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Angela E. Oh:

When I first met Ming, he was introduced as "Tu-2." I wasn't quite sure what to make of that name. It was in the halls of a university, where the energy was all about serious scholarly work; the name was like a tickle in that place.

Later, I learned that Tu-2 was as serious a person as anyone else in that university setting. He is a scholar, an artist, a deeply spiritual man. The first time I got a real inkling of this was when I visited his studio and saw the incredible work he had been laboring over for many years. He had made a decision to find work that would sustain his ability to put together a massive piece of art - portraits done with only silver pencil on strikingly deep blue boards. His concept was to complete 108 images - of ordinary people -- all of whom he had met over many years, all of whom had touched him in a significant way by their very being. The images, some of whom are people I knew, definitely represent the likeness of the individual, and then more. The "more" is in how Tu-2 captures the interior of a person -- the essence of the subject he is working on comes through as each stroke of the pencil moves across a cheekbone, an eyebrow, or a wrinkle in the face.

He says it is a form of meditation - the act of creating itself is a meditation. And in many instances, before he sits to draw, he will take time to meditate, zazen.

Over time, I had the chance to know Ying Ming Tu intimately because our lives intersected in a most unusual way, when pieces of his work were stolen during a trip I had taken to Hawai'i. His reaction: "That was the karmic destiny of those images; I must search for them, but it may be that the loss was meant to be -- we come from nothing and we go to nothing." In consoling me he remarked, "Don't be upset...I have many more images inside me that need to come out; and besides, it's nothing more than pencil markings on paper." His ability to go right to the reality of things was startling and refreshing.

As I got to know Ming more over time, I realized that he is a beautiful human being, beyond the physical. Certainly the physical is remarkable in that he is conscious of the creativity that emerges when he engages his body in certain sports - soccer and tennis. In both those activities, he started far later in life than most, yet his practice and discipline in training himself has resulted in his ability to play in leagues and with partners who have spent a lifetime in the sport. To see him move on a soccer field or tennis court, it would be hard to believe that both sports entered his life after the age of 42.

He is a man who lives the most simple of existences in a city (Los Angeles) that is about as complicated as a city can get. He eats when hungry, sleeps when tired, and does all the other things that his body (his temporary temple) requires. His life is abundant, with few material trappings. When he travels, the delight in his experience comes out so that all those who are with him can appreciate that he sees LIFE, not just life. And to the extent that he can, he will use a creative approach to capture the experiences he has. I have witnessed this many times, in Hawai'i, in the nation's capital, in cities outside of Los Angeles as we have travelled together to experience what each place offers. A most wonderful memory is when we were picking strawberry guava at a temple in Kalihi, on the island of Oahu. It started to rain, and I said "Let's go inside it's raining..." He was laughing and continued to pick - "It's only water - this is beautiful, look at the sky and feel the kiai of the place - it's alive!" I grabbed large garbage bags and punched three holes so that our heads and arms could go through and we continued to pick until the rain passed.

That example is the best for how I think Ming approaches life in general -- with an open heart, with an eye of a true artist, and with a fullness of spirit that is full of energy to accept and encounter whatever life may bring. He is an artwork in his being.

Angela E. Oh is an attorney, teacher, and public lecturer. Ms. Oh is also an ordained Priest, Zen Buddhist-Rinzai Sect.