Jet Li Past Stories About “Tai-Chi Master”

Sword and spear are not my thing, sky and sea are where my charm remains

One thrust ahead, black nor white

Good nor bad, what is success without failure

Motion and stillness aligned, I yearn for emptiness in hand and in heart

Come and go as I wish

Jet Li In Tai-Chi Master

Whenever this prelude of “Tai-Chi Master” appeared, its beautiful melody and catchy lyrics will instantly stuck in people’s minds. In July 1993, Jet Li set up his own movie company  “Eastern Production” and subsequently came to China Mainland to film “Tai-Chi Master”. The crew had chosen the flood land of Yongding River at the South of Lugou Bridge in Beijing and built a military camp for the eunuch Liu Jin. The huge military camp was well-equipped with stockades, steeds, observation tower, camp sites and a big stage.

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The setting in the picture above was built at the flood land of Yongding River. Since they had military camp, there should also be soldiers right? If not, it would seem ridiculous to not have any tea boys or servants to serve and cheer around the so called 9000 year old eunuch Liu Jin in dominance. So the movie producer had found an armored regiment in Beijing.

After getting approval from the higher authority, the regiment turned into some Ming dynasty soldiers who existed 500 year ago. They were armed with swords and spears, switching back and forth between the government army and rebels. The shooting had lasted for around two to three weeks.

At the beginning, the leader of the regiment wasn’t aware that Jet Li was involved in the movie. He didn’t know that it was a production of his own movie company (They barely recognized any Hong Kong stars by that time, who is Michelle Yeoh? Never heard of it, they only found out later on.). Once when he went to visit the team only did he know Jet Li was in charge of the movie. At that time, “Shaolin Temple” had been released for 10 years. But out of love for that movie, the leader was extremely delighted to see Jet Li in person.

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Humble Jet Li

Jet Li was really humble by then. He would always welcome the government officials of the regiment whenever they visit and joyfully took pictures with them. The picture below was Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li at the premiere of “Tai-Chi Master”. They both looked innocent and really down-to-earth.

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Once when the team leader met Jet Li, he said jokingly:

“There are a lot of mass fighting scenes in the movie, the extras should learn a bit or two about martial arts so that their postures would look more convincing, why don’t you teach them some of it?”

Surprisingly this suggestion coincided with Jet Li’s thought. So in between the shooting intervals, Jet Li would gather the regiment and teach them some basic martial arts like squatting, punching fist and brandishing swords and spears.

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The team leader said:

“I don’t know if the skills acquired by the warriors are useful in the movie, but what I do know is that many of them would jokingly said: “Hey don’t mess with me, I’m Jet Li’s disciple.”

Of course the most important is Jet Li’s manifestation of Tai Chi Chuan (shadowboxing) in the movie. Shadowboxing is not something which can be easily shown on screen. While in “Tai-Chi Master”, with Jet Li’s natural and elegant martial arts base as foundation, director Yuen Woo-ping exaggerated the shadowboxing performances accordingly just enough to show the charm. The use of tools such as vat, rubber ball and tumbler had simply and vividly demonstrated the principle of attack and defense in Tai Chi, leaving the audiences with interest and in fascination.

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