Heretical history of Tai Chi

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jun 15, 2020 3:48 am

The history of Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan), rather than its actual practice, is one of the most controversial subjects to do with the art. Various different groups have tried to claim Tai Chi as their own, and considering the amount of money involved in the art it’s very hard to know who to trust in this matter.

In this podcast we look at the facts, and the result is that it doesn’t look good for anybody, especially the British!

The history of Tai Chi Chuan is a subject I’ve wanted to tackle on our podcast for a while, but now (thanks to one of our patreons, Gabriel) it’s finally a reality.

In this episode we begin a new series of episodes on this subject by setting the scene and historical background to the mythmaking around the origins of Tai Chi that occurred starting from the middle of the Nineteenth Century in response to social turmoil and unrest exemplified by the Taiping Rebellion and Opium Wars.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/9404101/5 ... yth-part-1
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Bao on Wed Jun 17, 2020 4:57 am

Very good. Reasonable ideas and conclusions.

The only thing I could argue about is that why Chen Changxing would have an interest of Taiji history. First, any serious practitioner of any kind of art has an interest in its history. Second, the Chen family was a rich family who had stores and could afford servants. They were not illiterate and Chen Changxing was not illiterate. Everyone who could read studied the Chinese classics, Chinese history and thought. Why wouldn't he have had an interest in the origin of his art?

That Wu Yuxiang and this brothers would work with his thoughts and ideas in a vacuum is also a little bit too far-fetched. Public martial arts were already popular when he was young, Wuxia literature was popular, the Ba Duanjin frequently published, and the story about Bodhidharma was established around that time. He and the people around him of the same age were all raised in this kind of cultural environment. Many older, younger and people at the same age as him would certainly have had a cultural and historical interest in their arts.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:09 am

I think we're going to get on to Wu Yuxiang in more detail in the next episode. Not sure where he said Chen Chanxing wouldn't be interested in history? What time stamp is that?
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Bao on Wed Jun 17, 2020 7:02 am

GrahamB wrote:I think we're going to get on to Wu Yuxiang in more detail in the next episode. Not sure where he said Chen Chanxing wouldn't be interested in history? What time stamp is that?


Interesting, look forward to hear the second part then.

It was something about only Wu Yuxiang had an interest of an origin story and Chen Changxing didn't. Will look it up later.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Wed Jun 17, 2020 7:11 am

OK, so I think what he meant was that Wu Yuxiang had an interest in creating a backstory for Tai Chi Chuan, because nothing in Confucianism can be new, only old things are good, so he had a vested interest in creating a backstory for this remarkable 'new' martial art called Tai Chi Chuan that nobody had heard of before.

Chen Chanxing would have been happy to practice his Chen village martial arts, and would know where they came from. He wasn't promoting something to anybody. Especially Tai Chi Chuan, which he had probably never heard of. It's not that he wouldn't have had an interest in history.

I'm simplifying, but I think that's the general gist.

It's also unclear how rich the Chen family were. Sometimes it seems they are rich, and at other times dirt poor. At our point in history (2020) I'd say they were doing pretty well for themselves :)
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Bao on Thu Jun 18, 2020 1:17 am

GrahamB wrote:OK, so I think what he meant was that Wu Yuxiang had an interest in creating a backstory for Tai Chi Chuan, because nothing in Confucianism can be new, only old things are good, so he had a vested interest in creating a backstory for this remarkable 'new' martial art called Tai Chi Chuan that nobody had heard of before.


Wu Yuxiang only had a couple of students, so he actually didn't try to promote anything. So why should he be interested in creating a backstory? Someone though who did promote Taijiquan as having a Taoist origin, or brand it as Taoist, was Wu Jianquan. It was YCF and WJQ who made their art public. If Wu Yuxiang really had wanted to make a statement about any Taoist origin, he could have done a far better job while compiling the classics, because there's nothing in those texts that suggests it is. (And besides, neither Yang Luchan or Wu Yuxiang called it Taijiquan.)

Chen Chanxing would have been happy to practice his Chen village martial arts, and would know where they came from.


Here's a problem, people calling it a "village style." He didn't practice a "village style" or "village martial arts". Chen martial arts was naver a village style and only became so very late after the government decided to promote Chen Jiagou. What Chen Chanxing practiced was something kept inside of his family and never taught to outsiders until he decided to break this strict tradition.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Thu Jun 18, 2020 1:57 am

Bao,

To understand what Wu Yuxiang, and his brother, were trying to promote you need to understand who he was, what he was doing and also the cataclysmic events of the 1850s that shook the Ching Dynasty to its core. We set the scene in the first episode, (opium, opium wars, British and Western powers taking control, and the beginings of economic unrest and civilian unrest). Episode 2 will look more at Wu Yuxiang and the events of the Taiping Rebellion.

As Douglas Wiles notes in Lost Tai Chi Classics from the late Ching Dynasty, "Wu Wuxiang's role was absolutely pivotel, as putative discoverer of the salt shop manuscripts, patron of Yang Luchan, student of Chen Chingping, redactor of the classics, and creator of the Wu (Hao) style".

Wujianquan wasn't born until 1870, Yang ChengFu in 1883, so both are irrelevant to the story of the origins of Taijiquan in 1850.

