Learning About Ancient Chinese History

Learning About Ancient Chinese History

We believe it is important to be on the same level of information as young Chinese people in order to truly understand their story. This presentation is a little above average Chinese folk knowledge of their history.

This is by no means a complete Chinese history lesson, but we have picked out the things that we think are most interesting for our school in order to understand certain backgrounds.

The material for this video can be downloaded here!

Sima Qian’s Shiji

Sima Qian’s Shiji
Sima Qian

In Sima Qian’s Shiji, it is written that Lao Tzu was a native of the state of Chu, which is located in what is today the southern part of China. It is also written in this ancient source that Lao Tzu’s name was Li Er ( 李耳) and that he served as a keeper of archival records at the Zhou imperial court. There have also been claims that Lao Tzu was consulted by Confucius on certain matters of ritual, and subsequently heaped praises on him.

Sima Qian also wrote that Lao Tzu lived in the state of Zhou long enough to witness its decline. As a result, Lao Tzu decided to depart. When Lao Tzu arrived at the northwestern border that separated China from the rest of the world, he met an official in charge of the border crossing by the name of Yin Xi.

It was this official who requested Lao Tzu to put his teachings into writing. The result of this request was a book which consisted of about 5000 Chinese characters and is known today as the Tao Te Ching (道德经). Lao Tzu seems to have disappeared after this, and neither his date nor place of death is recorded in Sima Qian’s account.

The Wudang Taiji System

The Wudang Taiji System

Taiji is an internal training method that was created by the great Daoist priest and immortal, Zhang San Feng at Wudang Mountain. When people discuss Taiji, they are referring to Taijiquan or the forms practice involved in Taiji. However, in Wudang, Taijiquan is considered a part of the greater ‘Taiji System.’ The Taiji System is composed of 3 parts: Wuji, Taiji, and Liangyi. Each of these three parts contains their practices, purposes, and methods of training. Although the Taiji System is separated into three parts, they are all integrated and complementary to the others.

Wuji is another name for Daoist meditation practice. The practice of Wuji (loosely translated as ‘ultimate emptiness’) is for the cultivation of our three vitalities: Jing (Essence), Qi (Energy), and Shen (spirit).

We practice Wuji to promote the health of these three vitalities; Wuji is also understood as the road to immortality. To become stronger and more robust in our health and our lives, we must strengthen and practice our Jing, Qi, and Shen.

Taiji is the balancing interaction of yin and yang. Under the Taiji System, Taijiquan is the form that we use to cultivate ourselves and learn to develop and understand the feeling in our bodies and how to integrate that into movement. In Taijiquan practice, we learn to conceal hardness within the softness of movement and learn to use our breathing through the Dantian, and our intention and internal awareness to guide our movement. Contrary to the widespread misconception that Taijiquan is simply a calisthenic exercise for the elderly, it is a deeply internal practice that requires great dedication and a strong determination.

Liangyi is the separation of yin and yang. Under the Taiji System, Liangyiquan is for the use of the energy that we have cultivated through our practice. Whereas in Taijiquan we combine the soft and hard, in Liangyiquan practice, we separate the soft and hard. The power of Liangyiquan is explosive, resembling a bomb detonating; its practice is more for use in the practical fighting application. While in Taijiquan, all movement is the same speed, with the same balance of softness and hardness at once, Liangyiquan movement is slow and soft, followed by fast, explosive movement, called fali.

The practice of all of the elements that comprise the Taiji System can help us to more deeply understand our bodies and minds and learn the methods to make them cleaner, clearer, quieter, and healthier. Taiji training teaches us not only to train our muscles, tendons, and bones, but also to teach our intention, internal feeling, awareness, and power.

The Origin of Taiji

The Origin of Taiji

Influenced by Daoist religion and philosophy, ancient Chinese people invented many methods for cultivating essential nature and eternal life for longevity and immortality: Dao Yin; Tu Na; sitting meditation; observing the inner body and the mind; five animal play; and, many ceremonial forms of Daoist rituals. These all contributed to the origins of Taiji.

