranking civil servant and philanthropist. Zheng asked them to say good things about him to Zhang Qinlin so that Zhang would take him as a student. The dinner invitation was made and Zhang Laoshi, seeing that these two men had agreed to sponsor Zheng, accepted.
After dinner Zheng Manqing demonstrated his form and asked Zhang Qinlin to do likewise. Zheng watched and saw Zhang do the 81-Step and thought, “Nothing special.” Zheng Manqing then asked Zhang Laoshi to push hands with him. Zhang Laoshi looked at Zhang Zhijiang and “OId Man Pu” with a questioning expression. Zhang then said to Zheng Manqing, “Do you really want to push hands with me?” Zheng replied, “Yes.” After making sure everyone agreed, Zhang Laoshi consented.
In 1993 I went to Shanghai and met with Pu Bingru. Pu was an avowed student of Yang Chengfu and the only one alive today to have studied with both Zhang Qinlin and Yang Chengfu. She recounted the same story (that Zhang Laoshi told me) but from Zheng Manqing's point of view (as follows):
“In the room was a table where they had eaten. The two men were on one side of the table pushing hands. On the other side of the table was a wall, which was not very thick and made of wood (something like plywood). At that time Zheng Manqing considered himself to be pretty good. While pushing with Zhang Qinlin, he was very intent on trying to push Zhang over. Zhang Laoshi was just deflecting right, deflecting left. He then made a Ji, and Zheng Manqing flew - over the table and into the wall, which almost fell over.”
Pu bingru (who was laughing while telling the story) said that the impact left a hole in the wall, and Zheng Manqing, after crashing into the wall, slumped to the ground. Everyone ran over, picked him up while asking if he was okay. Zheng stood up (a little shaken but not hurt - the outcome was not what he had anticipated) then went to his knees and said to Zhang Laoshi, “You must take me as your student.” Zhang replied, “I just came for dinner. You demonstrated your form, and I demonstrated my form. This is not something I had expected.” He told Zheng, “At the moment I do not have any time, and I am only here temporarily. I live in Shanxi province right now. If you want me to be your teacher, you will have to send someone to get me.”
Zheng Manqing was very happy and realized that he would have to send a proper invitation to Zhang as well as make whatever special arrangements were necessary in order to bring Zhang Laoshi from Shanxi to Shanghai, where Zheng Manqing was living. Zheng spent a lot of money making these necessary preparations. In those days, there were no commercial planes. Because Zheng Manqing had a lot of connections he was able to use a military plane to fly Zhang Qinlin from Shanxi to Shanghai. In those days, the people used those round coins on strings, and the plane trip cost one string (about $100) and another string (or two) was given as a gift to Mrs. Zhang for her use while Zhang Laoshi was away. A string of money in those days could buy quite a lot. After Zhang Qinlin arrived in Shanghai he said to Zheng, “You already know taijiquan, so we are not going to work on that. Because you are so interested in push hands, we will concentrate on that.” For about three months, Zhang Laoshi lived and worked with Zheng Manqing. Some people say that Zhang Laoshi stayed with Zheng Manqing for three years, but it is not true - it was about three months. So, of course, Zheng Manqing did not learn Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. Sam Tomarchio 1995 Article Section_Four
(Editor: One positive takeaway from the above is that regardless of what CMC learned from Yang Cheng-Fu, he was considered to have learned enough of the form to work on high-level push hands with Zhang.)
In response for information supporting Prof. Cheng's length of study and status as a disciple or “Indoor Student” of Yang Ch'eng-fu, I compiled the following from several sources and now offer it also to this group:
In the foreword to Yang Ch'eng-fu's 1934 text “T'ai Chi Ch'uan T'i Yung Ch'uan Shu”, Prof. Cheng gives us an outline of his early involvement in T'ai Chi. Louis Swaim provides us with an excellent translation of this in his “Yang Chengfu: The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan”.
