Yang Lu-ch'an

Yang Lu-ch'an or Yang Luchan, 楊露禪, also known as Yang Fu-k'ui (楊福魁) (1799-1872), born in Kuang-p'ing (Guangping), was an influential teacher of the soft style martial art known as tai chi chuan in China during the second half of the 19th century, known as the founder of Yang style tai chi chuan.


Yang Lu Chan’s family was from Hebei Province, Guangping Prefecture, Yongnian County and since childhood his family was poor. He would follow his father in planting the fields and as a teenager held temporary jobs. One period of temporary work was spent doing odd jobs at the Tai He Tang Chinese pharmacy located in the west part of Yongnian City (the pharmacy was opened by Chen De Hu of the Chen Village in Henan Province, Huaiqing Prefecture, Wenxian County). As a child, Yang liked martial arts and started studying Chang Chuan, gaining a certain level of skill.

One day some hoodlums came to Tai He Tang looking for trouble. One of the partners of the pharmacy used a kind of martial art that Yang Lu Chan had never before seen to easily subdue the troublemakers. Because of this, Yang requested to study with the owner, Cheng De Hu. Cheng saw Yang's sincerety and referred him to the Chen Village to seek the 14th generation of the Chen Family, Ch'en Chang-hsing., as his teacher.

After mastering the martial art, Yang Lu Chan was subsequently given permission by his teacher to go to Beijing and teach his own students, including Wu Yu-hsiang and his brothers, who were officials in the Imperial Qing dynasty bureaucracy.. In 1850, Yang was hired by the Imperial family to teach tai chi chuan to them and several of their élite Manchu Imperial Guards Brigade units in Beijing's Forbidden City, in whose number was Yang's best known non-family student, Wu Ch'uan-yü. This was the beginning of the spread of tai chi chuan from the family art of a small village in central China to an international phenomenon. Due to his influence and the number of teachers he trained, including his own descendants, Yang is directly acknowledged by 4 of the 5 tai chi chuan families as having transmitted the art to them.

Yang Wu Di

Having refined his martial skill to an extremely high level, Yang Lu Chan came to be known as Yang Wu Di (Yang the Invincible). After emerging from Chenjiagou, Yang became famous for never losing a match and never seriously injuring his opponents. Several noteworthy episodes worth mentioning illustrate his level of attainment:

  • Once while fishing at a lake, two other martial artists hoped to push Yang in the water and ruin his reputation. Yang -- sensing the attacker's intention -- arched his chest, rounded his back, and executed the High Pat on Horse technique. As his back arched and head bowed, the two attackers were bounced into the water simultaneously. He then said to them that he would be easy on them today; but if they were on the ground, he would have punished them more severely. The two attackers quickly swam away.
  • Yang was invited to the abode of a rich man in Beijing called Chang who had heard of Yang's great skills to demonstrate his art. Yang Lu Chan was small of build and did not look like a boxer, when Chang saw him, he thought little of his ability and so served him a very simple dinner. Yang Lu Chan was fully aware of his host's thoughts but continued to behave like an honoured guest. Chang later questioned if Yang's Tai Ch'i, being so soft, could defeat people. Given that he invited Yang on the basis of his reputation as a great fighter, this question was clearly a veiled insult. Yang replied that there were only three kinds of people he could not defeat: men of brass, men of iron and men of wood. Chang invited out his best bodyguard by the name of Liu to test Yang's skill. Liu entered aggressively and attacked Yang. Yang, employing only a simple yielding technique, threw Liu across the yard. Chang was very impressed and immediately ordered a banquet to be prepared for Yang.
  • When Yang was at Guangping, he often fought with people on the castle wall. One opponent was unable to defend against Yang's attacks and kept on retreating to the edge of the wall. Yang's opponent, unable to keep his balance began to fall over the edge. At the instant before the opponent fell, Yang, from about thirty feet away, leaped forward, caught the opponent's foot and saved him from falling to his death.

Subsequent lineage

Yang Lu-ch'an passed his art to:

  • his second son, but oldest son to live to maturity, Yang Pan-hou (楊班侯, 1837-1890), was also retained as a martial arts instructor by the Chinese Imperial family. Yang Pan-hou became the formal teacher of Wu Ch'uan-yü (Wu Quanyou), a Manchu Banner cavalry officer of the Palace Battalion, even though Yang Lu-ch'an was Wu Ch'uan-yü's first T'ai Chi Ch'uan teacher. Wu Ch'uan-yü's son, Wu Chien-ch'üan (Wu Jianquan), also a Banner officer, became known as the co-founder (along with his father) of the Wu style.
  • his third son Yang Chien-hou (Jianhou) (1839-1917), who passed it to his sons, Yang Shao-hou (楊少侯, 1862-1930) and Yang Ch'eng-fu (楊澄甫, 1883-1936).
  • Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang, 武禹襄, 1813-1880) who also developed his own Wu style, which eventually, after three generations, led to the development of Sun style tai chi chuan.

Family tree

This family tree is not comprehensive.

Zhang Sanfeng*
circa 12th century
Wang Zongyue*
Chen Wangting
1600-1680 9th generation Chen
   |                                                                   |
Chen Changxing                                                     Chen Youben
1771-1853 14th generation Chen                                     circa 1800s 14th generation Chen
Chen Old Frame                                                     Chen New Frame
   |                                                                   |
Yang Lu-ch'an                                                      Chen Qingping
1799-1872                                                          1795-1868
YANG STYLE                                                         Chen Small Frame, Zhao Bao Frame
   |                                                                   |
   +---------------------------------+-----------------------------+   |
   |                                 |                             |   |
Yang Pan-hou                      Yang Chien-hou                   Wu Yu-hsiang
1837-1892                         1839-1917                        1812-1880
Yang Small Frame                     |                             WU/HAO STYLE
   |                                 +-----------------+                      |
   |                                 |                 |                      |
Wu Ch'uan-yü                      Yang Shao-hou     Yang Ch'eng-fu          Li I-yü
1834-1902                         1862-1930         1883-1936               1832-1892
   |                              Yang Small Frame  Yang Big Frame            |
Wu Chien-ch'üan                                        |                    Hao Wei-chen
1870–1942                                           Yang Shou-chung         1849–1920
WU STYLE                                            1910–1985                 |
108 Form                                                                      |
   |                                                                        Sun Lu-t'ang
Wu Kung-i                                                                   1861–1932
1900-1970                                                                   SUN STYLE
   |                                                                          |
Wu Ta-kuei                                                                  Sun Hsing-i
1923-1970                                                                   1891-1929

Note to Family tree table

Names denoted by an asterisk are legendary or semilegendary figures in the lineage, which means their involvement in the lineage, while accepted by most of the major schools, isn't independently verifiable from known historical records.


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