In 2000 I wrote an editorial for AYMTA (American Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Association) on the occasion of Master Wang Yen-nien’s fiftieth year of teaching Taiji. The article is reprinted below. In 1996 the New York School of Yangjia Michuan were the hosts of his first visit to New York City
Wang Yen-nien was born in December, 1914 and passed away on May 4, 2008.
Wang Yen-nien: Fifty Years of Teaching Taijiquan
Editorial by Thomas W. Campbell, originally published
in the AYMTA Journal, Fall 2000.
Congratulations to our teacher Wang Yen-nien in his fiftieth year of teaching. Students around the world practice Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan and are healthier in both mind and body by doing so. This journal, which is a collaboration between AYMTA, Julia Fisher Fairchild, and Master Wang, is testimony to the rich history and profound vitality of the art that Master Wang has worked so hard to preserve and to see flourish.
There are thousands of students and teachers around the world who have learned from Master Wang – both directly and from practicing with those who he has taught. To study with a true master is not something to be taken lightly. When we look around at those who are in position to teach – in commerce, in art, in politics, we find very few who have attained the highest level in their field – and even fewer who have done so as selflessly and as genourously as has Master Wang. Between these pages you will encounter, in both words and images, testimony to the talents of Master Wang. This quality comes from his high level of skill, his gongfu, his unparrelled understanding of taijiquan, neigong and meditation. It also comes from his devotion to his students. Others have attained high levels of skill. But how many have given as much to the taiji community as has Master Wang? How many have lived and breathed taiji – and taken every opportunity to share his or her knowledge and passion with all students who have knocked on his door. Wang Yen-nien, who left his homeland because of Civil war, who carried an otherwise lost art with him, who began to transmit the direct lineage of Yang Luchan to students one at a time with patience and devotion, who left the military government to teach Yangjia Michuan full -time when he found students who understood the value of what they were receiving, who would ultimately travel the world, even in his eighties when health issues were part of his life, finding the embrace of students who were honored to learn from him.
Take a moment and recall when you first met Master Wang. What were the circumstances? Where were you? What were your expectations? What was the result of that day?
I began to practice Yangjia Michuan in early 1993, a long time ago for some, just yesterday to others. About a year and a half later my teacher, Robert Politzer, invited some of his students to attend a “Tien Ming” ceremony in Washington D.C. On that day Master Wang initiated 11 student/teachers into the Daosist school. As I watched the ceremony it dawned on me that I was no longer in the middle of Washington D.C. – rather I was in a sacred Daoist space. The robes, the religious artifacts, the demeanor of those around me helped to create this impression. But the center from which everything flowed was the man with dark hair and a twinkle in his eyes. As each student approached him to recieve the ceremonial blessing that would welcome them into the Golden Mountain school I felt that all in that room were being touched by his hand. It was a serious affair that spoke of ancient ways superseding the everyday cares of modern life.
Master Wang, of course, is a keen judge of what is transpiring around him. After the ceremony he spoke to us. “This is not a cult” he said, concerned for those of us who knew little of Chinese ways. “Why are we here? It was fate that we would come together like this”
Fate? I look back on the day that I walked into my teacher’s very first class, on the day that I first found myself in the presence of Wang Laoshi, on the time that I first visited Europe to attend the Strassbourgh International Festival, on the day that I could first say that I knew the full Yangjia Michuan form (still so much to learn!), on the day that I began to teach, on the day that I became a board member of AYTMA and took over the work of the journal, and on today, as I have the privilige to write this small article in such an important issue as this one. Yes, I do believe it was fate that guided me to Wang Yen-nien and to those who have learned from him. Fate can open our eyes but we must learn to see with them. Let us all learn from the lessons that Wang Laoshi continues to teach. Let us also continue to find ways that we can pass our knowledge to others. It is in the interaction between and among students and teachers that we will continue what we have learned from our teacher.
Thank you , Master Wang, from all of us who are your students.