Zhang Sanfeng was REAL!!! well no

Xue Sheng

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but he is for about 30 to 60 minutes a day


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 张三丰

If you have been on MT for awhile and read my past posts about the mystical founder of Taijiquan, Zhang Senfeng, you already know what I think. If you don’t here it is again with a recent addition to the story.

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But this reference to Zhang Sanfeng in the Epitaph; it is believed it is more of a political move than a historical reference.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 (2070–1600 BC) and Shang (1600–1046 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, (1812–1880) 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. :asian:
 

mograph

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When I practice, it helps me to believe that it's all part of a big continuum. When it comes to martial systems, there are movements and intentions in harmony with nature, and those that are not.

I don't think of taijiquan's being invented, but I think of it as being synthesized or systematized. I believe it is a snapshot of a combination of human movements and postures that have existed before "taijiquan" and will exist long after. I try not to have any attachment to the idea of "taijiquan" as a formalized discipline any more.

So personally, it's not important to me whether Zhang Sanfeng existed or not. :)
 

clfsean

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You've been licking frogs again ... haven't you?

I do agree with you about the CZL statement. He used to teach around Dengfeng too to some of the larger Songshan schools.
 
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Xue Sheng

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You've been licking frogs again ... haven't you?

I do agree with you about the CZL statement. He used to teach around Dengfeng too to some of the larger Songshan schools.

I'm not sure I agree with the Chen Zhenglei statement either anymore... I suppose I could ask him. He will be in my area soon.... but I don't think I will.

The whole damn thing began to make my brain hurt and I think it was an "oh what the Hell Zhang Sanfeng was real" moment that made my brain stop hurting. And after that it did not matter much anymore, I was not thinking "Zhang Sanfeng is a MYTH" every time my sifu mentioned him and Taiji got sooooooo much more enjoyable.

But this does beg the question then where does Wudang Taijiquan come from.... but I do not think I will even truly entertain that questing much after my fingers stop banging on the keyboard.

OK, I may go meet a Wudang Daoist in a few months to discuss wudang Taiji and likely I will ask him…. Hopefully I can ask him about it without the accompanying migraine

Edit:

As to licking frogs… only the little quiet ones found in the Kǒng family cemetery.... :D
 
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Xue Sheng

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When I practice, it helps me to believe that it's all part of a big continuum. When it comes to martial systems, there are movements and intentions in harmony with nature, and those that are not.

I don't think of taijiquan's being invented, but I think of it as being synthesized or systematized. I believe it is a snapshot of a combination of human movements and postures that have existed before "taijiquan" and will exist long after. I try not to have any attachment to the idea of "taijiquan" as a formalized discipline any more.

So personally, it's not important to me whether Zhang Sanfeng existed or not. :)

My actual belief about this whole Taiji Origin mess is that there may have been something similar to the 13 postures that came from Wudang but it was much greater that 13 postures that later got combined with an older Qigong form called Taiji Qigong or Tu Na or Daoyin or whatever the heck they were calling Qigong then and that meant up with Shaolin Paoqui and the Chen family and you throw the whole mess in a blender and you get Taiji...which was not called Taiji until a few hundred years latter...ok my brain is hurting again :uhyeah:
 

mograph

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Can we call it "blenderquan"? :D Blender Fu?

The origin thing is interesting and all, but I think that some westerners, coming from such a young culture with reasonably good records, are applying their concept of historical certainty to the records of a culture thousands of years old with many dialects and regional cultures.

I can't speak for the Chinese perspective on this matter, except to guess, based on my own research, what their opinions might be:
1) "My Sifu said so, and I don't want to show him disrespect." (this could apply either way)
2) "My style is better than yours, and therefore has more venerable origins".
3) "Shut up and practice."

#3 is the one I've heard the most.

It goes back to the argument of "which is better, old or new?" Old may be pure, while young is diluted, or old may be stiff and inefficient, while new may be refined. Sure, I'd like to seek out a Chen master to see what he has to offer, but I'm not going to get attached to origins. They're just part of the puzzle of finding a way, to me.

