The Life of Gia-fu Feng
Carol Ann Wilson
to be released April 24, 2009 by Amber Lotus Publishing
Still Point of the Turning World: The Life of Gia-fu Feng interweaves the life of translator, teacher, Taoist rogue Gia-fu Feng with the tumultuous historical tapestry of 20th century China and the United States. From Chinese warlords, Japanese occupation, and World War II to 1950s disillusionment, the Beats, Esalen and beyond, the story traces major events and personalities on opposite sides of the world.
In the mix is Gia-fu and the Stillpoint community’s best-selling translation of the Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese classic that is the most translated book in the world, next only to the Bible.
Told from the perspective of someone who never knew Gia-fu but who became his heir through the untimely death of her beloved sister, Still Point of the Turning World tracks a life that began with external privilege but culminated in the gradual discovery of the still point within.
Advance Praise for Still Point of the Turning World
This book is about far more than the life and times of well-known 20th Century Taoist teacher and author Gia-fu Feng. As in the very best biographies, the reader identifies with the joys and sorrows, the strengths and weaknesses, the challenges and lessons. Gia-fu becomes a mirror for the reader’s own life and soul. Wilson’s work brilliantly explores and juxtaposes critical periods in Chinese and American social and political history—the Japanese invasion of China and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Communist Revolution and the Beatnik Movement. And what a cast of characters, from Chairman Mao to Alan Watts! Gia-fu reconciles the contradictions of his age through his radical Gestalt therapy-like approach to life—uncompromising honesty that flies in the face of the Confucian social decorum with which he was raised, spiced with a healthy dose of humor and rascality. His love of nature and the Tao eventually lead him to the still point between yin and yang and to creating an American community in which others can join him in the search for a truth beyond words. I highly recommend Still Point of the Turning World. Filled with wisdom and compassion, you will be engaged and entranced by Carol Wilson’s beautifully written book.
— Kenneth Cohen, author of The Way of Qigong and Taoism: Essential Teachings
Through reading this beautifully-written biography of my late husband, Gia-fu Feng, not only have I come to a deeper understanding of who he was, but also have a new appreciation of the complex events of the middle years of the 20th century, both in China and in the United States. As is often the case, history comes alive when viewed through the life of this one individual living his unique piece of that history.
— Jane English, co-creator, with Gia-fu Feng, of a best-selling version of Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching
This is a multi-layered, uniquely subtle book, meticulously and interestingly researched.
Yes, it is a biography of a man who didn’t want to be a guru but was one.
But it is also a compelling biography of a slice of a troubled time when the present and future of closely-linked families were shattered.
I found myself remembering the double entendre in a line of the poet Herrick: “Look thy last on all things lovely every hour.”
— John I. Goodlad, author of In Praise of Education
This will be the definitive text on a fascinating, elusive, and wily character whose translations of classic Taoist texts have caputred the imagination of people around the world. Carol Wilson has provided us with the powerful story of Gia Fu’s life and shares her own story of Gia Fu’s influence on her own spiritual journey. It is a bittersweet story, complex and poignant, of the way the land and its “interconnected and inseparable stories” can bring open hearts and minds to “a place of quiet beauty” that heals our deep longing for what cannot return or perhaps we never had.
— Gary Holthaus, author of Learning Native Wisdom: What Traditional Cultures Teach Us about Subsistence, Sustainability, and Spirituality
In tackling the improbable and highly original life of Taoist teacher and Tao Te Ching translator Gia-Fu Feng, Wilson completes a sisterly legacy – and also sheds unexpected light on the era when Beat artists and thinkers took the first steps toward a spiritual counterculture.
— Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef
Carol Wilson has given us an indispensable look at a shadowy chapter of the journey of the Tao to America. She tells the story with warmth, insight and authority. You will find it engaging and. . .possibly. . .life altering.
— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter
Excerpt from Foreword by Dexter Woo, nephew of Gia-fu Feng:
Carol Wilson’s biography of Gia-Fu is an extraordinary effort that traces the improbable life of my Uncle Jeff. It was fate that brought him to this country at precisely the right time. Contemplating the cultural and social changes Gia-Fu experienced in the early days living in this country, the underlying conditions were ripe for him to do what he was destined to do.
I think no one in our family can really put a finger on exactly what his real vocation or profession was. We know that he translated Lao Tzu and taught Tai Chi. According to my mother, Gia-Fu’s sister Lu-tsi, he was an accomplished calligrapher, tutored by the masters during his youth in China. We now know that he was adept at identifying the people, even in the future sense, whom he ultimately partnered with to complete the most important projects during and after his life, people like Jane English, Margaret Wilson and the unsuspecting Carol Wilson who had never met him.
I also know that he did not like being a “Master” to those he lived and interacted with. I believe Jane English was most perceptive in calling him a teacher of his art. I’d like to add entertainer to the list of descriptions.