Tai Chi Master Yang Chengfu was one of the greatest Tai Chi masters, grandson of Yang Lu-Chan the founder of the Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan. There are four major Tai Chi family styles – Chen, Yang, Wu and Hao, where Yang is the more popular style and widely practiced today. Master Chengfu standardized many of the current forms of Yang style Tai Chi.
I first came across the practice and history of Tai Chi when I was in grade 9 way back in 1988. After saving pocket money on lunches, me and my friend bought a hard-cover book on Martial Arts. The Tai Chi section was fascinating with it’s history, partly mythical and partly romantic with forms being revealed in dreams, old 90 year masters meditating in forests and throwing young strong opponents in mid-air like ragged dolls.
The Chinese cultural center in our country Bangladesh used to promote various books on Tai Chi, among which was a very thin but informative book with a purple cover. The book showed all the exercises and forms. complete with benefits, philosophy, history and aphorisms like “steel wrapped in cotton”.
Other books were not readily available but with a little bit of research and travel it was possible to obtain them at the book sellers in old part of the Dhaka city.
Oil Painting of General “Stonewall” Jackson, 26 April 1863
‘Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks—’ then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, ‘Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.’
I first came across these words when I was a student studying Business Administration and used to read a lot of Hemingway. In one of my favorite Hemingway book “Across the River and into the Trees”, near the end of the book, the main character quotes General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. Stonewall Jackson was friend and trusted commander of General Robert E. Lee. The quote has remained burned in my memory ever since I first read it.
Here is my small tribute to those precious words, an oil painting based on the Wikimedia Commons reference image of General Jackson’s “Chancellorsville” Portrait, taken at a Spotsylvania County farm on April 26, 1863, seven days before his mortal wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville.