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。














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。