Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

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Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Greg J on Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:05 am

Hi everyone,

This somewhat heady article from the Journal of Martial Arts Studies looks at four relatively new Taiji document finds. It begins with an examination of the historical and sociological dimensions that have influenced both the practice and interpretations of Taiji's ancient origins, and then goes into the four new documents - summarizing first what they reveal and then exploring the implications they have on Taiji creation myths.

"If authentic, the four documents will, indeed, require revision of our writing of taijiquan’s history, but the bigger story may be the reigniting of the century-old culture war between traditionalists and modernizers, the commercial competition between villages claiming to be the birthplace of taijiquan, and the political struggle between official and dissident scholars..." (p 32).

https://publications.cardiffuniversityp ... ew/729/749

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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby yeniseri on Fri Oct 06, 2017 9:29 am

Contrary to unpopular belief, the taijiquan of present modernity is/was and was always from Chenjiagou, and obviously influenced by CMA of the area (500 years ago ;D )and the input of Li family.
All other stuff known as taijiquan appears to be be copies from those who may not have mastered taiji but were able to have a bigger voice to get their untruths heard.
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Steve James on Fri Oct 06, 2017 11:22 am

First, we need to read the article. :)
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby taiwandeutscher on Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:05 pm

I do respect the author a lot. But the publsihers do neither have MA nor language/culture expertise. So the ypublish that article withou Chinese characters, what a hoot!
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Wuyizidi on Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:37 pm

Greg J wrote:Hi everyone,

This somewhat heady article from the Journal of Martial Arts Studies looks at four relatively new Taiji document finds. It begins with an examination of the historical and sociological dimensions that have influenced both the practice and interpretations of Taiji's ancient origins, and then goes into the four new documents - summarizing first what they reveal and then exploring the implications they have on Taiji creation myths.

"If authentic, the four documents will, indeed, require revision of our writing of taijiquan’s history, but the bigger story may be the reigniting of the century-old culture war between traditionalists and modernizers, the commercial competition between villages claiming to be the birthplace of taijiquan, and the political struggle between official and dissident scholars..." (p 32).

https://publications.cardiffuniversityp ... ew/729/749

Best,
Greg



Just read the article (https://mas.cardiffuniversitypress.org/ ... 017.10184/). Actually a very good summary of new materials unearthed in the last 15 years.

I personally am NOT invested in anything that happened before Chen Changxing taught Yang Luchan, as that has no impact on our practice (what real Taijiquan skill should be like). Every can agree that Chen Changxing and Yang Luchan possessed the ideal Taijiquan skill we're chasing after.

The real controversy these days is reconciling the vast difference between modern day Chen Style and everyone else's Taiji skills.

To boil the arguments down:

Everyone else's argument:
1. Oral tradition: Taiji was invented long before outside of Chen Village, then passed to Chen Village, then most of other branches died out (FACT: except the very small Song lineage).
2. Oral tradition: Chen Village has its own martial art, a lot of it invented by Chen Wangting (FACT: he mentioned he created forms, but no mention of the word 'Taiji').
3. Oral tradition: Chen Village masters practiced both.
4. known fact: Chen Changxing taught Yang Luchan pure Taiji.
5. known fact: Chen Village went through severe economic decline. Very few people practiced martial art. Chen Fake was one of the few left.
6. known fact: Chen Village went through decades more of decline. With only a few studying in secret with Chen Fake's descendants and students (Feng Zhiqiang).
7. known fact: Yang Luchan taught Wu Yuxiang (Hao), Yang (his family) and Wu Jianquan the same thing. They and subsequent offshoots (Sun, Li) all looked the same from that time to today.

8. Conclusion:
Given how basically all Yang Luchan's lineages look the same (ok Yang Cheng Fu widened the stance a bit), either Yang Luchan, upon leaving the village, immediately taught everyone a radically different style, so all the non-Chen style have changed in day 1. Or it's Chen style that changed: between Chen Changxing and Chen Fake, and to a much bigger extend between Chen Fake and 1980's, Chen style changed, as Taiji became popular elsewhere, it declined in Chen Village. That Chen Style Taiji today is a mix of what remained of its Taiji skills and native hard styles, ie Laojia yilu is 90% taiji and 10% hardstyle, Er lu is 20% Taiji and 80% hard style.

