A biography of Master T. T. Liang
“On the twenty-third day of the first moon in the year 1900, Liang Tung Tsai was born in Ningpo, Hopei Province, which is a small town on the shores of the Yellow Sea in eastern China. Master Liang lived to the venerable age of 102, passing away on August 17, 2002.
His father was a merchant, selling primarily sundries, and according to Liang was an extremely hard worker and devoted father. His mother was a devout lay Buddhist, who spent all her free time lecturing on Buddhism to children and helping monks acquire funds to build temples. Liang was born Jui Fu, and stylized his name when reaching adulthood as Tung Tsai. He had an older sister (deceased) and a younger brother, Jen Tieh, who is still living in California. Liang spent four years studying at Nankai University in Tienjin, where he received an M.A. in economics and then entered the British Maritime Customs Service at the age of 24. His rank increased quickly, and by the time he was 35 he held the highest position of any Chinese officer. Only one British officer was higher in rank than him. During his initial years with customs he spent a great deal of time in Amoy, which he remembers as being ideal in comparison to Shanghai, where he was sent after his promotion to the rank of Chief Tide Surveyor.
Liang served in many of the major cities along the eastern seaboard of China. When he was promoted to the rank of Chief Tide Surveyor he was in charge of all British controlled ports within their concession along China’s eastern seacoast, an enormous duty.
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The story of my finding my way to the home of TT Liang in Saint Cloud Minnesota is on that is one that is inevitable once the company I worked for in Minneapolis decided to have me be the first representative in Saint Cloud. I was around 32 years of age at this time. When I was in my twenties in Cincinnati I studied Tai Chi at the Unitarian Church on Saturday mornings. The instructor was a very nice man in his forties, a Psychologist. I was a regular and enjoyed the group, the people in the group and Tai Chi.
After returning to Minneapolis I briefly studied with a man who lived in Saint Paul. I did not feel he was the teacher for me and I did not continue with him. When I arrived in Saint Cloud I quickly found a local health food store, a place to find nourishing food. On a bulletin board was a sheet of paper offering Tai Chi from TT. I took the number and soon called and soon found myself his student. My regular trips to Saint Cloud had a silver lining. TT was the real thing, a Chinese man who had taught and studied for five decades. A vital man with power, humor, and a zest for life in his mid 80’s.
It was because his daughter was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota Saint Cloud that TT and his wife had moved there, to be close to his daughter and her family.
How wonderful for me, for it was natural for me to be around him. This short, pudgy old man was the most powerful man I had ever met. His skill in all aspects of Tai Chi manifested as kindness, patience, humor, friendliness, and non-violence. He had come to this expression through many difficult life experiences which included torture at the hands of oppressors. He had held positions of responsibility and power when younger working for the British in mainland China.
There was a time when I took a weeks vacation and stayed in his basement bedroom for a week studying with him everyday. Tai Chi had saved his life, extended his life, and brought vibrancy into his body.
He loved to study the “Classics”, teach and paint.