October 1, 2000: Master Ni’s Taoist Silence towards Lineage

Responding to a question concerning Master Ni's lineage.

Although Master Ni claims to be a free man, his response to lineage is Taoist. Tai Chi is a uniquely Chinese tradition. There are Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and martial teachers. The Confucians and the martial tradition derive from the patriarchal side which is oriented towards ancestry and hence lineage. The Taoists have always eschewed lineage. Unlike the Confucians and the Buddhists, many Taoist authors don’t even sign their works. As an example the author of one of the most famous of Chinese novels written in the 15th century, Journey to the West, a Taoist allegory, is unknown. Furthermore the historicity of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, the supposed founders of Taoism, and even Chang San Feng, our patron saint of Wu Tang, is questionable at best, with scholars on both sides of the coin. While Confucius' life and dates are fairly well established, the 30% of the scholars, who believe in Lao Tzu as a real person, debate when he existed. By analyzing the literary style of the Tao Te Ching they can only approximate his dates to within a 400-year time span. Some claim that the final compilation of this Taoist Classic didn’t occur until 250 AD, while others say it was written in 600 BC at the time of Confucius. As is evident the Taoist ambiguity towards lineage even extends to their founders. Bill Powell, a UCSB Professor, who specializes in Chinese religion and one of Master Ni’s students, has met Taoists who will reveal nothing of their personal history sometimes only leaving behind a picture of themselves. The Taoists let their accomplishments speak for themselves without taking credit. We are each filled with our own unique potentials – independent of lineage.

In a similar fashion, Master Ni has warded off most of my questions considering lineage, giving only small quiet phrases with little elucidation or clarification. He said that as a youth he studied for only few years with a famous Xing Yi Master who taught the Shanghai’s secret police Shaolin’s hard style martial arts and everything else. He learned Double Sword from another teacher. Then some Taoists taught him Taoist meditation and Wu Tang sword. This is all he would say except that his teachers were very good.

I consider Master Ni a spiritual master first and foremost. Tai Chi and Wu Tang swordsmanship are just techniques that he uses to push us towards mindlessness. This is my idealization of Master Ni.