Chen Village:
1. We never changed, it's everyone who changed.
2. Post 1980 addition: we invented Taijiquan.
3. Conclusion: we are the one true way.

So this article and the 4 new sources he sights are part of the continued argument between the two camps. Everyone else is arguing see: here's the proof Taiji was invented outside Chen Village. Even if they can prove that, that doesn't get to the heart of the debate: what does the ideal Taijiquan look like, today's Chen Style, or everyone elses (since everyone agrees Chen Changxing's skill is pure Taiji)?

I don't know if we will ever know what happened before Yang Luchan's visit to Chen Village. But I do think for everyone who want to settle the pre-Chen Changxing history question, they'd be much better off tracking down info on Song Shuming. He's a much more recent historical figure (early 1900's) whose very existence proves there are lineages outside of Chen village before Yang Luchan.
Last edited by Wuyizidi on Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:48 pm, edited 14 times in total.
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby edededed on Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:58 pm

This is a very interesting topic (to me, anyway).

I have only personally practiced Yang and Wu (Jianquan) styles, but watching videos and the like, it is quite obvious that Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao, Sun styles all basically follow the same routine, with mostly stylistic differences.

However, Chen style is noticeably different, with different movements such as "jingangdaodui" (Buddhist attendant pounds the mortar), different "raise hands," etc. Interestingly, these differences are also shared with Zhaobao and Huleijia stylse as well - which suggest a large division of "Yang-likes" and "Chen-likes" for taijiquan.

If we assume that Chen style changed taijiquan post-Yang Luchan, then it would mean that Zhaobao and Huleijia also developed much later, or otherwise was influenced later on to change their forms to match Chen.

If we assume that Chen style is essentially the same as what was taught during Chen Changxing's time, then it would mean that Yang Luchan changed taijiquan himself, or that Chen Changxing may have had two versions of taijiquan. Some people like the latter theory, pointing to small frame and large frame Chen style - but even small-frame Chen style follows the general pattern of the "Chen-likes."

As for Song Shuming - at least, I've never heard of any contemporary practitioner who is from Song's lineage. The only thing we have to look and compare is some material in Wu Jianquan's line that is said to come from Song (I think certain advanced neigong sets?).
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Wuyizidi on Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:18 pm

Ed,

Within Wu lineage we are very open in our admission that Song Shuming kicked Wang Maozhai and Wu Jianquan's asses before they reached level of mastery (Quan You had passed away at the time).

The stories about Song Shuming were very well known within Beijing martial art circles. In fact famous wuxia novelist 平江不肖生 wrote about it in a book. It was a huge deal at the time. Song was an adviser to Yuan Shikai, the first president of Republic of China. It would be like if David Axelrod or Karl Rove suddenly came out and beat a bunch of top NBA players in basketball. It was just surreal. He was the proverbial 奇人 (extraordinary person) that came out of nowhere to remind mere mortals there's another level.

The person who introduced Song to Wang and Wu is Xu Yusheng. Xu was a major figure in history of Chinese martial arts. He's the one who established the very first martial art school open to the public (outside the traditional master-disciple private training mode). Many of the most famous martial art masters of that time taught in that school. And it was in that school, because of the need to have large number of students practicing in class at the same time, that most of the traditional internal martial art forms are standardized, and many forms invented (ex. Bagua jian).

Xue was present in all of those encounters. And afterwards they all studied with Song. I asked my teacher what if any influence Song had on Wu Style. He said martial art wise Song's skills are identical in nature with what Yang's taught, so it's not like there's material difference. However, Song also knew the skills of other 4 ancient lineage of Taiji (of which Zhang Sanfeng style is but one). The salient feature of one of those styles is the large repertoire of clever Zhou (elbow) skills. Master Wang Peisheng showed my teacher some of them. None of those are in present day Wu Style, but Baiyuan Tongbei/Baji people somehow got a few of them. The most famous of which is 肘底枪 (spear under the elbow). It's considered a 绝招 ("if done right, no can defend"). Those Black Fist people are super secretive, so I've never seen it :)

As far as Neigong goes, northern Wu doesn't have any. Master Wang Peisheng was a Neigong expert and taught it widely. But his lineage is Dragon Gate via Baiyun Guan (白云观). Both he and Master Ma Yueliang were head of local chapter of Yi Guan Dao (一貫道). So I imagine Master Ma was an expert as well?
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Bao on Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:51 pm

"Everyone else" vs "Chen Village" version of history... Sadly most people believe the Chen village version.

edededed wrote:However, Chen style is noticeably different, with different movements such as "jingangdaodui" (Buddhist attendant pounds the mortar), different "raise hands," etc. Interestingly, these differences are also shared with Zhaobao and Huleijia stylse as well - which suggest a large division of "Yang-likes" and "Chen-likes" for taijiquan.


