Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Year in Retrospect 2011

Elizabeth Wenscott


For me this fall begins a three-part celebration. In October I turned 50. Now some of you are probably saying, "Whoop-de-doo! It's not like you turned 100 with 20/20 vision and all of your teeth for goodness sakes!" And normally I would agree. But this year is a little different... a little extra special, possibly worthy of the front page of a magazine. Or maybe even my own cable TV show.

Because this year not only did I turn 50, but I will also have been studying Tai Chi for 30 frickin’ years and teaching and making the world a better place for 20 years. Pretty cool right? YOU BET!

At this point you are probably thinking I should say something really tai chi'ish, something wise and inspiring, right? Well when I reflect on what is possibly THE most momentous, gargantuan event of the half century, a little sound happens in the back of my head. POP! Just like the sound of one of my 50th birthday balloons that had too much air. Because at that moment, I am reminded that this year also begins my teacher’s 60th year of practice!

So no. I don't have anything wise and tai chi'ish to say, other than repeating what the masters have said for hundreds of years.

How wonderful is Taiji quan,
Whose movements follow nature!
Continuous like a jade bracelet,
Every movement expresses the Great Ultimate...

Li I-yu


Brief Notes of the Schools Activities

The Tai Chi Program
The year began with another incredible Chinese New Year celebration that included the very funny Year of the Rabbit Puppet Show.

Several student sent in awesome essays for the 2011, Tai Chi & Nature Essay Question. Portions of these essays will be shared in the next newsletter!

Another successful turn out for World Tai Chi Day & Qigong Day!

Seminars included Da Lu, and Xing Yi.

Intensive Tai Chi continues to grow on Sunday mornings at 9am. If you know the whole form and are in the Ongoing program, then consider coming to the session. No instruction is given. It is just an opportunity to practice the form twice through.

Dan Menzel made another "When is the Best Time For Tai Chi?" Videos.

Ravenswood Artwalk 2011 was incredible. Dan Menzel and Laura Brownstone demonstrated 2 Person Tai Chi Staff and Sas Stark and Chris Zalek killed just about everything else Tai Chi related. Laurel Ross sang with the Bullfrogs Community Choir and Sara Zalek and Aurora Tabar encouraged us to HUG. Check out the Group HUG performance, a one hour video condensed to 15min. This video also features the naturesounds that were recorded by Paul Dickinson.

Meditation Program
Several of us neigong meditators went on a field trip to the Smart Museum for a group meditation with AD Zen Gate as part of the Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan exhibition.

Qigong Program
Don Tomei and Sharon Fierro lead two very popular Qigong classes at the Chicago Green Festival.

6 Healing Sounds Qigong will be the next class offering 2012!

Yoga Program
Tracy Von Kaenel launched the Aerial Yoga Program class.

Out of the new Aerial Yoga program came two outstanding performances at this years RAW Flow and Aerial Yoga Demo and Arial Yoga Dance with Tracy Von Kaenel

The Health and Philosophy Program
Lisa Hish ended this year with the beginning of what will be an in-depth look at WATER both in our bodies and in the natural world around us.

Elizabeth Wenscott has been privately teaching Sharon Fierro the I Ching. Hopefully more will follow!

The Environmental Arm - Sustainable Return
Once again this year the environmental arm has been extremely active!

Lisa Hish and 5 school members set up and maintained the schools first community garden plot!

Elizabeth launched a native plant corner parkway initiative through Northcenter Neighborhood Association and the North Branch Restoration Project where students will get to volunteer and help plant corner parkways while learning about why native plants are so important and why they help our tai chi.

Several members of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago learned about the origin and fundamental principles of biodynamic agriculture in both theory and practice. Special emphasis was placed on practical applications for a smaller scale yard, garden or vegetable plot.

Year of the Rabbit came in with the new moon, and TC3 and friends of TC3 raised $1,200 dollars for the Oregon Natural Desert Association's, Save the Pygmy Rabbit program! Looking ahead put this date on your calendar, February 11, 2012 Year of the Dragon Celebration and Fundraiser. Believe me this will be a fun celebration! If you were born the year of the Dragon or have a friend or family member born the year of the Dragon please bring them to this celebration.

