Wudang Shan is a Taoist enclave situated in North West Hubei province, central China, rising to sixteen hundred metres, being famous as the spiritual home of the internal martial arts; Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I and Pa Qua Chang. The adepts practiced, taught and studied, and still do, these disciplines as well as their source from the Book of Changes – The I Ching– also the works of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Chang Tzu, Lao Tsu etc. Wudang Mountain has been a place of reverence for thousands of years with the more recent complex of temples and shrines being built and embellished in the Ming dynasty, c.1413- by Emperor Cheng Zi The work took three hundred thousand labourers ten years to complete. Wudang, with its seventy two silent and beautiful peaks extends for three hundred square kilometres from the Jingle Palace in Gujunzhou City to the Golden Hall at the top of Tianzhu Peak. There are a maze of mysterious locations to discover amongst the hundreds of palaces and over a thousand shrines and temples on breathtaking cliffs linked by thirty nine bridges across spectacular ravines all leading to secluded areas where an unknown number of hermits meditate and practice their Taoist disciplines. It is still a retreat for those interested in Taoist philosophy, science, medicine and meditation. Wudang Shan is a World Heritage Site as well as an inspiring haven to reflect and restore the mind, body and spirit.

Tai Chi appears to have a fairly modern history, supposedly founded c.1200 A.D on Wudang but its history points further back. The meditative movements are an inspiration from the philosophy of I Ching which was laid down in 2600 B.C. as a representation of the universal principles of creation. Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I and Pa Qua are an external manifestation of the inner concepts of The Book of Changes.  These internal styles, if taught and practised properly, balance, build and store the chi of the body, in a natural manner. Thus Tai Chi is a moving mandala expressing the cosmic life force, in human form, embodying the principle of yin contracting and yang expanding energy giving rise to the upright, relaxed and ever changing flow of archetypal movements. The chi is fused with the mind acting as the motive impetus for the form. Hence ‘the spirit moves the chi that moves the body’, extolling the Taoist virtue that ‘the only constant is change, but one must remain constant in change’. The special postures of Tai Chi uniquely harmonise the inner meridian and outer aura energy of the mind and body. For more details of the Yang Family Posturing please refer to chapter five of my book Tai Chi Chuan & The Code of Life  www.tai-chi-horwood.com


Chi normally runs through the twelve ‘acupuncture’ feeding the internal organs allowing them to breath and balance in a twenty four hour cycle. This regular course of energy flows along muscles and tendons near blood vessels in humans and animals. When chi is disturbed or unbalanced it causes disruption and or disease. This is why organ dysfunction will manifest as disharmony to related parts of the body or vice versa. I.e. too much yin energy from the environment and or diet will cause the liver to become too yin thus weakening vision, muscles and tendons etc. This potential is exploited in ‘dim mask’, by some Tai Chi Masters e.g. if the liver channel is interfered with, in a particular mode and relative time, coupled by a focussed intention, it would disarm an opponent harmlessly by diminishing the function of the eyes, muscles and tendons. Equally a Tai Chi Master uses this knowledge to heal by reversing any negative energy flow or blockage. The Eight Extra channels are more specifically orientated for storage, balance, movement and spirituality and used in circulating chi in the Tai Chi form. One twenty minute solo form will have a similar therapeutic effect that the twenty four hour circuit of chi has on the organism.

The internal energy is trained differently in external Kung Fu forms by squeezing and focussing the chi into pockets which is practiced in explosive postures aided by strident breathing techniques.