On page 1 of Swaim's translation Prof. Cheng writes:
…“In 1923, I assumed a teaching position at Beijing Fine Arts Academy. A colleague, Liu Yongchen, was good at this art of Taijiquan. Because I was emaciated and weak, he urged me to study. Barely a month passed before I had to quit because of important commitments, so I was not able to catch on to the art.”…
In the text of Yang Ch'eng-fu's earlier book written in 1931, “T'ai Chi Ch'uan Shih Yung Fa”, Liu Yongchen (Liu Yung-ch'en) is listed as a senior student of Yang Ch'eng-fu. In 1923, Yang was still in Peking, and it is therefore assumed that Liu was still in touch with his teacher, if not actually still studying with him. Perhaps Prof. Cheng had the chance to meet Yang during this time.
(Indeed, in an interview conducted by William C.C. Hu and published in Black Belt Magazine in January 1965, Prof. Cheng says that he was introduced to Yang in Peking by Liu!)
Yang left Peking in 1928 and traveled to Shanghai where he lived and taught T'ai Chi. (However, Yang died in Canton while on a teaching visit there).
In 1924, Prof. Cheng was invited to teach at the Shanghai College of Fine Arts and he accepted. So, both Yang Ch'eng-fu and Prof. Cheng were living in Shanghai in 1928.
Prof. Cheng continues on page 2 of Swaim's translation:
“In the spring of 1930, because of overwork while establishing the Chinese Academy of Literature and Arts (in Shanghai), I had reached the point of coughing up blood, so I resumed study and practice of taijiquan with my colleagues Xiao Zhongbo (Hsiao Chung-po) and Ye Dami (Yeh Ta-mi).”…
It is interesting that Prof. Cheng uses the term “colleague” in referring Hsiao and Yeh. In the Chinese text Prof. Cheng uses “t'ung shih” (tongshi) which means something like a “co-worker”. This implies a most informal and somewhat equal relationship between Hsiao, Yeh and Prof. Cheng…
I could not find Xiao listed in Yang's 1931 list of students, but Yeh Ta-mi is listed as a senior student of T'ien Chao-lin (Tian Zhaolin) in that text.
Leroy Clark and Key Sun have written a very good article on T'ien found at: http://www.art-of-energetics.com/New/tian_zhaolin.htm
Yeh Ta-mi, it seems, was also close to Yang Ch'eng-fu. In another online TCC forum Leroy Clark wrote: “Ye argued to YCF that Tung's written language was extremely coarse and rough and by publishing Yang's (1931) book would defame the family. Based on Ye's influence on YCF, YCF pulled the book from Tung. The book was eventually written by CMC.”
And, from a article of reminiscences of a Mr. Huang Jing-hua also translated by Leroy Clark and Key Sun and presented on another TCC forum:
“Teacher Huang Jing Hua was born in 1909. He went to Shanghai to learn painting in 1925. There, in that art college he befriended Cheng Man Ching. They became close friends. In 1926 the two of them learned tai chi boxing and sword from Ye Da Mi. In 1928 they met great master Yang Chengfu. During this time, Jinghua used Ye's students as practice companions. Later Jing Hua learned boxing from Chengfu.”
In this text, Huang is simply saying that both he and Prof. Cheng met Yang Cheng-fu for the first time in 1928, probably through the introduction of Yeh Ta-mi. Thus, we can be reasonably sure that, if Huang's dates are correct, there was probably continued contact with Yang Cheng-fu and his circle of senior students by Prof. Cheng beginning in 1928.
