Chinese characters: Guang Ping Yang Tai Ji

The History of Guang Ping Yang Tai Ji Quan

Tai Ji Quan, as the concept of Tai Ji itself, is Daoist. It arose during the Song Dynasty with the Daoist monk Zhang San Fang, was passed on to Song Yuan Qiao, and in the Qing Dynasty went through Wang Zong Yu and Chen Chang Xing to Yang Lu Chan.

Yang Lu Chan had three sons, the first of whom died in childhood and does not figure in this story The second son was named Yang Ban Hou and the third son was named Yang Jian Hou. The family lived in Guang Ping in Hopei Province.

Yang Lu Chan began teaching his older son when the boy was eight years old. Lu Chan was such a hard taskmaster that Ban Hou ran away from home three time, each time seeking refuge with the monks in a temple. But each time his father came and dragged him home to train some more. Eventually, Ban Hou became even better than his father. His body looked like that of a monkey when he grew up and though he was not very big, no martial artist of any style could defeat him.

During those days when guns were rare in China, the party with the most powerful and skillful warriors was the one that ruled the country. No one knew this better than the Manchus, a race of foreigners from the north who had conquered China in the Seventeenth Century and held it precariously until the early Twentieth, ruling as the Qing Dynasty. It was very important to them that the best martial artists and their arts should be in the Imperial service-out of reach of the subject Chinese. As they kept careful track of developments in this field, it was natural that they should hear of Yang Ban Hou.

When the Emperor himself wished to know who was the best martial artist in the country so that he and his court could be trained by him, he was told Yang Ban Hou was the man. So an edict went out ordering Yang to report to the capital and assume his duties as teacher to the Imperial Court. Ban Hou, unable to do anything about it, went to Peking.

Nevertheless he did not wish to teach the conquerors everything he knew and so modified his style that what he taught the Celestial Court was much inferior to what he practiced himself. He continued to practice his own style in secret.

One of his chief Manchurian pupils was Duan Fang, the Emperor's uncle and a general and counselor of the first rank. Everywhere he went this Duan Fang was driven by a young coach driver and stable boy named Wang Jiao Yu. On one occasion, when Master Yang went to Duan Fang's residence to give the Mandarin his lesson, he was told that Duan Fang had been called away on a sudden mission to the south. As Yang was leaving the palace he happened to pass by the stables. Through an open window he caught a glimpse of the stable boy practicing the same moves Duan Fang had been learning. He stopped to watch, but the stable boy noticed him and quit practicing, apologizing to Master Yang for having spied on his lessons. Yang noticed by the boy's looks and accent that he was Chinese and not a Manchu, and asked him how it was that he held a position so close to Court-for the Emperor usually kept himself surrounded by his countrymen.

Wang answered that his family had come from Guang Ping some 100 years before, but his grandfather or great-grandfather had been impressed into the Qings' service as a charioteer. Since that time the position had become hereditary and had now passed to him.

Yang then asked how the boy liked the Manchurians and, apparently satisfied with the answer, asked if young Wang would like to become his pupil. Wang certainly would, and so it was arranged that he should go secretly to Master Yang's house as soon as he could.

When he got there, Master Yang asked him if he was willing to work very hard, because if he weren't there was no sense wasting the master's or the pupil's time. Wang said he would do whatever he had to. Yang then made the boy swear in an elaborate ritual-the burning of incense, knocking his head on the floor 100 times, burning 100 pieces of scared paper on which an oath had been written offering his ancestors and descendants to eternal damnation if he should break the oath-that he should never reveal what he was to be taught as long as the Qing Dynasty lasted. After he had sworn all these oaths Wang was allowed to learn Tai Ji Quan as Yang Ban Hou himself practiced it.

Many years later, after the Qing Dynasty had been gone for ten years or so, there lived and worked in Peking a very famous thief named Li. Robber Li had studied Gongfu until he could jump about ten feet up, and he was able to fight his way out of so many tight spots that it seemed he would never be caught. Once, after Li had pulled off a burglary and was being pursed by the police, he ran down an alleyway hoping to make his escape. The alley, however, dead ended in an old and nearly deserted temple. Li, seeing no other way out, jumped up onto the roof of the temple, intending to get away that way.

But when the police arrived in the alley a few minutes later they found the invincible Li lying on his back in the street, unconscious. There was no one else in any of the buildings except one old bearded man who made his living selling tea by the cupful in the temple. Unable to explain what had happened to Li, they took the thief into custody and contented themselves with that.

Other people remained curious though, and soon there was a great deal of speculation about the old tea-seller. He denied knowing anything about the matter and just went on selling tea to support his wife and children, who all lived in the temple. Even though people spied on him at all hours of the day, they could never see him do anything but sell tea.

Finally some curious soul snuck around behind the temple at four in the morning and crept up the wall of its courtyard. When he peeked over the top he saw old Wang Jiao Yu the tea-seller practicing something. He didn't know what it was, but when Wang practiced a push, the leaves and branches of some small trees a few yards away would rustle and bend as if a wind blew on them.

After this story got out, people came from all over to study with the old Wang, but he refused them all, taking only four students. These were Master Fan, Master Wang, Master Kuo Lien Ying, and Master Wang Zhi Qian, the last two of whom taught Master Chiang Yun Chung (Y.C. Chiang), our Shifu.

In the mean time, back in the Qing period, when Yang Dan Hou's younger brother, Yang Jian Hou reached the age of 30, he too began studying with his father. Because of his age he was unable to learn what Ban Hou had, so his father taught him a modified style similar to what Ban Hou was teaching at Court. We call this style the Yang Peking or Beiping style to distinguish it from our own Guangping style. This is because it resembles what Ban Hou did after he went to Peking rather than what he used to practice before he left home.

Yang Jian Hou taught his son Yang Zheng Fu, who became very famous and taught in Hong Kong until his death in 1936. The name "Yang Style" usually refers to this style, the most widely know version of Tai Ji Quan.

Kuo Lien-Ying became a famous grandmaster of taijiquan and other internal and traditional martial arts. It was he who brought this rare style to the West in 1965, when he settled in San Francisco's Chinatown and taught there for over twenty years. The influence of his teaching contributed to the popularization of taijiquan in the US. He died in China in 1984.

Yun-Chung Chiang began his formal training in martial arts more than 60 years ago and studied under Kuo Lien-yin. His Wen Wu School of Martial Arts opened about 25 years ago and offers instruction in Shao Lin Quan, Ba Gua, weapons, White Crane, and Qi Gong, in addition to Tai Ji Quan (Guang Ping Yang style). He is also a master painter and calligrapher. He is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and directs the Chung Hua Clinic of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. He is a graduate of the National Taiwan University Law School. His school and clinic are located in El Cerrito, California. He is accompanied by his wife, Huai-Ru Liu who is an expert in Qi Gong and an accomplished painter.

Diane Hoxmeier studied Guang Ping Yang style Tai Ji Quan under Yun-Chung Chiang at his Wen Wu School of Marital Arts in El Cerrito, CA. After moving to the East coast, she began teaching Tai Ji in New Hampshire, and later on Cape Cod. In 1995 she took a break from teaching to travel and planted the seeds of the Cape Cod Guang Ping Tai Ji Quan Club to encourage her students continue to practice together and to keep Guang Ping Style going on the Cape. On her return from abroad, she resumed teaching and continues to teach in the Falmouth area.

Master Guo Lien-Ying

Master Guo Lien-Ying