Origins of Tai Chi - Part 1. Uncovering myths & legends
There are many things that have been written about Tai Chi. Some of it are truths, some are untruths and others are unproven. A great many are cliches, based on the lack of understanding of Chinese culture, racism and what they have seen in films. It is easy to most people to believes these cliches, because they do not know the facts. The fact that one has eaten a few Chinese take away meals and seen a few Chinese films, it does not make one an expert.
One of the things I seen and heard a lot of if that Tai Chi is an ancient form of martial art or that it isn't a martial art, but a form of moving meditation and health exercise. The truth is, the Tai Chi that we see today is not all that ancient. The most popular style of Tai Chi is Yang Style (楊) and their founder Yang Lu Chan (楊露禪) started teaching Tai Chi in Beijing during the latter half of the 19th Century. From Yang Style came Wǔ/Hǎo (武/郝), Sun (孫) and Wu (吳). Of these styles, Yang and Wu are the most popular today. Yang Lu Chan learned Tai Chi from the Chen Family (陳) based in Chen Jiagou, a village in Henan Province. Whose origins date back to the final days of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). According to the Chen Clan, it was their ancestors Chen Wangting (陳王庭) who they credit as the founder of Tai Chi. In a way, we can view Chen Wanting as the key figure in the creation of Tai Chi we know today. However, The Yang, Wǔ/Hǎo, Sun and Wu styles consider the Daoist Master Zhang Sanfeng (張三豐) as the creator of Tai Chi. Apart from the followers of Chen Style, few would disagree. If we take the year 1644, what was happening in Europe at the time? When Tai Chi came to Beijing in the latter half of the 19th Century, what was happening in Europe? So think about it, Tai Chi is not all that ancient.
Whilst the Zhang Sanfeng created Tai Chi, there is more than just a story about a crane fighting a snake. For the next few blogs, I would like to write about the various aspects that make Tai Chi what it is.
* The spiritual and the philosophy
* The Daoist arts, qigong & gongfu
* The relationship with other styles of of Chinese Martial Arts