It began with Zhang San Feng. Yes, internal arts predate his existence, but he is the marker in time from which people begin the history. He is credited with penning the first of the taiji classics. From his humble beginnings,the codification of taiji began and the classic forms soon followed. Thus, beginning in 1977, Grandmaster Jou Tsung Hwa hosted the first of many Zhang San Feng Festivals, celebrating the birthday of taiji’s legendary founder.

In the beginning the festival was held in a number of different locations. With the purchase of the Tai Chi Farm in 1984, however, it found a permanent home. Originally held in April, it moved to June, allowing the campers among the attendees a little more comfort while they stayed on the property. From beginning to end, the event was produced and managed by volunteer staff, bartering class or festival time. This arrangement was not without its pitfalls but added to the uniqueness of the event.

Typically, guests began checking in on Friday afternoon. This was a time for meeting old friends and making new ones. People shared stories and techniques they’d collected throughout the year. Later in the evening, an opening ceremony officially began the festival.

Saturday morning began a series of hour-long lectures and demonstrations given through the course of the day by many prominent instructors. With as many as six lectures going on simultaneously at any given time, attendees were often hard pressed to choose which speakers to see. A variety of vendors were always on hand to feed the crowds and tables were set up to allow for sales of books and videos.

Sunday morning was filled with more lectures and then a break at noon for lunch. The afternoon began with a parade that meandered through manicured paths and hiking trails, past well-groomed archways and stairwells whose construction lent an oriental flavor. The people who made up the procession wore their favorite martial arts outfits or T-shirts from their schools while carrying banners. All walked together to show their unity of purpose. Traditional Chinese percussive music was played and a picture of Zhang San Feng was held high overhead at the front of the line. The parade ended beneath a large circus tent. The speakers made wine and fruit offerings. This was followed by a burst of firecrackers and cheers from the crowds. Afterwards a traditional lion dance was performed. All attendees were given the opportunity to burn a stick of incense at the ancestral altar of Zhang San Feng. The day was concluded by Grandmaster Jou who led instructors and guests alike in taiji demonstrations. Thus ended the festivities.

The Festival began as a simple function bringing together a handful of people with an interest in taiji. As it grew, it transformed into one of the most unique gatherings in the martial arts world. It inspired an atmosphere of sharing and acceptance among people of all disciplines. At its nexus was a kind and generous man who had more to share than most, and happily did so once each year at this very special event. It is one more reason to miss our dear friend and teacher, Grandmaster Jou Tsung Hwa.

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