Double Happiness

Double Happiness is when happiness collides with happiness making it even bigger! This year the school celebrated the civil union between Patricia Benjamin and Martha Fourt. Congratulations to you both!


Don't breathe unless you mean it!

Our crops are under attack!
When I was watering the community garden one of the lettucy-shrubbery-ish looking plants, a medium-sized, up-to-no-good rabbit jumped out and ran away across the yard. It was definitely eating something. By the way, I know this is weird, but the rabbit kind of looked like Kip.

Get Outside

Sas Stark

My big idea?
Get outside.

I started my year, bellying up to Elizabeth’s kitchen table with some great friends the morning of January 1st. While bandying about our stories and laughs, an idea took form for my Tai Chi practice and exploration. Take it outside. “We live in Chicago” you say. Not such an intriguing idea in the depths of winter. However, I believe (as does the latest issue of Outside magazine) “that getting outside makes you smarter, happier and want to fix the planet”. All good things in my book. I knew that with the exuberance that Chicagoans embrace the outdoors in summer months, sharing an outdoor Tai Chi practice was what I wanted to do.

I got to enjoy practicing outside at Welles Park with many of you this last summer, and I thank you for enriching my life. I have gone a bit dormant with my outside practice here in Chicago now that it’s getting colder, but plan to kick it up again in my travels to warmer climbs, and I encourage you to as well. And yes, there is always next summer.
Most of all, in a form that asks you to turn inward and develop your internal Tai Chi art, I would propose that this practice among the trees, the cool grass, the crazy squirrels inevitably asks you to look outward and connect with nature, invest in nurturing the environment that teaches us so much. Yes, it opens your eyes and heat to heal the planet.
Here are 5 smart reasons I’d like you to keep in mind as you consider your own outside practice that I found in the afore mentioned Outside magazine. Cognitive scientists are only just beginning to understand what being in nature does for our mental health. But the evidence is promising.

1. INCREASED ATTENTION SPAN. A 2008 study by University of Michigan psychologists found that walking outside or even just looking at pictures of natural settings improves directed attention, the ability to concentrate on a task. Put another way, nature restores our ability to focus.

2. BETTER MEMORY. The same study supported previous experiments showing that being in nature improves memory - by 20 percent when it came to recalling a series of numbers.

3. REDUCED STRESS. Office workers with views of trees and flowers reported lower stress levels, higher job satisfaction, and fewer physical ailments than colleagues with views of buildings, according to a 1989 study by the University of Michigan.

4. IMPROVED MOOD. In a 1991 study by Texas A&M psychologists, subjects who viewed scenes of water or trees reported a much quicker return to a positive mood after a stressful event than those who viewed urban scenes.

5. GREATER CREATIVITY. In a pilot study this March, psychologists found that students in an Outward Bound course showed a 40 percent boost in frontal-lobe activity - which is linked to creativity - after four days in the backcountry.
This is just my way to explore the Tai Chi form. I encourage you to find something that truly matters and make it yours.


Wellness Tai Chi Fan

Qi Zhou

The Wellness Tai Chi Fan class started on January 11, 2011. The very same day the opening ceremony for a 30 foot plus Confucius bronze statue at Tiananmen Square area, in front of the National Museum. When Elizabeth and I discussed the starting date in Nov. 2010, we went through various factors but the Confucius factor. When we chose the date I did not know that such an important event was also scheduled on the other side of the world. Elizabeth might have known but she did not tell me.

So there we go. As the fan class went through some most tranquil class time at the Tai Chi Center of Chicago, some prominent personages were sitting on hot seats at the other side of the world. There was a heated debate going on as whether it was appropriate for a statue of this magnitude be erected on Tiananmen Square area, in the visible distance the is another famous figure (Mao Zedong), and his comparatively miniature scaled painting. By late April, the statue was moved and placed inside the garden of National Museum. At the same time, members of the fan class were experiencing some difficulties with weekday morning schedule, plus I wanted to include more students in class who otherwise would not be able to attending. We eventually moved our schedule to Saturday afternoons.

