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Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for beginners

A Brief History of Tai Chi

History of Tai Chi: the snake and the crane
The snake and the crane
Many historians believe that Tai Chi originated with the ninth-century Taoist philosopher Li Daotzu (or Li Tao-Tzu), who defined the first 37 moves in a book called The Earlier Heaven Movements. Two (or three or more) centuries later, according to legend, Zhang San Feng (or Cheung San-Feng), another priest in a Shaolin Temple in China, transformed the earlier philosophy into a system of self-defense, Tai Chi Chuan. It has been said that San Feng was inspired by a battle between a crane and a snake. The snake won the fight thanks to its slowness, its flexibility and its rounded movements that gave its opponent little control.

History of Tai Chi: Yang Cheng Fu
Yang Cheng Fu
Famous Tai Chi Master
Yang Cheng Fu was among the first teachers to offer tai chi instruction to the general public.

Interestingly, the "chi" of "tai chi" is not the same "chi" as the word meaning "life energy". The term "t'ai chi ch'uan" - later shortened to "tai chi" - translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist", or "great extremes boxing". The chi in this instance is the Wade-Giles transliteration of the Pinyin jí, and is distinct from qì (ch'i, "life energy").

There are five major styles of t'ai chi ch'uan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

Chen-style of Chen Wangting (1580–1660)
Yang-style of Yang Lu-ch'an (1799–1872)
Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style of Wu Yu-hsiang (1812–1880)
Wu-style of Wu Ch'uan-yu (1834–1902) and his son Wu Chien-ch'uan (1870–1942)
Sun-style of Sun Lu-t'ang (1861–1932)

For more information on the major Tai Chi styles, click here. All of them can be traced back to a single man, Chen Wang Ting, a general of the latter years of the Ming Dynasty, who around 1644 created seven sets, only two of which have survived to the present day.


Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for beginners: Yin-Yang symbol

Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for beginners: Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan