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
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.
- calmness & stillness overcome action &
- soft & supple overcome hard & strong
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
- 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
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.