Yang Lin Sheng
was invited for the dimostration of the
Festival of Tai Ji Quan in Italy
Tai Ji Quan, just like the
other Kung-Fu internal styles, traces its origins back to ancient China in the
mists of time: many subscribe to the theory that it was created by a hermit
Taoist priest named Zhang San Feng, a cultured government official who retired
from public life in his sixties and wandered throughout China searching for
someone to teach him the Tao. After many years he eventually met a hermit who
taught him some Taoist meditation techniques to obtain immortality. Zhang had
been practising them for 7 years with little achievement, but finally his
long-term training led him to enlightment.
The Emperor called him back
to serve as a government official and councillor but he decided to live in the
mountains and continue with his practice: he established himself on the
"three peaks" mountains chain (in Chinese “San Feng", hence his
name) and here he continued with his wide studies; one day, hearing some
noises, he went out from his hut and saw a serpent and a crane fighting
(symbolising Yin and Yang): the crane used its claw with direct lines and
blocked the opponent’s attacks with its wings while the serpent moved in circle
by launching direct strikes.
Yang Lin Sheng - Seminar of Tai Ji Quan
at Montegrimano 2000
This scene struck Zhang’s
imagination and he started a long research by practising combat techniques he
learned at the Shao Lin Temple and combining them with his cosmological and
alchemy knowledge. The style then created can
be considered as the origin of current Tai Ji Quan, although one cannot even
imagine how many profound changes occurred during the following centuries. Another legend says that
Zhang was visited in his dreams by gods who taught him Tai Ji and that the day
after he defeated 100 robbers with his bare hands. The practitioners are
mostly amazed of Zhang San Feng longevity: according to the legend he is said
to have lived through two dynasties for 240 years
Yang Lin Sheng -
Qi Shi of Tai Ji Quan style Chen
* A more realistic version identifies Zhang San Feng with a Taoist
priest who lived in 1200 A.D. or an alchemist of the end of 1400 A.D.
The teaching of this style
remains mysterious until 1600 A.D. when at the village of Chen Jia Gou
(literally "ditch of the Chen family") appears the figure of Jiang
Fa, a martial artist we don’t know much about, who taught the Chen family an
internal style of Kung-Fu.
The Chen village was given
to the homonymous family by the Emperor, grateful for the services rendered
during war time by their founder. Here we find Chen Wang Ting, a former soldier
who retired and lived a rural life that, according to other traditions, is said
to be the historical founder of Tai Ji Quan.
This former soldier surely
had a wide martial experience; however, his experience is more likely to be
connected with external styles rather than with the Taoist basis of Tai Ji.
It is possible that Chen
Wang Ting, by elaborating his own knowledge and the art taught by Jiang Fa,
created what today is considered the most ancient Tai Ji Quan style.
Since then, the style was
jealously kept secret and transmitted only to trustworthy family members until
the 19th Century when the family head at that time, Chen Chang Xing,
accepted two external students, by breaking a two-hundred-year old tradition.
One of the two external
students was the legendary Yang Lu Chan, who, being slave of another rich
family, was sent to Chen Jia Gou with the aim to understand such a mythical
secret style. However, there are many different and discordant traditions also
about Yang Lu Chan’s arrival.
The genealogical tree of
the Chen family continues and with it also the style transmission while Yang Lu
Chan’s branch originates the style of the Yang family, the most practised
The Chen style leader of
the past Century, Chen Fa Ke, moved from Chen Jia Gou to Bei Jing, where he had
been teaching for 30 years: he was
Yang Lin Sheng - Jin Ji Du Li
a great fighter with an open and gentle
character, even though his inflexibility often led him to oblige students that
made a mistake to repeat several times the long and tiring form and the
relevant exercises. Chen Fa Ke himself used to practice the Tai Ji form 20 times
every day – about 5 hours of daily training – and at the age of 70 he still
used to repeat it 10 times. Many experts of other styles studied with him:
among his students, besides his sons, there are Feng Zhi Jiang, a Xing Yi and
Tai Ji Master, and Chen Guan Shen, a student of Wang Xiang Zhai as well and
teacher of Yang Lin Sheng.