Tai Chi Fan is a relatively newer exercise, those who attended fan class were the ones who are constantly watching for newer Tai Chi movement. I knew all students were working very hard to try to master this little Martial Arts Fan during many months of our class, but the evidence did not show until late September when I made a class video. After I uploaded the video into my computer, I watched with pride the performance of fan class students - the evidence of their hard working and dedication were beyond my imagination. All students in fan class at that time have had more then 10 years of various Tai Chi, other martial arts and physical training experiences. They brought into my class the Principle, the Energy and the Dedication that reflected the Tai Chi training they have received from Master Elizabeth Wenscott and others. I am thankful to all of those who contributed. You may view the video at

The fan class will learn Fitness Tai Chi Double Fan in 2012 starting on January 7. In addition to continue working on improving overall body coordination, the double fan exercise will also focus working on increasing lower body strength and improving balance. The slowness of Fitness Tai Chi Double Fan movement resembles an effortless dance, but every movement is performed with great deal of internal strength and control. This joyous exercise is to help students to gain physical, mental and spiritual strength, and overall feeling of vitality. I anticipate we will have a fun filled and busy learning year.


Christopher Zalek

Reflecting on the past year at the Tai Chi Center just makes me smile. Besides all of the new faces coming in each month, we have a few groups of ongoing students learning and refining internal systems. Its great to see so many people practicing Da Lu together on a weekly basis. And as I'm writing this at the close of 2011, we have two groups learning Hsing-I: one has just started the series of exercises, and a second is about to learn the final moves of the form. Core strength for the student, core strength for the school.

My personal goals last year were two-fold. The first was to start an outdoor practice on a regular basis through the warmer months. We've found a pretty nice place at the Logan Square monument, and have met there on Sunday mornings a couple times a month (good coffee shops and a wonderful farmer's market nearby). Next year I think we might mix it up a bit and change the location from time to time. Stay tuned to the Tai Chi Center on Facebook for more info, we'll start back up again in March.

My second goal was to create a written foundation of the principles of Tai Chi. This turned out to be just a wee bit more than I bargained for. Breaking down and expressing body mechanics of alignment and exercises started to raise more questions than I ever imagined. How do I explain how your shoulders should feel? What are the benefits of breathing fully? What is intention? The results of this exploration are what you see in the posts on Working through this process has also deepened my understanding of Tai Chi and has helped me develop a more creative approach to teaching. To those of you in my Saturday introductory class who went slower than you ever thought possible, who held postures for what felt like forever: thanks for your patience... you have my gratitude!

What will 2012 bring...? I'm not sure, but it being a Dragon year, I'm sure its going to be something big.

Everything is Tai Chi


With the advent of 2012, I have been met by a challenge to say as much about Tai Chi Chuan in as few words as possible. This for most serious Tai Chi practitioners is incredibly difficult, I would guess, as the words "everything is Tai Chi", is yes, just that. I find myself reading/talking/thinking/learning/teaching about the different aspects of it, such as; health, mind, spirit and martial all the time.

Why? Because of the thoughtful connective relationships in something as "simple" as learning a form, breaking it down into the individual postures and causing myself to be forever striving for perfection as I search for the balance in all things.
Foundation, breath, alignment and a good pair of shoes. That's, the real analogy of life, my friends.

I'm fascinated with the way I've seen Tai Chi change the world in which I live. The inner calm that one can find in this practice! It has allowed me to finally listen to my inner self; the spiritual, the mental, and of course the physical me. I can now thoughtfully interact with my surroundings from the position of a Tai Chi practitioner.

Taking the time we need to navigate along a path of positive choices. While being able to watch these same changes happening on the various levels to the many thoughtful friends, family and acquaintances. Helping each other learn to co-exist as thoughtful brothers and sisters as we practice Tai Chi Chuan together.

This of course, ultimately reflects upon our backyard environments. In turn, affecting our neighbors, and their neighbors, their neighbors neighbors, etc. I think that perhaps we can make the world a better place by learning to be in balanced harmony amongst each other. So, yes, everything Tai Chi, it's so much deeper than a simple excercise. Everybody has the potential for great things within themselves.

