May the joy that is everlasting gather in this hall. Not the joy of a sumptuous feast, which slips away even as we leave the table; Nor that which music brings - it is only of a limited duration. Beauty and a pretty face are like flowers; they bloom for a while, then die. Even our youth slips swiftly away and is gone.
No, enduring happiness is not in these, nor in the three joys of Jung Kung. We may as well forget them, for the joy I mean is worlds away from these. It is the joy of continuous growth, of helping to develop in ourselves and others the talents and abilities with which we were born — the gifts of heaven to mortal men. It is to revive the exhausted and to rejuvenate that which is in decline, So that we are enabled to dispel sickness and suffering.
Let true affection and happy concourse abide in this hall. Let us here correct our past mistakes and lose preoccupation with self. With the constancy of the planets in their courses or of the dragon in his cloud wrapped path, Let us enter the land of health and ever after walk within its bounds. Let us fortify ourselves against weakness and learn to be self reliant, without ever a moment's lapse. Then our resolution will become the very air we breathe, the world we live in; Then we will be as happy as a fish in crystal waters. This is the joy which lasts, that we can carry with us to the end of our days. And tell me, if you can; what greater happiness can life bestow?
Cheng Man-Ching, New York City, 1973
‘The Hall of Happiness’: nowadays every government agency and big corporation seems to have a mission statement setting out its principles and objectives – probably drawn up by committee.
I like to think of the Hall of Happiness as Cheng Man-ching’s mission statement for his New York school. In Professor Cheng’s case, these were principles he lived by.
Wolfe Lowenthal has written about Professor Cheng’s joie de vivre, how he lived every day as if it were a gift that he did not expect to have. As a young man, Professor Cheng contracted TB, virtually a death sentence in early 20th century China. He took up tai chi to cure himself. His deep appreciation for tai chi as a support for health stems from this, and Wolfe attributes Professor’s luminous spirit in no small part to the art he practiced.
In the ‘Hall of Happiness’ we find themes of taking responsibility for our health, developing our talents and abilities, constancy of practice, happy concourse with others, and losing preoccupation with self.