About 700 years ago, Zhang Sanfeng came to Wu Dang to cultivate his internal energy to achieve immortality. When he observed a snake fighting with a sparrow, he had a breakthrough and created Taiji 13 postures. This emerged from the ancient art of internal cultivation, combined with all the characteristics of martial arts styles and his internal alchemy method. Wu Dang internal martial arts were created during the same period.

Taiji is not just the simple Taiji forms that we see in current times. It is a combination of Wu Ji, Taiji and Liang Yi, three different levels of form. The movement became a cultivation method with many facets: stillness to motion; exterior to interior; basic to advanced; motion united with stillness; and fast movements combined with slow movements.

Zhang Sanfeng became known as the developer or assembler of Taiji. He refined these ancient arts and created the Wu Dang Taiji system. From him, two branches extended, one to the North and one to the South. In the North, his successor was Wang Zhong Yue, and subsequently, his successor Jiang Fa created Zhao Bao Taiji. This became a community style, which differed from the style practiced in the monastery. Five styles evolved from Jiang Fa: Chen Wang Ting’s Chen style Taiji; Yang Lu Chang’s Yang style Taiji; Wu Yu Xiang’s Wu style Taiji; Wu Jian Chuan’s Wu style Taiji; and, Sun Lu Tang’s Sun Style Taiji. These five styles became the most popular styles in the world today. From the Southern lineage, the successor Zhang Song Xi, was in turn succeeded by several families who remain more mystical and less known to the world.

Wu Dang mountain Taiji and Zhao Bao Taiji remain more traditionally mystical and secret.

From 1959 to today, the Chinese government has created many simplified styles of Taiji from the different family styles. These simplified styles and competition routines are designed for people to practice and to promote Taiji for the general public.

The Historical Truth of Wudang

The Historical Truth of Wudang

Over the past fifty years, China has undergone a tremendous amount of change. The Wudang Daoists faced persecution, undergone a renaissance and began to spread worldwide. These changes are necessary to understand the Wudang Martial Arts and its origin.

The Mao Zedong Revolution 1966-1976

During 1966 to 1976 China fell into social and political chaos called the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong or also known as Chairman Mao appealed to young people to purge the nation from the old customs: culture, habits, and ideas – also known as the “Four Olds”. The first targets were temples, even now you can see burned temples and ruins in Wudang. The Daoists had to leave their homes and were forbidden to have disciples. During the Cultural Revolution Wudang received less damage than other sacred places because of these reasons:

  1. During the Civil War, the leader He Long (贺龙) from the communist party suffered a grave defeat and fled to the Wudang Mountains. The Daoist Xu Ben Shan (徐本善) helped He Long to recover from his wounds, as they were both martial artists they became friends and shared their skills with each other. This connection contributed to preventing critical damage to the Wudang temples.
  2. Li Chen Yu (李诚玉) a Daoist nun had the courage to stay in Wudang, refusing to leave she glued her mouth and sat in meditation on the front stairs of the temple. Unable to eat and drink she sat there for several days. The soldiers also known as Red Guards respected her skill and accepted a handful of high-ranking Daoists to stay in the temple.
  3. Some Daoists placarded the famous temples with a “Long Live Chairman Mao” sign. The sign was everywhere over the statues and frescoes leaving the Red Guards unable to act as defacing anything related to Chairman Mao is seen as an anti-revolutionary act. Due to this smart idea, the main temples survived and as the political situation changed the hard work to remove these sign began, in some places you can still see the remains of the “Long Live Chairman Mao” sign today.

Reforming Daoism

Deng Xiaoping, the new leader of China during 1978, liberalized the social-economy and began to change the country. In 1979 religious practice became legal and a few years later in 1986 Wang Guangde (王光德) – the Abbot of the Wudang Mountains announced to the public to welcome the Daoists to return home. The most significant people hearing his call are:


Zhu Chengde (朱成德) 1898 -1990

Zhu Chengde, born into a low-income family during his early life he begged on the streets. Around this time he met a Daoist Wanderer and became his disciple. At the age of sixteen, he was forced to join the nationalist army. In 1939 he had to quit for health reasons and became a Daoist priest. He came looking for his master in the Wudang Mountains, but he learned that he had died already. During the Mao Zedong period, he was assigned to a hard-labor brigade where he was assigned to help with wood chopping and fertilizing. As the political reform began, he returned to the Wudang Mountains and continued his practice. His Qi Gong mastery received national attention.