I don't believe in this division. Chen Style has a modern expression that was standardized by Chen Fake. Because Zhaobao and Hulei wants to be older than Yang Style, and sometimes claim to be older than Chen, they have quite recently branded their styles by adding the modern expression of Chen style to distinguish them away from Yang.

Funny how all Chen style practitioners say that what they do is the original T'ai Chi and what they show is a quite modern version with a modern expression, like Wuyizidi points out, mixed with local hard Shaolin.

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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby edededed on Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:12 pm

Wuyizidi:
Ha ha - I like your Karl Rove analogy, it would be a total "What the...?!" moment.

It does seem a bit strange that Song Shuming's elbow skills found themselves in the baji and tongbei schools, since I have not heard of any relationships with those schools and the taiji school (if they came to bagua school, etc., it would seem more reasonable). I've not heard of 肘底枪 either! :D

I did not know that Wang Peisheng and Ma Yueliang were heads of local Yiguandao chapters. Do you know of any references? (Not surprised if there aren't - since it was a sensitive subject.) Ma Yueliang's neigong (e.g. eight methods, 24 methods, etc.) were said to come from Yang Luchan (and maybe Song Shuming). What kind of neigong was transmitted within Yiguandao? Interesting that Wang Peisheng's came from Baiyunguan - I guess those would be more jingzuo/qigong type practices? Maybe Ma Yueliang did sitting practices, too, but I don't know what they were.

I guess that various neigong methods may have been transmitted between Yiguandao members, but maybe not as a part of Yiguandao specifically (because of members' mutual trust, I guess). Other members like Zhang Zhaodong, Xue Dian, etc. probably had their own practices from bagua/xingyi schools, etc.

Bao:
I think that in Asia, the knee-jerk reaction is the believe the "older" schools. I don't know who is correct, but we can still look at the current extant material (same thing for Dai family xinyi vs. xingyi, etc.).

For me, at any rate it is interesting that I have not seen any Chen/Zhaobao/Huleijia that looks more like the "Yang-like" taiji yet.
Also interesting that the Yang Banhou lines, Tian Zhaolin lines, etc. also still look like the "Yang-like" taiji. Basically, anyone under Yang Luchan was fairly good at preserving at least what the set looked like. But of course there are still many differences (e.g. 2nd routine, fast set, etc.).
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby jbb73 on Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:33 pm

Wuyizidi wrote:
4. known fact: Chen Changxing taught Yang Luchan pure Taiji.
5. known fact: Chen Village went through severe economic decline. Very few people practiced martial art. Chen Fake was one of the few left.
6. known fact: Chen Village went through decades more of decline. With only a few studying in secret with Chen Fake's descendants and students (Feng Zhiqiang).



So, your points 4 to 6 seem to me pure assumptions, far from fact.
Especially concerning 5 & 6... There are much more Chen-Lines than that of Chen Fake.
(Concerning point 4 - where from can we really know what CCX taught YLC?)
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby GrahamB on Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:41 am

We can see the choreography of modern day Chen and modern-day Yang is so similar, they must have the same root.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HRaAIdkqiY



However, (for me at least), the big difference is silk reeling. Chen has it, traditional Yang (via the Yang Cheng-Fu line) doesn't. You can see this in the performance of the "official" Yang form by family representatives.

In the Chen style, silk reeling is seen as probably the key thing that defines Taijiquan. So, it's a big difference.

The Chens seem incredibly secretive and possessive of their Gung Fu, ($$$ to be made) so I find the idea that they taught Yang and let him teach on the condition he didn't give away the silk reeling a very credible theory.

