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Wu Style Foundings and Designations

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 3:07 pm
by Audi
Greetings everyone,

I think I know the rudiments of how the two Wu styles were founded, but I once ran into a ranking question that threw me for a loop because of its specific wording. This has led me to a desire for greater precision.

I have a vague suspicion that I have raised one or more of these questions in the past; if so, I apologize for the repetition.

Who exactly is credited with founding Wu Jianquan Style, Wu Jianquan or his father, Quan Yu? In other words, how should I complete the sentence: "Wu Style was founded by _____"? The issue, as I understand it, is not one of transmission, but one of retroactively deciding on a date for an "official" separation from Yang Style.

In a "mixed" forum such as this, what is the best way to refer to Wu Jianquan Style to differentiate it from Wu/Hao Style? I have the same question about Wu/Hao Style. (By the way, those who know no Chinese may want to know that the two Wu's are "spelled" with different characers and pronounced differently, hence confusion does not arise in Chinese when referring to "Wu Style.")

Is there a strongly preferred English spelling of Wu Jianquan's name and of his father's? I generally try to use Pinyin for everything, unless I am aware of some other need or some other specific preference.

Is there a generally preferred designation for the Wu/Hao Style by its practitioners or is it okay to give credit to either the Wu or Hao families or both at will?

Any thoughts on any of these questions are welcome. I am not necessarily looking for authoritative answers, since I am sure that practitioners will have different viewpoints on these issues and that no one can speak authoritatively except for limited segments of the Taiji community.

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 4:58 pm
by tai1chi
Hi Audi,

ime, Wu Jianquan is the equivalent of YCF to his system: i.e., the one who standardized and popularized the style of TJQ he promoted. WJQ and YCF traveled together and taught at many of the same places. Imo, it's probably because of their close relationship that led to the practice of naming TJQ "schools." Quanyou didn't, afaik, run a school --or teach publicly. In Shanghai, where WJQ and YCF were both located for a time, the major TJQ institution was the Jianquan Association.

As you know --and several on this list will acknowledge, I think-- the "Wu" family carried their art to Hong Kong and N. America. (I'm not sure, but I don't think there was a 'family" representative in Beijing --though there were important practicioners. The Beijing variant is often called "Northern Wu." The late Wang Peisheng was one of the most well known practitioners.) Btw, Eddie Wu in N.America is becoming the amily "gatekeeper" in a big ceremony soon, if it hasn't happened already. It might be an indication that the family is trying to unify the main branches. The 3branches, afaik, would all claim Jianquan as the founder of the style.

However, they were both practicing variants/descendants of "Yang" Luchan's art, and thus "Yang style." Buut, then one could argue that YLC was just practicing a variant of Chen style. But, I think that the relation is different, more like that of parent to child. Wu and Yang styles today are like siblings of that child.

As far as names, some people call it Ng style --but not everyone speaks that dialect, so... The Wu/Hao thing is interesting, and absolutely wrong, but is probably the simplest way to describe them. Wu (or Woo) style is different from Hao style, similarly to the way Wu (Ng) is different from Yang. Again, it's like a brother/sister relationship, imo. Yang style is like a cousin.

Maybe the best way to distinguish the two Wu styles is to specify "Wu Yuxiang" or "Wu Jianquan style. Ultimately, I don't know if the problem of names can be solved without direct experience with the styles.
And, at that point, one is learning the style of one's teacher, no matter his name or the name of what he teaches. I think that is how it all got started.

aack, too long, back to work,
Steve James

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 10:19 pm
by shugdenla
The Wu style was founded by Quan Yu, the Manchu. As the family became more 'sinicized', the surname became Wu (Jianquan=son) or Shanghai Wu vs the Quan Yu initial variant known as Northern Wu.

The styles are not that much different though there are unique variation based on Peisheng Northern Wu version influenced by Yang Yu. Northern Wu is more upright while Quan Yu son Jianquan variant is more forward inclined at angle.

Wu Yuxian/Hao Weizhen influenced Sun Style so one can see its images in Sun execution.

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 11:32 pm
by Polaris
Where to start?

Eddie Wu is my sifu, and I have first hand information on the Wu family ranking system.

Wu Ch'uan-yu (Quanyuo) is considered the founder of the style. He was the senior disciple of Yang Pan-hou, but learned his t'ai chi originally from Yang Lu-ch'an. In 1870 he was given permission by the Yangs to teach his own students, which he did for the next 30 years. 1870 also saw the birth of his son, Wu Chien-ch'uan (Jianquan). The family story is Ch'uan-yu was granted the surname Wu …Ç by the Imperial family (the Aisin Gioro) for recognition of Ch'uan-yu's military service as a cavalry commander for the elite Palace Battalion of the Imperial guard. The Chinese surname Wu approximates the pronunciation of the first syllable of the family's four-syllable Manchu name. Ch'uan-yu was granted this name very late in his life, circa 1900, so for most of his career and to most of his students and peers he was known without the surname.