But yes, when I hear about Chang San Feng, I stiffen up because I don't see the value in invoking a dead mystical guy, having come from a club where a dead guy was quoted all the time. That was fine, but what are we doing in class today? <sigh>
 

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Hey Xue since we are going back 400 years to 1,000 years it may be impossible to come to a conclusion all we can do is speculate and come to the most probable answer using reason and logic.

This is my own conclusion as of now on the subject and it is my own writing:


Emperor Chengzu is reportly the first to mention him in a letter. There is reference to him in the Ningpo chronicles. Emperor Chengzu was a very supersitious person and very interested in religion and miltary learning. The thing is we run into a couple of problems with San Feng: 1.If we are to believe Emperor Chengzu was looking for him that would be during his reign most likely. That would be 1402-1424. The accounts of San Feng "alive" is 1279-1368 so San would have been dead already by the time Chengwu was looking for him. It may have been Chengwu knew this and used it as some sort of political gain or his superstitious behavior really belived that San Feng was some sort of Immortal man.
2.There are many names that are attributed to San Feng as his given name. I imagine trying to trace the names would be very hard.
3. Supposely there was 2 people using San Feng as a name.
If we look at the Hanzi &#24352;&#19977;&#20016; his name means to expand the 3 abundace.
It seems to me to be a very obvious taoist name and of course not his given name. It could mean something to do with the three treasures of Alchemy, maybe the 3 schools of Buddhist Taoist and Confucious which is what the Dragon gate sect is.
4.San Feng's Wudang sect name. Supposely San Feng founded a branch of the Lungmen sect called the San Feng pai(San Feng school) Looking at other Taoist sects,most of the names are not named after their founder for example: Tianshi Tao(celestial masters way) was not named Zhang Ling or(His name DaoLing)The same can be said for the other schools as well. But to be fair I do not know all the sub sects of Taoism so is it possible that San Feng named his sect after himself maybe but out of all the sects I have seen this is not the case.
Most are named after a concept or a very Taoist thought.
I think when the name San Feng sect came about San Feng was already defied at the time. Like for example Lao tzu becomes a god. I find this to be more reasonable.

I think it may have been possible that the name was given to different people at different times for what ever reason.

I think there was someone with the Taoist name San Feng I do not think it is unreasonable that thru the centuries someone had that name.
But to the claims associated with the name that may not be verified.

As for where does Wudang Taijiquan come from I do not know and sorting out myth from fact in that area is a whole different problem to tackle.
 
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Xue Sheng

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Hey Xue since we are going back 400 years to 1,000 years it may be impossible to come to a conclusion all we can do is speculate and come to the most probable answer using reason and logic.

This is my own conclusion as of now on the subject and it is my own writing:



I think it may have been possible that the name was given to different people at different times for what ever reason.

I think there was someone with the Taoist name San Feng I do not think it is unreasonable that thru the centuries someone had that name.
But to the claims associated with the name that may not be verified.

As for where does Wudang Taijiquan come from I do not know and sorting out myth from fact in that area is a whole different problem to tackle.

Thanks, I did not know that, and 1402-1424 is considerably older than what I found as the first reference in 1669

It is not unreasonable to think that someone had that name; I am not sure how common the family name Zhang is though. I shall have to check.

But it is highly like that if you find an actual person named Zhang Sanfeng it may be roughly equivalent to finding someone in US history named George Washington. That might have been his name but he was not necessarily the first president of the United States
 

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If any of you can read Chinese, I have articles on the life of Zhang San Feng and how he developed taichi, written by a taichi master in Taiwan. Also have articles on master Yang Lu Chan.
 
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Xue Sheng

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If any of you can read Chinese, I have articles on the life of Zhang San Feng and how he developed taichi, written by a taichi master in Taiwan. Also have articles on master Yang Lu Chan.

Thanks but...

Yes they were written by Taiji masters and yes Yang Luchan wrote about it and yes my Sigung and sifu will tell you all about him but all of it is based on hearsay and myth with no historic facts to back it up.

Did he exist&#8230; I don&#8217;t know and to be true to historic evidence no one else does either

But for a hour or more a day...he does exist without doubt
 
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ahba

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Have you heard the story that Zhang San Feng was simply a tufo maker, doing tufo business?
 

MarkFF

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I was this year in Wudang Mountains :)
I was in a cave in which Zhang Sanfeng did the practice. I in it was engaged in meditation :)
 
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