According to the book,“The Orthodoxy of Taijiquan,”written by Mr. Du Yuanhua in 1935, the essence (Daoist philosophy) of Taijiquan was invented by Lao Zi who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (722 to 418/480 B.C.). The book says it was passed on to many generations through his disciple. Mi Xi, then to Zhang Sanfeng, and after several generations to Wang Linzhen, who lived in Taigu County in Shanxi Province. Wang taught it to Jiang Fa who lived in Wenxian (County) in Henan Province; Jiang Fa passed it on to Zhaobao Town.
Legend proclaims that Zhang Sanfeng was a Shaolin Temple monk who was exhiled and then became a Daoist, learning the concepts and theories left by Laozi and descendents there of he developed a completely new approach based on gentle internally focused skills.
History and Development
Jiang Fa (蒋法), the first generation of Zhaobao Taijiquan, was born in the second year of the reign of Wanli in the Ming Dynasty. He lived in a small village named Xiaoliu Village, several kilometers from Zhaobao Town. When he was 22 years old and competed with others, he happened to be noticed by an old man who occassionally stayed at an inn in Zhaobao Town. The old man had a talk with others about the competition and said:“Between them, the young man wearing the purple cotton gown (e.g., Jiang Fa) has a rather good, natural gift.” The innkeeper passed on the old man's comment to Jiang Fa. Hearing that, Jiang Fa knew that the old man must be a master with deep gongfu. Then he asked the innkeeper to call on the old man with him and expressed to him that he hoped to formally acknowledge him as his master, so as to learn gongfu from him.
The old man, whose name was Wang Linzhen, refused him, giving an excuse that he was very busy with his business. However, he agreed to teach him at last after Jiang Fa's continuous requests. The next day, Mr. Wang was leaving for Zhengzhou to inspect his business. Jiang Fa saw his master off at Sishui Ferry. Before they said good-bye, they made an appointment for Mr. Wang to come back to meet Jiang and take him to Shanxi Province to teach him Taijiquan. On the given day, Jiang went to the ferry to meet his master, and Mr. Wang arrived on time. Jiang went back home with his master. After simple preparations were made, he went to his master's hometown in Shanxi Province and learned Taijiquan from him for seven years. A good relationship was established between them.
Jiang Fa (Ancestor of Zhaobao Taijiquan) and Chen Wangting (陈王廷, Ancestor of Chen Style Taijiquan) were
said to be very close friends and therefore the development of Taijiquan is attributable to both their efforts. In one of the classical paintings of Chen village both Chen Wangting and Jiang Da are depicted. The Chen family were thought to practice Paochui, a Shaolin based boxing system that they later enhanced with Taijiquan. An older lineage of Taijiquan (often mistaken as a earlier diver line) commonly known as Xiaojia (Small Frame) has many features adhering to Zhaobao Taijiquan. The classical manual written by Chen Xin (the main written reference for Chen Style practitioners) actually also describe the Xiaojia Chen Style practice.
Master Wang told Jiang Fa: "I learned this kind of boxing from a wandering Taoist priest. He told me that this kind of boxing had a long his-tory, and there is a direction put in verse to be as evidence for it. “It says: ‘Taiji comes from the Earth and Heaven; initiated by Laozi and passed on by Mizi; . . . teaching you the boxing, you can be immortal.' Now I have taught you the boxing and told you the secret directions. You should teach it to the chosen per-sons, but never do it casually.” Before Jiang Fa went back home. Master Wang urged him again and again:“ You should not teach others limitlessly. I do not mean that you never teach the boxing to others, but it must be passed on only to good persons. Once you have chosen a person and thought it is worth teaching him, you should tell all about what you know. Not to teach the ones who should be taught equals no heir. I hope it spreads more broadly. Jiang Fa did not teach a person casually, according to Master Wang in his hometown, until he met Xing Xihuai, who lived near Xiaoliu Village, Zhaobao Town.
