History

Wu Style Hao Family Tai Ji Quan*

Wu Style Tai Ji was founded by Wu YuXiang. Although there is a short historical reference to Wu Style Tai Ji in manuscripts written by Li YiYu in which he mentions that he does not know who or where Tai Ji Quan was created, nevertheless, the Tai Ji Treatise written by Wang ZongYue has described its theory fully.

In each subsequent generation of Tai Ji practitioners only a few were able to master the skills. Chen ChangXing at the Chen Village had the skills and Yang LuChan from GuangPing liked the practice and went to study with Chen for over 10 years to acquire the skills. Wu YuXiang admired Yang’s skills. However, upon returning, Yang was not willing to share the knowledge. Later Wu YuXiang learned that Chen QingPin in ZhaoBao City was also a master and decided to visit him. After studying for slightly more than a month he was able to understand the skills.  Li YiYu, who was over twenty at that time, decided to study with his uncle Wu YuXiang. He practiced more than twenty years to become proficient.

The oral history maintains that after Wu learned the skills, he obtained Wang ZongYue’s Tai Ji manual, which had been discovered in a salt store by Wu’s brother. Together, Wu and Li sought to combine the theoretical understanding derived from Wang’s manual and the skills learned from Chen QingPin to create Wu Style Tai Ji, which is unique and in appearance is different from other styles.

The above is an abbreviated history. The details of the relationship of Wu and Yang are not described by Li YiYu. The story goes that Wu, who came from one of the prominent, wealthy families in town, supported Yang and his family financially during the years that Yang went to study. In addition, Yang sent one of his sons, Yang BanHou, to Wu’s school to study Chinese literature. However, Yang BanHou did not have the temperament for literature, and therefore Wu instead taught his style of Tai Ji to him. Many believe the small frame Yang style was created as a result of Yang BanHou’s study with Wu.

It is notable that both Wu and Li are scholars and were the first to provide written descriptions of how to train to develop Tai Ji skills. Much of the technical terminology found in the Thirteen Body Principles and other writings has been borrowed and used by other Tai Ji styles.

Hao WeiZhen was a neighbor of Li and was fond of martial arts. He was Li’s best student. His favorite weapon was a halberd weighing fifty pounds. Li had copied three Wu Style Tai Ji manuscripts: a collection of Wang ZongYue’s, Wu YuXiang’s and Li’s own writings by hand and gave one of the the copies to him. Hao WeiZhen later decided to go to Bejing to teach Wu Style Tai Ji. While travelling to Beijing, Hao WeiZhen ate bad food and was very ill. Sun LuTang, who was a famous master of the internal arts of XingYi and BaGua took him in and cured him. In appreciation, Hao taught Wu Style Tai Ji to Sun. Later Sun started to teach this style of Tai Ji, which is now known as Sun Style Tai Ji.

Hao WeiZhen had a son named Hao YueRu and a grandson named Hao ShaoRu. Both son and grandson became Tai Ji experts and went south to Shanghai and Nanjing to teach and promote Wu Style Tai Ji, while some of Hao WeiZhen’s students continued to teach it in the north. This is the reason one might hear that there are Northern and Southern versions of Wu Style Tai Ji. Over the years, YueRu and ShaoRu continued to expand the art and created innovative ways of teaching such as the four distinct stages (initiate, engaged, express and converge) in each sequence of movements. In 1963 Hao ShaoRu wrote a book to introduce the Wu style and included excerpts from Li YiYu’s hand-written manuscript. In 1994 after ShaoRu’s death, a second book written by him was published that expanded on the 1963 book.

Master Liu JiShun was one of the best students of Hao ShaoRu in Shanghai. When Hao ShaoRu was older, he often designated Master Liu as his representative in public events. Master Liu later traveled to the United States and taught Tai Ji publicly in the San Francisco area. He later retired to Southern California. Master Liu has continued to evolve Wu Style Tai Ji. Some of his contributions are eight “finding the flow” exercises, and the Sword Form. He also revived the Fast Form with assistance from Hao ShaoRu.

During three generations, the Hao family has studied and refined Wu Style Tai Ji. To honor their efforts and contributions, the southern branch of Wu Style Tai Ji is often called Wu Hao Style (Wu Style Hao Family) Tai Ji Quan.

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* Chinese is a tonal language with five tones, there is often confusion among people who do not speak Chinese about how to enunciate Wu (). To further the confusion, there is a Wu () style Tai Ji which is a derivation of Yang Style and which was created by a student of Yang LuChan. is a lower, or third tone in Wu-Hao Tai Ji, while is a higher, second tone.