(N.B. The picture is muddied by the simple fact that if you can silk reel you can put it back into any "form", so there you can have Yang style practitioners who have also learned Chen style silk reeling and use it in their form. Silk reeling isn't as secret now as it used to be)
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby windwalker on Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:57 am

edited :P
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby HotSoup on Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:11 am

edededed wrote:However, Chen style is noticeably different, with different movements such as "jingangdaodui" (Buddhist attendant pounds the mortar), different "raise hands," etc.


Choreography doesn't mean much. The principles, that's what's important. However, if you want to focus on choreography, here is a comparison between Chen and Yang to see that choreographically the differences between the two are too minor to have much of relevance:


The "Yang" family of styles developed with some degree of cross-polination through generations. People simply had been seeing practitioners of other styles, then formed their vision of some "standard" Taijiquan and applied it to what they were taught. The "Chen" family (Da Jia, Xiao Jia, ZhaoBao, Hulei Jia, etc.) likely experienced the same level of cross-polination in their area. The same thing, even to a greater extend, is happening nowadays with availability of videos. Both families changed with time, no doubt in that. Did they become better or, maybe, less "pure" because of that? That I don't know. I hope, it's the former, even if in their own ways.

In my opinion, all the artificially constructed arguments trying to highlight the differences between Chen and Yang were created with just one idea in mind, to promote the version of TJQ created by Zhang Sanfeng. Since no solid proofs of that have been ever found, no one takes it seriously nowadays. But the subjectivity of what is similar/different allows all these arguments to keep living.
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby Bao on Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:16 am

jbb73 wrote:
Wuyizidi wrote:
4. known fact: Chen Changxing taught Yang Luchan pure Taiji.


(Concerning point 4 - where from can we really know what CCX taught YLC?)


Agree that we don’t know exactly everything about what CCX taught YLC and how much. Also, YLC had already studied Shaolin arts, so what YLC taught might not have been entirely or only the “pure” stuff from CCX. And I don’t know what “pure tai chi” means here. Tai Chi is a modern name invented by one of YLC’s students. We should assume that what YLC was taught from CCX was not a complete style or system in the sense we define styles today.

GrahamB wrote:However, (for me at least), the big difference is silk reeling. Chen has it, traditional Yang (via the Yang Cheng-Fu line) doesn't. You can see this in the performance of the "official" Yang form by family representatives.

In the Chen style, silk reeling is seen as probably the key thing that defines Taijiquan. So, it's a big difference.


All Tai Chi (and bagua, as well as other styles) teach smooth, spiraling movements coordinated from the Dan Tian. But it’s only Chen stylists who claims that this is something unique to their style. Because they focus much on this concept it’s more pronounced in their art than in most others, I can agree on that. But it’s certainly nothing unique or special.

But it’s a great asset to have silk reeling as a very strong foundation concept. They certainly do this very good.
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Re: Taiji Origins & Creation Myths

Postby GrahamB on Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:32 am

Bao wrote:
All Tai Chi (and bagua, as well as other styles) teach smooth, spiraling movements coordinated from the Dan Tian. But it’s only Chen stylists who claims that this is something unique to their style. Because they focus much on this concept it’s more pronounced in their art than in most others, I can agree on that. But it’s certainly nothing unique or special.

But it’s a great asset to have silk reeling as a very strong foundation concept. They certainly do this very good.


Well I'd say two things on that.

1. All styles of Tai Chi definitely pay lip service to the dantien (of course they do). But you only need a pair of eyes to look to see that the way Chen style and Yang style use the dantien is quite different. Chen style goes for a "reeling silk" approach, while Yang style has a "drawing silk" approach. These two are different in how much dantien control is actually involved. Just look at Yang Jun in the video posted twice now on this thread. Of course, if you can't see it, you can't see it.

2. Bagua, along with the other 'internal' styles like Taiji and Xinyi, etc, all draw their knowledge of how the body moves from an older source, which doesn't' belong to any one single art. (references to the Liu He "Six harmonies" can be found in all sorts of Chinese martial arts and are ancient). I think Chen style is a remarkably well-preserved set of those principles that's very accessible to people in the West, but so are styles of Bagua and Xinyi. Chen style doesn't own the patents on the technology :)

For instance, these dudes seem to have been doing something related to the subject in 168BC!

The Daoyintu; a painting on silk depicting the practice of Tao yin; unearthed in 1973 in Hunan Province, China, from the 168 BC Western Han burial site of Mawangdui, Tomb Number 3.

Image

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawangdui

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_yin
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