Flowers by Cheng Man-ch’ing

Scholar and Tai Chi Master Cheng Man-ch'ing arranges flower arrangements while discussing flowers.

00:13Copy video clip URL Title card reading “Flowers by Cheng Man Ching.” Cheng is a scholar, poet, and master of Tai Chi who moved to New York in the 1960s, where he would quickly become one of the most influential figure in American Tai Chi. 

00:20Copy video clip URL Professor Cheng, 70 years old, sits at a table examining and arranging flowers in a vase while a white American sitting across from him asks questions about the reasoning and philosophy behind Cheng’s flower arrangement. The American translates Cheng’s observations about color and composition as well as his techniques for making the flowers last longer. 

07:13Copy video clip URL Cheng discusses the symbolism of flowers in Chinese culture, which he says all represent a person and an idea. “The flower, if you like it, becomes representative of something that you like and becomes something good.” The translator says that he is having trouble understanding exactly what Cheng is saying. 

08:50Copy video clip URL Cheng observes that Chinese flowers are different from the flowers elsewhere. He enthusiastically talks about the lovely fragrance of Chinese plum blossoms, which bloom in the winter, and the gigantic lotus flowers. People travel from far away to see and smell them. He spends his birthday every year visiting the lotus plants. 

13:47Copy video clip URL Cheng discusses the flowers he is using in his arrangements and observes that even the same flowers in China have more potent fragrances. He discusses a botanical garden in Washington, D.C. where the flowers had no smell or smelled terrible. He credits the difference to the yellow earth in China, which gives each flower a sweeter fragrance. The atmosphere in the United States is too hot and dry. 

16:56Copy video clip URL Cheng discusses the differences between flowers in Taiwan and China. 

19:43Copy video clip URL The image freezes. 

20:02Copy video clip URL End credits.

 

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