So ask yourself this question: Is it worth me learning Tai Chi if I can possibly change my world for the better? And to think that it all started for me with a one month introductory class...

Oh! and did I mention this is a martial art as well? I guess I'll have to wait until next year to write about that.

All the best,


Tracy Von Kaenel - 2011

Yoga With Tracy Von Kaenel

What a year the yoga students and I have had. 2011 brought the birth of Aerial Yoga. It all began with a glimmer in the eyes of Lisa Hish, Elizabeth and myself. The possibility of a brand new bouncing sling hanging from the beam. Perhaps even 5 of them! It started with one and few private and duet lessons. Interest grew slowly in the beginning, but before long there was a flush of it. Soon there were five beautiful shiny black slings hanging from the beam and eager students to fill them. In fact at the time of this writing the classes are booked through February of next year. WooHoo! The new Aerial Yoga students and I have learned so much about this different and wonderful form of Yoga. Things like, it’s probably best not to hang upside down and spin if you are pregnant. Things like, not everyone is ok with not touching the floor. But also things like feeling a release in your back that no other form of physicality can bring. The sense of pure joy as the sling gently supports you in a weightless handstand. And the sensation of being cradled into a deep and soothing Savasana like no other. If you haven’t tried Aerial Yoga, you should….no, it’s not for everyone, but it is truly something unique and wonderful for most.

The Yoga program participated again this year in the Ravenswood Art Walk. We performed an Aerial Yoga Demo, a Flow Yoga Demo, and I followed up with an Aerial Yoga Dance. The whole group and the audience then joined in for a lovely and spirit rising session of Om Mani Padme Hum chanting. It was beautiful.

2011 brought some wonderful, new, committed faces to the studio as well, and the classes continue to grow in both size and generousness of spirit. Each person that comes to the Yoga classes at TCC is meant to be there…. every one of them a lovely soul.

This was also a year of great challenge for many of us. Two of our regular yogis miraculously lived through a harrowing experience at the hands of an angry lake Michigan. A couple more yogis lost their jobs after years of dedicated service. Several folks lost loved ones or made hard transitions in their lives. And yet the one thing we all had to be grateful for is the strength of our character and our Yoga practice; the chance to come to a beautiful peaceful place to re-connect with our spirits despite the outside world. What a beautiful blessing that is indeed.
As I look forward to 2012, I pray to stay connected to all the wonderful yogis and yogins I am so blessed to instruct for so many years, and I welcome even more new faces. I know it is going to be a great year.



Fishes and Chains

Don Tomei

Fishes and Chains

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

I don’t fish.

But I do teach.

I teach a practice that nourishes for a lifetime.

Human existence is delineated by constraints. Like tethered beasts we strain against our limits.
Yet the spirit, ever defiant, claims infinite scope.

I once read a story about captive elephants. It said that the captors first tether an elephant’s foot with a heavy chain. For a while, the elephant tries, in vain, to escape. Eventually it gives up. After that, the captors use only a thin rope to tether the elephant. Though the elephant could easily break free of the rope, it never again tries.

Yes, the spirit can be tethered. By fatigue. By fear. By complacency. By indifference. By ignorance. By evil.

But it is never a chain that tethers the spirit. It is always a thin rope. One that we can break free of at any time.

We need only try.

My mission as a teacher is not to break the chains of my students. It is to show them that their chains are not, in fact, chains, but only light rope.

And that simply by trying, they can be free. Not just for a day, but for their lifetime.

Wellness Qigong Growth

Sharon Fierro


This year proved to be a year of significant personal growth. The challenges and changes of 2011 created many opportunities to apply my tai chi, qigong and meditation practices, as well as the teachings from the I Ching. Overall, these taoist practices provided the foundation for greater strength, clarity, understanding and joyful connection with family and friends. And for this, I am most grateful!
Some of the experiences that positively influenced my teaching and my life in 2011 included: (1) an increased commitment to my weekly tai chi, qigong & meditation practices; (2) studying the I Ching, Book of Changes, under Elizabeth’s direction; (3) focusing on harmonizing with the seasons for health and well-being utilizing the 5 Elements Theory, under the direction of Lisa Hish; (4) training Jackie Morhlein, a qigong student, to teach qigong and implement a qigong program for seniors @ the Breakers; (5) successfully working with qigong students with significant health issues; and (6) studying Six Healing Sounds Qigong (with Don and Elizabeth) with the intent to offer this class in 2012.

