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TAI CHI - ORIGIN AND PRESENT by Diana Roque
2011-02-13 00:14:00
The origin of Tai Chi Chuan is a controversial topic that incorporates a multiplicity of historical factors that include social, political and philosophical questions of the Chinese Culture. Several historical facts form a complex net of information, which linear analysis becomes of difficult understanding. Therefore and in order to clarify, as much as possible, the Tai Chi origin, I think that it is advisable to expose the several theories in a structured and clear approach, accordingly to a systematized model that suits three principal theories. Those theories characterize and differentiate the Tai Chi Chuan emergence, considering time and space variables, as well and obviously, in what concerns the historical characters that had been wrapped in this art birth.
Tai Chi Chuan - Origin and Present
 
by Diana Roque - Formed in Management and Post-graduate in Business Marketing, has over 18 years devoted to business management. In 1998 the appeal toward the Eastern philosophies led her to a thorough search of themes inherent to Ayurvedic philosophy and the study of Yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine , including the practices of Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan. In 2004 began the study of Clinical Psychology, having completed in 2008 the course of Clinical Hypnosis / London College of Clinical Hipnosys. Currently performs consulting in various areas, and is Director of CHINARTE Arts for Health Department - Traditional Chinese Medicine and Martial Arts Institute, Vice President of Yongnian Portugal and Instructor of World Yongnian Tai Chi Federation, being a direct disciple of Grand Master Fu Sheng Yuan. It is also the author and translator of numerous articles and studies concerning themes as Yoga, Chi Kung, Tai Chi Chuan, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Clinical Hypnosis.

contactos:dianaroque@chinarte.com

web site: www.chinarte.com

http://portugaltaichi.blogspot.com


The origin of Tai Chi Chuan is a controversial topic that incorporates a multiplicity of historical factors that include social, political and philosophical questions of the Chinese Culture. Several historical facts form a complex net of information, which linear analysis becomes of difficult understanding. Therefore and in order to clarify, as much as possible, the Tai Chi origin, I think that it is advisable to expose the several theories in a structured and clear approach, accordingly to a systematized model that suits three principal theories. Those theories characterize and differentiate the Tai Chi Chuan emergence, considering time and space variables, as well and obviously, in what concerns the historical characters that had been wrapped in this art birth.

At the present time, one of the most solid theories defends that the origin of Tai Chi took place in Wudang Mountains in the Province of Wuhan (China). Nevertheless, some authors show that this theory has a strong legendary face, since many people refer that the character known as the founder of Tai Chi, Chan Sen Feng, in reality, never existed. This conclusion is the result from the countless reports that were registered along the old times, which had described some episodes that would have had as protagonist Chan Sen Feng. Those events registers vary between the 13th and the 17th centuries and consequently, this figure, historical for some and mythical for others, it is characterized like an immortal, who had obtained special powers through the internal alchemy development. However, the Wushu Museum of Wudang city shows evidences that this Taoist monk had really existed and that he was undoubtedly the main propeller of martial internal arts development, with special relevance for Tai Chi Chuan. This is a fact that I personally had the opportunity to notice, when I visited last July the above mentioned museum. Master Chan San Feng emphasized as a primordial way to reach the inner evolution, the work towards the balance between Yin and Yang, which follows the Nature law of Tao, such as supported by the Taoist Philosophy. Thus, he developed the meditation practice in harmony with body exercises, that were driven by an internal energy, which was improved and strengthened through the Tai Chi practice.

A second theory presents Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art developed in Chenjiagou, a little village of Hebei Province (China). This theory has been defended by the Chen Family, which represents one of the Tai Chi Chuan Traditional Styles. The Chen Family’s version affirms that Tai Chi Chuan had been developed in the middle of the 17th century by his ancestral Chen Wang Ting, a general of the Ming dynasty, who fought in Shaolin. This fact might justify the similarities of Chen Tai Chi School with some martial practices aspects that had been developed in Shaolin, commonly, denominated as External Arts and that are based in the Buddhist Philosophy. This observation is extremely controversial, thus it is known and widely accepted that Tai Chi Chuan has a notorious Taoist Philosophy inspiration source.

For last, there is a third theory that emphasizes the importance of Yang Luchan (1799-1872) in the history of Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Luchan was born in the little village of Yong Nian of the Henan Province (China) and he was a Martial Arts Master of reputable value and high level technical skill, who became known as the Invincible. Accordingly to oral reports that I gathered from Great Master Fu Sheng Yuan and from his son, Master Fu Qing Quan, who represent one of the lineages of the Yang Tai Chi Traditional School, representing, respectively, the 4th and the 5th generation of Yang Luchan Tai Chi, Yang Luchan was undoubtedly brilliant in the Martial Arts practice and after having travelled several times to Chienjiagou, what he did along an eighteen years period, he could learn with Chen Chang Hsing the art of Mien Chuan, who had learnt it previously from Jiang Fa. Some authors say that Jiang Fa learned the Art of Mien Chuan from Wang Tsung Yueh, character that is connected with Wudang Internal Martial Arts. However and to be faithful to Great Master Fu Sheng Yuan speech, which has been transmitted among the Yang family from generation to generation, and by his own words, nobody can say that Jiang Fa learned directly the art of Mien Chuan from Wang Tsung Yueh, since there is a great probability that he was not his contemporaneous, and in spite of being accepted that there is a connection between both, the involved characters are not known, given that there are no registers of any kind confirming that, so what may be said or written are just hypotheses . Though, it is certain that the art of Mien Chuan was not practiced by the Chen Family, who only practiced Pao Chui at the time, a Shaolin Martial Art. On the other hand, some people say that the root of Mien Chuan was associated to Wudang and is known that it had already the 13 postures, inherent to the 5 directions and the 8 energies.
Yang Luchan became famous for his martial skills, in such a way that he was invited by the Emperor to visit the Beijing Imperial Court and afterwards he taught the Imperial Princes and the Imperial Guard. One day in the Imperial Court when he was fighting, demonstrating the Art of Mien Chuan, his martial performance was compared by Wong Tong He to the Tai Chi balance. Wong Tong He was a scholar man who had a deep knowledge of the Taoist philosophy, and when he noticed the excellent performance of Yang Luchan and his amazing capacity for defeating several reputable opponents, he wrote:

“Hands holding Taiji shake the whole world,
A chest containing ultimate skill defeats a gathering of heroes.”

