Taichi History

Zhang San Feng
Watching a fight between a snake and a bird in Wudang
Mountains inspires Zhang San Feng, founder of Taichiquan.
Taijiquan is one of the oldest documented forms of Chinese martial arts, it has been dated for over 1,500 years.

Taijiquan history becomes clear during the turn of century. Legendary fighters such as Yang Lu Chan, his family and students contributed to its renown. Northern China gave birth to many martial arts - including the unique system that became know as taijiquan. Taijiquan existed under that name in the Henan & Hebei provinces of northern China by the later part of the 19th century. By the 20th century it was being taught in the Beijing area. The Communists took control of Mainland China in 1949, Establishing the People's Republic of China. The government established commissions to create a standardized, synthesized style. The goal was to better serve the masses by using the martial arts as a health exercise and a sport for national competitions; in the process, lineage was forced out of the picture. Numerous martial artists fled Mainland China at the end of the civil war in 1949, moving to Hong Kong, Taiwan and to Foreign countries where they developed followings. With the Yang lineage still predominating, taijiquan spread to overseas Chinese communities. By the 1960s, masters such as Zheng Manqing began teaching Western students who were interested in Eastern traditions. When the P.R. C. opened its door to the outer world in the 1970s, taijiquan was poised to spread even further.Now taijiquan is one of the most popular Chinese martial arts practiced throughout the world.

Zhang San Feng

T'ai Chi theory and practice is based on a long history that spans thousands of years. Its progress is attributed to many legendary figures. Most people recognize Zhang San Feng as the founder of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. The Zhang San Feng legend can be viewed as having three phases: phase I (prior to 1669) merely claims that Zhang was a Taoist immortal; phase II (after 1669) claims that he founded the "internal" school of boxing; and phase III (post 1900) claims that Taijiquan originated with Zhang. The Zhang San Feng legend evolved during the Ming period (1368-1644), based on the close association of early Ming rulers with Taoism and Taoist priests, whose prophecies had supported the founder of the dynasty. Little is known about Zhang except that he is described as an eccentric, itinerant hermit with magical powers, who died once, but came back to life, and whose life, based on varying accounts, spanned a period of over 300 years. According to legend, Zhang San Feng created a new set of exercises now known as taijiquan in the Wudang Mountains.

Since the 17th century, two distinct branches of Chinese Martial arts styles have evolved: outer style (waijia), which rely on physical strength and speed, and inner style (neijia), which focus on the use of jin (internal strength) and qi (energy). Examples of the outer style are the various schools of Shaolin boxing, named for the Shaolin Monastery in Henan province where these styles were practiced. The inner style is sometime called Wudang style, after the Taoist enclave in the Wudang Mountains in the north of Hubei province, where legend says it originated.

Zhang's insight in the practice of martial arts are expressed according to these basic principles:

  • calmness & stillness overcome action & movement
  • soft & supple overcome hard & strong
Those ideas seem to be contrary to conventional combat training and, in general, the philosophy of Zhang San Feng serves to counter-balance the teachings of Bodhidharma and the Shaolin school.

Chen Village

Chen Village (Chenjiagou), lies in a gully not far from the Yellow River, is considered by all practitioners to be at the source and origins of taijiquan. Chen Village is located in Wenxian county, Henan province.

The history of Chen Style Taichiquan can be traced back to the legendary founder Chen Bu (1368 - ), 陈卜 , a scholar and martial artists originally from Shanxi province. He trained the village in a style that predated taichiquan, which allowed Chenjiagou to bring peace to the region. The Chen family shifted to Henan province in 1374.

Famous proponents of the Chen style include:

Chen Wang Ting (1600-1680), 陈王庭 , an officer in the Ming Dynasty. He was considered to be the ninth-generation descendent of Chen Bu. He was credited as being the creator of the Chen Fist, broadsword and spear arts.
Chen Suo Le (1368-1644) the father of the twins: Chen Shen Ru and Chen Xun Ru.
Chen Jingbai (1796-1821) a famous armed escort in Shandong province.
Chen Chang-Xing (1771-1853), 陈长兴 , credited with the creation of the "Old Frame" of Chan style Tai Chi. He was considered to be the teacher of Wang Zhongyue, 王宗岳 , also from Shanxi and Yang Lu Chan.
Chen You Ben credited with the creation of Xin Jia, or "new" frame of Chen style Tai Chi.
Chen Ching Ping (1795-1868) promoted the Zhao Bao Style.
Chen Kung Yuen a noted as the instructor of the household of Yuan Shi Kai (the last emperor of China).
Chen Miao (1841-1926) one of the best Chen stylist.
Chen Fake (1887-1957) the first person known to teach the Xin Jia (New Frame) system outside of Chen's Village.