2011 ineffable/sensation

Christine Wallers

2011 ineffable/sensation

Much of 2011 was spent creating a nearly imperceptible work in which both optical and sonic effects challenged the viewer and listener to take the time to perceive the piece. Hover, an installation with sound artist Steve Peters evolved from our shared fascination with light, emptiness and presence. The eight-channel collaborative installation is inspired by earwitness reports of the mysterious phenomenon of auroral sound associated with the Northern Lights. The visual component consists of hundreds of lines of monofilament and thin copper wire strung overhead, fastened with magnets, and streaking across the space catching the natural light. The mingling of light and sound proved to be equally ethereal and elusive.
More about Hover can be found in this review in TimeOut Chicago

As the winter begins to take hold I am in the midst of a flurry of as of yet untitled chaotic drawings that break the tightly knit structures that proceeded in Things That Sting. I am looking forward to changes in scale, continuing the restless arrangement and obliterating much of the white space within them.

On Being

Kipling Swehla - Meditation

On Being
From a deep, soundless sleep I was abruptly awakened by a man's voice. “The universe is expanding at an increasing rate propelled by dark energy. “ The strange, disorienting words were floating in my head when I realized my alarm clock was going off to NPR’s program “On Being”.

It was sunday morning again and again way too early for a night person to be waking up. Those words were stuck in my brain being groggily pondered when it dawned on me that it’s through meditation and Tai Chi that we are able to truly experience the meanings and similarities in Taoism and Quantum Physics.

Recent discoveries in Astronomy and new theories in Quantum Physics are practically plagiarizing the Tao Te Ching and eastern philosophy. Dark energy, dark matter, membranes connecting all things in the universe, and fields in which energy becomes matter are all very new scientific theories trying to prove concepts thousands of years old.

M Theory hypothesizes there is a membrane extended throughout the entire universe which envelopes and interconnects everything and everybody. It is a variation of String Theory, a Theory of Everything, which describes the existence and interconnection of multiple dimensions, including some which are unobservable.

Nasa describes Dark Energy as being 70% of the universe yet other than that, it is a complete mystery. Dark Matter is matter which neither emits, reflects, or scatters light or radiation. It makes up 25% of the universe yet nothing is known about it.

A lab in Geneva is smashing protons at a high speed to replicate the Big Bang, the origin of manifestation, so they can prove the existence of a field in which energy becomes matter.

I hear all this and I can’t help but to think of the lines in Chapter One of the Tao Te Ching,

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

This is all a long way to explain why I love Tai Chi and meditation. If you still your thoughts and empty your mind, the darkness will expand your perception of reality.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ravenswood Artwalk @ Tai Chi Center of Chicago

2011 Special Events - 10th Annual Ravenswood ArtWalk
October 1st & 2nd

Ravenswood ArtWalk is two days event dedicated to honoring and celebrating artists and industry in the Ravenswood Corridor. The event 300 artists and local businesses! For the 10th RAW, the Tai Chi Center of Chicago (TC3) featured several artists in conjunction with various performances made by the instructors and the student body at large.

This year the theme of our show is The Small...
No matter the size, shape, or prominence of the person, place or thing, this show asks you to consider that joy and happiness can often be discovered by looking at the small.