Yes, Chen style is a village style. It is a martial art practiced in a village, so by definition, a village style! In 1850 I don't think there was anything that made it different to any other village style in China. Each village in China usually had it's own style, it's own unqiue take, even if the basic martial art was a product of the region - longfist, tongbei, baji, etc, and there were thousands of villages. Ergo, thousands of village styles. Defending from bandits/rebels/or simply whoever had decided was now in charge and that you were on the wrong side, was a real possibility.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Bao on Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:13 am

GrahamB wrote:As Douglas Wiles notes in Lost Tai Chi Classics from the late Ching Dynasty, "Wu Wuxiang's role was absolutely pivotel, as putative discoverer of the salt shop manuscripts, patron of Yang Luchan, student of Chen Chingping, redactor of the classics, and creator of the Wu (Hao) style".

Wujianquan wasn't born until 1870, Yang ChengFu in 1883, so both are irrelevant to the story of the origins of Taijiquan in 1850.


That is true. And that is why Wu Yuxiang had nothing to do with the marketing and branding of Taijiquan, which happened in the area of YCF and WJQ. YLC and his closest students didn't teach to the public. Public teaching occured later.

Yes, Chen style is a village style. It is a martial art practiced in a village, so by definition, a village style! In 1850 I don't think there was anything that made it different to any other village style in China. Each village in China usually had it's own style, it's own unqiue take, even if the basic martial art was a product of the region - longfist, tongbei, baji, etc, and there were thousands of villages. Ergo, thousands of village styles. Defending from bandits/rebels/or simply whoever had decided was now in charge and that you were on the wrong side, was a real possibility.


I absolutely disagree. What Yang Luchan was taught was not a Village Style. It was not something like "longfist, tongbei, baji, etc,.. Ergo, thousands of village styles." The history tells how it is. The simplest fact is that it was not widespread as those other arts mentioned, there was nothing written about it (except how one wants to believe "the salt store documents) and almost no one knew about it. If it was similar to "village styles" it would have been widely spread and many more lineages should have been recognised. What Chen Changxing taught YLC was not taught by anyone to outsiders or to the public. He had only a handful of students including his two sons. This is also what most people agree about, including most of the Chen "masters". You need to know that the Chen family were not "village people". They had a good status, far better than common people, owned stores and factories in different cities and were literate. If you read a bit of general Chinese history and culture, you would understand that the hierarchy in China was incredibly strict. People didn't socialise over class borders. Teaching something to or socialising with "villagers" would have been totally out of the question.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:22 am

Bao,

Yes, I know this is what "most people" agree upon (henece the title of the podcast), however there's completely no eveidence, especially when the story is YLC learned by watching CCX practicing. I'm not buying the story you and everybody else has been sold (by Wu Yuxiang), mainly because it makes zero sense. You'll find out why next episode.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Trick on Fri Jun 19, 2020 1:05 am

Village style? Then in Beijing it is City stylethen ?...Yes in a village there is a much smaller population,,but couldn’t there be more methods of exercise the just the Chen family’s ? Their village is not far away from Shaolin,......I’m with Bao here, it should probably be family style
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Fri Jun 19, 2020 2:41 am

The family name and the village name are the same - Chen. "Chenjiagou". But if you want to get lost it the woods of semantics, then be my guest.

I don’t really mind what you call it - family style is as good as anything.

It makes no difference to the argument. The only pertinent fact is that in 1850 it wasn’t called Taijiquan.
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Bao on Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:50 am

GrahamB wrote:... when the story is YLC learned by watching CCX practicing.I'm not buying the story you and everybody else has been sold (by Wu Yuxiang), mainly because it makes zero sense.


The story about YLC learning by spying does not come from WYX, but from a fiction novel. Some older Taijiquan books states that YLC begged daily for two months before CCX accepted him as a student. I am not sold into any of these or other stories.

Trick wrote:I’m with Bao here, it should probably be family style


Yes, it's a family style. And obviously what you call it about semantics as someone said, but about understanding. If something was taught in public or kept inside a family makes a huge difference. Good that you get it. :)
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby Trick on Fri Jun 19, 2020 7:06 am

GrahamB wrote:The family name and the village name are the same - Chen. "Chenjiagou". But if you want to get lost it the woods of semantics, then be my guest.

.

was the 'chen village' named so back in YLC's days ?(i ask because i dont know).....maybe villages was named after the most influential/prosperous/wealthy family in its area ? but surely not because the family knew an boxing excersisr ? .......however maybe all inhabitants of the 'chen village' held the name Chen, and all of them practiced boxing, and just one set of boxing around every corner of the village......a true village style?...........Ok i stop now so to not waste any investigating historians time 8-)
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby GrahamB on Fri Jun 19, 2020 7:36 am

Sorry mate - I'm employing a strict 'worth my time responding to' bar, and that collection of ramblings didn't make it. ;D
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Re: Heretical history of Tai Chi

Postby robert on Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:22 am

Trick wrote:was the 'chen village' named so back in YLC's days ?(i ask because i dont know).....maybe villages was named after the most influential/prosperous/wealthy family in its area ? but surely not because the family knew an boxing excersisr ? .......however maybe all inhabitants of the 'chen village' held the name Chen, and all of them practiced boxing, and just one set of boxing around every corner of the village......a true village style?...........Ok i stop now so to not waste any investigating historians time 8-)

When Chen Bu moved in the village was named Changyang Village. Eventually the village was filled with Chen family members and it was renamed Chenjiagou. It's not clear to me when that occurred, but it's referred to as Chenjiagou when Chen Wangting is discussed. Chen Bu - 1st generation, Chen Wangting - ninth generation. If that's the case it would have been Chenjiagou when YLC was there. It's said that Chen Bu taught martial arts he had learned in Shanxi, so the martial arts of the Chen clan go back to Chen Bu.

http://www.chinafrominside.com/ma/taiji/TJQorigins.html
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