Prof. Cheng continues in Swaim's translation, pg. 2:
…“In the first lunar month of 1932, I met Master Yang Chengfu at Mr. Pu Qiuzhen's house. After the old gentleman had introduced me, I humbly presented myself at Master Yang's door, and received his teachings, including his oral instructions of the inner work.”…
My former T'ai Chi classmate, Mark Hennessy, translates this section as, …“In 1932, P'u Ch'iu-chen introduced me to Yang Ch'eng-fu. After accepting me as a disciple, I recieved the master's oral teaching on the internal martial arts.”…(found in “Cheng Man- ch'ing: Master of Five Excellences”, pg. 119)“
Doug Wile translates this section as, “Early in 1932 I met Master Yang Ch'eng-fu in the home of P'u Ch'iu-ch'eng. Old P'u introduced me to the master and I humbly asked for instruction. When he orally transmitted the method of internal cultivation (nei-kung) to me, I suddenly understood the meaning of not using ch'i.” (from an early issue of T'ai Chi Magazine…sorry, no date available!)
What is to be noticed here is that Prof. Cheng is saying that he became an “Indoor Disciple” of Yang Ch'eng-fu in 1932.
If any of you have the Chinese text of “T'ai Chi Ch'uan T'i Yung Ch'uan Shu” it is on page 3 and begins with “Jen Shen Cheng Yueh” and ends with “K'o Shou Nei Kung”.
Within this passage is where Prof. Cheng says “Chih Chui Yu Men”, which has the meaning of “I (Cheng) became his (Yang's ) disciple”. The Chinese word “Men” literally means “Door”. The picture here is of Yang accepting Prof. Cheng “into his door” as a private student/disciple/Indoor Student…all the same meaning.
(Just a side note on Hennessy's translation found in “Cheng Man-ch'ing: Master of Five Excellences”…in the “Publisher Note” found facing pg. 1, the publisher writes:
“As a final check on the accuracy of the manuscript, the publisher hired Dr. Evelyn Hsieh of the East Asian Languages Department at the University of California at Berkley to read the translation alongside the original Chinese and CORRECT ANY ERRORS (emphasis mine) from an academic perspective. Her corrections and suggestions have subsequently been incorporated in the text.”
Therefore, it must be the case that Hennessy's translation of the phrase “Chih Chui Yu Men” as “accepting me as a disciple” is NOT in error!)
The text does not imply that this was the first time he met Yang, and a few minutes later he was a disciple! The process of Prof. Cheng becoming accepted as a “disciple” had to have begun much earlier within Yang's circle.
It is therefore resonable to assume that Prof. Cheng had been practicing with Yang's students and colleagues (e.g. Yeh Ta-mi, Huang Jing-hua and others) in Shanghai under Yang's presence, and had been doing so since at least 1930! Only by putting in the time and being accepted by Yang's students and colleagues could Prof. Cheng have “qualified” to be initiated as an “Indoor Disciple” of Yang!
Mr. P'u, even though he was probably not a T'ai Chi student of Yang Ch'eng-fu, was obviously a close acquaintance of Yang and was acting as Prof. Cheng's sponsor in becoming an “Indoor Disciple” of Yang. A sponsor formally introducing a student to a teacher of any discipline was the accepted way in traditional Chinese society.
And, we also must not forget the incident of Prof. Cheng curing Yang's wife of a serious illness. Indeed Ch'en Wei-ming, a famous senior student and disciple of Yang Ch'eng-fu mentions this occurance himself in his Preface to Prof. Cheng's “Thirteen Chapters”!
If Prof. Cheng had not already been within the circle of Yang's students and colleagues, why would he be asked to help Mrs. Yang? This incident seems to confirm that Prof. Cheng was already “in the loop” so to speak and a respected member of Yang's circle of students!
Ch'en Wei-ming also states the following in his Preface:
“When Master Yang Ch'eng-fu came south (i.e. Shanghai), he (i.e. Prof. Cheng) studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan with him for six years.” Ch'en Wei-ming was living and teaching T'ai Chi in Shanghai during this period (1928-1936), so he would have been intimately aware of Yang's circle of students!
