Tai Chi Chuan -- Introduction
by Kevin Ma, New York, 11/10/2012
Tai Chi Chuan was made known to the general public via the saga of Yang family-style Tai Chi Chuan. This saga was kick-started when its founder -- Yang Luchan (楊露禪, 1799-1872) was appointed the head martial coach for the Imperial Guards Brigade in Beijing, China and won the nickname "Yang the Invincible" because he never lost a match. It reached its climax when Luchan's grandson -- Yang Chengfu (楊澄甫,1883–1936) taught the art to the public in many big cities including Beijin, Shanghai, Gongzhou and Hangzhou and successfully nurtured a few key disciples to carry the art.
However, the Yang Saga of Tai Chi Chuan was just a small episode within its long history, for which we saw Tai Chi Chuan being evolved into mutiple lines of transmission. Known to the general public at the present, there are six major styles:
- Chen Style (陳家)
- Zhaobao Style (趙堡)
- Yang Style (楊家)
- Wu/Hao Style (武/郝家)
- Wu Style (吳家)
- Sun Style (孫家)
Without doubt, there must also be lesser known lines of transmission including those passed on within Taoist temples due to Tai Chi Chuan's origination from the Toaist tradition. It is very hard to trace all Tai Chi Chuan lineages back to its founder without gaps. Many had made the attempts during early part of 20-century. But, to no avail. Even who was the founder remains contraversial.
Wu Tunan (1885-1989, a famous Tai Chi master and a college professor) in his book -- The Study of Taijiquan: Taijiquan Introduction, described the following:
- The earliest record indicates that a Prefect, at the present time Chinese Anhui province during Southen dynasty (420-589), by the name of Cheng Lingxi (程靈洗, 514-568), practiced Tai Chi Chuan and taught the art to soldiers in the army under his supervision. Tai Chi Chuan was trasmitted within Cheng's family. Five hundred years later in Sun dynasty, one of his descendents -- Cheng Bi (程必) still practised the art and had written about it. He enhanced the art with multiple elbow techniques and called it "Little Nine Heaven" and stated that his ancester did not invent Tai Chi Chuan and was taught by a master called Han Gongyue (韩拱月). Unfortunately, no historic record was found about Han Gongyue.
- Then, there was a poet Taoist in Tang Dynasty (618-908) by the name of Xu Xuanping (許宣平) who also practised and taught a form of Tai Chi Chuan similar to Cheng Lingxi's style. He knew the great Tang Dynasty poet -- Li Bai (李白). Both visited each other and wrote poems together.
- Then, came the legendary Taoist -- Cheng Sanfeng(1247-??) who learned Tai Chi Chuan from Master Huolong (=Fire Dragon) and perfected the art with the following four principles in mind: stillness against action, gentleness against tough, slowness against fast, and single against multitue. This line of thinking seemed counter-intuitive but made perfect sense in the context of Taoist view of Yin-Yang. He taught many disciples to carry on the art. These four basic principles remain the core of Tai Chi Chuan to the present date.
- The art then was passed onto Wang Zongyue who lived in the Wanli Period (1573 - 1620) of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and wrote The Tai Chi Treatise -- a masterpiece among the Tai Chi classics. The art from Master Wang was split into two lines of transmission by two of his disciples. The Southern lineage by Chen Zhoutong (陳州同) took root and flourished in Zhejiang Province while the Northern lineage by Jiang Fa (蔣發, 1574——1674), in Henan Province.
The Southern lineage continues to the present date. Early masters of this lineage consists of the following: Chen Zhoutong (陳州同) --> Zhang Songxi (張松溪) --> Ye Jimei (葉繼美) --> Dan Sinan (單思南) --> Wang Zhengnan (王征南) --> Huang Baijia (黃百家)
Jiang Fa (蔣發) appeared in the chart of Zhaobao Tai Chi lineage, whose early masters consists of the following: Jiang Fa (蔣發) --> Xing Xihuai (邢喜懷) -- > Zhang Cuchen (张楚臣) --> Chen Jingbo (陈敬伯) --> Zhang Zong-yu (張宗禹) --> Zhang Yan (張彥) --> Chen Qingping (陳清平, 1795-1868). It is believed that Jiang Fa (蔣發) also taught Cheng Wanting(1600-1680) to start off the Chen Style Tai Chi lineage.
The Northern lineage continues to the present date, having evolved into the aforementioned six major schools. These six schooles are related to each other as follows:
- Yang Style came from Chen Style.
- Wu/Hao Style came from both Yang and Zaobao Styles.
- Wu Style came from Yang Style.
- Sun Style came from Wu/Hao Style.
(1) Fu Shengyuan and Fu Qingchuan (2011), The Secret of The Essence and Applications of Yang-Style Tai Chi Chuan ISBN 978-7-5644-0805-6. (in Chinese)
(2) Ji Peigang (2009), From Tai Chi Chuan Past: Extraordinay Lives of Tai Chi Master in Late Qing Dynasty Era ISBN 978-7-5601-4868-7. (in Chinese)
(3) Jiang Fa (蒋发) http://baike.baidu.com/view/1253011.htm
(4) Profiles of Tai Chi Master in Different Generations (太極拳歷代先師簡介) http://www.theqi.com/taichi/teacher.html
(5) Wang Zongyue (王宗岳) http://baike.baidu.com/view/210367.htm
(6) Wu Tunan and Ma Youqing (2009), The Study of Tai Chi Chuan: Tai Chi Chuan Introduction. ISBN 978-962-07-5024-3. (in Chinese)
(7) Xu Xuanping (許宣平) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Xuanping
(8) Xu Zhen (2006) Record of Tai Chi Chuan Research ISBN 7-5377-2740-6. (in Chinese)