Guo Gaoyi

Guo Gaoyi (郭高一) 1921-1996

Guo Gaoyi, born in Henan Province and practiced martial arts since childhood. In his teenager period, he fought in the Sino-Japanese War and met many skilled martial artists during that time. After the war was over, he became a Daoist priest in a temple in Liaoning Province, where he learned the art of Taijiquan from Yang Mingzhen (杨明真) a Daoist from the Wudang Mountains. During Mao Zedong, he was forced to leave the temple and return to his hometown. In 1981 he returned to his master on the White Cloud Mountain in Henan Province, as he passed away, he came to the Wudang Mountains in 1983 and started teaching.


Lu Zijian (吕紫剑) 1893 – 2012

Lu Zijian, known as “Knight of Yangzi” and born into a family of martial artists from Hubei. His mother taught him martial arts at the age of seven. With eighteen years came to the capital Bejing to improve his training. In 1920 he became a member of the Nationalist Military Committee. When the nationalists fled to Taiwan Lu Zijian stayed in China and was forced into a hard-labor camp. Much later in 1980 he won martial arts competitions and built up a reputation for his martial arts skills – which received national attention. Lu Zijian was named “Leading Authority of Chinese Wushu”. There is a rumor that he became 118 years old; however, China stated this claim as wrong since his life was insufficiently documented. The fact that he became old remains true, and Lu Zijian might be the oldest Daoist in history.


Zhao Jianying (赵剑英) 1926 – 2011

Zhao Jianyin, born in Hubei and suffered since childhood from a poor constitution. Zhao Jianying started to study martial arts to improve her health condition when she was six years old. Zhao Jianying helped during the Sino-Japanese War, nursed injured soldiers and taught them hand-to-hand combat at the age of fifteen. During the Mao Zedong period, she lived with her husband in Guangxi Province where she taught martial arts. Zhao Jianying came to Wudang Mountain in 1980 to help to preserve the Wudang Tai Yi Wu Xing Quan (Five Element Form).

Wudang Tradition lives on

Zhu Chengde, Guo Gaoyi, Lu Zijian and Zhao Jianying passed on their knowledge to today’s San Feng Lineage Zhong Yun Long (钟云龙) and Xuan Wu Lineage You Xuan De (游玄德). Enough damage was done to consider the opening of the Wudang school to the public as necessary to preserve the Internal Wudang Martial Arts. Guo Gaoyi was assigned as the Chief Coach of the first reformed Daoist Association Martial Arts Academy, and with the help of Zhong Yun Long, the Wudang school became open for everyone in 1989.

Zhong Yun Long was assigned to a recruited group of young people to pass on the Wudang Teachings. Part of this group was my Master Yuan Xiu Gang and my second Master Xiang Wen Chen (Chen Shiyu), a decade later I became an official disciple of Yuan Xiu Gang and continued my studies a year later at Chen Shiyu’s school, more about my training here.

You Xuan De opened a second Wudang school in the Wudang Mountains in 1994. However, the teachings differ from the San Feng Lineage and these two schools spread in two directions.

As Guo Gaoyi passed away, the San Feng Lineage is lead by Chief Coach Zhong Yun Long as the 14th Lineage Inheritor to preserve authenticity.

Wudang International

Beginning in the late 90s, many of the 15th generation students my masters trained with started to open Wudang schools on the mountain. An Academy lead by the government on the Wudang Mountains appeared; to perform for visiting tourists. The movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and several other media attention helped to improve the reputation of Wudang; drawing a large number of international students. A lot of these students opened Wudang schools in their countries, spreading Wudang outside of the borders of China.

In 2015 our International Wudang Academy became official to promote Wudang Culture worldwide and guarantee the study of authentic Wudang Internal Martial Arts for everyone. Today people around the planet can learn over our online classes or study in our facilities without a language barrier.

For the Chinese, dragons represent the male, yang element and are a beneficent force of nature despite their fiery tempers. The…

For the Chinese, dragons represent the male, yang element and are a beneficent force of nature despite their fiery tempers. The…

For the Chinese, dragons represent the male, yang element and are a beneficent force of nature despite their fiery tempers. The…

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