Shaolin monk and historian dead from stomach cancer.
It was March of 2007, the last time I had visited with Shi De Qian.I was there with a Discovery Channel advance team, helping them with the Chinese kung fu version of the series Fight Quest. It was a cold afternoon, chilling even more from a setting sun when we drove up to the front gates of his school, a school that I had visited many, many times over the previous few years.
What awaited me, was quite the surprise. De Qian and I had known each other for many years, after having first met in 1997. The few hundred students of his school were all lined up in their military style uniforms, all prepared to do some sort of "prepared arms" sort of thing for me. When I arrived, all had stood at brisk attention, and then, after a short period of military stiffness, they broke ranks and cheered, as if one of their lost prodigal sons had returned. Comical, yet heart warming; I was a bit shocked. Granted, I had been there before, and granted, no doubt some of these kids had known me, but the reception that De Qian had staged for me was above and beyond. He was truly happy to see me.
We had known each other for years, a relationship that had started back in 1997 when I had first met him with Shi De Yang, and the infamous and much beloved Heming. De Qian had discussed many, many stories over the years, of his remarkable past, the history of Shaolin during the twentieth century, the myths and the truths, and the real stories of many Shaolin personages, including Yong Xin, De Cheng, De Yang, De Ru, Zheng Zhu and the notorious Yan Ming. What he had enlightened me with was truly amazing, stories of people and places that currently surround themselves with half truths, myth and bullshit, stories of true Shaolin individuals that have dedicated their lives towards promoting true Shaolin tradition. Things that he's never written down, things that I've never retold or documented. He was truly an outstanding resource on all things Shaolin, a resource that now, I know, I didn't spend enough time with.
At one time, we had entertained doing business together. De Qian was a well known Shaolin historian, one who had written well over sixty or seventy different books and booklets, concerning Shaolin gong fu, Shaolin history, and Shaolin medicine. He is best known for his Shaolin encyclopedia, of which he had given me a few of his original copies. Around 2000, we had entertained the idea of translating his book into English so that it would be better enjoyed around the world; at first he had wanted me to purchase the rights to his book, subsequently, he just wanted to partner with me to help bring this masterpiece onto the world stage. Because of the traditional grammar that the book was written in, and the immense difficulty translating it would have been, our project had never gotten off the ground.
Our last visit last March culminated in a huge dinner that he had thrown in my honor, and the honor of the guests that I had brought with me. A completely unnecessary gesture, as he had known well that such things are not necessary to maintain friendships. But it was his nature, a warm, affable respectful man who had lived through long and hard times, who went out of his way to ensure that his beloved guests were well taken care of.
Wang Chang Qing died on August 23rd, at 7AM, of stomach cancer, which he had suffered with for a few years. His funeral is August 28th. He leaves behind some famous disciples, including Shi De Yang, Shi De Cheng, et al, and his devoted gong fu brother, Shi De Ru, and many, many friends, who will truly miss him.
(You might want to read the "Helicobacter Pylori" article, in the Shaolin FAQ / Health Faq section of the site).