Some small ideas to ponder

A single honeybee produces 1/2 a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. [projected video]
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. [painting]
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe. [The Bullfrogs Community Choir, and nature soundscapes]
A small fist can delivered one heck of a punch [forms, weapons and application]
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. [The Hug - performance art]
It is health that is real wealth and not small pieces of gold and silver. [tai chi, qigong, yoga]

The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step or from a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.
...a concept applicable to all forms of mastery

Demonstrating Master Instructors of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago:
Elizabeth Wenscott - Forms, Weapons, Application
Chris Zalek - Forms, Weapons, Application
Sas Stark - Forms, Weapons, Application
Don Tomei & Sharon Fierro - Wellness Qigong
Tracy Von Kaenel - Yoga and Aerial Yoga
Qi Zhou - Tai Chi Fan

Exhibiting artist:
Christine Wallers (Artist in Residence) - Drawings, Projected Video, and Installation Prototype
Steven Leavitt - Painting
The Bullfrogs Community Choir - Musical Guest
Paul Dickinson - Nature Soundscapes
Sara Zalek and Aurora Tabar - Performance Art

This years schedule of events.
Saturday - 9:30am - 6:00pm
9:30am - 10:30am - Qigong Introductory with Sharon Fierro (Participation welcome and FREE)
11:00am - 12:00pm - Tai Chi Introductory with Chris Zalek - (Participation welcome and FREE)
12:30pm - 1:30pm - Demonstrations lead by master instructors, along with members of the TC3
1:30pm - 2:15pm - Qigong with Don Tomei and Sharon Fierro - (Participation welcome and FREE)
2:15pm - 3:00pm - The Bullfrogs Community Choir
3:00pm - 6:00pm - School Open House - Art Viewing

Sunday - 11:00am - 6:00pm
11:00am - 12:00pm - School Open House - Art Viewing
12:00pm - 1:00pm - Yoga & Aerial Yoga Performance by program director and instructor Tracy Von Kaenel and her students
1:00pm - 2:00pm - The Hug - Performance (Participation welcome and FREE)
2:00pm - 6:00pm - School Open House - Art Viewing

For more information about the artists please visit

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tai Chi Fan Class at a New Time

Tai Chi Fan with Qi Zhou is now taking place on Saturdays 2:15-3:15 PM

Tai Chi Fan and Class Description

The form I am introducing is called the Wellness Tai Chi Fan. It consists of 36 postures, created by an acclaimed martial arts master, Au-min Wu, who won first place in various Tai Chi categories, such as Fist, Sword, and Push Hands in several National Tai Chi Tournaments in China. Wellness Tai Chi Fan was created based on the elements of Tai Chi combined with the application of various styles of Fan techniques. It is rich in content as well as in choreography.

In this class, I will use some Tai Chi movements as warm-up exercises. They have been chosen to gradually improve flexibility, agility and overall motor coordination. These will not only help to provide general benefits of Tai Chi practice, but they will also enable easier learning of the Tai Chi Fan form.

Wellness Tai Chi Fan practiced in an enjoyable environment, with people possessing similar aspirations will bring out the optimum health benefits. Additionally, it is fun, it is entertaining, and most of all, it is exercising with joy.

For more information visit

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wonderful Wasps: Everything you didn't know you wanted to know about wasps in your garden!

Friday June 24 at 8 pm
The Tai Chi Center of Chicago
4043 N. Ravenswood (Ring bell for 201)
Free parking on the street.

Eric R. Eaton, professional writer and entomologist and principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America will give an illustrated talk about wasps, their role in the garden, and how you can enhance their nesting habitat (along with native solitary bees). He will also answer your questions about insects and bugs.

Check Eric out on line at


Bring your book for Eric to sign.
(no books will be sold at this event, so hurry and make sure to order your book online!)

This is a friendly neighborhood event with NO CHARGE but feel free to bring something to eat or drink to share and a folding chair if you have one.

ALSO... The Bullfrogs Community Choir will provide a musical treat.

Sponsored by The Tai Chi Center of Chicago - Sustainable Return.

Simple Life Leads to Health - Taoism and Bees

Jia Yongxiang sits on the balcony outside his cave home in the Wudang Mountains, Hubei province, on April 24. Xu Lin / China Daily

A bee suddenly flies into Jia Yong-xiang's ear as he is cooking in his shabby kitchen.

The 76-year-old, wearing a well-worn Taoist hat and dark blue robe, laughs happily and uses a toothpick to help dislodge the bee, calmly saying "please come out".

The playful bee soon exits his ear and crawls into his big white beard without stinging him at all.

