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Tai Chi Chuan Styles

Cheng Style Tai Chi Chuan

The Chen-style Tai Chi Quan falls into two categories - the old and new frames. The old frame was created by Chen Wangling himself. It had five routines which were also known as ihe 13 move Chuan. Chen Wangling also developed a long-style Chuan routine of 108 moves and a cannon Chuan rouline. Il was then handed down to Chen Changxing and Chen Youben, boxers in the Chenjia Valley who were all proficient at ihe old frame. The preseni-day Chen-style Cshuan boasts of the old routine, the cannon routine and the new routine.

The Chen-style Tai Chi Chuan is the oldest form, all the other styles of Tai Chi Quan having derived from it either directly or indirectly. With jumps, leaps and explosions of strength, the performance followed a circular path. The Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan was known by the name "Lao Jia" ("old frame").

Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan

The originator of the Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan was Yang Luchan (1800-1873) from Yongnian in Hebei Province. Yang went to learn Tai Chi Chuan from Chen Changxing in the Chenjia Valley as a boy. When grown up, he returned to his native town to teach the art. To suit the need of common people, Yang Luchan made some changes, and dropped some highly difficult moves, such as force irritating, broad jumps and foot thumping. His son shortened the routine which was further simplified by his grandson. The grandson's form of the Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan was later taken as the protocol of the Yang-style Chuan. Because of its comfortable postures, simplicity and practicability, this form has become the most popular routine for exercise and practise .

The Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan features agreeable movements and actions combining hardness, softness and naturalness. When practising, practitioners should relax to form softness which transforms into hardness thus combining the hard and the soft. The Yang-styk Tai Chi Quan is divided into three sub routines, namely high-posture, middle-posture and low-posture routines all with comfortable and agreeable movements and actions. The Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan was known by the name "Da Jia" ("big frame").

Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

Wu-style Tai Chi Chuan was created by Quan You (1834-1902) who lived at Daxing in Hebei Pro-vince (now under Beijing Municipality). Quan You was of the Manchu nationality of China. He learned Tai Chi Quan from Yang Luchan and later followed Yang's second son Yang Banhou to study the short program. Quan You was known for his ability to soften his movements. Quan's son Jianquan changed his family name to Wu as he was brought up as a Han national. Wu Jianquan (1870-1942) inherited and disseminated a style of Tai Chi which is comfortable and upright. His style is continuous and ingenious and because his routine does not require jumps and leaps, it spread far and wide among common people. Since this style of Tai Chi Quan was disseminated by the Wu family, it became known as the Wu-style Tai Chi Chuan. The Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan was known by the name "Zhong Jia" ("medium frame").

Wu Yuxiang Style Tai Chi Chuan

Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880) was the creator of another Style of Tai Chi Quan. A Yongnian resident in Hebi, Wu Yuxiang learned the ABC's of Tai Chi from fellow provincial Yang Luchan. In 1852, Wu Yuxiang went to work for his brother at Wuyang. On his way to Wuyang, he learned the new routine ,of Tai Chi Quan from Chen Qingping and mastered it. At his brother's home, Wu Yuxiang got hold of a transcript of Wang Zongyue's On Tai Chi Quan. So upon returning home, Wu Yuxiang delved into the book and practised the principles stipulated in it. Wu eventually wrote Ten Essential Points of Martial Artists and Four-Word Poetic Secrets of Tai Chi: Apply, Cover, Combat and Swallow, which have become the classics of Chinese Wushu writing.

The Wu Yuxiang style of Tai Chi features compactness, slow movement, strict footwork and distinguishes between substantialness and insubstantialness. The chest and abdomen are kept upright while the body is moving around. The outside movement of the body is initiated by the circulation of air flows inside the body and by inner adjustments of substantialness and insubstantialness. The two hands are in charge of their respective halves of the body-one does not infringe upon the other. The hand never goes farther than the foot. Li Yishe (1832-1892), son of Wu Yuxiang's sister, inherited the Wu Yuxiang style of Tai Chi. He wrote about his experience of practising Five-Word Essentials, The Secret to Relaxation: Lift, Guide, Loosen and Release and Essentials for Tai Chi Movements and Actions. In the first year of the Republic (1911), Hao Weizhen (1849-1920) from Yongnian County taught the Wu Yuxiang style of Tai Chi in Beijing, and later in Nanjing and Shanghai. The Wu Yuxiang Style Tai Chi Chuan was known by the name "Xiao Jia" ("small frame").

Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan

The initiator of the Sun-style Tai Chi Chuan was Sun Lutang (1861-1932) from Dingxian County in Hebei Province. Sun was a master of Xingyi Quan (free-mind animal-imitating Chuan) and Bagua Zhang (Eight-diagram Palm). In 1911, he followed Hao Weizhen to learn the Wu Yuxiang style of Tai Chi. He later created the Sun style of Tai Chi Chuan by blending the cream of the Wu Yuxiang style of Tai Chi, Xingyi Quan and Bagua Zhang. The feature of the Sun-style Tai Chi is that practitioners advance or retreat freely with quick and dexterous movements, which are connected with each other either in closing or opening stances when the direction is changed.

Besides the above-mentioned five style of Tai Chi Chuan, there is another style called Five-Star Tai Chi. This style was initiated by Wang Lanting, butler of Prince Duan of Yang Luchan who served as Wushu master to Prince Duan. After mastering the Chuan art, Wang Lanting passed it onto Li Ruidong and Si Xingsan. Li Ruidong then absorbed the cream of other styles of Tai Chi to form the Five-Star Tai Chi.

The Chanmen Tai Chi Quan or Buddhist Tai Chi Quan which is popular in the area of Pingdingshan in Henan Province was developed by monks in the Shaolin Temple according to the Infinitely Merciful Dharani Scripture. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, it had also absorbed the best of the martial arts practised by followers of Taoism and Confucianism. As it was first created by Buddhist monks, it was called Chanmen or Buddhist Tai Chi Quan.

To further popularize Tai Chi Quan among the people after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, a simplified set of the Yang-style Tai Chi Quan was compiled in 1956, by dropping the repeated and difficult movements. The simplified set consists of 24 forms. In 1979, the Chinese State Physical Fxiucation and Sports Commission absorbed the strongest points from the Chen-style, Yang-style and Wu-style Tai Chi, as well as Tai Chi Wushu, to form a popular, 48-form Tai Chi Quan. The Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan was known by the name "Huobao Jia" ("lively pace frame").

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