So, Wong Tong He had a main role in the association of Mien Chuan with Tai Chi, since till the moment this man identified the Art of Yang Luchan as Tai Chi, this art was just known as Mien Chuan. Thereafter, Yang Luchan’s Art was known as Taiqiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), as well as all the styles that were born from his teachings. At that time Tai Chi was just one and as Fu Sheng Yuan and his son, Master Fu Qing Quan, always say, authentic Tai Chi Chuan is still only one.

Grand Master Fu Sheng Yuan points quite often the following analogy concerning the success and expansion of Yang Luchan Art:

“Yong Nian is the sea and Chienjiagou is the boat. As the water is getting higher and higher and the sea bigger and more powerful, the boat goes up and up, thus it becomes more and more visible”.

With this sentence my Sifu intends to say that in fact without Yang Luchan, nowadays, Tai Chi would not be known in the world such as it is, since he was undoubtedly the main responsible for the spread of this art. In a first moment in the Imperial Chinese Court and later on through his descendants and followers through whole China and worldwide, and I recall the words of Fu Sheng Yuan “ ... if the water of the sea wouldn’t rise, the boat would not be visible. ".

Nevertheless, there is a great controversy in what concerns the truthfulness of the multiples theories in force, which are contradicted between themselves, and this fact results from the lack of written trustworthy documents that could prove the historical authenticity of those theories. So, in the absence of historical irrefutable proofs and preserving a care and wisdom position, I have choose to expose the main several versions about Tai Chi origin, and I hope further searches may be done letting know the several historical perspectives and, simultaneously, may launching for the arena a healthy discussion about questions inherent to the essence and definition of the original concept of Tai Chi Chuan by the light of the evolution that it has suffered in the course of the 20th century in China and in the Western World, as well in the development that has been kept and showed up in the first decade of the 21th century that lead to the appearance of new Tai Chi schools and styles.

The Chen Family theory was supported by many people, which turned out to be in the placing and public exhibition of a bronze plate in Chienjiagou village. That plate had engraved the following sentence “Here was born Tai Chi”. However, recently this plate was withdrawn by Chinese Government’s order, which demonstrates the awareness for the necessity of finding valid answers for such a controversial subject. On the other side, in Yong Nian village there still remains exposed a plate that has carved “Yong Nian, Tai Chi hometown”, which can be an indicative relevant fact.

In my opinion, nowadays, the important is to emphasize that Tai Chi Chuan concept exceeds the original essence that in the past had defined it as a Martial Art. At the present time, Tai Chi is also performed as Competition Sport, as well as a therapeutic method of health prevention and promotion and furthermore, as an entertaining activity, being associated to the concepts of Fitness and Wellness. On the 21th century Tai Chi is known as a Sport and Martial Art, as well it is getting more and more recognized as a fabulous natural Health Art. However, I cannot stop noticing my personal point of view that states that genuine Tai Chi practice demands a martial content, hence, it will require a strenuous work towards the continuous improvement of the postures and consequently of the Tai Chi performance.

To practice Tai Chi Chuan in a martial perspective will only show results after several years of work, which has no end. In spite of this, the martial practice also incorporates the remaining perspectives, in other words, it is simultaneously a playful, sportive and therapeutic practice. Beyond that as a Martial Art, Tai Chi demands the supervision of an experienced Master who must have received this knowledge from a traditional trustworthy lineage. This is an empirical knowledge that has been transmitted from generation to generation, which learning and teaching, can, certainly, be improved and facilitated by new complementary techniques, but the straight contact with an authentic master will always be essential. A master besides his capacity to demonstrate that dominates the practice, has the competence to correct and to lead in a positive manner the evolution of their students.

The evolution in this art implicates personal pledge, perseverance, sincerity, humbleness and gratitude for the received teachings. Therefore, I end this article expressing my recognition and gratitude to my three Masters of the Yang Tai Chi Traditional School, who have been fulfilling in different, but irreplaceable form, a relevant role in my apprenticeship, namely, Master Nelson Barroso, Master Fu Qing Quan and Great Master Fu Sheng Yuan.

Coimbra, 19 of August of 2010
 
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TAI CHI - ORIGIN AND PRESENT by Diana Roque
The origin of Tai Chi Chuan is a controversial topic that incorporates a multiplicity of historical factors that include social, political and philosophical questions of the Chinese Culture. Several historical facts form a complex net of information, which linear analysis becomes of difficult understanding. Therefore and in order to clarify, as much as possible, the Tai Chi origin, I think that it is advisable to expose the several theories in a structured and clear approach, accordingly to a systematized model that suits three principal theories. Those theories characterize and differentiate the Tai Chi Chuan emergence, considering time and space variables, as well and obviously, in what concerns the historical characters that had been wrapped in this art birth.
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