The modern Chen style is actively promoted and practiced worldwide. The Chen Village is still the acknowledged centre of Chen style Tai Chi.

Yang Family

The style of Tai Chi most practiced today is the Yang Style. The origins and history of this style start with

Yang Lu Chan ((1799-1872), 杨露禅 , studied and modified the Chen style into a new type of T'ai Chi. He eliminated the difficult jumps and leaps, explosions of strength, and vigorous foot stamping, and refocused training on the understanding of internal power.
Yang Ban Hou (1837 - 1892) the eldest son of Yang Lu Chan and the teacher of Wu Quan You (Wu Style). He taught the style known as Guang Ping Yang taijiquan and developed a T'ai Chi form known as "Xiao Jia" (Small Frame).
Yang Jian Hou (1839 - 1917) is the second son of Yang Lu-ch'an.
Yang Shao Hou (1862 - 1929) is the oldest son of Yang Chien Hou. was considered to be the teacher of Wang Zhongyue, ???, also from Shanxi and Yang Lu Chan.
Yang Cheng Fu (1883 - 1936) is the son of Yang Chien Hou. He is reputed to have taught hundreds of students and popularized Taiji throughout China.

The Yang style is popular because of its compact form, its grace and beauty of movement, and the ease with which it can be practiced. It has caught on in other parts of the world as well, with Yang-style taijiquan clubs and associations springing up everywhere.

Seven Other Styles

There are many other T'ai Chi styles that vary in principle, form and function. We will describe the main styles that are popular today, but one should note that many other styles and practitioners have not been documented.

Wu Yu Xiang (1812-1880) was a native of Yong Nian, the home County of Yang-style founder, Yang Lu Chan. He later went to Chen village to study with Chen Qing Ping of Zhao Bao Village.This style is characterized by compact, rounded, precise, and high standing postures.

Li I Yu (1832-1892) learned the art of Taijiquan from his uncle Wu Yu Xiang. Li Style had the characteristics of the small frame Wu Style, but also some similarities with the medium frame Wu Style.

Hao Wei Zhen (1849 - 1920) was a student of Li I Yu. Hao Style used a fast form to teach the students to recognize and apply power.

Sun Lu Tang (1861-1932) learnt taiji from the Hao Wei Zhen. He developed a new style by combining taiji principles with his knowledge of Ba Gua and Xing Yi. Sun's taijiquan teaches high-standing posture and emphasis on opening, closing and active stepping.

Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942) a student of Yang Lu Chan and Yang Ban Hao. He popularized a style known as Zhong Jia" ("medium frame"). This style is popular in Hong Kong and South East Asia.

Dong Ying Jie (1890-1964) was a student of Yang Cheng Fu and Li Xiang Yuan. He created the Dong family taichiquan and teaches a fast style of T'ai Chi for advanced taiji practitioners.

Zheng Man Qing (1901-1975) was a student of Yang Cheng Fu. He was instrumental in promoting T'ai Chi in North America. He taught a modified form of T'ai Chi with 37 moves, which is now known as Zheng Man Qing style.

Modern Period: the Simplified/National Styles

Since the founding of People's Republic of China in 1949, taijiquan has undergone unprecedented development. Physical culture workers and medical personnel in China have collected works attributed to and studied various schools of taijiquan, and charts, books and musical compositions have been published relating to taichiquan.

In 1956, the Chinese State Committee of Sports simplified the Yang Family Style into 24, simplified forms. This series was edited to progress logically from the easy to the difficult and takes five minutes to complete. "Simplified Taijiquan" is promoted as a health exercise and is a National standard for China.

The Chinese government continued to standardize the practise of T'ai Chi by promoting modified forms based on the synthesis of the major T'ai Chi styles. The current forms include

Simplified Yang Style Taiji Quan in 24 Forms:

  • Yang Style Taiji Quan in 40 Forms
  • Yang Style Taiji Quan in 72 Forms
  • Taiji Quan in 42 Forms
  • Taiji Quan in 48 Forms
  • Taiji Quan in 58 Forms
  • Taiji Quan in 66 Forms
  • Chen StyleTaiji Quan in 56 Forms
  • Wu Style Taiji Quan in 46 Forms
  • Sun Style Taiji Quan in 42 Forms
More demanding and varied in content, these new sets of taijiquan can also include several traditional dual training exercises, such as push hands and counter-pushing, sword fencing and combat with other weapons.