(see pg. 1 of Douglas Wile's “Cheng Man-ch'ing's Advanced T'ai Chi Form Instructions” for Ch'en Wei-ming's Preface)
Prof. Cheng continues on pgs 2-3 of Swaim's translation by recounting how he and fellow T'ai Chi classmate, K'uang K'e-ming, convinced Yang to publish his teachings which we have in the 1934 text. K'uang also is listed as a senior student of Yang's in the 1931 text. Apparently K'uang and Prof. Cheng had been friends and T'ai Chi classmates for a while…
Also, this webpage from the Cui Yishi family lists the “Inner Door Disciples” (Pai Men Ti T'zu) of Yang Ch'eng-fu, and has Prof. Cheng listed as the 20th disciple of Yang Ch'eng-fu:
Cui Yishi was an early senior student and disciple (aka Indoor Student) of Yang Ch'eng-fu in Peking. He started learning from Yang in 1909 and accompanied him to Shanghai in 1928.
Li Yaxuan (aka Li Chunnian) who was also an “Indoor Student” of Yang Ch'eng-fu from 1914, recorded his reminiscences in 1975 about the “Fa Chin” ability of the Yang Family and of some of his classmates in “Yang Shih T'ai Chi T'ui Shou Ch'uan Chen” on pages 51 and 52 of that text…
The classmates Li names in his list are, Wu Hui-ch'uan, Cui Yishi, Tung Yin-chieh, T'ien Chao-lin (Tian Zhaolin) and Cheng Man-ch'ing!
Please note that Li, Cui, Tung and T'ien were all known to be disciples (aka “Indoor Students”) of Yang Ch'eng-fu. (Wu's father, Ch'uan Yu, was a student of Yang Lu-ch'an and went on to found the “Wu style” of T'ai Chi. But according to Li in his text, Wu Hui-ch'uan was also consided a student of the Yang's.)
If Prof. Cheng was merely a dilettante at T'ai Chi (as some have claimed) and NOT a Disciple of Yang Ch'eng-fu, then why is he included on this list with Yang's KNOWN Disciples?
Also, if Prof. Cheng was not also considered somewhat skilled in T'ui Shou among his classmates on the mainland, then why would Li have included him in this list?
A translation of this portion of Li's text by Key Sun and LeRoy Clark can be found on pg. 44 in Volume 11, No. 3, Autumn 2001 of “Qi: The Journal of Tradtional Eastern Health and Fitness.” The part concerning Prof. Cheng says:
“Cheng Man-ch'ing had a skill such that after he knew the situation of the opponent, he could come out to attack successfully. So even though he was small of stature, he had skill and courage. Even if an opponent had made preparation, it was to no avail.”
I don't know the last time that Li and Prof. Cheng saw each other on the mainland, but I know that they hadn't seen each other since 1949. Yet, Li remembered Prof. Cheng as being highly skilled in the 1940's, even after 25 years of separation!
(The Chinese text of Li's book can be purchased from Plum Publications at: http://www.plumpub.com/sales/lionbks/lb_liyaxuan.htm
Regarding Yang family comments on Cheng Man-ch'ing, Fu Zhongwen stated in an interview published in Inside Kung-fu, April 1993:
“Cheng Man-ch'ing is probably the most famous taijiquan teacher in America. I knew him when he came to Shanghai to study with my uncle Yang Cheng-fu. He was a very great artist. He was very interested in learning and practicing taiji tui shou (push hands), which he did quite heavily with Yang Cheng-fu and all those around him who were the most skilled…Cheng Man- ch'ing was legitimate, and now it is important for his students and other North American practitioners to research where 'they first drank the water.' The traditional methods of the Yang family style must be preserved…”
The preceding excerpt from Fu Zhongwen's comments is most pertinent to the current discussion, but he went on to say that he felt that he saw differences in the way the short form and long forms were done.
Both Yang Zhenji and Yang Zhenduo have published books acknowledging Cheng Man- ch'ing and his relationship to their father.
In Yang Zhenduo's book “Yang Style Taijiquan” (English version), in Gu Liuxin's preface (page 8), he writes: “In the book A Manual of Taijiquan complied by Zheng Manqing in 1934 for Yang Chengfu, there were 104 photographs.”
