Who Created Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi Boxing)?
I have read a number of books, articles, and novels, and have watched movies and television series that touched on origins of Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi Boxing), and question, “Who Created Tai Chi Chuan?” made me concern very much!
Although knowing origins or source of Tai Chi Chuan is not going to have much effects on your learning and practicing of art, it is my responsibility to share with masses of what I have found out. And understanding origins of something that we loved so much about will make us appreciate understand it better, if not improving our skills.
The legend was too well-known. And most people will tell and re-tell stories of a priest named Zhang Sanfeng of Wudang Sect who found this special martial arts called Tai Chi Chuan. I was fascinated by these legends, and found myself believing them too… until I researched more deeply into its historical backgrounds. Some legends said that he got inspiration to create Tai Chi Chuan from observing fight between a snake and a crane, and some said in he learned it from an immortal in a dream.
Yes, this theory is found in a recorded scripture.
Based on that written scripture, it was claimed that Zhang Sanfeng were summoned by Emperor at that time, around end of Song Dynasty. He was on his way to palace when he was surrounded by a group of over 100 bandits. Unable to breakthrough, he put a night up in hiding.
That night, he dreamt of meeting King Yuan, previous ruler of China in who appeared as an immortal in his dream. King Yuan taught him a special type of martial art in that dream.
Next day, with this new skill, Zhang Sanfeng defeated 100 over bandits, single-handedly. From then onwards, Zhang Sanfeng began to teach this mysteriously acquired skill to his disciples and this art is known as Tai Chi Chuan.
Let's put aside point about him defeating 100 over bandits single-handedly, which is very difficult to be accepted as a true point. Even existence of Zhang Sanfeng is very much speculated! Some claimed that he lived in beginning of Yuan Dynasty; some claimed that he lived during Jin Invasion of Southern Song Dynasty; some claimed that he lived in Song Dynasty; and some even said in Ming Dynasty. This is quite debatable.
On top of that, why King Yuan in his dream???
This is mainly because relationship between philosophies (some said religion) and martial arts are closely related. Since Daoism is very much rooted in Chinese culture and it stresses on maintenance life, with tendency towards achieving immortality, immortal King Yuan, came into picture in this legend.
Many Chinese scholars and writers have disagreed with this record!
Even there’s common agreement that Zhang Sanfeng is not one created Tai Chi Chuan, there are many disagreement regarding origin of Tai Chi Chuan. There are many schools of thought. Some claimed that it began in Liang State of Southern Dynasty era - by Han Gongyue and Cheng Lingxi. There are claims that it was created by Xu Xuanpin or Li Daozi in Tang Dynasty.
Based on more reliable sources and records, Tai Chi Chuan originated from Chen Wangting, 9th generation of Chen clan of Chenjiagou in Nanwen District during late Ming Dynasty.