Many Chen Tai Chi practitioners claim that Chen Tai Chi is the oldest Tai Chi. Compared to the Tai Chi styles which were around before 1988 this was not so far off. Chen Tai Chi is considered to have Buddhist influence, while Wudang Tai Chi is based on Taoist teachings.
The following article is written on facts from conversations with Taoists from the Wudang mountains:
The oldest Tai Chi form on earth considered by the Wudang Taoists is Wudang Sanfeng Tai Chi 13, followed by the Wudang Sanfeng Tai Chi 108 form.
Why was this not discovered sooner?
- Wudangshan was previously called Tai He Shan, the name was different and the Taoists were all killed by the Chinese republic revolution. Most of their temples and books were burned.
- The Taoist monasteries before 1988 (Source: Zhong Yunlong) had strict rules and were not available for outsiders. The first documented Taoist monasteries appeared in the year 142. The actual origin is estimated at the late 4th century BCE. This makes Taoist tradition much older and the connection between the Taoist Tai Chi practice make this origin almost undoubtedly.
Why would Taoist tradition connect to the origin of Tai Chi?
Taoists always wanted to improve life. The oldest documented form for longevity is called Ba Duan Jin (Eight Brocade) Qi Gong which Taoist influence is documented at 1300. The actual origin of this Qi Gong is estimated at 1150. Posture, Breathing, Intention and Concentration were equally trained in Ba Duan Jin and built a perfect foundation for the Tai Chi principles we know today.
The birth of internal Tai Chi Quan
The Eight Immortals have a big influence to the Taoist teachings. By constantly improving body and mind, becoming stronger and healthier, the Tai Chi 13 form was created by Zhang Sanfeng. The exact year remains a mystery but this must have happen around the year 1200-1400. Many history books explain two different Zhang Sanfeng. Zhang Sanfeng was merely a nickname which can be translated as “Heaven and Earth”. For someone who attained the knowledge of Tao, Sanfeng might be a fitting name. However Zhang Sanfeng is seen as creator of Neijia (internal martial arts) which is an integral part of Tai Chi. There is a clear written record that Zhang Sanfeng created the Tai Chi 13 form. (additional Source: Grandmaster Zhong Yunlong Interview).
How the Wudang teachings came to Chen Village
In the 17th century a Taoist monk named Wang Zhongyue 王宗岳 came to Chenjiagou. Wang Zhongyue was asked to teach the Tai Chi form. Why he did this or what exactly happen is unclear but it started the Chen Tai Chi teachings we know today. (Source: Wikipedia)
Tai Chi as part of Internal Wudang Martial Arts
The principles of Nei Gong, Qi Gong, Kung Fu and Liang Yi are integrated in the Wudang Tai Chi system. Meditative (Wuji) aspects of Nei Gong, breathing, stretching and posture from Qi Gong, fighting aspect and intention from Kung Fu, harmonizing Yin and Yang with the doctrines of Liang Yi. Tai Chi is the connecting element to control all this aspects in motion. That Wudang Tai Chi is so well developed today we owe to the ancient documented Taoist experiences.