"The bees are my Taoist friends as well as my neighbors," Jia says in Hubei dialect with a big smile. "There is a basic Taoist idea: harmony between humans and nature."

Jia has been living with tens of thousands of bees in a natural cavern for about 14 years in the Wudang Mountains, Central China's Hubei province. They are among the most sacred mountains of Taoism, and were made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994.

Following zigzagging flagstone steps more than 700 years old, one can find Crown Prince Cavern lurking half way up Zhanqi Peak.

Legend has it that Prince Zhenwu practiced in the cavern for decades before becoming immortal as the Great Emperor Zhenwu, one of the most influential gods in Taoism.

The cavern is about 15 square meters and floored with stone slabs, with a small exquisite stone palace around it built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

The statue of the young Crown Prince is worshipped in the middle of the cavern, with Jia's bed and other simple furniture on the other side.

Outside the cavern is a balcony with stone balustrades, a place where he cooks, reads and talks with guests.

Jia plays Taoist music and gently opens his one-meter tall wooden cupboard. What catches one's eyes is a big honeycomb covered with bees, occupying a quarter of the cupboard. In the other areas of the cupboard are his bowls, plates and chopsticks.

In the spring of 1996, a swarm of bees flew in and made their home in the cavern. He drilled four small holes for the bees to fly in and out, but they prefer the cracks in the door.

At first, the uninvited guests stung him when he opened the cupboard. After that, he played Taoist music whenever he was going to open the door, and gradually the bees became his friends and never stung him.

"They love the music. I think they come here to practise Taoism with me," he says.

Jia was a farmer in Xiangyang, Hubei province, and was diagnosed with hepatitis, gastritis, pneumonia and an inflamed gall bladder more than 20 years ago.

At first he grew vegetables at the foot of the mountains and for a while lived in a small garden building.

"It's strange that I gradually recovered without any treatment, and I have never gone back home," he says.

He moved to the cavern in the 1990s, where he could practice Taoism alone, doing meditation and chanting.

Although he asks his family not to come to see him, his younger daughter and daughter-in-law visit him once a year.

He says he enjoys the beautiful view of mountains and trees, which makes him feel one with all things on earth.

Enjoying his simple life in the remote place, he has never left the area around the cavern for years. He gets up at 5 am, then does his daily morning prayer and meditation. After breakfast, he cleans the cavern, including the long stone path.

There is no electricity or tap water. He goes to sleep early after a regular evening prayer, and uses a candle or a flashlight. On the cliff outside the cavern is a long groove, where the rainwater drains into the ancient well on the balcony.

"The Crown Prince Cavern is cool in summer and warm in winter, " he says.

Although the cavern is not open to tourists, he receives dozens of visitors every day to share his understanding of Taoism and to see the bees in the cupboard.

They are mainly Taoist believers from all over the world, and bring him gifts such as fruits.

When people who can't speak Chinese arrive, he just smiles and gently flicks dust off their clothes.

Local Taoists also call on him regularly to offer necessities. He never accepts money, and always gives visitors protective talismans and snacks. Sometimes he invites them to share a meal.

Listening to the radio and reading are his only ways to keep in touch with the outside world.

"I subscribe to newspapers and magazines and read them every day, as I'm concerned about national affairs," he says.

He often writes his feelings about Taoism, which are mainly about filial piety, morality and values.

"To practice Taoism is very simple, just be yourself, with a clean conscience and justice. It is useless for those who have done something illegal to beg for the gods' forgiveness," he says.

"One can practice Taoism as long as one has heart and fulfills his duty. For example, a cleaner who cleans restrooms devotedly or an official who serves the people wholeheartedly," he says.

Source:China Daily

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day April 30, 2011

Have you wondered what Tai Chi or Qigong could do for you?
Do you want to know why so many health and aging experts recommend these practices to promote long, healthy life?

Find out for FREE!

Join us on World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (the last Saturday of April) for a celebration of the health and longevity that Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners have enjoyed for thousands of years. On this special day, our teaching staff and students will travel the Northcenter community lead ing FREE guided practice sessions in both Tai Chi and Qigong.

