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Preface to The Art of Taijiquan

Volume 3 Number 1
Winter 2002

By Chen Weiming

Translated by Barbara Davis

Chen Weiming (1881-1958) of Qishui, Hubei Province, was a senior disciple of Yang Chengfu (1883-1936). He is said to have been a juren, a middle-level scholar, and have worked in the Qing History Office.

Chen's first book on taijiquan was The Art of Taijiquan (Taijiquan shu), 1925. His preface outlines his encounters with the various martial arts, his relationship with Yang Chengfu, and some valuable theoretical points about taijiquan. In his later books, he is more explicit about why the Yangs did not lightly accept students. In the preface to Taiji Sword (1928) he says, "I began to understand that it was not that the Yangs didn't teach others. Alas, it was rather that there were some who studied with the Yangs and 'ate of' their teachers' techniques, but then slandered them, creating all kinds of untrue stories."

Chen founded his "Achieving Softness" (Zhi Rou) studio in Shanghai during 1925, the year that this preface was written. Interestingly, Chen did not publish any more taijiquan books after the 1920s. --Editor

When I was young, I heard of the famous Wudang-style taijiquan. I longed to find it, but I hadn't yet met anyone who knew it. In 1915, I was studying in Beijing. While there, I met Mr. Sun Lutang of Jianyuan County and with him studied xingyi and bagua boxing.

I heard a friend talking about the taiji that the Yang family of Guangping Prefecture, Hebei Province, had handed down through the generations. In the fall of 1917, I searched out Yang Luchan's grandson Yang Chengfu, and went, without an introduction, to visit him.

I asked him, "People say that Yang family taiji is very refined, however, it is not lightly taught to others. Is this or is this not true?"

Mr. Yang laughed, saying, "It's not that it isn't taught to others, it's that we desire to find someone to teach it to. My grandfather received it from the Chen family of Henan. Now I want to give something back to the Chens. If you, sir, really like [taiji], I will not keep secrets or begrudge it."

Consequently, I studied with him for seven years. I have taken Mr. Yang Chengfu's oral teachings on taijiquan and all of its various postures great and small, and have written them down in this book in order to pass them on to subsequent generations.

The art of taijiquan was passed down by the founding teacher Zhang Sanfeng of the Song Dynasty. It was named Wudang internal style and is different from external styles. I will briefly cite some points:

  • In movement, seek stillness, and unite together with the Dao.
  • Act purely from the spirit, do not value brute force.
  • The root and branch of inhaling and exhaling is in the qi sinking to the dantian.
  • Move cyclically without end, "continuously without breaks."
  • Do not part from or distance yourself from [your opponent]; "follow the opportunities and respond by changing."
  • Concentrate the qi to achieve softness; by means of the yielding defeat the powerful. The art of taijiquan, when pure, allows naturalness. There is not the slightest bit of forcedness in it.

When I was twenty-some years old, I was feeble and had many illnesses. My hair had turned 30-40 percent grey. [But] since meeting Mr. Sun and Mr. Yang and practicing inner-style boxing arts, my spirit has risen and quickly changed from what it had been like before. Of my friends who practiced [taiji] because of illness, whether resulting from overwork or chronic incurable diseases, there was not a single one who didn't rapidly recover. [Taijiquan] truly is a wonderful art that is life nourishing; it drives away disease, and guards against lingering problems.

This year I established the Zhi Rou Boxing Association in [Shanghai]. Scholars and cultured gentlemen gathered together to study and practice. I have printed this book [The Art of Taijiquan] so that those studying will have something to follow. In it they can find the correct body postures as well as the "Treatise on Taijiquan" written by Wang Zongyue. I've added some explanatory notes and printed them as an appendix, so that those who study will know [taiji's] applications and marvels.

Only in taijiquan postures [do you] "in the bent seek the straight," and transform and move without stopping. It is truly difficult to write about its [external] appearance. Although I have made every effort to strive for simplicity and clarity, I still fear I have not exhausted all of its points; the reader will forgive me.

Summer, yichou [1925]
Written by Chen Weiming

Barbara Davis - Editor

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