Hong Quan as Tai Chi Ancestor?

Nothing comes from nothing, so for the Yangs and Wu brothers to have concocted Taijiquan (according to the Heretics Hypothesis) it must still have been made from Yang LuChan’s genuine martial skill. The postures of Yang style share a lot in common with various Northern Chinese martial arts. Changquan (long boxing) is often quoted as something Yang LuChan practiced in childhood, but again, this seems to be purely anecdotal. That doesn’t mean it’s not true of course.

A martial art popular in the region Yang came from was Hong Quan. A video surfaced recently that showed some traditional Hong Quan. It’s interesting to watch because I think it’s a good example of the type of martial art that would have been around at the time of Yang LuChan.

The description offered with the video says: “Here is the Xiao Hong Quan of Mogou Village. Mogou is to the east of Dengfeng and has practiced Hong Quan for hundreds of years.”

Hong Quan was very popular during the reign of Emperor Daoguang, which would be the Emperor immediately before Xiangfeng, who was emperor when YLC went to Beijing in the 1850s.

Out of interest, at a cursory glance I can see at least four Tai Chi Chuan techniques I recognise in that Hong Quan form presented – wave hands like clouds, snake creeps down (low single whip), bend bow to shoot tiger, and lotus kick. It’s hard to spot because it’s quite fast. But I’d hazard a guess that you’d probably find those same general techniques in lots of northern martial arts, like Chang Quan, as well.

7 thoughts on “Hong Quan as Tai Chi Ancestor?

  1. Well, if we’re talking around the time period we’ve got up to in the podcasts (- around 1900) – then at this point I’d say Chen style is a genuine badass martial art – it’s practitioners are bodyguards, militia fighters and people with the name Chen are tracking down and fighting “bandits” for the Ching as guns for hire. In contrast, the “Taijiquan” passed down from Yang in Beijing is a kind of court-sanctioned entertainment. Sure, Yang had genuine skills but it’s much of a domesticated experience compared to the “in the wild and doing it” Chen style. From my point of view that’s not denigrating it at all. You’ve got people like Chen Yanxi being employed full time as a martial arts teacher in Shandong by General Yuan Shikai because of his reputation as a badass.

    On the second point – I agree – the Chen style moves differently, and it that very well might be because Yang LuChan never even
    went to Chen village.

  2. OK…. “western dabblers”. 😉 The real problem with a lot of these theories that basically denigrate the Chen-style Taijiquan as being “only an offshoot of something else” or “it’s really a Shaolin art” is that none of the westerners engaged in those musings have any minor skills in how to move the body in the way that the Chen-style Taijiquan does. It really doesn’t matter that “Chen-style has umpteen of the same techniques/moves shown in the XYZ style of martial-art” … the essence of the Chen-style Taijiquan is in how the body moves, using jin, qi, dantian, and silk-reeling.

    Take a simple example with one of the standard wrist locks that are found throughout the Chinese and Japanese martial arts … you could say that “the same wrist-lock is found in the Chen-style, so it must be related to that other form”. In actuality, the way the body is used in the Chen-style to apply that lock is quite different from the way the same lock is used in, say, Northern Longfist. So it looks very amateurish to opine that the same techniques must/might indicate some startling relationship.

    Most forms in Chinese martial arts contain many standard and “proven over time” techniques because the Chinese martial arts have existed so long that the good techniques spread through all the various styles. The idea that Qi Jiguang was a compiler of good techniques is offset by the idea that most techniques were already widely spread throughout China by that time.

  3. Graham, I love it when western dabblers make pronouncements about things they don’t really know. 😉 The actual Yang family freely admits that Yang Lu Chan studied in Chen Village under Chen Changxing. Tell them that they need to prove it. Maybe it’s a conspiracy theory? 😉

  4. It’s worse than that Mike – there’s no real evidence he was ever in Chen village except for the story concocts by Wu Yuxiang and brothers.

  5. One of the giveaways about western dabblers in Taiji history is when they start talking about “Longfist” and indicating that “Longfist” was a predecessor of Taijiquan because “Longfist” is mentioned in the records. The first form of almost all CMA styles is called “Changquan”. The first form of Liu He Ba Fa, for instance, or Hun Gar, or whatever, is called a “Changquan”. “He practiced Changquan” is like saying “he practiced the first form of the art”. Speaking of which, go back and read Mark Chen’s book again, the one that you recommended. Notice that it says that Yang Lu Chan only learned the first part of Chen’s Taijiquan. That is a very interesting saying. Then again, Yang Lu Chan was an illiterate servant and it’s possible that they didn’t want to teach him the Pao Chui. The “secret Yang-style practice methods”, though, as shown by Fu Zhong Wen’s family, is obviously some movements taken from the Pao Chui form … but they apparently never did the whole second form, Pao Chui.

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