Brief History of Tai Chi Chuan
Back to the Martial Arts Page
Tai Chi Chuan has been handed down for generations through different families, since its creation by the legendary Taoist master Chang San-Feng during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.). There are many different accounts of the origin of the form.
The most common of these accounts is that Master Chang once watched a snake and crane fighting and copied the soft, coiling motion of their movements. The form he developed consisted of only thirteen postures, corresponding with the eight trigrams of the I Ching (Book of Changes) and the five elements. The lineage after Master Chang is not precisely clear, but it does lead to a man named Chiang Fah. Chiang taught his form to a man named Chen Wang-Ting, who is recorded as practicing Tai Chi prior to 1644. His descendants still practice the form their family developed, which is characterized by its emphasis on silk-reeling techniques (Chan-Ssu Chin), low stances, and periodically fast movements. The Chen family's Tai Chi remained a secret for five generations, not to be taught to anyone outside of the family. Later on, during the 1800's, Chen Chang-Hsin (1771-1853) broke this tradition and taught his family's style and secrets to an earnest student named Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872). The Yang style, as we know it today, was standardized by Yang Lu-Chan's grandson, Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936). It consists, at its longest account, of 128 postures and is characterized by large shifting movements, "peng" or "ward-off" energy, and the slow, even pace most people associate with Tai Chi.
The Yang family masters had a famous lineage of students who created the other major styles of Tai Chi Chuan, which include the styles of Wu, Hao, and Sun. Although each style has its own particular "flavor" and they appear different in their external performance, they all keep to the principles laid out centuries ago by Chang San-Feng.
Yang Cheng-Fu had a student by the name of Cheng Man-Ch'ing (1901-1975) who became one of the greatest master of his time. He shortened the form to 37 postures and made it one of the most popular forms practiced today.
Note - the above information was provided by www.patiencetaichi.com
Cheng Man-Ch'ing taught many students including Benjiman Lo. Pat Chan was a student of Ben Lo in San Francisco for over 25 years as of 2001 and as far as I know continued to study under Ben Lo. Pat Chan passed his Tai Chi to his brother-in-law the World Renowned Wing Chun Master Augustine Fong. We now pass on the art of Tai Chi Chuan as it was taught to me by Sifu Fong. I was also lucky enough to study push hands in great detail with Sifu Fong and was responsible for overlooking the other students during push hands practice. I spent many hours pushing hands with Sifu Fong and students of Sifu Fong. I was once given a very humbling compliment by one of Sifu Fong's long time Wing Chun students, "Sifu Fong touches hands more with you than most of his Wing Chun students". Because of Sifu Fong's unlimited knowledge of sticky hands and Chinese Martial Arts in general, his push hands skill is better than anything I have ever witnessed. I now attribute my skill as a direct result of this priceless experience with Sifu Augustine Fong.
Sifu Christopher Scott