Wu Chien-ch'uan grew up with Yang Shao-hou and Yang Ch'eng-fu as childhood friends and became a teacher in his turn, eventually joining the faculty of the Beijing Physical Culture Research institute with them and Sun Lu-t'ang, the first school to ever offer t'ai chi instruction to the general public. In the late 1920s, WCC and YCF moved to Shanghai. There, WCC founded the "Chien-ch'uan T'ai Chi Ch'uan Association" (èaȪ̫˜OÈ­Éç) in 1935.

So, while Wu Ch'uan-yu is considered the founder of the family teaching, Wu Chien-ch'uan is considered the founder of the family "business." The family says that they are "co-founders."

The "gatekeepers" of their lineage have been as follows:

1st Generation

Wu Ch'uan-yu (…ÇÈ«ÓÓ, 1834-1902), who learned from Yang Lu-ch'an and Yang Pan-hou, was senior instructor of the family from 1870-1902.

2nd generation

His oldest son, Wu Chien-ch'uan (…ÇèaȪ, 1870-1942), was senior from 1902-1942.

3rd Generation

His oldest son, Wu Kung-i (…ǹ«ƒx, 1900-1970) was senior from 1942-1970.

3rd Generation

Wu Kung-i's younger brother, Wu Kung-tsao (…ǹ«Ôå, 1903-1983), was senior from 1970-1983.

3rd Generation

Wu Kung-i's younger sister, Wu Ying-hua (…ÇÓ¢ÈA, 1907-1997), was senior from 1983-1997.

4th Generation

Wu Kung-i's daughter, Wu Yan-hsia (…ÇÑãϼ, 1930-2001) was senior from 1997-2001.

4th Generation

Wu Kung-tsao's son, Wu Ta-hsin (…Ç´óÐÂ, 1933-2005), was senior from 2001-2005.

5th Generation

The current senior instructor of the Wu family is Wu Ta-kuei's son Wu Kuang-yu (Eddie, …ǹâÓî, born 1946).

For more info please look at:


As for the pinyin/Wade-Giles issue, the HK school very rarely uses either. Their spellings are an idiosyncratic mix of diacritic-less Wade-Giles mandarin and "by ear" Cantonese pronunciations. So, Sifu Eddie Wu's name is spelled Wu Guangyu in pinyin and Wu Kuang-yu in W-G, he spells it Wu Kwong-yu for school business and Ng Kwong-yu for personal business. The Shanghai schools (run by Sifu Eddie's uncles, the sons of Ma Yueh-liang and Wu Ying-hua, all of whom he introduced me to when I visited the Shanghai school in 1994) use pinyin. It's all very confusing unless you speak Chinese a little.

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 05-25-2005).]

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 1:22 am
by Audi
Greetings everyone,

Steve, Shugdenla, and Polaris,

Thanks for all the interesting replies.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Wu (or Woo) style is different from Hao style, similarly to the way Wu (Ng) is different from Yang.</font>

Steve, this statement surprises me. I thought the first Hao learned exclusively from Wu Yuxiang? If Wu and Hao are brother/sister styles, who would you suggest as the parent of Hao Style and why? Did the first Hao have some sort of separate transmission from Yang Luchan or the Chen's?

By the way, I have seen the spelling Wuu, which is an occasional way to indicate 3rd tone words where there is a high chance of ambiguity (e.g., Shaanxi Province vs. Shanxi Province, which are different, but adjoining places), but "Woo" is a new one for me.


Thanks for all the interesting detail. The one thing you omitted any hint of was any kind of recommendation on what I should do on this forum and equivalent place to refer to your style in a brief, but distinct way from Wu/Hao Style. Any suggestions?

Take care,

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 3:34 am
by Polaris
Hi everyone.

There are two distinct lineages from Wu Yu-hsiang (three counting Sun Lu-t'ang, I suppose). One through Li I-yu's family descendants and the other through Hao Wei-chen's, and I'm sure they are quite noticeably different after 130 years.

I like the brothers/cousins distinction mentioned earlier by tai1chi.

It would be perfectly acceptable, IMO, to label one Wu Jianquan style and the other Wu Yuxiang style, or even perhaps Wu2 and Wu3, respectively?

