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April 5, 1927 - October 16, 2010
Philosopher, Teacher, Actor, and Father.
Chao-Li Chi, born in Shansi Province, China, passed away peacefully at home in Granada Hills, CA. His family arrived in New York City in 1939 as a result of the Japanese invasion of China.
Chao-Li received his B.A. from St. John's College, his first Masters degree from New York University, and his second Masters from The New School for Social Research. He passed on his learning throughout his life, both informally at his home and formally, teaching university extension courses in philosophy, the Tao te Ching, and the I Ching. He moved to Los Angeles in 1975 and established the Taoist Sanctuary. He is credited with being one of the first people to introduce Taoism to America. He practiced what he taught, and lived by the Daoist philosophy of modest behavior, humbleness in your heart, and an honorable career for the purpose of service, guidance and encouragement to others.
Chao-Li's performance career began with the East and West Association, under the direction of Pearl S. Buck. He was a featured performer in Maya Deren's 1948 avant-garde short film, Meditation on Violence. He was a regular member of Mara and her dance troupe, and it was while on an engagement in 1967 with Mara that he went to Dayton, OH, and subsequently became the Dance Director of the Living Arts Program and developed its' Dance Department. He was a practitioner of modern dance, Judo, Ai Ki Do, Tai Chi, Ballet, and fencing. His Broadway credits include the original Rogers and Hammerstein's "Flower Drum Song", travelling through 48 states with their National Tour.
As an actor, Chao-Li is perhaps best known for his role as "Chao Li" in the television show Falcon Crest (1981-1990), becoming one of the first native Chinese actors to break into Hollywood. He has appeared in over 51 movies or television programs, including Big Trouble in Little China, M*A*S*H*, The Joy Luck Club, The Nutty Professor, and, most recently, The Prestige, Wedding Crashers, and Pushing Daisies.
Every Saturday morning for almost 30 years he taught Tai Chi in the beautiful courtyard of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, continuing his tradition of teaching Tai Chi that began back in New York in 1948. His students, many of whom studied with him for years, also learned Qi Gung and the Tao te Ching under his tutelage. He also taught Tai Chi at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute (LA) and Cal State LA.
He is survived by his widow, daughter, and step-son. He was returned to the Heavens on October 21, 2010. There will be a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to the Pacific Asia Museum (46 N. Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101).
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 24, 2010