History of Chen Tai Chi

Many people are spellbound with the mystical taiji (tai chi) legend of the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng, who purportedly invented taijiquan through dreaming about or observing a fight between a snake and a crane in Wu-dang Mountains. Although there were historical insinuation and various circumstantial factors involved in the popularity of the Zhang Sanfeng legend, it is for the most part human nature to enjoy and believe in legendary stories. 

Most of the practitioners’ unawareness of taijiquan being an effective health exercise, as well as an in-depth internal martial arts training, can be explained in terms of taijiquan’s evolution and practice. After years of research and study of historical documents it is now known that tai chi chuan came from the Chen family 9th generation Chen Wangting. Also the five major taiji styles either directly or indirectly come from the Chen Tai ji. Their origins can be traced back to a small village located in Henan, China, with the name Chenjiagou, literally, Chen family trench. 

The first composition of Tai Chi Chuan was the military training General Chen received during his service in the Ming Dynasty. This military training was based on the 32 postures Long Fist by General Qi Jiguang(1528-1587). Another military General in the Ming Dynasty, General Qi, mixed 16 different schools of martial art and made up these 32 postures long fist for the training of his troops. This 32 postures long fist became the standard military training in the Ming Dynasty after General Qi’s promotion to a high military position, from a normal General.  The two Generals only differed by 72 years, and they both served the military in the same Dynasty. It is not a myth that General Chen used this standardized military training too when he was in the service. It is also not a myth that General Chen used this standardized military training as the foundation structure of Tai Chi Chuan because he was trained under this standard military training too when he was in the service.

Chen Wangting (1600-1680), a warrior, a scholar, and a ninth generation ancestor of the Chen family, invented Taijiquan after a lifetime of researching, developing, and experiencing martial arts. A born warrior and a master of martial arts, Chen Wangting served the Ming Dynasty in its war against the succeeding Qing Dynasty. Because of the political turbulence, natural disasters, and human calamities during his time, Chen Wangting's ambition was not fulfilled.

In his old age, Chen Wangting retired from public life and created a martial arts system based on his family martial arts inheritance, his own war experiences, and his knowledge of various contemporary martial arts styles. In his creation of Taijiquan, Chen Wangting combined the study of Yi Jing, (i.e., "Scriptures of Changes"), Chinese medicine, theories of yin yang (i.e., the two opposing yet reciprocal energies generated from Taiji, expressed in taijiquan as the hardness vs. the softness, the substantial vs. the insubstantial, etc.), the five elements (i.e., metal, wood, water, fire, earth), the study and theory of Jingluo (i.e., meridian circulation channels along which the acupressure points are located), and methods of Daoyin (i.e., channeling and leading internal energy) and Tuna (i.e., deep breathing exercises).

In addition to these ancient Chinese internal theories, medicine, and Daoist methods, scholars (e.g., Hao Tang, Liuxin Gu) had also discovered that the boxing art created by Chen Wangting contained names of twenty-nine postures of the thirty-two postures recorded in Qi Jiguang's Quan Jing Jie Yao Chapter (i.e., Chapter on the Quick and Outlined Scriptures of Boxing, Scroll 14) in Qi's Ji Xiao Xin Shu. Moreover, Chen Wangting's bare-hand forms, all the long spear posture names mentioned in Qi Jiguang's Chang Bing Duan Yong Talk (Talk on Long Weapon in Close-Contact Use, Scroll 10) in Ji Xiao Xin Shu could also be found completely incorporated in the posture names of the Chen Family Spear Set. Therefore, after other popular theories--some fabricated for political or self-expedient purposes--regarding the origin of Taijiquan, e.g., the Zhang Sanfeng legend, the Wang Zongyue (whose Taijiquan Lun, i.e., Taijiquan Theory, was frequently quoted as one of the classics in the study of Taijiquan)/Jiang Fa theory, etc., have all been refuted and found either unsubstantiated historically or contradictory chronologically with historical facts, scholars had concluded that Chen Wangting was the one who created and developed totally new and different boxing and weapon set movements, postures, and applications in his own martial arts system possibly with the inspiration of the names from Qi's book, which was in turn a digested record of names, forms, and postures from many martial arts schools in Qi's time. In this unique and unprecedented martial arts system, Chen Wangting created and invented seven sets of empty-hand forms, a long fist form of one-hundred-and-eight postures, one Paochui (i.e., Canon Fist) set, push-hand techniques for two people, and training methods for spear, saber, sword, truncheon, jian, spear-thrusting for two people, and long-pole 

We will now take a look at the birth of the major four other tai ji boxing beginning with the first person outside of the chen family to learn.

Chen Changxing (1771-1853),(lao jai yi lu), the 14th generation Chen patriarch, was the first to teach Chen Taijiquan to an outsider, 

  1. (Yang Style: It is characterized by slow and even expansive tempo movements. This style was developed by Yang Luchan based on Lao Jia Yi Lu (old Frame First Form), which he learned from Chen Changxing. This "unchanged" Lao Jia system which Chen Changxing taught Yang Luchan and his descendants are commonly referred to as Lao Jia (Old Frame). It is known that Yang Luchan and his sons never taught Er Lu (Second Form) openly to the public; rather, it was passed down only to Yang's own family descendants and a few close indoor disciples.
  2. Chen Youben small frame chen tai ji -chen quingping-
  3. Wu Yuxiang (wu style tai ji)  Wu Yuxiang, 1812-1880) was a  teacher and government official active during the late Ch'ing dynasty. Wu was a scholar from a wealthy and influential family who became a student  Wu Yu-xiang also studied for a brief time with a teacher from the Chen family, 
  4. yang luchan – yang banho- Wu Quan you-wu jian quan(wu jian quan style indirectly from chen old form through yang style). 
  5. Chen Quingping to wu yuxiang to li yiqu to hao weizhen to” Sun Lutang”(sun style tai ji)

Therefore one can see that all tai ji form starting from chen tai ji can be trace back to the origin of it beginning. 

From these five family of tai ji many more tai ji forms are being born because tai ji is part of the nature state of being and each of us have our on chi. However, we have learn that the foundation form must be learned to gain higher understanding in our learning.