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 3:27 pm
by tai1chi
Hi Audi,

Hao learned from Li, not Wu (iinm). We were talking about names, and Li style can be dstinguished from Wu style. Hao style is not Wu Yuxiang style, but they're very close. Hey, some would argue that Wu (Jianquan) style and Yang (Chengfu) style are the same; so, why not call it Yang/Wu style? That's why I try to avoid the Wu/Hao designation, though I understand it. Anyway, Sun style is another thing altogether. It's not like Wu Yuxiang or Hao style (a la Hao Shaoru). For example, the formula "Start/connect/open/close" is --afaik-- not a part of the Sn style teaching, but it is absolutely essential to Wu Yuxiang and Hao style.

Anyway, as far as the Woo spelling, you're probably right; it was probably Wuu. But, in either case, I'm not sure the difference was phonetic; it was just an orthographic distinction to alert speakers of English that the two Wus were different.

Oh well, a very interesting point sometimes made is that what TJQ people consider the "Classics" were meant for practitioners of Wu Yuxiang and Li styles. It's interesting because, ime, most people who practice a Yang-descended style would not fully accept the theories in the Chen manuals --and vice-versa, of course.

Steve James

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 5:18 pm
by Polaris
This brings us to an interesting developmental aspect of the differentiation between the main "styles" of t'ai chi. 100-150 years ago when Wu Yu-hsiang and Li I-yu were codifying their manuals I don't believe there was as much of an idea of different styles of the art, so whatever they were using as an ur-text likely came somehow from Yang Lu-ch'an or was at least agreeable to him. As well, there were the "40 chapters" of Yang Pan-hou that WYH and LIY don't seem to have used, but must have also come through YLC. These are writings that, IMO, are applicable to the art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan generally, beyond the modern convention of training styles. Yang Ch'eng-fu's 10 points are another example of this.

I'm not familiar enough with the Ch'en family writings (beyond knowing Ch'en Hsin's name) to comment on them realistically.

Wu Yan-hsia had this to say in a 1995 interview:

"It was the students who began to define what they were learning from the instructors who taught them while they studied with the masters of both families (at the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute from 1914-1928). We didn't say the styles were different, the students said they were different because of the form instruction."

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 1:29 am
by tai1chi
Hi Polaris,

"It was the students who began to define what they were learning from the instructors who taught them while they studied with the masters of both families..."

I also think this is what happened, fwiw; and I think it's still happening. New style names crop up, but TJQ remains one thing. As to the Chen manuals, you've probably seen some translations of Chen Xin's Illustrated on Jarek's website and elsewhere.

Wu Yuxiang may well have been familiar with the Chen manuals, but there are surely (or appear to be) things that are essential to Chen Xin's theory of Chen style that WYX does not include in any of his (known/translated) writings, or in the "40 Chapters."

For example, there is the section about "coiling":

""Coiling power (Chan Jin) is all over the body. Putting it most simply, there is coiling inward (Li Chan) and coiling outward (Wai Chan), which both appear once (one) moves. There is one (kind of coiling) when left hand is in front and right hand is behind; (or when) right hand is in front and left hand is behind; this one closes (He) (the hands) with one conforming (Shun) (movement). There is also one (coiling) that closes the inside of the left (side of the body) and the back of the right (side of the body), and another which uses the through-the-back power (Fanbei Jin) and closes towards the back. All of them should be moved naturally according to the (specific) postures.""

Hey, the problem is that there will certainly those who say that this particular aspect is not so essential --or even unnecessary.

Steve James

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 6:27 pm
by Polaris
Unfortunately, I don't know enough about how the Ch'en style does things to say if it is similar to our style or not. There is a coiling twisting energy in our forms and applications that is associated with the Lieh power generation, but I can't say for sure it is the same thing. Also, there is a "silk reeling" training taught at advanced level in Wu style, but from what I've read of Ch'en style silk reeling, I can't say if it is the same thing, indeed, it doesn't seem they could be with the descriptions given by the Ch'en stylists (which don't match my experience), but that may be a matter of translation. The different schools are using different descriptors.

Not very definite, am I? Image

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 05-27-2005).]

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 8:42 pm
by tai1chi
Hi Polaris,

no need to be definite, anyway. It's probably better, imo, when one is not so definitive about these things. What happens, ime, is that the presence or absence of one quality or the name for some idea or property is used as aa definitive basis of what is or is not TJQ. I.e., the "whatever is absent from my TJQ is either not TJQ, incorrect, or unnecessary." Or, the "that's not the way it's done at my school" argument.

It doesn't matter whether any particular thing is mentioned in any set of writings by any writer, ... as if the art could be fully expressed in words.

Of course, the problem is that no one believes that TJQ is completely relative. The Wu and Li Classics give us a philosophical framework. They aren't like the instructions given by later masters, even things like YCF's 10 Essential points or the 40 Chapters. Nor are they as involved with the TCM aspect of TJQ, as Chen's Illustrated is. So, for me, it seems perfectly reasonable that most of us can agree with the Wu Classics (and Wong's Treatise), but that there are almost contradictory statements among the various styles.