Xing Xihuai (邢喜怀) had been admiring Jiang's skills for a long time, but he couldn't get an opportunity to learn boxing from him because he had a limited relation with Jiang. So he decided to approach Jiang. Therefore, whenever Jiang went to Zhaobao Town on business, he treat-ed him cordially, in the hope of learn-ing boxing from him by increasing the relationship between them. After two years of observation, Jiang Fa was sure that Xing Xihuai was honest and sincere, and respectful to others. Thus, he decided to teach all that he knew, especially the secrets of the style, to Xing Xihuai, who became the second generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan.
Xing worked very hard and made such great progress that his skill reached an amazing level. According to legend, he was of the unique skill of “sticking himself on the wall like a picture.”Following his master, he passed on his skill to his sworn brother, Zhang Chuchen.
Zhang Chuchen (张楚臣), the 3rd generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan, from Shanxi Province, ran a Chinese medicine store first and then a grain store. He imparted his boxing to Chen Jingbai.
Chen Jingbai (陈敬伯), the 4th generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan, was born in Zhaobao Town itself. Chen was a person of excellent character, believable, and his skills of boxing reached an excellent state called “Magical Boxer” because he was famous for both his art of boxing and his virtue. To spread Taijiquan more broadly, Chen broke the confinement of not casually passing on the boxing and enrolled more than 800 disciples. Sixteen of them got some essence of the boxing, and eight of them got the general skills. However, only Zhang Zongyu thoroughly took over the mantle of the boxing.
Zhang Zongyu (张宗禹), the 5th generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan, was a native of Zhaobao and had a high level of boxing skill. It was said that he had reached a high level that “no force can be added or reduced, not even a feather or an insect.”He passed on the boxing to his grandson, Zhang Yan.
Zhang Yan (张彦), the 6th generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan, was a remark-able martial arts master, called "Extraordinary Master Zhang Yan." He not only mastered the boxing arts, but also assimilated advantages from different schools, going out of Zhaobao Town to visit famous masters in different places successfully. For example, he went to Chang Naizhou in Sishui County in Henan Province, who had been the Number One of martial arts in an emperor's examination, and to Huang Dangjia in Caozhou Prefecture, called“the king within 500 square kilometers.”He also went three times to Chenjiagou Village, to exchange ideas on boxing arts with them. Zhang Yan's swordsmanship reached the acme of perfection, being famous in the martial arts field for removing evil and quieting the good for the local people: killing a huge boa,a ruffian, and a evil monk in Caoxian County. He passed on his arts to Chen Qingping.
Chen Qingping ( 陳清苹, 1795-1868), the 7th generation of Zhaobao style Taijiquan and a native of Zhaobao (some records depict as being from Chen village and then marrying to a lady from Zhaobao, where he resided most of his life), had an unusual talent because he was well versed in both polite letters and martial arts. He was also a key person in the history of Taijiquan. He not only achieved a high level in boxing arts but was also good at summing up its experiences. Furthermore, he contributed to its theory. It is said he had learnt from both Zhang Yan and Chen Youben, thus integrating the earliest systems of Taijiquan to develop a great level of skill.
He taught students in accordance with their aptitude, imparting on them dailijia, lingluojia, or tengnuojia separately. In the preface of the book “Yang-Style Taijiquan”says:“I learned Taijiquan from Chen Changxing in Chenjiagou Village, but I mastered it from Chen Qingping in Zhaobao Town. ”Wu Yuxiang ( 武禹襄, 1812-1880) student of Yang Luchan and the founder of Wu style Taijiquan, learned the arts and theory of Taijiquan from Chen Qingping and received from him a book,“Taiji Manual,”written by Wang Zongyue. Based on “Taiji Manual,”Wu Yuxiang initiated Wu style Taijiquan. Chen Qingping also taught his boxing to Jingyang (his son Chen), He Zhaoyuan, Niu Fahu, Li Jingyan, Li Zhuozhi, Ren Changchun, and Zhang Jingzhi, etc.
All of them were the eighth generation of Zhaobao Taijiquan. From the students of Chen Qingping, the style of Zhabao Taijiquan spread throughout Zhaobao village and across many parts of China and the number of practitioners has increased until this day.