The Tai chi classics
texts used as guides for the practice of the Chinese martial art
of tai chi chuan
. These texts, which vary from school to school, are usually written in classical Chinese
and are used by modern schools that trace their lineage from the Chen family
or from them through the Yang family
While great antiquity is usually claimed for texts by legendary authors, modern scholarship has not been able to date any of them earlier than the late 19th century.
Among the writings accorded the status of a Classic are:
- T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classic (T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ching 太極拳經) attributed to the legendary founder of tai chi chuan, Chang San-feng 張三豐 (Zhang Sanfeng), claimed to be ca. 12th-14th century.
- Salt Shop Manual 鹽店譜 containing the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Treatise (T'ai Chi Ch'uan Lun 太極拳論) attributed to the legendary Wang Tsung-yueh 王宗岳 (Wang Zongyue). The text was said to have been found stored in the back room of a Beijing salt shop by Wu Yu-hsiang's brother Wu Ch'eng-ch'ing 武澄清.
- Miscellaneous texts: Song of Thirteen Postures, Mental Elucidation of the Practise of T'ai Chi Ch'uan and the Song of Sparring handed down in the Yang and Wu families.
- Texts by Wu Yu-hsiang 武禹襄 (Wu Yuxiang 1812-1880), a central figure in Wu/Hao style Tai Chi Chuan, and his relatives; especially his nephew Li I-yü 李亦畬 (Li Yiyu 1832-1892).
- Forty Chapters of writings, with the last three chapters directly attributed to Chang San-feng, preserved in the Yang and Wu Chien-ch'uan families.
- T'ai Chi Ch'uan Illustrated 太極拳圖說 published in 1919 by Ch'en Hsin 陳鑫 (Chen Xin 1849-1929) an important Chen family scholar.
- The Study of T'ai Chi Ch'uan 太極拳學 first published in 1924 by Sun Lu-t'ang 孫祿堂 (Sun Lutang 1861-1932), the founder of the fifth and last classical style of tai chi chuan.
- Yang Ch'eng-fu 楊澄甫 (Yang Chengfu 1883-1936) published his Complete Principles and Applications of T'ai Chi Ch'uan in 1934, a work considered authoritative in schools influenced by his many students and progeny. The book includes the well known "Ten Essential Points of Taijiquan Theory" authored by Ch'eng-fu .
- Wu Kung-tsao 吳公藻 (Wu Gongzao 1902-1983) provided original texts and commentary on the previously mentioned Forty Chapters in Wu Family T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Wu Chia T'ai Chi Ch'uan 吳家太極拳). Wu's grandfather Wu Ch'uan-yu 吳全佑 (Wu Quanyuo 1834-1902) had inherited the Forty Chapters from Yang Pan-hou 楊班侯 (Yang Banhou 1837-1890). The book was first published in Changsha in 1935. In 1980, when the book was published again in Hong Kong, the famous wuxia author Jin Yong contributed a postscript to Wu Kung-tsao's text in which Jin described influences from as far back as Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu on contemporary Chinese martial arts.
Collections, Translations, and Studies
- Davis, Barbara, "The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation" (Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2004)
- Jou, Tsung-hwa, "The Tao of T'ai Chi Ch'uan" (Rutland: Tuttle, 1980)
- Liang, T.T., "T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self-Defense:Philosophy and Practice (New York: VIntage, 1977)
- Lo, Benjamin, Martin Inn, Robert Amacker, Susan Foe, "The Essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan: The Literary Tradition" (Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1979)
- Wile, Doug, "Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions" (Sweet Ch'i Press 1983)
- Wile, Doug, "Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty" (Albany: SUNY, 1996)
- Xin, Chen, "The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan" (Xi'an: INBI Matrix, 2007)