In his book “Yang Cheng Fu Shi Tai Ji Quan” (page 250) Yang Zhenji writes of his father's 1934 book: “This book was written by my father's disciple Cheng Man-ch'ing based on my father's words and demonstrations. That is a true fact.”
To sum up the above, it seems that Prof. Cheng had at least been exposed to Yang's T'ai Chi under Liu Yung-ch'en as early as 1923 when he was in Peking. At some later time, perhaps as early as 1926, but definitely by 1930, Prof. Cheng began his practice of T'ai Chi in earnest within Yang Cheng-fu's circle of students and colleagues.
He finally became a “formal” disciple of Yang in 1932. With Yang's untimely death in 1936, Prof. Cheng's study of T'ai Chi under Master Yang ended. Also in 1936, after the death of his teacher, Prof. Cheng left Shanghai and moved to Nanking.
Therefore, it can be said with full confidence that from at least 1930 until 1936, a period of 7 years, Prof. Cheng was without any doubt studying Yang's T'ai Chi in Shanghai with Yang's senior students and colleagues as well as under the direction and in the presence of Yang Ch'eng-fu himself!
I sincerely hope this presents a somewhat fuller picture of Prof.Cheng's early involvement with Yang T'ai Chi.
p.s. Sorry for the long post, but I thought this topic needed as much info as could be gathered.
[This message has been edited by Danny (edited 08-27-2007).]More on Cheng Man-ch'ing and Yang Style T'ai Chi (Post by Danny » Mon Aug 27, 2007)
Funny that CMC's name keeps popping up in this thread as an example of a “real deal” Taiji fighter.
My late maternal grandfather was a Taiji enthusiast, and learned Taiji from Gan Xiaozho 干嘯州, one of CMC's disciples, for about 10 years starting in 60s. Later on, my mother and uncle also got interested in the art, and trained under Wu Guozhong 吳國忠 – another disciple of CMC – at the 228 memorial park (called New Park back then) in Taipei when they were both in college in the early 70s. My mother once participated in a demo with both Wu and CMC, and actually had the opportunity to train with CMC at his home a couple of times. Furthermore, my Fujian White Crane teacher (over 100 years old now) was friends with Huang Shengshyan and also practices CMC Taiji. So needless to say, I basically grew up watching my family doing Taiji and have heard all the “inside scoop” about CMC, his Taiji – and his private life.
The reason CMC managed to established himself as the top Taiji guy in Taiwan wasn't really due to his supposedly superb Taiji skill, but his connection to Madame Chiang. He was Madame Chiang's art teacher and, through her, became friends with Chiang Kaishek. At a time when Chiang ruled Taiwan in ways not unlike what Kim Jong-un does in North Korea today, it basically meant that CMC was untouchable, and no martial artist would dare challenge him and make him lose face.
As for CMC's relationship with Yang Chengfu, I was told that when YCF's son Yang Shouzhong was asked about CMC, he replied, “Oh yeah, I remember him. He was a decent painter and doctor who cured my mom's illness and trained with my dad for a few months back in the days.” “Really? But why did your father let him write his book on Taiji? Doesn't that make him his top disciple?” “No, not really. My dad just thought he was an artist and a scholar – someone who would be good at writing books.”
(It's also worth noting that Yang Shouzhong detested CMC's 37-posture Taiji, and refused to acknowledge it as an offshoot of the Yang style that CMC supposedly got from his father.)
The real reason that CMC came up with his own 37-posture Taiji was because that he only spent a short period of time with YCF, and didn't know his style well enough to teach it. CMC got most of his Taiji skills from Ye Daimi 葉大密, a high-level IMA teacher who opened a school in Shanghai where CMC went and trained for about 4 years.
Lastly, I'd like to say that I really have no reason to bad-mouth CMC, especially considering my family's connection to him. I'm just telling the facts as I've been told by those who were close to CMC and knew him personally because I feel that the Taiji community deserves to know the truth.Post by C.J.W. on Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:42 pm