Steve James

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 9:44 pm
by Polaris
It can be confusing, and the language differences don't help. I do enjoy reading Louis' and others' translations of the various Chinese terms here. It has helped me a great deal with some of the idiom associated with training.

A typical example, I don't remember if it comes from Chang San-feng or Wang Tsung-yueh where the line says "don't lean or incline" yet a common translation for the 8th power generation, K'ao, is "to lean." Either they are talking about something else in the classic (which is what I believe) or they just did that to mess with us... Image


PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 12:41 pm
by Audi
Hi Polaris,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A typical example, I don't remember if it comes from Chang San-feng or Wang Tsung-yueh where the line says "don't lean or incline" yet a common translation for the 8th power generation, K'ao, is "to lean." Either they are talking about something else in the classic (which is what I believe) or they just did that to mess with us... </font>

I agree completely. Louis' suggestion of a moral Neo-Confucian element behind "bu pian bu yi" ("Don't be partial or biased") was a big load off my mind.

How can you not wonder about styles that incorporate body leans if the classics are read to say: "Do not lean or be inclined"? Both Yang Jun's teaching and Wu Style do, of course, incorporate body leans to differing degrees. Understanding the injunction as going beyond specific physical elements and referring to being "impartial and exact" with respect to requirements resolves the quandary nicely.

Of course, there are those that cite the same passage, say: "Never lean" and perform Shoulder Stroke with their spines ramrod straight. Image Although Kao can mean "to lean," it does not have to mean this. A little more about this on the "breathing thread" that just reawakened recently.

Take care,

PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 4:16 pm
by Polaris

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I was inspired to look it up in Wang last night. The statement is in the same sentence that decribes the polarity between the energy at the top of the head and breathing through the tan t'ien. Practically then, "Don't be partial or biased" could refer to the absolute equal importance of both principles.

I have saved several nice photos of Yang Zhenduo Laoshi in forms and demonstrating pushing hands applications that I like to show to new people learning from us who have studied other styles of t'ai chi before (especially Cheng Man-ch'ing stylists) and question the alignments we teach. In the photos YZD is leaning with a perfectly straight line between head and back heel. I may be biased Image but it looks like perfect form to me! I can say, "This is the represntative of the orthodox tradition that Wu style came from, so you see, with the Yang family teachers leaning isn't a negative issue."

It reminds me of a story that is preserved in our schools about Yang Ch'eng-fu and Wu Chien-ch'uan. The story goes that both Yang Shao-hou and YCF were taught t'ai chi by their father from an early age, but a difference in personality between the two boys (and the fact that YSH was the older) led YCF to be somewhat rebellious in his attitude to the training. He learned all the forms and other training regimes, but like so many modern teenagers, he didn't see their usefulness in the modern world and didn't apply himself to their training with the enthusiasm of his brother. Then, their father died. At the funeral (which was attended by Wu Chien-ch'uan) YCF realised how much his father was teaching him really meant to him (he had a big heart, and the death of his father woke that up) and vowed at the service to change. YSH (who had a short temper) was scornful and said something to the effect of: "You wouldn't train with me when he was alive, why should I train with you now that he has gone?" Wu Chien-ch'uan then said to YCF "Uncle (although WCC was older, YCF outranked him by one generation), my family and myself owe your family a great debt, I am at your service." From then on, YCF and WCC trained pushing hands and martial applications together, with such results that in a few short years YSH recogized his brother's sincerity (and talent) and they were reconciled. We also hear stories of their dramatic pushing hands demos, furniture and doors being smashed, tossing students through windows and at one point (in Shanghai, apparently) stepping so vigorously that a stage collapsed under the two of them and they kept pushing hands in the wreckage...

PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 5:26 pm
by tai1chi

I think the issue/controversy about the Wu "lean" is not just the same as the word/idea of "kao"-- which has several translations, including "bump." I think the "idea" is the same: i.e., 'to shoulder' something, or to bump something with one's shoulder, or to lean into something to move it. None of these require an "inclination" of the body --but that does not imply that it can't be done while "inclined."

I agree, btw, that Wang, in his Treatise, is talking about "leaning" or being inclined, in the sense of being "biased." I.e., going against the Confucian ideal of moderation or being immoderate. From an applications point of view, it's very important --in all TJQ styles-- to avoid being over-committed while doing Kao. But, that doesn't imply any particular form or shape to Kao.

The issue is more complicated with Wu/Ng style and is, ime, related more to movements such as Stork Cools Wings, or Forward Scout on Horseback, etc. It's not the inclination itself, but the degree of inclination that people questioned.

Imo, the question is misplaced unless the purpose of the position/movement is understood, or at least explained. That's what doesn't happen enough, unfortunately.

Steve James