Perseverance brings good fortune.
Pay heed to the providing of nourishment
And to what a man seeks
To fill his own mouth with.

In bestowing care and nourishment, it is important that the right people should be taken care of and that we should attend to our own nourishment in the right way. If we wish to know what anyone is like, we have only to observe on whom he bestows his care and what sides of his own nature he cultivates and nourishes. Nature nourishes all creatures. The great man fosters and takes care of superior men, in order to take care of all men through them.

If we wish to know whether anyone is superior or not, we need only observe what part of his being he regards as especially important. The body has superior and inferior, important and unimportant parts. We must not injure important parts for the sake of the unimportant, nor must we injure the superior parts for the sake of the inferior. He who cultivates the inferior parts of his nature is an inferior man. He who cultivates the superior parts of his nature is a superior man.

I Ching, 27. The Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment)

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Who is Elizabeth Wenscott?
Mission of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago

Who Is Elizabeth Wenscott
by Rob Wittig creator of

Elizabeth Wenscott's lifelong study of traditional Chinese arts aims to help her students get the maximum health and enjoyment from their amazing bodies and the complex environment of the planet that produces and sustains them. "Historically," she says, "Tai Chi masters drew inspiration from the environment. They lived in nature and studied it directly; there was no separation between the inner world and the outer world. A lot of that focus has been lost in recent decades." She shares with students the practical benefits of this ancient knowledge. "Too many people get used to creeping around, tight and tired and worried, running on empty, and thinking that's normal. Tai Chi shows us how to relax and let good things flow through our body/minds -- good air, good water, good food, good thoughts, good emotions -- so that we're charged up and full of energy."

In 1981 Elizabeth made a crucial decision: to wrap up her studies of visual arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and, from that moment onward, to dedicate her life to the study and practice of a martial art, Tai Chi. "Tai Chi just made so much sense," Elizabeth says.

To understand why Tai Chi makes so much sense in Elizabeth's life, you first need to imagine a rough-and-ready child who, she says, "grew up outdoors. I was always out in nature --- running, hiking, camping, exploring. I moved all around the Midwest and Northeast when I was a kid, but the family had to live near water, since we're a family of sailors." Elizabeth sailed her first solo competition when she was 9, improvising an acrobatic method of purposely capsizing and recovering by scrambling across the hull, and taking first place. Sailing once even nearly took her life, when she and her father came up against the full force of a sudden storm on Lake Erie. "That really taught me about the power of nature, the power of water and wind," she says.

At the same time, at home, Elizabeth says, "My whole thing was to get up before everyone else did and do art work --- building things." Her creativity even extended to building go-carts and organizing neighborhood races. On the playground, Elizabeth was often a protector, defending weaker kids from the bullies.

So, when she hit the point in her art studies where "I liked the process, but I didn't like the object I was left with," she felt it was time to make a change. "Creativity had always been something light, and formal art seemed like a burden. When I saw Tai Chi Chuan, philosophically it was beautiful. Being a Taoist art, it is based on nature. It is an art form you can take anywhere, do anywhere, not leave anything behind, and you can practice it your whole life."

Her search for a teacher finally led her to Grandmaster Hsu Fun-Yuen, a grandmaster born in Tien Tai, Che Chiang Province in the People's Republic of China. Grandmaster Hsu is a life-long martial artist, having started his studies in Shaolin external forms and herbal medicine as a child, due to his poor health early in life. "When I saw him," says Elizabeth, "his form seemed like nature to me, combining strong and soft, rooted and light , like the storms I would see sailing as a child.

Grandmaster Hsu studied with two renowned instructors, Li Yuan-chi and Cheng Man-Ching.

Elizabeth became a serious student of Master Hsu's, working with him nearly every day for ten years. From him she learned numerous forms, including Master Hsu's family style Tai Chi Chuan, Sword, Staff, Push Hands and Da Lu to name a few. Master Hsu officially adopted Elizabeth (Hsu, I-Wen) as senior disciple in 1992 and granted her Master's certificate in the same year.

In 1991 Elizabeth accompanied Grandmaster Hsu to the International Wushu and Tai Chi competition in Zhoushan, China. Elizabeth recalls a memorable closing ceremony: "It was an olympic-style spectacle in front of 40,000 people, and I was sitting there preparing to enjoy it when I saw my name in the program as a performer! I told them I wasn't prepared, and a few minutes later an armed military escort arrived to take me to my hotel and get my sword. They aren't fooling around! So I got the sword, got changed, and suddenly there I was doing a sword form in front of a national TV audience on a 3" thick padded, carpeted floor! That was very alien to the ancient wood, stone and earth floor training I had! I made it through fine. My teacher was very proud. It was an important moment for both of us."

In recent years, Elizabeth has extended her studies to encompass a wide range of healing and sustainability practices complementary to the Taoist medicine inherent in Tai Chi. "Early on most of my students were interested in the martial aspect of Tai Chi," she comments. "Now, there are more and more people interested in the health aspects so I want to expand my teaching in that direction as well. In the lineage I come from it is felt that as you learn the martial aspects of the art it is important to learn healing arts as well. The attitude in the old schools was: you break it, you fix it."

She sees her school's environmental activities (see the Sustainable Return page) as a simple, logical extension of the core Tai Chi practices. "My first connection to environmental interests was that students needed healing. All I was getting with them was a few hours a week for Tai Chi, which was great, it was helping, but their energy batteries were still low because of their lack of good connection with their environment. Tai Chi is part of the system of Chinese traditional medicine where health equals the balance of your internal yin and yang. Well, the outer environment has its yin and yang, too. The cleaner our environment, the cleaner we'll be. The two need each other; there is no separation. Air, water, the fruits of the earth that's what sustains us. So I'm bringing back a sense of stewardship for the Earth in my school and my practice. I didn't realize I was trying to be green, it just grew out of my Tai Chi."

Elizabeth often talks of her goal of --- in the metaphor used in traditional Chinese culture --- uniting Heaven, Earth and Humanity. In Western terms, one might say that Heaven refers to energy -- the energy of the sun, the pull of gravity, the motion of atoms and galaxies -- and that Earth refers to matter -- air, water, nutrients. Human bodies are the places where energy and matter meet to produce the richness of life: awareness, aspiration, skill, emotion, relationship, wisdom.

Elizabeth summarizes her goals like this: "I want my students to use Tai Chi for three reasons: one, for health; two, to gain the ability to remain centered as much of the time as possible through challenges (what's often called 'self-defense') and three, to find the fullest expression of their own nature, in the Tai Chi form and in life. I think of myself as building a bridge between the needs of my current students and the gifts I have received from my teacher and the Taoist systems of the past."

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Mission of the Tai Chi Center of Chicago
The symbol to the left is an adaptation of what Chinese Taoists call the Three Treasures or Three Manifestations. This ancient cosmological symbol consists of:
    Heaven above with its perfect Yang essence of light and shadow,
    Earth below with its perfect Yin essence of firmness and receptivity,
    Mankind in the middle with the potential of harmonizing all that is above and below through understanding, love (in the sense of human feelings), and rectitude.
LaoTzu, the father of Taoist Philosophy, wrote: "Humankind can find their way to open the Gate to the Essence of All Life when they model themselves after Earth, which models itself after Heaven, which models itself after the Tao, which models itself after Nature."

Tai Chi is one of the oldest known practices to begin the process opening this gate by creating a state of harmony with all that is above and below.

The goal of Tai Chi Center of Chicago is to create a supportive atmosphere in which students learn time-honored skills and adapt them to their lives so that they might live harmoniously between heaven and earth with a clear mind and healthy body.

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