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Taijiquan Origin

There are currently five version of story that described the originator of Taijiquan.

The five originator candidates were:
  • Xu Xuan Ping (许宣平) from Tang Dynasty (618–907)
  • Zhang San Feng (张三峰) from Song Dynasty (960–1279) or/and Yuan Dynasty (1314 - 1320)
  • Zhang San Feng (张三丰) from Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
  • Chen Wang Ting (陈王廷) from Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)
  • Wang Zong Yue (王宗岳) from Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)

According to some schools of Taijiquan, Xu Xuan Ping (许宣平) is considered to be the Dao Yin (導引) teacher of Zhang San Feng (张三丰) who created Taijiquan. Some other schools told that Xu himself was a Taijiquan practitioner, and that the style Xu passed down was simply called 37 (三世七, Sānshì qī), because it consisted of 37 postures or techniques. During this time it was also known as Chang Quan (長拳) or Long Boxing as a reference to the never ending flow of the Yangtze River (揚子江), also known as Chang Jiang (長江). Xu had a disciple called Song Yuan Qiao (宋远桥) who passed the Song Family Taijiquan system down through the generations to Song Shu Ming (宋书铭). Song Shu Ming was an advisor to Yuan Shikai (袁世凯), president of China and a famous Taijiquan master in Beijing from 1910’s to the 1920’s. He left Beijing with the fall of Yuan Shikai in the 20's. However, there was no evidence back then or today that supports those claims.

Zhang San Feng (张三丰 or 张三峰) was a legendary Chinese Taoist priest from Wudang (武当) monastery believed to have lived at least 200 years. He was said to be living in the Song dynasty, Yuan dynasty and Ming dynasty. His name is said to have been Zhang Junbao (張君寶) and he was a Shaolin monk before he became a Taoist monk. Zhang San Feng’s Taijiquan is known as Shi San Shi (十三式) or Thirteen Postures. All Taijiquan practiced today are said to come from this style. However, historical facts do not have evidence that Zhang San Feng was the originator of Taijiquan. There are also claims that there are actually two Zhang San Feng.

Wang Zong Yue (王宗岳) was a legendary figure in the history of taijiquan believed to be a famous student of Zhang San Feng. His Taijiquan Lun (太极拳论) or Taijiquan Theory, was frequently quoted as one of the classics in the study of Taijiquan. Wang's disciples, Jiang Fa (將發), went on to make important contributions to the development of modern Taijiquan by passing the matial art to Chen Wang Ting. However, the story is vague and the timeline do not support the story.

Chen Wang Ting (陈王廷 , 1600-1680) is the militia battalion commander of Wen County before the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. In his old age, Chen Wang Ting retired from public life and created a martial art system based on his family martial arts inheritance, his own war experiences, his knowledge of various contemporary martial arts styles, the combination of theories and studies of Yi Jing, Chinese medicine, Yin yang, five elements, Jingluo, Dao Yin (導引) and Thu Na. This is the martial art system of Taijiquan that we know today.

Whether Xu Xuan Ping, Zhang San Feng, Wang Zong Yue or Chen Wang Ting create Taijiquan, it is still under dispute. But the fact that must be accepted is that Chen Chang Xing (陈长兴, 1771-1853), the 14th generation Chen master, was the first to teach Chen Taijiquan to Yang Lu Chan (杨露禅, 1799-1872), an outsider to Chen family. Yang Lu Chan traveled to Beijing in 1860's and soon became famous for being an unbeatable master. Yang formulated his own Taijiquan form based on Chen Family Taijiquan and became the founder of Yang Taijiquan. This was the beginning of the spread of Taijiquan from family art of a small village in central China to an international phenomenon.