NOTE: The story behind these photos is at the end of this page.
Master Sun Jianguo pays homage to his Tai Chi Master in front of photos of the Master and his wife. The poster above their photos shows the two original masters of the two forms of Tai Chi.
Master Sun Jianguo practices Tai Chi in the house and yard where he first learned it from his Master and practiced it in secret.
At my request, Master Sun Jianguo demonstrates some of the chores he used to do for his Master, while his Masterís daughter looks on. He carried water from the barrel to the plants and did other chores.
Excerpts from the Diary -- Saturday, July 30, 2005; Yong Nian, China: Last night I heard the most poignant story I can remember hearing in a LONG time! We had dinner with the Tai Chi teacher Sun Jianguo. I collared Stephan to interpret while I pried Master Sun with the usual questions. I already know what his dream is Ė to teach Tai Chi and have it spread throughout the world, bringing peace to all, so I asked him about how he got interested in Tai Chi, what he went through to get to this point, etc. Sit back, guys, hereís a story that I think would make a great movie!
When Master Sun was about 16, he wanted to learn Tai Chi but it was 1975 and the Cultural Revolution had just started. Tai Chi was absolutely forbidden (along with lots of historic / intellectual / religious things, I think Ė I want to read more about it than was in my history book, it affected a LOT of the people Iím meeting).
In Master Sunís home town there was an honored Tai Chi teacher who was the 4th generation student-turned-teacher from a respected Tai Chi teacher of the mid-1800's. Master Sunís father knew him (this town isnít that big, I think everyone has gone to school with everyone or knows of everyone, etc.) and thatís how young Sun Jianguo found out that this man was a great Tai Chi teacher.
Young Sun Jianguo approached him and asked to learn Tai Chi, but the teacher said no, he was afraid to teach it or practice it in the open, and he didnít trust this teenager to keep the secret. So Sun Jianguo begged to let him run errands for him, sweep and clean, etc. Finally the teacher relented and so Sun Jianguo started going to his home after school. And little by little, theyíd shut the door and Sun Jianguo would learn Tai Chi.
It wasnít until 1991 that the Cultural Revolution ended, and Tai Chi was again tolerated (in fact, Iíd say at this point itís flourishing, our friend in Shanghai has practiced it for 5 years and started teaching it to me). Unfortunately, the teacher died that year, before he could pick up the teaching role again and spread his wisdom. But he had nurtured the skill in Sun Jianguo, and now Master Sun is carrying on the dream.
In China, according to my history book, everyone wants a son because only sons will take care of them in old age Ė daughters move into the husbandís family and help take care of his parents. This Tai chi Master had no sons, and so as he was dying, there was no family to take care of him. Sun Jianguo nursed him and took food to him and took care of him until he died, serving as the son he didnít have.
Isnít that beautiful? Iíve met at least 5 Tai Chi instructors that Master Sun has taught, and they have managed to build (with what money, I donít know!) this Tai Chi center, and he has hopes of going to America next year and teaching the dozens of students who have come to him (he was a bit shocked when I told him of the prices for food and hotels! Our bill for an extravagant dinner for 7 of us the first night was $8, and our nice hotel is only $5/night!).
But I would NEVER have realized the story if we hadnít asked Ė he never thought to mention it, never bragged that of the Tai Chi teachers I met, heís the only one to have learned from this master (he did, in the presence of the other teachers, say he had more experience than they did, most of them have been practicing for only a year or two). I donít know how many, if any, others know this story. I told him it was very moving, he should share it and write it down. He smiled shyly, but did seem to appreciate my sincerity.