Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Daoist Piano Mover

Have you ever moved a piano? They are heavy and awkward. There's nothing good about moving pianos.

Mr. Gong was a piano mover. His method of moving pianos exemplified the principle of wu-wei. Zhuang Zi would have appreciated the way he went about this business.

Perhaps the world's premier piano mover has passed away. Below is an excerpt from an article about him. The full article may be read here. Below that is a video about him and below that is another video about moving pianos that you might enjoy.

Edward Gong, who moved 7,000 pianos, dies

Sunday, November 6, 2011
Legendary for his moving piano technique, Edward Gong of Berkeley was admired not for how he interpreted Mozart or played a concerto, but for how he moved pianos. Literally.

He did it single-handedly, although he sometimes called upon his astonished clients to roll a dolly or grip a corner.

"Almost everyone I know in Berkeley has used him or knows about him," wrote "Rinky N." on Yelp's urban legends section. "Years ago he moved a roommate's piano using the three of us weaklings as pivot points. It's like watching Superman or an optical illusion!"

"It's physics," Mr. Gong, who had a degree in that subject from UC Berkeley, would explain.

Mr. Gong died at 85 at the Veterans Home of Yountville, where he'd gone to live last year. He moved pianos until age 80 - more than 7,000 of them over 45 years - said his niece Miko Lee.

"He was the epitome of the word eccentric," she said, fondly recalling the man with the "serious giggle" she called Unc.

On the Berkeley Parents Network site, "Nicole" wrote: "He arrives with a little pickup truck and an amazing stair contraption, and uses brains and leverage to move these amazingly heavy and awkward objects. He's goofy as heck, and he chats a mile a minute ... but always manages to get the piano where it needs to go."

His piano-moving outfit consisted of checkered polyester shorts, gum-sole shoes and the bulging muscles he'd hone for hours, bench-pressing at the gym. When not working, Mr. Gong favored bedroom slippers, once showing up in snowy Munich carrying luggage filled with books but no shoes besides the pantofles on his feet.

He had gone to Europe for the World's Fair because he adored fairs, often hanging out for hours to watch a calf being born. He also danced ballet, sang opera, played instruments and studied Mandarin and drawing, making up in enthusiasm what he lacked in skill, Lee said with a laugh.

And despite limited funds, Mr. Gong attended stellar performances - often inviting his young relatives - by serving as an usher at the ballet, opera and Cal Performances.

Born Aug. 9, 1926, Mr. Gong was one of 11 children whose parents ran a laundry in Madera. An Army private in World War II, he served as a medical aide and chauffeur at Presidio Hospital in San Francisco.

Mr. Gong joined his family in Berkeley in 1947, where they opened the Victory Market at 1443 San Pablo Ave. to pay tuition at Cal for Mr. Gong and his siblings. His brothers and sisters raised families, went into business or became professors, scientists or teachers.

Mr. Gong did his own version of those things, too.

In 1988, The Chronicle followed Mr. Gong, then 62, as he maneuvered - in five minutes - a 400-pound upright piano from the rear room of a house into his pickup using a dolly, a wood box wrapped in an old rug, and an iron tube he'd laid across the truck bed.

For his second move, the story said Mr. Gong "stood on a stone step with 500 pounds of piano in his thick arms while three men half his age tried clumsily to wedge the dolly under the other end" as he schooled them in tilt and torque.

"He lived a remarkable life," said Harry Yoon, a Los Angeles film editor who shot an 11-minute short, "7,000 Pianos," about Mr. Gong at 75 in 2002.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful article and video.... thanks for letting us know about it.


Rick Matz said...

I would have liked to have met him.

Anonymous said...

His modus operandi is to feeling the the object's center of gravity, tilting from ground up and torquing the object. It is just Taiji Pushing hands.

Unknown said...

This is crazy. Great video, he is probably better than all the piano movers I've ever met. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Rick Matz said...


Shaniqua17 said...

Mr. Gong sounds like the single coolest man alive. I wish he was my grandpa or something. He seems like such a smart and nice guy. I was a little surprised to read that he danced ballet, wore slippers around, AND was one of the best piano movers around. What a neat old guy! I'm sorry to hear he is gone.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, Mr. Gong had many facets. We should all live as full and useful a life.

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