Tu Di Ceremony

Dong Zeng Chen accepts Chip Ellis as a disciple November 4, 1990, Honolulu, Hawaii

When I became a disciple of Dong Zeng Chen I made an oath to sincerely practice and promote the art of Taijiquan. My oath was to Chang San Feng and all the masters since him through to my Teacher. In that spirit I am sharing this with you because the ceremony, and what it embodies, is a cultural aspect of the study of Taijiquan that is extremely important but seldom seen.

In the picture above my Teacher is holding a red envelope which contains a recommendation to accept me as his Student. The recommendation was made by Danny Young, a long time student and assistant to Tung Hu Ling, who had become a good friend of mine over the years. Below is the cover and the envelope’s contents. (Click on the picture to see a larger view.)

The red table cloth brings good luck. The various dishes of fruit and chicken are gifts to the past Teachers. The candle and incense sticks are bringing our wishes to the heavens. The red paper signifies, and contains the name of, Chang San Feng, the legendary founder of Taijiquan. And the picture to the right is that of Tung Ying Chieh, the patriarch of the Dong family’s practice of the Art. One side note: After the ceremony we watched the incense burn down. The unbroken ash was quite long, which was an auspicious sign.

Before the setting, I made my silent oath to the spirit of Chang San Feng and the other Teachers.

I then presented my supplication to my Teacher who accepted me. In addition the the words, I also presented him with a gift in appreciation.

The pictures you see were taken by Dong Zeng Chen’s daughter, Betty. Also witnessing the ceremony were (from left to right, below) my younger son, Dylan, his third eldest child, Chester, and my eldest son, Eric.

Once the ceremony was complete I became his “Tu Di”, or disciple, and I was welcomed as a member of the family.

Before I entered into this situation I thought long and hard. I am a very independent person, and I was loath to subject myself to another’s will. As we discussed our possible relationship I came to understand that it was more like a marriage; It was supposed to last forever, but divorce is possible. Also, we both had our responsibilities – he to teach me fully, and me to learn sincerely and with respect.

The feeling I have about all of this is one of gratitude and joy. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a close relationship with my Teacher and his family, and to be able to be so close to the teachings, history, and culture of the Art of Taijiquan.

After the ceremony I continued to frequently visit my Teacher at his house. One of the first things he did was to correct me in the Yang style slow set one move at a time, through the whole set, to make sure I understood the fine points. So, after 16 years of daily practice, I began at the beginning once more.

The study of Taijiquan can easily take a lifetime. It is a never ending path with ups and downs, curves and straight-a-ways. It still has my interest after more than 30 years of practice.

I wish you all the best in yours.


Chip Ellis