British Columbia

Happy 105th birthday to one of B.C.'s first tai chi masters

Widely regarded tai chi master honoured by family and students

March 07, 2018

Raymond Chung (seated) turned 105 Wednesday. He demonstrated some of his tai chi movements with student, Beate Beckmann (right). (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

He fought for China in the Second World War, escaped Mao's communist dictatorship and is said to be one of the first people to bring tai chi to British Columbia.

And on Wednesday, Raymond Chung celebrated his 105th birthday.


Chung, a widely regarded tai chi master in B.C., was honoured by his family and even some of the students he has taught over the decades. He even helped teach a class at the care home he now lives in.

"Tai chi means soul exercise," he said as he demonstrated some hand motions. "Thinking exercise."

People close to Chung say he has created quite a legacy for himself through his tai chi teaching.

And beyond that legacy, they say, he has lived an interesting life that was often perilous.

Born in turbulent times

Chung was born in China in 1913, a country then transitioning from more than 2,000 years of imperial rule into a republic.

He became a fighter pilot for the ruling Kuomintang, his family explained, and fought for his country when China was invaded by Imperial Japan decades later.

But once Japan was defeated, China was embroiled in civil war as the Kuomintang and the Communist Party battled for supremacy.

After the communists emerged victorious, Chung fled to Canada in 1962 — a journey that began by swimming to Hong Kong. 

It was a difficult decision as he had to leave his family behind.

"He left us for 18 years to come to Canada," his son, Ken Chung said. "But, you know, China was very closed by that time, so, [it was] not allowed [for] me to get out of China."

But 18 years later, Ken came to Canada as well and the family was reunited.

Students come out

After Raymond Chung arrived in Canada, he founded a tai chi school in Vancouver at Commercial Drive and Tenth Avenue. The institution is still running and Chung is still involved with its operations.

He's taught numerous students over the decades, including Johanna Harte, who attended his birthday celebrations.

Thirty years ago, Harte was trying to quit smoking. A friend recommended tai chi, and that's when she met Chung.

Seniors assembled Wednesday for a tai chi lesson from Raymond Chung. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

"Quit smoking, did tai chi. I still do tai chi," she said. "It's the most amazing sport for breath work and flexibility."

Harte says Raymond Chung and his son — who is also a tai chi master — have been positive influences on her life.

"When you find the best, you don't want to settle," she chuckled.

Along with about 20 seniors and care home staff, Hart joined one of Chung's lessons Wednesday afternoon.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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