August 21 2017, updated 12:19pm

Tai chi master a 'living treasure'

Last updated 00:20 28/05/2008
HU'S A TREASURE: Tai Chi master and documentary subject Loo-Chi Hu is a reluctant film star some call a living treasure.

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When Loo-Chi Hu left China in 1948, he did not think it would be for ever.

However, 60 years later, 83-year-old Hu considers himself more Kiwi than Chinese.

Hu's life, which has seen him rescue stricken sailors and become a world authority on tai chi, is the subject of a documentary at this year's International Film Festival.

The Christchurch man is a reluctant film star.

"I actually I don't like it. Why should I publish myself?" said Hu at his Phillipstown home.

Hu left China in 1948 and travelled to Taiwan to work in the fishing industry. While Hu was away, Mao Zedong came to power in China and his father advised him to stay away.

It was not until 1995 that Hu was able to return.

In 1970, Hu helped rescue Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl during his crossing from Morocco to Barbados in a ship built from reeds.

"In Barbados they cannot find it. Lost," said Hu.

"So United Nations asked me to go and help them. There was nobody else. Looking for the boat lost on the ocean is very difficult. I know they came from Morocco so I know where they are from and where they end, and so I searched between them."

Hu located Heyerdahl after four days and three nightsand guided him into Bridgetown.

After settling in New Zealand in the early 1970s, Hu designed commercial equipment for the then Marine Department. As a ship master, he worked on navigation and fishing gear for the New Zealand fishing industry.

Hu's expertise in fishing was only one string to his bow.

He has been teaching tai chi in Christchurch since 1971. In 1988, his pupils established the New Zealand National Tai Chi Chuan Association.

"Tai chi is not just a physical exercise, it is a mental exercise," said Hu.

"Before I learned tai chi, I learned the hard martial art and with the hard martial art your behaviour is hot and you sometimes fight with people. My father advised me to practise tai chi, and since I have never got in a fight."

In 2003, he released a DVD teaching people how to practise the art. He still has a 6am tai chi session every day and teaches students in a shed next to his house.

The documentary, called Huloo, Hu's nickname, features interviews with Hu and people he has influenced.

Wellington-based director and co-producer Robin Greenberg is a former tai chi student of Hu's.

"I hope people will find it as interesting and amazing, as I have," said Greenberg. "His life and career have been extraordinary. I feel he is a living treasure."

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The film will screen at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Wellington and Christchurch in mid-July.

- The Press

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