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Part 1: The Origin Theories



The main forms of TCC practiced today all trace their origins back to the Chen Village in Wen County, Henan. It is only reasonable to begin our search for the origins of Taijiquan there and the early records from there and those that learnt the art from there.


The Earliest Reference To The Origin


The written works on Taijiquan were not from the Chen village or its members. The earliest being the Taijiquan Classic by Wang Tsung Yueh. The earliest verifiable manual on Taijiquan that we have is from Li I-Yu (1832-1892) who compiled the 3 manuals which are known as the `3 old manuals' in Yung Nien today. Li learnt the art from his uncle Wu Yu Xiang who in turn learnt the major part of his art from Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the most popular Yang style of Taijiquan, and spent a month learning the `Xiao Jia' or 'Small Frame' from Chen Ching Ping. In these old manuals he recorded the Taijiquan Classics, works of his uncle, those of Wang Tsung Yueh and his own writings on the art. In his `Brief Preface To Taijiquan' he wrote that the creator of the art was Chang San Feng and that Wang Tsung Yueh was skilled in it and that it was later transmitted to the Chen village. Later, Li I Yu rewrote the first sentence of his Introduction to say that the founder was unknown. This could very well be due to a a differring origin theories in the post-Chen Ching Ping period. This is the earliest record we have on the origins of Taijiquan.


The Chang San Feng Theory


This is the theory of origins adopted by most of the major styles of Taijiquan and was first put forth by the Yang style. The Yang style traces its origins back to Chen Chang Xin who was taught by Jiang Fa who was in turn taught by Wang Tsung Yueh. Wang Tsung Yueh was supposed to be a student of Chang Sung Chi a noted practitioner of the Internal Boxing of the Wudang Temple. The Wudang Temple certainly exists and their Internal Boxing certainly existed and does share certain characteristics like controling the opponent with calmness. The creator of this Internal Boxing was Chang San Feng, a Taoist on Wudang Mountain. The Wudang martial arts bear little resemblance to the Taijiquan we have today even though they share some of the same characteristics.


The Wudang Temple is still exists and there are still Taoist sages managing the temple and they still teach Wudang martial arts there. It is interesting to note that there is a form called Wudang Taijiquan practiced there. Its postures bear little resemblance to the main styles practiced today even though it has many common characteristics, in terms of technique and principles, of the major styles. The last head of the Wudang Temple, Taoist Xu Ben Shan (1860-1932) was skilled in it and taught it to his disciples together with other Wudang arts. Xu spent most of his life in the Wudang Temple having entered the temple when young. It is unlikely that his art came from the outside since his life is quite well documented. But whether Wudang Taijiquan is the seminal form of all the others cannot be concluded since there is no firm link between the practitioners of the Wudang arts and Wang Tsung Yueh who is the earliest common personage of the the early styles of modern Taijiquan. But it should be noted that there are common theorems between the Wudang Internal Boxing and Taijiquan. and it is possible that Wudang Internal Boxing influenced Taijiquan though it should be considered a separate art.


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