Taijiquan has flourished through centuries, whether practiced as martial art, moving mediation or health exercise; weather at the hands of Chinese or non-Chinese, in its native Chinese context , or on the opposite side of the globe. Taijiquan has continually absorbed new influences as it has grown.



太極拳淵源與流傳

太極拳練的是 輕、靈 柔、靜 ,在傳統門派裡面修行者由武術而入道、得道。並且不是一開始就能練太極拳,是要經過很多層的嚴格訓練後,程度夠了才有資格練的。古門派中太極拳是屬於動靜雙修之動功的一部分,也是高級武術中的一種修行入道的不二法門。

脫離傳統修行門派,太極拳在凡間亦是有強筋壯骨、改變體質、陶冶性情、涵養道德、增長智慧之效。現代人情緒不穩、遇事極易發怒、容易緊張,或是腰酸背痛,精神不濟等、其實是內氣不足,水火不濟所至。藉由太極拳的修練,以培養性中和而柔順的內氣,達卻病延年的目的。

太極拳昔稱綿拳、柔拳。即為古時之太極功,小九天、十三式、三十七勢、長拳、道功拳等等名稱即是今日太極拳。

相傳名之「太極功」者有:南北朝梁代徽州府士人程靈洗(公元522年)從韓拱月學太極功,程氏世傳,至宋時程珌對行功姿勢有所改進,因而更名為「小九天」,亦稱「綿拳」。

唐代睿宗間(公元710年)歙州散仙許宣平得異人于歡子傳授「太極功」,許氏又因行功勢數目改稱「三十七勢長拳」。

距許仙後百餘年,江南懷寧縣有方士李道子(公元

837年)擅長「太極功」,或稱「先天長拳」,造詣已臻上乘,於宋代傳寧國涇縣俞清慧,再傳俞一誠,迄明代有俞蓮舟、俞岱岩、莫谷聲等皆得李氏之傳。

宋式太極拳

其後傳至洪武間,以先哲宋遠橋為最著。清未民初北京「太極拳」聞人宋書銘即遠橋十七世孫,宋氏拳譜抄本有載,早前元代(公元1312年)保定府安州遠祖宋仲殊,曾拜楊州胡鏡子學習「太極功」,與今傳「太極拳」相同,故亦名「十三式後天法」,其傳人以明代江北殷利亨最著。

民國三十九年童宗師行經四川重慶時,巧遇一家太極名師仇木榮,得仇木榮大師傳授宋式太極拳,據宗師所言,宋式太極傳自宋哲周敦頤,拳法極盡狠毒,技法非常獨特,又稱流氓太極。宋式太極拳的淵源與張三豐太極拳不同。

張三豐太極拳師承淵源

「太極功」傳至南宋時,丹士張三豐(公元1247年4月9日子正生)名曰全一,年輕時四方遊學,就像道人一樣到處雲遊到處拜師。亦參學于少林、並精通少林拳。張三豐是一個不求功名的人,據說,有一天張三豐坐在屋裡面,往外一看,有一隻鵲,想狙擊地上的蛇,蛇也想咬鵲,鵲也想吃蛇,飛上降低裝腔作勢,蛇即彎曲著地的身体伸縮著脖子攻心鬥角,張上人從鵲蛇相鬥的過程中,他悟出一種剛柔,相剋相制的道理,參據易理精研而發明奧秘,他以攻擊凌人技法之領悟為中心之攻擊法,即所謂內家拳法;以靜制動,以柔剋剛,以弱制強之拳理。「太極功」始改為「太極拳」,或稱「十三式長拳」,著太極拳論,張三豐乃太極拳的集大成者。其風格遂與少林大為不同、因此別樹一幟、開創武當門派,為武當派之一代宗師。

張三豐祖師時常帶著鶴、猿兩隻動物,蹓韃於山中,鶴常走張仙人前面掃蕩隱匿在草堆中的蛇,使他的主人平安通過,倘若遇到用它的能力敵不過的大蛇時,張三豐祖師近而和大蛇大戰一番,此時大蛇急怒的伸長著它的脖子「張開大嘴」打算襲擊張上人,張一剎那間避開它的身體用一隻手抓住大蛇的頸部,另一隻手由下向上推開大蛇之身,此為太極拳的野馬分鬃的技法。在山遇到虎豹襲擊時,張三豐祖師即用彎弓射虎,一手拳技對付它們,當虎豹以氣勢凌人的姿勢襲擊過來時則避開,身體轉到虎身後用雙手抓住虎。張三豐祖師時常在夢中夢到神授予拳法,又在武當山中看到喜鵲和蛇的格鬥,而獲得拳法的極意,張三豐祖師容貌魁偉,態度旁若無人,「如數天不吃一物仍不覺餓,一天能走千里路」。

