Occupation: Funeral Counselor
Residence: Arcadia, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 12, 2017
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English
Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.
I don’t know whether it’s true or a joke—I believe it’s a joke. For a tai chi master, he had a hard time to teach his disciple how to do the beginning steps of a sort of tai chi kung fu. Right now, I will illustrate in English:
“One big watermelon. I cut it into two halves. This half I give to you, you don’t want it, I take it back. And the other half I give to you, you don’t want it too, I take it back.”
And those are the steps of the beginning.
Background Information about the Performance from the Informant
The informant heard about this tale from his friends during passing period in high school. His friends were taking tai chi at the time and demonstrated the moves of the watermelon tai chi to him. He believes the story is a joke, rather than the truth, because both the moves and the chant are humorous.
Context of the Performance
I interviewed the informant at his house.
Tai chi is an internal form of Chinese martial arts used for its health benefits and defense training. Several styles of tai chi have developed over time; the five most common ones today are the Chen, Sun, Woo, Wu, and Yang styles. There are a few who believe that the watermelon tai chi was created because both tai chi and watermelons promote similar properties, such as improved blood circulation.
My Thoughts about the Performance
I first learned of this watermelon tai chi in my high school Chinese class. The teacher taught our class the moves and the chant; however, she did not mention that this form of tai chi was a joke, like the informant. When I performed the watermelon tai chi alongside the informant, I found the movements quite calming, but saying the chant in Cantonese was very amusing.