Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cheng Man-ch'ing's Literary Output

Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing had a love of reading, study, and writing that permeated everything he did. He was a college poetry instructor by his late teens, and as an artist, merged painting, poetry, and calligraphy into each of his works of art. He wrote poetry to mark occasions, to capture ideas and sentiments, and in honor of teachers, friends, and family. He wrote theoretical works about poetry, calligraphy, and painting, about medicine, and about tai chi ch'uan. Three compilations of his paintings were made, and he selected about five hundred poems for two volumes of his poetry. In his later years, Cheng distilled his thoughts on a number of Chinese classics: Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching (Daodejing), the Analects of Confucius, the I Ching (Yijing), the Book of Poetry, and others.

Cheng wrote "as many books as he was tall" —all told, about twenty books. Of these, the one with possibly the most impact was his Cheng-tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan (鄭子太極拳十三篇), a work of theory, philosophy, and application aimed at an experienced audience. Cheng had worked on the book in the 1940s; it was published in the 1950s in Taiwan. It has since been translated into a number of different languages. In addition, he wrote several other books, still widely available, on t'ai chi ch'uan aimed at beginners, two of them in English.