            南宗張三豐太極拳的流傳

根據清初黃百家於《內家拳法》所說乃再傳至明初張三豐手中再添加七種腿法以豐富其內容,之後傳至有陜西王宗,和山西的王宗嶽,王宗乃西安市東郊壩橋官廳人,祖籍浙江余姚,將太極拳傳浙江陳洲同,陳洲同傳鄞縣張松溪及張翠山,松溪再傳葉近泉,葉傳單思南、周雲泉、陳貞石、孫繼槎、吳崑山等,單等各有傳人,中以思南造詣最深,傳於王征南傳黃百家傳甘鳳池,是為武當內家太極拳南支,亦稱武當松溪派。(見《胡轉運太極拳與氣功》394頁) 至今江南各地間有流傳者屬之。

清道光年間京兆劍仙左萊蓬,所傳「太極拳」謂為張三豐道家正統。

太極拳分南北二家,南為溫州陳同州所傳,北為河南蔣發。雖分南北兩派,但拳勢原則均不離乎太極的原理

  北宗太極拳的流傳

趙堡太極拳

太極拳傳至俗家得張三豐真傳者,為山右先哲王宗岳,或謂宗岳即陝西王宗之後,隱山西修煉易名宗岳,著有「太極拳經及行功心解」,王氏於明嘉靖間傳河南蔣發,(蔣發又名蔣八1574年)。自蔣發首傳邢喜懷,至張彥傳於陳清平、張應昌,因習者多為趙堡鎮人,固名趙保太極拳,及至陳清平時,為使趙堡太極拳廣傳,遂設館公開授拳,廣收門徒,趙堡太極拳方隨眾多著名弟子向外流傳,傳陳氏子弟及楊露禪、李伯魁等人。  

陳家太極拳

蔣發傳懷慶府溫縣陳家溝陳家,時為陳家第九世陳王庭,蓋陳氏祖先陳卜於明洪武間定居陳家溝,陳氏家譜在九世祖以前,無尚武記載,至明未始有奏庭為武庠生,陳王廷為山東名人,掃蕩群匪千餘人,為陳氏拳法(應為陳氏炮捶)的創始人(當時流行於陳家溝的拳法有多種,以太祖長拳為主)。亦為天生豪傑在戰役中履立大功。

迄滿清中葉,陳家溝古傳太極拳已失傳,陳氏十四世孫陳長興為中興陳氏武功,遂將太祖長拳的拳法,採擷老子黃庭經的呼吸法,而創立陳氏太極拳。至陳發科(1887~1957)的拳架再而發展成今之陳式太極拳。其有二路拳,第一路老架柔多剛少,第二路炮捶則剛多柔少、動作疾走,其他內容有單劍、單刀、春秋大刀、槍等。以纏絲勁、彈抖勁等為主。

楊式太極拳

楊式太極,為楊露禪(1799~1872字福魁)學自陳長興,之後在北京瑞王府教授太極拳,並曾擔任清軍神技營總教習,再傳予其子楊班侯、楊健侯、楊少侯。今之楊式太極拳架乃由楊澄甫(1883~1936,楊健侯之子)發展而成的。楊式太極拳架舒展,動作柔和,其他內容有楊式太極刀、楊式太極劍等。董式太極拳源自楊式太極拳,由董英傑,傳予其子董虎嶺,董虎嶺再傳其子董增辰發揚至今。

                武式太極拳

武式太極,乃由武禹襄之拳架發展而成的。武禹襄先學自楊露禪,再改從趙堡鎮陳清萍習拳。武式太極拳架適中,鬆靜含蓄,講究開合隱現。

吳式太極拳

吳式太極,為全佑(1834~1902)學自楊露禪,再傳予其子吳鑑泉(1870~1942,蒙族人,冠漢姓吳)。今之吳式太極拳架乃由吳鑑泉之拳架發展而成。吳式太極拳剛柔並濟,輕靈圓活,純任自然。

孫式太極拳

孫式太極乃由孫祿堂之拳架發展而成。孫式太極拳架小巧圓活,動作敏捷,開合分明,並有形意拳、八卦掌之韻味。