Tai Ji Men offers traditional Chinese wisdom and promotes peace, love, and conscience. It also fights for human rights, including FoRB and tax justice.
by Judith Chiu*
*A paper presented at the third international ISFORB conference, “Secular States Struggling with Freedom of Religion or Belief,” Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium, May 4–5, 2023.
Tai Ji Men is an ancient menpai (similar to a school) of qigong, martial arts and self-cultivation. It is a treasure trove of traditional Chinese culture, which is deeply rooted in the wisdom of Taoism. It has been passed down and practiced as an esoteric tradition since ancient times. However, the contemporary Zhang-men-ren (Grand Master) of Tai Ji Men, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, realized how imbalanced the physical and mental health of modern people is and, responding to the needs of the times, established the Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy in 1966. It is an international non-profit cultural organization with the aim of promoting Tai Ji Men culture and physical and mental health.
Tai Ji Men’s dizi (similar to disciples) are present in different countries, and currently there are fifteen academies in Taiwan and the United States. Dr. Hong also promotes world peace initiatives and has brought traditional Tai Ji Men culture abroad to 101 countries through over 3,000 cultural exchanges events and martial arts performances.
Dr. Hong Tao-tze has inherited the esoteric wisdom of Taoism since childhood, and has studied qigong, martial arts, traditional medicine, yin and yang philosophy, life wisdom, and mindfulness.Tai Ji Men dizi are scattered all over the world, with members from all walks of life and social classes. Through the cultivation, transmission, and practice of traditional Chinese culture, Dr. Hong enables his dizi to put into practice the kung fu they have learnt in an easy-to-understand way, and practice what he calls good thoughts, good deeds, and good words.
Dr Hong has received recognitions and awards from presidents and leaders of various countries. Recently, he was awarded the “President’s Lifetime Achievement Award” by President Biden of the United States, recognizing the contributions of Tai Ji Men’s Shifu and dizi to the world peace education.
In my experience, after practicing Tai Ji Men, dizi made significant physical and mental progress, and became more happy and fulfilled in their studies, family, and career. In addition to gaining what they call the five treasures of life—health, joy, happiness, wisdom, and wealth—they also improve how they play their respective roles in daily life.
Here, I would like to share my own personal experience of how I have acquired the five treasures of life.
Almost thirty years ago, after suffering from depression and infertility for many years, I was directed to Tai Ji Men by a client. I became a dizi of Tai Ji Men on March 6, 1994 after an interview with the Shifu. After becoming a dizi, I was able to find meaning in my life through the guidance and teaching of my Shifu, and I was able to improve my body and mind and have a child. My newly acquired cheerful and confident attitude also influenced my relatives and friends around me, and many have also become members of what we call the Tai Ji Men energy family.
During my practicing Kung Fu, I was most impressed by the way Dr. Hong taught me the meaning of the Chinese word equivalent to “love.” The Chinese character for “love” (愛), includes the characters for “acceptance” and “heart.” The character for “heart” is in the middle of the character for “acceptance,” indicating that to “love” is to “feel with the heart.” This allowed me to truly understand the essence of “love.”
Another important character for Tai Ji Men is the character for “family” (親). Its structure consists of the character meaning “to see” on the right, and the character for “hardship” on the left. The two dots at the bottom represent “each other.” Therefore, “to see each other’s hardships” is to be “family.” The most important thing I learned from my Shifu is the unity of knowledge and action, which can only be realized when practiced in daily life. Only by putting it into practice can we truly understand it.
Because of this easy-to-understand teaching, the Tai Ji Men family is full of love and harmony, and we believe that a positive energy is naturally present in each dizi. It allowed me to overcome many challenges in life. Especially at the end of last year, when my husband had a serious stroke while on a business trip. Although his life was saved, he was unconscious after the operation and the doctors judged that his chance of regaining consciousness was very slim.
Faced with a sudden and dramatic change in my life, I was shocked at first, but because of the foundation of my long practice, I faced it with courage, positivity, and a good attitude every day, and kept spreading positive energy to my husband who was in a coma in the intensive care unit. My Shifu reminded me that, although he was unconscious then, he could still sense our presence. Therefore, during the 30-minute process of visiting him in the intensive care unit (ICU) every day, I would whisper to him that we could pray together for ourselves, for others in the ICU like him, and for the world. Miraculously, my husband woke up, began to slowly recover, and constantly improved. Even the doctors found it unbelievable, and this positive and inspirational story has inspired others around him to face life’s challenges positively. Examples like this can be found everywhere in Tai Ji Men.
In the past, Tai Ji Men has not only organized blessing activities to gather good thoughts and spread positive energy to stabilize people’s minds, but has also organized events to help the world to overcome critical situations.
After the “earthquake of the century” that struck Taiwan on 21 September 1999, killing more than 2,000 people, Tai Ji Men organized the activity “Love of the World, a Gathering for World Peace.” Nearly 40,000 representatives from all walks of life were invited to participate to pray together for Taiwan, to soothe troubled hearts and help all living beings.
