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The History of Tai Chi

The History of Tai ChiThe story of Tai Chi is often conceived as beginning with Chang San-feng - generally regarded as a mythical monk in the tradition of the I-Ching and Taoism– perhaps living around 1368 onwards.  He is credited with blending existing health exercises, fighting styles and his own observations (including natural animalistic movements)  and strategic thinking into a synthesis which later grew into what we now refer to as Tai Chi. Whether or not Chang San-feng existed it is clear that these many complementary precursor elements were current in Chinese culture over a long period and almost waiting to come together – perhaps just needing the right time, place and person/s to pull all the pieces into one codification. There are many candidates and it may be that no one person is solely responsible – rather perhaps that many interacted and added to the work of their predecessors – these include Chang Sung-chi, Wang Tsung-yueh and Jiang Fa. 

However the historical record is clear that in the 1600’s a retired Chinese military officer named Chen Wangting (9th generation member of the Chen family) was the focal person who put the whole package together under the umbrella label of Tai Chi Chuan. At that time the family already had a powerful martial reputation and their own successful style, derived from the legendary Chen Bu 1st generation of the family, who lived in the late 1300s and brought that style to Henan from Shanxi when the family moved there (Shanxi province is also the traditional origin of both Bagua Zhang and Xingyi Chuan). This original family style may also have some relation to Shaolin since the Chen village is apparently quite close to the Shaolin monastery.
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