Master T.T. Liang
Liang Tung-tsai, also known as T.T. Liang (1900-2002), was a renowned Tai Chi Master and a central figure in the spread of Tai Chi to the West. Master Liang was the main teacher of Stuart Alve Olson, the Guiding Teacher at the Sanctuary of Tao.
A Short Biography
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 off the shores of the Yellow Sea in eastern China.
Liang’s 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.
Five-year-old Liang with his father and sister. Photo taken in 1905.
Liang spent four years studying at Nankai University in Tianjin, 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.
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.
Liang in his Maritime Customs uniform.
While serving in the customs service in Shanghai, Liang took up serious study of ballroom dancing, becoming a championship dancer there.
Liang and his dance partner celebrating winning a competition.
His expertise in dancing later affected his approach to Tai Chi, as he felt that performing Tai Chi to music provided the same relaxation that dancing did. His system of dissecting each posture into beats provided a very consistent and rhythmic manner in which to perform Tai Chi.
Liang married twice. His first marriage was arranged in 1928. They had three children together. Sadly, his wife died not long after their youngest son was born in 1933.
He married his second wife, Shuwen, in 1943. They had one daughter together in 1950.
In 1948, he was sent to Taiwan, which he saw as a dishonor, but later considered a blessing because Mao’s communist regime overtook China a year later and he would certainly have been executed or imprisoned had he remained there.
He was fortunate to have been in Taiwan in the 1950s because it was like a “golden era” for the internal arts. This was because many of the great teachers from China had managed to escape to Taiwan during Mao’s takeover.
His wealth afforded him the ability to have many teachers. And because his rank was so high, teachers even sought him out, because it enhanced the reputation of their school to have him as a member.
Liang studied martial art and Tai Chi with more than fifteen teachers.
He was a disciple of two main teachers, Taijiquan Master Prof. Cheng Manching and Taoist Master Liu Peizhong.
Liang moved to the United States in 1962. For six years he served as translator for Prof. Cheng Manch’ing (his primary Tai Chi teacher) at the United Nations in New York.
Master T.T. Liang’s two books became standard authoritative works in English on Tai Chi:
T’ai Chi for Health and Self-Defense (Vintage Press, 1974) and his translation work, T’ai Chi: The Supreme Ultimate Exercise for Health, Sport, and
Self-Defense by Cheng Man Ch’ing and Robert W. Smith (Tuttle, 1967)
Liang not only worked as the translator for Cheng’s book, but he also appears in the Pushing-Hands section.
Master Liang traveled and taught Tai Chi around the country, at Universities such as Tufts, MIT, Harvard, Smith, and Amherst.
Liang never publicly made too much of his Taoist background, but anyone who studied with him was well aware of his Taoist ways and internal alchemy skills.
He was an avid student of the Tao Te Ching, a calligrapher, and a master of Tai Chi.
The Taijiquan Treatise, calligraphy by Master Liang
Throughout his career, Liang appeared on numerous television and radio shows and was featured in many magazine and newspaper articles.
Without question Master Liang became one of just a handful of men to achieve world-wide recognition for his Tai Chi skills and knowledge. He truly was one of the last great living masters coming out of the internal arts golden era of Taiwan.
Master Liang demonstrating his 150-posture Tai Chi form.
Master Liang led a wonderful, full, and very interesting life. He was among the Tai Chi masters who exemplified the benefits of longterm Tai Chi practice.
A clip of an interview with Master Liang
He passed away peacefully in 2002 at the age of 102. He is missed by the many people he has inspired, and continues to effect, through his humor and teachings.
Stuart Alve Olson, author of the biography and teacher at the Sanctuary of Tao shares about his time with T.T. Liang.
Stuart created the Sanctuary of Tao to pass on the Taoist teachings Master Liang taught him, that Stuart has spent his lifetime cultivating.
He wants to do for you what Master Liang did for him—teaching you Taoist ways to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.