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A short history of Tai Chi Chuan

The history of Tai Chi Chuan is lost in antiquity and is shrouded in mystery. There are various versions for its origin, of which two are the commonest. The most prevalent one (which is the Yang and Wu fanilies’ version) holds that Tai Chi Chuan originated in Mountain Wu Tang from the Taoist monk Chang San Feng, who is probably a mythical figure who lived between AD1100 – AD1350. The second version holds that Tai Chi Chuan originates from Chen Village, been created by the General Chen Wang Ting, around the middle of the 17th century. However, this version is acceptable only from the Chen Family, for obvious reasons.

Historically, the only established fact is that Tai Chi Chuan became accessible to the general public and began to spread in China from Yang Lu Chan, his sons and their disciples. Yang Lu Chan was taught Tai Chi Chuan in the Chen Village, from the then head of the Chen Family, Chen Chang Ching. It is said that Chang slipped inside Chen’s house in a cunning way (according to a story of unascertainable origin), as the tradition had it that Tai Chi Chuan could not be taught to persons who were not members of the teacher’s family. When he completed his training, Yang Lu Chan began to teach in Beijing, in the mid of 1800. The Yang Style was established by Yang Lu Chan, his two sons Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jian Hou, as well as by their descendants. The Wu Family was taught the Yang Style by the Yang Family. Then, the Wu Family made changes to the style according to its own knowledge and experience (please see the respective section), thus creating the Wu Style.

Thereafter, and until today, Tai Chi Chuan became the object of study of many teachers and went through many alterations that pertained both to its movements and to its goals. In some cases, the final result had nothing to do with the original material. None the less, a serious student can find his way in the world of Tai Chi Chuan, in spite of the unreliability. In many cases, a research into the family tree of a style and a teacher, as well as common thinking, suffices to recognize a genuine teacher.