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The Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) Symbol

The Taijiquan symbol and the theory of Yin/Yang were invented over 3000 years ago in China. In observing nature, the ancient sages had found the principles of the Tao. Here is a summary of what they found:

The History of Taijiquan

Although no one knows for sure when Taijiquan was invented, we know it was much later than the invention of the Taiji symbol, possible as early as 1500 years ago.

The legends in Taiji are only legends. The story that the Taoist monk Chang San Feng invented Taijiquan after watching a fight between a snake and a crane is a fairy tale (by the way, nobody knows who won, the snake or the crane). There were two Chang San Fengs in history, and neither one had any record of being a martial artist. The only thing we have to go on is that there was never any mention that Chang was not the founder of Taijiquan.

In the old days in China, disciples were extremely loyal to their masters. No decent disciple would doubt any words from his master. As a result, rumors and fairy tales would sometimes become accepted as truths. In the early 1900's several Taiji masters who were also scholars did some research on Taiji history. They found that many Taiji legends were just hearsay and had no truth behind them. The following are a few ideas about Taiji history:

  1. The chance of Chang San Feng being the founder is slim.
  2. All five major Taiji styles came from the same root - Chen style
  3. Chen style has a written record. It has 400 years of history. According to the Chen family, Chen Wang Ting invented it in the mid 1600's.
  4. Even if there was Taijiquan before the Chen family, nobody could tell if it was the same form, because there are no records of it.
  5. The so-called Taiji Classic from Chang San Feng was actually written by Wu Yi Hsien, founder of Wu-hao style.

The Five Major Styles

Nowadays there are five major styles of Taijiquan in China. They all share the same root - Chen Style. Here is a simple list:

  1. Chen Style - founder Chen Wang Ting (1600's - ?) Large frame.
  2. Yang Style - founder Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872) Large frame.
  3. Wu-hao Style - founder Wu Yi Hsien (1812-1880) Small frame.
  4. Wu Style - founder Wu Chien Chuan (1870-1942) Medium frame.
  5. Sun Style - founder Sun Lu Tong (1861-1932) High frame with flexible footwork.

Wu Style History.

Grand Master Wu Chien Chuan (1870-1942) learned Taijiquan from his father, Chuan Yu, who was an officer in the army during the Qing Dynasty. Chuan Yu was a disciple of Yang Style founder Yang Lu Chan and his son, Ban Hou. After decades of practicing and teaching, Grand Master Wu had improved what he had learned from his father and created a new style - Wu Style. In 1932, he founded the Shanghai Chien Quan Taiji Association and later there were many branches in Hong Kong and other cities in Southeast Asia. He taught thousands of students, many of them became famous Taiji teachers, such as: Ma Yu Liang, Wu Tu Nan, Cheng Wing Kwong, Wu Kung Yi (son), Wu Ying Wah (daughter), etc.

Master Cheng Wing Kwong was a famous Wu style master in Hong Kong. In his youth he was quite weak and often had health problems. He began to learn Wu Taiji under Master Chiu Sau Chien. After a few months of practice, he became stronger and healthier. In 1937, Grand Master Wu Chien Chuan moved to Hong Kong. Master Cheng went and studied under Grand Master Wu and later became one of Wu's best disciples. He was nicknamed "The Grand Master of Canton".

Master Cheng Ting Hung learned Taiji from his uncle, Master Cheng Wing Kwong. In 1957, Cheng Ting Hung went to Taiwan to compete in the Southeast Asia Gong Fu tournament and won a gold medal in full-contact fighting. Since then he has trained several gold medalists in full-contact fighting. He is a famous Taiji Master in Hong Kong. His style is known as "Practical Taijiquan".

Master Cheng Wing Kwong's style is sometimes referred to as the "Hong Kong Wu Style". I have practiced the Hong Kong Wu Style for over 25 years. I believe that it is a great Taiji style.

The history of Tai Hui

About 110 years ago during the Ching Dynasty in China in the reign of Emperor Harm Feng, there was a merchant in Canton by the name of Ng Wing Cho. He traveled around China selling medicinal herbs/drugs and special products from the Canton area.

During his travels he passed through the city of Beijing and set up a stand to sell his products. It was here that a wealthy man walked by and found Ng Wing Cho's stand and inquired if he had something to give him for a chronic cough that had been bothering him for some time. Ng Wing Cho sold him some special medicine from Canton which had snake bile and tangerine peel in it. Within a short time the man recovered from his illness and the two men became good friends. The man invited Wing Cho to stay at his home.

When Ng Wing Cho went to his friend's home he discovered that this man was no ordinary rich man but he was the uncle of the Emperor of China. In thanks for their friendship and his return to good health, the man told Wing Cho that he wanted to give him a gift. "Is there anything that you want?" asked the Emperor's uncle.

"Dear Sir", replied Wing Cho, "I am well off and happy. The only thing I really want is to learn some martial art so that I can protect my family in the future."

The Emperor's uncle ordered his best bodyguard to teach Gong Fu to Ng Wing Cho. Wing Cho became an apt pupil and practiced what he learned everyday. His teacher told him that he was learning the Mi Chuan, or Secret Fist.

Ng Wing Cho went back to Canton and settled down. He practiced MI Chuan everyday for many years and became a master of Gong Fu. For the next four generations all the male members of the Ng family learned this special martial art. They called this style Tai Hui which means Wuji or "universe".

The last Grand Master from the Ng family was Ny Shui Bor. He learned Gong Fu from his father and his uncle, beginning at the age of six. He was very talented and worked very hard; soon his skill reached a very high level. He was a high school teacher and had only one son. This son unfortunately did not want the learn Gong Fu and so his level of ability was very low. About 2 years before the Japanese invaded China, there were a few kids from some well-to-do families in the small town who loved Gong Fu. They offered Master Ng a lot of money and begged him to become their teacher. Out of this group of students four became very good at Tai Hui. Master Ng stopped teaching when the Japanese occupied Canton. He resumed teaching in a public park in Kwong Chow city in the early 1960s.

My Tai Hui teacher was Master Kong Chi Wah. He learned from Grand Master Ng for ten years. Master Kong was very weak when he was a child. One day when he went to a park to study his homework, he found an old man teaching Gong Fu in the park. He sat and watched the whole session and became very interested. From then on everyday after school he went to the park and watched the old man teach; never saying anything, just watching. Finally Grand Master Ng asked Kong, "Hey kid, do you want to learn Gong Fu?" Kong said yes and from that day forward he went to the park twice a day, seven days a week to study Gong Fu. He became one of the best students of Grand Master Ng Shui Bor.

I learned Tai Hui Gong Fu from Master Kong in the early 1970s in Hong Kong.

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