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Wu Yu Xiang And The Taijiquan Classics

Wu Yu Xiang's brother, Deng Qing, discovered Wang Tsung Yueh's Taijiquan Classic in a salt store in the province he was governing. We can speculate that his subordinates knew of his love for Taijiquan and brought the manuscript to him when it was discovered.

Wu Deng Qing forwarded a copy of the Classic to Wu Yu Xiang, who found it inspiring and wrote several thesis based on the principles in Wang Tsung Yueh's work for his students. In total, there are three works attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh, the Taijiquan Classic, the 13 Postures and the Taijiquan Discourse.

It should be noted that some people suggest that Wu Yu Xiang authored the works that are attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh. The author notes, however, that the Taijiquan Discourse has text that is almost identical to the song formula handed down by Du Yu Wan which is recorded at the back of Chen Xin's book. That song formula is also attributed to Wang Tsung Yueh in Chen Xin's book. The author also notes that Wu Yu Xiang did not hesitate to put his name on the works he wrote, notably, the Song Formula of Methods of Use for the Thirteen Postures (Shi San Shih Xing Gong Ke Jue) and Important Words On Hitting Hands (Da Shou Yao Yan). These works and other writings by Wang Tsung Yueh, as well as notes on his early and later forms, were recorded in several handwritten manuals written by Wu Yu Xiang's nephew Li I Yu. On balance, the author considers this as convincing evidence that Wu Yu Xiang did indeed get access to Wang Tsung Yueh's authentic work.

Li I Yu's Scholarly Contributions

Li I Yu (1832-1892) learned the art of Taijiquan from his uncle Wu Yu Xiang, and was one of the great recorders of the writings and content of the art. He left behind several handwritten manuals on the art including the three old manuals of Yung Nien County.

In addition to recording the classic writings of Wang Tsung Yueh and his uncle Wu Yu Xiang, Li also wrote some important works on the art. These were also included in his manuals. Li I Yu's compilation of song formulas and classic writings form the basis of what are now known as the Taijiquan Classics. These Classics catalog the Taijiquan's principles and their application.

Li I Yu passed down the art to Hao Wei Chen (1849-1920) and the Hao family continues to this day to popularize it. Descendants of both Li and Wu Yu Xiang are still around today and continue to practice this form of Taijiquan.

Wu Yu Xiang's Early Form

From the manuals of Li I Yu, we have on record the early form that Wu Yu Xiang practiced. It is almost exactly the same as the old Yang form and retains the characteristic names of the postures like Grasp Sparrows Tail. This indicates that what Yang Lu Chan taught was not the Old Chen style, but his style which he attributed to Chen Chang Xin.

By deduction, we calculate that Wu Yu Xiang would have started studying with Yang Lu Chan in 1849, since Yang left for the Chen village at 10 years of age and spent 30 years studying with Chen Chang Xin. We also know that Wu Yu Xiang trained with Chen Qing Ping for 40 days while in 1852, the same year in which he obtained a copy of Wang Tsung Yueh's writings. Since Li I Yu began studying with Wu Yu Xiang in 1853, we can conclude that the initial form Li I Yu recorded was essentially the old Yang form with which Wu was most familiar. Only later did Wu Yu Xiang modify his form to a small frame sequence that is recorded in a later manual by Li I Yu.

Yang Ban Hou lived from 1837 to 1892, which would indicate that he was already a teenager and was already skilled at Taijiquan when Wu Yu Xiang went to study with Chen Qing Ping. We know that Wu Yu Xiang tutored Pan Hou when he was studying with Yang Lu Chan from various sources like Zhao Bin and Gu Liu Xin. We don't know, however, if he continued to tutor Ban Hou after he trained with Chen Qing Ping.

While some assert that the Yang Small Frame was due to influence from the Wu Yu Xiang, at this point we must consider this as conjecture. The Yang Small Frame which comes down to us from Wu Chien Quan has little resemblance to Wu Yu Xiang's small frame and the primary reason for the origin of that form was the Imperial Court Dress which hampered movement. We note that Yang Pan Hou's training regime, which is still taught in Yung Nien, included training in three heights and in four frames, one of which is a small frame, the form did not change but the way it was done changed. Consequently we refer to Yang Ban Hou's form and that of his brother and father (they taught together and so their forms should have been relatively alike) as the old Yang form. It is unlikely that Wu Yu Xiang's small frame had influenced Yang Ban Hou's form whilst Pan Hou was studying with his father.

 

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