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Xue Sheng

Zhang Sanfeng was REAL!!! well no…maybe...I don't know

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Personal (and a bit strange) discovery about training taijiquan and Zhang Sanfeng. I am finding it much more enjoyable and easier to train taijiquan if I just go with the thought that it was actually created by a mystical (likely mythical) Daoist by the name of Zhang Sanfeng.

Much of this can also be found here

Zhang Sanfeng was not mentioned throughout Chinese history until the 1650s in the Epitaph of Wang Zhengnan; written by Huang Zongxi (1610-1695) and he is mentioned there Wang Zhengnan is the only living successor to the martial arts lineage of neijia of which Zhang Sanfeng is the founder. He refers to Zhang Sanfeng as a Taoist alchemist and says that Zhang Sanfeng revised Shaolin style to emphasis offense and defense using softness and not relying on hardness. However it is not called Taiji it is called Baiji by Wang's son and it has little in common with taijiquan with no internal training and it is big on pressure point techniques, but it is a soft style like Taiji.

But this reference to Zhang Sanfeng in the Epitaph; it is believed it is more of a political move than a historical reference. A bit of take that you foreign Manchu oppressors; kind of thing. Just so you know Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Ming is Han people and Qing is Manchu. Wang Zhengnan was Han, and just as a note so was the Chen family and Yang family.

But wait Zhang Sanfeng shows up in many other places.

In the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) as stated by Sun Lutang or the ones that were mentioned by Xu Yusheng who associated the name Zhang Sanfeng with at least 10 different people but ultimately puts Zhang Sanfeng in the Sung Dynasty (969-1126) and who had hundreds of disciples in Shaanxi. And of course there is the Zhang Sanfeng born in 1247 during the Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279) and there is another reference to him by another author that puts him in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

In China since 1650 Zhang Sanfeng has been called a Taoist, a Shaolin Master, a Warrior and a Confucian by various rather well trained and reputable Chinese writers that were writing the facts; about Zhang Sanfeng; based on hear say and myth.

And it has also been said since 1650 that Zhang Sanfeng created Taiji by watching a snake and a bird fight. And of course the other story that includes a cave; Zhan8 Senfeng was lead by a mysterious light into a cave (Martial arts founders like caves apparently, see Liu He Ba Fa creation and Bodhidharma) where he found 2 golden snakes and a book that gave him the idea for taijiquan. And it is also said that he took from the Yellow Emperor and Lao Tzu to devise Taiji.

There is a rather long list of reputable authors since 1650 that have written histories of taijiquan that have linked it to Zhang Sanfeng in various ways but few have ever given any solid (provable) biographical information about him beyond myth. Now to the Chen family, at this point they appear to be the only ones that completely ignore Zhang Senfeng but they may have good reason to since it does not align with their Taiji creation story and that may cost them money. But there has also been some speculation that the Chen family changed their creation story out of jealousy of Yang Luchan and his success with his version of what they taught him in order to discredit him and gain some notoriety for themselves. To be honest, this is about the time my brain starts to hurt.

Now does any of this mean, 100% certainty, that Zhang Sanfeng is a myth and had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of Taijiquan and he never existed….well… no… But it does appear that might very likely be the case... at this time. But the research is still going on so who knows what will be found, if anything

When it comes to things Chinese history I tend to go with what comes from current reputable Chinese source in or trained in China. Meaning people that are actually studying Chinese history and are experts in that field. So if they start saying there was a Zhang Sanfeng I will change my position on this regardless of what western historians say on the matter. The reason for this is if you go back about 15 years Western historian were calling the dynasties of Xia (1600 BC) and Shang (1046 BC) mythical while Chinese historians were saying they were real. Fast forward a few years and the western historians said...oh did we say it was mythical...oops… sorry they were real. So I tend to go with reputable Chinese historical sources when it comes to Chinese history. But with Zhang Sanfeng there are currently a few people from universities in China researching it but so far they can find no solid proof on his existence. However if you go to Wudang they will tell you without any doubt there was a Wudang Daoist named Zhang Senfeng and he invented taijiquan or something similar from watching a bird and snake fight. But I doubt it was called taijiquan since the name itself does not show up until after Yang Luchan taught Wu Yuxiang, (1880) his version of the Chen family martial art.

And if you look at Wudang Taijiquan it looks very much like Chen style. My Yang Taiji sifu says the similarities are because Chen learned the Taiji of Wudang and changed it a bit to Chen style. But then there are a few, myself included, that say it has more to do with the possibility that Chen Zhenglei taught some of the monks at Wudang Taiji and then Wudang changed it. To be honest I do not know the truth anymore it is getting all too confusing.

But the point of this long diatribe is that for some reason I have found it much more enjoyable to train taijiquan if I let myself go with the possibility that there actually was a guy named Zhang Senfeng that discovered taijiquan. I have no idea why, it just seems to work better that way, could be I just stop thinking about it and relax or maybe it is just a phase.
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