In 2001, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze led a visiting group to the 54th Annual United Nations NGO/DPI Conference in New York, where they witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks first-hand. Starting on September 11, the Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi held several “World Peace and Love Bell Ringing Ceremonies” in New York for three days, spreading their blessings to all parts of the United States and wishing that the deceased rest in peace, and the living find peace. In traditional Chinese culture, bells are rung to signify the beginning and end of the working day. The sound of bells also has spiritual significance in many Eastern and Western religions. Dr. Hong designed and supervised the construction of the World Peace and Love Bell, which was rung in Singapore in 2000 to open the World Walk. (The first ringing was in Taiwan on September 25, 1999).
In 2003, when SARS broke out, Tai Ji Men combined the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese health care with the modern concept of epidemic prevention and compiled a manual on epidemic prevention and prophylaxis, advocating the concept of “three don’ts and five do’s” to help the public overcoming the crisis.
The year 2008 was marked by natural disasters and the financial tsunami. On April 18, Tai Ji Men launched a revival of the ancient “Ceremony of Praying for Blessing for All” and a “One Minute of Global Meditation,” with over 30,000 people from all walks of life and more than 100 countries around the world connected together to pray for the world.
In 2014, Tai Ji Men launched the “Movement of An Era of Conscience” and spread it around the world, receiving unanimous praise from the United Nations and many heads of state, with people from 200 countries participating. And ultimately, it contributed to the United Nations proclaiming April 5 as the International Day of Conscience. Tai Ji Men was one of the promoters of the International Day of Conscience, in the hope of eventually achieving the vision of “With conscience, a peaceful world follows. With happiness, joyful families arrive.”
In 2022, the humanity faced an unprecedented test, with war, epidemics and other environmental conditions deteriorating at a faster rate than expected, so on October 16, Tai Ji Men gathered 108 organizations around the world to hold the “Global Prayers for Love and Peace Gathering—Conscience Illuminating the World,” using ancient blessing rituals and connecting 10,000 people linking up to sing the song “A Prayer for Peace” to wish peace for the world.
Finally, in 2023, the Tai Ji Men Cultural Goodwill Visiting Group was invited to Istanbul, Turkey, from March 10 to 18 for a cultural exchange and to ring the World Peace and Love Bell, using music, songs, martial arts and dance to soothe the hearts of the victims of the earthquake.
At the heart of the Tai Ji Men’s spiritual worldview is the harmony of yin and yang, heaven and earth, mind (body) and chi (energy). Over the years, Tai Ji Men has been promoting its philosophy of love and peace and has been active in organizing events, seminars and heads of state summits around the world to promote world peace. Tai Ji Men has also participated in various international cultural and spiritual events, such as the United Nations International Day of Peace, World Environment Day, and others, and invited world political, cultural and religious leaders to ring the Bell and make a wish for peace, invoking their conscientious acts of kindness. Even during the pandemic, it still invited leaders and heads of state from various countries to respond to various United Nations days through online activities and share the importance of conscience, spreading positive energy through the Internet without interruption.
Before the SARS epidemic, the Bell has been brought to visit countries around the world. Up to now (May 2023), Dr. Hong has invited 502 distinguished leaders from 133 countries to ring the Peace Bell, including 59 heads of state and government leaders, seven Nobel Peace Prize winners, United Nations ambassadors and world leaders.
Tai Ji Men Zhang-men-ren, Dr. Hong, and his dizi believe that the World Peace Bell carries the peace wishes of many ringers and has proved to be the source of many internationally acclaimed peace stories, including the ringing of the Bell by Presidents Wade of Senegal, Fernández of the Dominican Republic and Menes of São Tomé and Principe, who made peace wishes and then mediated disputes in neighboring countries or peacefully resolved local issues, saving their people from the suffering of war and fulfilling their commitment to a stable world and sustainable development.
The 4th United Nations International Day of Conscience this year was celebrated by Dr. Hong, one of the co-promoters of the Day, with a speech on “Practicing Love and Conscience for a Peaceful and Sustainable Future.” He pointed out that “the International Day of Conscience is a day for all mankind to practice conscience, and that good conscience is a lesson that everyone must put in practice.” Dr. Hong also mentioned to set up a conscience action plan for ourselves, and that every day, through one minute of thanksgiving and one minute of reflection, we should start to act directly, so that everyone can set an example and lead the world in good conscience and good deeds.
Tai Ji Men also believe that a harmonious wold ruled by conscience is a world where human rights prevail, including freedom of religion and belief. Because of the Tai Ji Men case, we were also led to consider tax justice as a key component of human rights, and discovered several dark and unfair aspects of Taiwan’s tax system.
In my professional activity as Channel Sales Director in Taiwan for a multinational information software company, I have often discussed taxation issues with my suppliers and clients. I found that most of them have received ill-founded tax bills from the National Taxation Bureau (NTB), and at the same time the NTB has asked them to prove that they have not evaded taxes. However, after they had spent a lot of efforts to provide this negative evidence, the tax officials only modified the amount and issued a new tax bill.
The unfair tax system is also causing foreign companies to withdraw from Taiwan. The most famous case was in 2010 when four well-known clothing chain stores including Hang Ten, Giordano, Baleno, and Bossini, which had been operating in Taiwan for many years under Hong Kong companies, decided to exit from the Taiwanese market or reduce their activities after having been hit by unjust tax bills.
These examples show that, by including tax justice among the essential human rights that should be promoted to build a conscience-based civilization, Tai Ji Men not only shares reflections derived from its own case but contributes to a more prosperous and harmonious society.