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A man with fighting spirit

Tai chi master helps kick-start its international growth, An Baijie reports in Rizhao, Shandong.

By AN BAIJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-25 10:26
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Tai chi master Chen Zhonghua practices moves in the Daqing Mountain in Wulian county, Shandong province, in May 2017. [Photo by XING YUKE/FOR CHINA DAILY]

When Chen Zhonghua pursued his master's degree at the University of Regina in Canada 39 years ago, he practiced tai chi regularly on the lawn outside the faculty building.

His fluid, steady movements mesmerized many people on campus, signaling the start of a career devoted to helping to popularize the Chinese martial art in the West in the decades to follow.

Chen, 63, is now a famous tai chi master, having taught more than 250,000 students and disciples worldwide. His dedication to the promotion of tai chi culture helps fuel growing interest in the art. Chen's birthplace, Wulian county of East China's Shandong province, alone draws many practitioners and adherents to its major tai chi competitions, classes and related events, with the latest international tournament held in early May.

Chen says that he had his first tai chi disciple, Art McBeath, a professor at the Canadian university, in 1985.

"When I was practicing tai chi on the campus in the morning, someone said 'hello' to me and I found out he was my professor. He asked whether he could learn tai chi from me and I said 'of course'," Chen says.

He went on to accept more than 60 tai chi followers, mostly professors and staff members of the university, beginning his lifelong journey to help promote Chinese culture.

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