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Tai Chi Chuan

Today if you take an early morning walk in the cities or towns of China, you'll see people practicing Tai Chi Chuan in parks, on the sidewalks and open-air areas. Why it is so deeply loved and widely practiced by Chinese people? Let's find out.
Tai Chi meaning the great ultimate, one of the essential concepts of the ancient Chinese philosophy on the world system, first appeared in the Book of Change. Where there is Taichi, there is peace and harmony between the positive and the negative. Taichi theory holds that everything in the world is composed of two opposing but complementary aspects, Yin and Yang. The Yang is described as masculine in character, active, warm, dry, bright, procreative and positive. While Yin is the female or negative principle in nature, fertile, breeding, dark, cold, wet, secret and mysterious. This theory has been demonstrated in the famous Taichi Chart, which is known as the illustration of the motion of the world, shows symbolically the balance and coexistence of these two energies, Ying and Yang. The black in the chart stands for Yin and the white for Yang. The coexistence of the black and the white fishes in the same circle indicated that the Yin and Yang forces are present in everything.
Originating from the roots of classical Chinese culture, Tai Chi Chuan absorbed a variety of sources including the Book of Changes, Taoism and Buddhism. Taichi Chuan consists of a sequence of for involving every part of the body and executed in a highly stylized yet natural manner. You stand straight but not still. Your body is supple but not limp. Your movements are slow but steady, poised and powerful. After a period of exercising, you can train yourself to be physically as soft as an infant, as resilient as a twig in the wind, sensitive to the slightest pressure on any part of your body, and mentally alert.

Taichi Yin and Yang
First of all, Tai Chi Chuan lays emphasis on the concentration of the mind. It is believed that mental concentration can mobilize an internal energy current that in turn guides the physical movements. In other word, the movements are no longer the result of conscious physical effort but the effect of mental motion.
The second basic principle is synchronization of the movement. Physically all movements involved every part of the body, though each emphasizes some specific part. The whole Taichi Chuan sequence unfolds itself in an uninterrupted continuity. The body is naturally extended and relaxed with the hands, eyes, and limbs performing with the body as a whole. The performers should not concentrate the attention on a certain part.
While Taichi is basically an exercise for heath, its various forms are designed for self-defense. The foremost principle is never to attack first and when being attacked, never to counter force to defeat the attacker.
Because it requires natural and deep breathing, and smooth, rhythmic and balanced movements, Taichi Chuan can also increases the elasticity of the lung tissues and strengthen the bones, muscles and joints. These characteristics are important factors contributing to the prevention and curing of many diseases such as high blood pressure, neurasthenia and tuberculosis.

Tai Chi Chuan Styles

•Chen Style Taichi Chuan
The Chen style Taichi 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 the 13-movement Chuan. Chen also developed a long-style Chuan routine of 108 movements and a cannon Chuan rouline. Il was then handed down to Chen Changxing and Chen Youben, boxers in the ChenjiaValley who were all proficient at ihe old frame. The present Chen-style Chuan boasts of the old routine, the cannon routine and the new routine.

The Chen-style Taichi Chuan is the oldest form, all the other styles of Taichi Chuan having derived from it either directly or indirectly. With jumps, leaps and explosions of strength, the performance followed a circular path. The Chen Style Taichi Chuan was known by the name 'Lao Jia' ,meaning the old frame. 
•Yang Style Taichi Chuan
The originator of the Yang-style Taichi Chuan was Yang Luchan (1800-1873) from Yongnian in Hebei Province. Yang went to learn Taichi Chuan from Chen Changxing in the Chenjia Valley as a boy. When grown up, he returned to his home town to teach the art. To suit the need of common people, Yang 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 Taichi 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 .

Taichi Chuan

The Yang-style Taichi 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-style Taichi Chuan 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 Taichi Chuan was known by the name 'Da Jia', meaning the big frame. 
•Wu Style Taichi Chuan
Wu-style Taichi Chuan was created by Quan You (1834-1902) who lived at Daxing in Hebei Province, now under Beijing Municipality. Quan was of the Manchu nationality of China. He learned Taichi Chuan from Yang Luchan and later followed Yang's second son Yang Banhou to study the short program. Quan 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 nationality. Wu Jianquan (1870-1942) inherited and disseminated a style of Taichi 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 Taichi Quan was disseminated by the Wu family, it became known as the Wu-style Tai Chichuan. The Wu Style Taichi Chuan was known by the name 'Zhong Jia', meaning the medium frame. 

•Wu Yuxiang Style Taichi Chuan
Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880) was the creator of another Style of Taichi Chuan. A Yongnian resident in Hebi, Wu Yuxiang learned the ABC's of Taichi 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 Taichi Chuan from Chen Qingping and mastered it. At his brother's home, Wu Yuxiang got hold of a transcript of Wang Zongyue's On Taichi Chuan. 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 Taichi: Apply, Cover, Combat and Swallow, which have become the classics of Chinese Wushu writing.

Taichi Chuan

The Wu Yuxiang style of Taichi 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 Taichi. He wrote about his experience of practising Five-Word Essentials, The Secret to Relaxation: Lift, Guide, Loosen and Release and Essentials for Taichi Movements and Actions. In the first year of the Republic (1911), Hao Weizhen (1849-1920) from YongnianCounty taught the Wu Yuxiang style of Taichi in Beijing, and later in Nanjing and Shanghai.The Wu Yuxiang Style Taichi Chuan was known by the name 'Xiao Jia', meaning the small frame. 
•Sun Style Taichi Chuan
The initiator of the Sun-style Taichi Chuan was Sun Lutang (1861-1932) from DingxianCounty 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 Taichi. He later created the Sun style of Taichi Chuan by blending the cream of the Wu Yuxiang style of Taichi, Xingyi Chuan and Bagua Zhang. The feature of the Sun-style Taichi 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 Taichi Chuan, there is another style called Five-Star Taichi. 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 Taichi to form the Five-Star Taichi.

Taichi Chuan

The Chanmen Taichi Chuan or Buddhist Taichi Chuan which is popular in the area of Pingdingshan in Henan Province was developed by monks in the ShaolinTemple 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 Taichi Chuan.

To further popularize Taichi Chuan among the people after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, a simplified set of the Yang-style Taichi Chuan 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 Taichi, as well as Taichi Wushu, to form a popular, 48-form Taichi Chuan.The Sun Style Taichi Chuan was known by the name 'Huobao Jia', meaning the lively pace frame.