Professor Cheng Man-Ching (1902-1975) is one of the most significant Taiwanese martial arts teachers of modern times. Many regard Cheng Man-Ching as the man who brought Tai Chi and Chinese philosophy to the West. He was not only a remarkable martial artist but also an accomplished painter, poet, scholar and doctor of Chinese medicine . Because of his skills in these five areas he was often referred to as the "Master of Five Excellences.
As a child he suffered from a head trauma and was in coma for a short time . To regain his motor abilities he was sent to calligraphy classes and soon he started to practice painting. He studied painting with with Prof. Wang Hsiang-Ch’ian . In 1913 he moved to Shanghai and continued his studies with well known artist Chang Kwong-Hong in Shanghai. In 1916 he to Hangchou where studied painting, poetry, and calligraphy with several prominent teachers if the time .In 1919 he moved to Beijing to finish his studies and soon after he started his academic career at Yu-Wen University where he taught poetry . In 1922 he became a professor of Chinese Ink Painting at the Peking Academy of Fine Arts and 3 years later he taught at National Chi-Nan University and served as Director of painting Department of Shanghai School of Fine Arts.
At that time Cheng developed a chronic lung condition and a local doctor suggested that he take up Tai Chi to remediate his condition. He Studied T’ai Chi Ch’uan with Yang Cheng-Fu for seven years . He also started studies of traditional Chinese medicine with Dr. Sung You-an. Additionally, he achieved mastery of traditional gynecology, and orthopedic medicine.
In 1949 he moved to Taiwan and continued his career as a physician and as a teacher of his t'ai chi ch'uan form, as well as actively practicing painting, poetry, and calligraphy. He published Cheng's 13 Chapters of T'ai Chi Boxing in 1950 . He started the Shih Chung T'ai Chi Association in Taipei and he was one of the first Chinese martial teachers who accepted and taught foreigners. As much as he left a strong impact on Taiwanese martial arts his work in the area of classical arts , mostly painting is more important. He was on of the most important figures in foundation of the Republic of China Fine Arts Society .He was a head of the Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition and was elected as a lifetime professor at the College of Chinese Culture.
In 1964, Cheng moved with his family to the United States, where he taught at the New York T'ai Chi Association
In 1967 in collaboration with Robert W. Smith, and T. T. Liang, Cheng published "T'ai Chi, the Supreme Ultimate Exercise for Health, Sport and Self-defense,". He wrote over a dozen other books on a variety of subjects, including the I Ching, the Tao Te Ching, the Analects of Confucius, books of poetry, essays, medicine, and art collections.
He returned to Taiwan in 1974 and passed away a year later .
Cheng saw Tai Chi as an embodiment of natural laws and as a path of human growth – a way to live, a way of finding meaning, balance and peace and he taught his students in that manner. He was one of the first Chinese teachers who came to the west and openly taught his art, not to mention he taught foreigners much before famous Bruce Lee .Cheng Man-Ching was open minded and he changed his art making it easier for practice and understanding . Through his martial art school and his painting he introduced to the west all the treasures of classical Chinese culture , philosophy and art . He laid a foundation for all the Taiwanese martial artist who later came to the west and spread traditional Chinese martial arts