All levels of experience are welcome in this once a year event.

The Tai Chi Center of Chicago invites you to
The World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
Northcenter Wellness Tour
Saturday April 30, 2011
9:30 am - 3:00 pm

In case of rain showers, all outdoor venues will be cancelled and instead take place at the Tai Chi Center of Chicago.
Call 773.396.2653 if the weather is questionable and you want to know where we are.
Choose one or more of these FREE sessions to discover what balance, breath and focused movement will bring to you:

9:30 - 10:30 am Qigong @ the Tai Chi Center of Chicago
11:00 - 12:00 pm Tai Chi @ the Tai Chi Center of Chicago
(4043 N. Ravenswood Ave. Suite 228)
12:30 - 1:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Northcenter Town Square
(corner of Damen Ave. and Bell Plaine Ave.)
1:30 - 2:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Wells Park
(between Montrose Ave. and Sunnyside Ave. on Lincoln Ave.)
2:30 - 3:00 Tai Chi & Qigong @ Giddings Plaza
(between Leland Ave. and Lawrence Ave. on Lincoln Ave.)

JOIN US and learn how to improve YOUR well-being!

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (WTCQD) is an annual event held the last Saturday of April each year to promote the related disciplines of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and qigong around the world since 1999. For more information on World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, additional events, and the Tai Chi and Qigong Medical Research Library please visit

Monday, March 21, 2011

10th Annual Chicago River Day

The Chicago River vs. The Los Angeles River. The competition is ON!

The Windy City is taking on the City of Angels - but with an ecological twist. For decades, our two cities have hosted some of the largest volunteer-driven river clean-ups in the country - and this year, we’re competing to be the best.
The Urban River Challenge is a three-month competition between our two organizations to see who can

(1) get the largest number of volunteers out to our large watershed workday/cleanup events Saturday, May 14, 2011, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and

(2) add the most new Facebook fans leading up to their cleanup. The prize for this competition is the fame, acclaim and the knowledge that both of our rivers will be better off than they were before the challenge began. And, just so you know, we are in this it win it Chicago!!!!!

The competition is from March 1 through May 20, 2011. Help the Chicago River win the Urban River Challenge. Follow this link for more information!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chinese New Year Celebration & Fundraiser for the Pygmy Rabbit

Tai Chi Center of Chicago - 4043 N. Ravenswood #201 & #228
Questions please call 773.396-2653 or

February 5th, Saturday, 8pm - 12am.

  • Bring whatever you need to make yourself comfortable.
  • New Year wishes/resolutions.
  • Some food and drinks will also be provided otherwise this is a potluck event.
  • Bring your Tai Chi book and ask Grandmaster Hsu Fun-Yun for his autograph!
  • A generous heart (cash or check) to help raise funds for the Pygmy Rabbit.

  • To welcome in the new year while having fun amongst friends!!!
  • To raise money for the Year of the Rabbit - Save The Pygmy Rabbit a collaboration with Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Sustainable Return, the environmental arm of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago. Visit this page to learn more.
  • To Bang the Gong of course!
  • To Burn Joss Paper with your New Year wishes.
  • To read your Chinese Horoscope for the New Year, 4708.

  • Free!
  • We are fundraising on behalf of the Pygmy Rabbit, although the Pygmy is physically small her need for a livable habitat is great. Last year nearly $1,500 was raised on behalf of the Amur Tiger. This year, 100% of the proceeds will go directly to ONDA with whom I negotiated that all the funds raised will be exclusively used to fortify their habitat.

  • Festivities begin at 8:00pm
  • Year of the Rabbit the Puppet Show 9:30pm
  • Josh Paper Burning 11:00pm
  • Festivities conclude at 12:00am

    About Joss Paper
    Joss Paper rituals provide a means of bringing in new energy. These ornate papers are typically burned for specific problems such as for health issues, financial problems, or to clear out ghosts or malevolent spirits.
    They may be burned when moving into a new home or business. To clear away old energies and invoke a new beginning. They can also be burned before traveling to send out prayers of peace and safety.
    Joss papers may be burned by an individual or in a group setting.