I think this is one of the best historical videos of Tai Ch you’ll find. I’ve seen this film before, but the quality wasn’t great. This version of the Tai Chi documentary however seems to have been edited to make it smoother and sharper:
In the video you’ll find the most famous masters teaching Tai Chi in Beijing in the 1950s. It’s a good cross section of the different styles being taught. The masters are (and I think I’ve got the order correct): Li Yaochen, Li Bingqi, Chen Zhaokui (the youngest son of the famous Chen style patriarch, Chen Fake), Yang Yunting, who learned from Quan Yu, who was a direct student of Yang Lu Chan. Sun Jianyun (daughter of the famous Sun Lu Tang). Wang Yongquan, who performs the Yang long form and was a student of Yang Jianhou and Yang Shouhou. And finally Li Jing Wu, who was a student of Wu style and Chen style, but here is performing the Beijing 24 step form.
One thought on “A valuable Tai Chi documentary from the 1950s”
I had seen the beginning showing the different styles in this quality, but not the end showing the form. It is a treasure.
I’d really like to see what ended up on the cutting room floor. I guess we’re lucky this much was preserved.
If this is a 1950s film, having Chen Zhaokui (1929-1981) was an unusual choice. From our present perspective, it is easy to think Chen Zhaokui was the natural choice. However, Chen Fake was alive until 1957. His oldest son, Chen Zhaoxu (1912-1959) and the heir to the lineage was 47 years old when he died in 1959. These would have been choices of higher status from the line.
Perhaps Chen Zhaokui was chosen as a representative of a younger generation continuing the legacy of Taijiquan. The filmmaker could have kept his demonstration so brief (11 sec) because he was younger. This is all pure speculation, but I had never really asked why Zhaokui?
For more speculation, I have to wonder who else is behind the camera, Chen Zhaoxu or Chen Fake or both. Were they also filmed and the footage not used?
Of course, this could have been shot in 1959. Chen Fake had passed away. Zhaowu had been killed and Zhaokui at 31 was the family representative.