In ‘Yang Family Tai Chi’ one smoothly fuses the mind and the chi together, in nei kung chi kung, thus making it a conscious life force which can then be circulated at will in oneself, in others and or weapons for martial or healing purposes.. This form of  ‘thought chi’ responds readily to the slow deliberate movements of Tai Chi being enhanced and concentrated by the spiralling Chan Shu Jian-The Silk Weaving Movements. Chan Shu Jian causes the chi to store along and in the bone giving rise to the Tai Chi maxims of ‘bone marrow washing’ and that a ‘Tai Chi Master has bones of steel wrapped in cotton wool. Besides the martial possibilities of this principle one has to consider that bone marrow stores life giving and healing stem and blood cells also being responsible for the immune function. Chi is the life force responsible for the biology of the body as well. When one moves in a fast and strenuous manner, one burns up the finite, mother load of kidney jing-chi. Whereas Tai Chi stimulates, balances and stores the chi in the bones like a battery lasting for years, besides holding chi in the Tan Tien for a more limited period. Chi is linked to the unconscious aspects of the human condition, hence when one ‘feels’ chi, one enters the parlour of the supernatural’.  This ability to ‘feel’ chi is developed in ’13 Postures:- four techniques of  push hands and four corner method and the five steps’ where one is able to interpret another person’s energy by breaking it down into the ‘Eight Trigram Postures’ and ‘Five Elements or  Phases of Change’. For example in ‘push hands’,  initially a practitioner will react to a movement such as ‘an-push’ with ‘peng-ward off slanting upward’ feeling the impetus of his or her partner’s forward advance, albeit ‘externally’, using the outer senses such as the eyes to see the action, the nerves to sense the weight shift and the movement in the arms and so forth. If one stays relaxed and follows the ‘central equilibrium’ posture of Tai Chi (detailed in chapter five Tai Chi Chuan & The Code of Life) one will be able to centre and control oneself or any opponent, as well as activating one’s inner sense of ‘touch’. This can be assisted by closing the eyes, but not all the time as the mind-body memory can be marred by blind sensing alone. When one practices this, one starts to open the ability to feel chi internally with one’s own chi, as well as the intention of the partner as both are linked. Thus ‘an-push’ being a ‘fire’  move will naturally have all the intrinsic qualities associated with the ‘fire-li’  hexagram laid out in the I Ching, whether deliberate or not. So it does not matter which style or system is carried out as the intention and move will be automatically linked to that principle due to its archetypal link. Therefore the ‘push hands and four corner method’ are qualitative energy sensing concepts that can be felt subliminally. When practiced internally will open up the internal door to the other inner senses such ‘inner; seeing, being intuition etc. Following the law of opposites all the outer senses have inner relatives. The more one practices in a relaxed and controlled ‘Tai Chi’ fashion, the more one will open the inner senses which can be taken into the inevitable the yin and yang roller coaster of life.

One can practice the inner sight or intuition by posing a question before practising a solo form, with an answer subsequently materialising as if from nowhere. being after the fashion of consulting the oracle of the I Ching. Both being modes that access the realms of the unconscious.

Tai Chi has been attributed a more recent history because a popular martial discipline was incorporated into its tradition, at a later date. One of the earliest recorded titles of Tai Chi Chuan was in the Tang Dynasty (AD.618-906), but as secular Tai Chi was and still is a secretive art it will have a much older source.


A Taoist physician and pugilist called Hua To, from the Han Dynasty c. 200 AD developed therapeutic drills called-wu quinxi -five animal play,. He observed creatures such as the tiger stretching out its limbs, a deer extending its neck and head, a bear crouching then extending up to its full height on two legs and last but not least the movements of birds flapping their wings on the ground and in the air. All of these are incorporated in the Tai Chi form for example, in the central route the ‘bird’ postures evolved into the ‘crane’ kicking sequence of the Original Yang Style.

These Chi Kungs also known as Taoyin were constantly evolving and enhancing the ability to control chi, were adapted by the monks of the Southern Shaolin Monastery in the Tang Fung District of Henan. The Buddhist monks founded the exoteric or external Kung Fu school advanced by Ta Mo a sixth century AD. mentor to Shaolin. He wrote his classics on ‘sinew changing’, ‘the eighteen Lo Han’ boxing and ‘marrow washing’ exercises. These disseminated through the centuries into hundreds of Kung Fu styles in China such as Wing Chun, Crane Boxing, Praying Mantis, Plum Blossom Fist, Tiger and Crane System, Snake Hand and into Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kick Boxing, Tai Kwan Do, etc.. In 2001 I met several Shaolin Monks from Henan where the head monk asked his team to demonstrate a Tai Chi Chuan form in my honour. He also told me that they now teach, nei kung versions of standing Chi Kung, Tai Chi Chuan, Pa Qua and Hsing I as well as their other own Shaolin derivatives. It seems that this loop from external to internal has come full circle.

However the legendary patriarch of latter day Tai Chi Chuan is Chang San-Feng who has been ascribed as living during various times, the earliest being the Sung Dynasty (AD.960-1279). However the most reliable and accepted period is that Chang San-Feng was the former magistrate and Confucian scholar for Chung Shan County, a native from I Chow in the Liao-Tung district. He was born the ninth day of the fourth moon of 1247 AD in the Yuan Dynasty. (AD.1206-1368). Today his birthday is celebrated all over China as a festival in Tai Chi circles.

His legendary fame became established after he had completed a ten year devotion at Shaolin where, besides studying the Chinese Buddhist doctrines, he learnt the external martial arts, ‘wai kung’. Later he went on to study Taoism at the K’o Hung Mountain Monastery which led him onto the Taoist enclave at Wudang Shan. Here he founded the Hsun Tien Monastery and the first major internal school, nei kung, of the martial arts and the modern birth place of Tai Chi Chuan.

This Chinese Merlin laid out the initial moves of latter day Tai Chi after some inspirational visions and dreams. The Tai Chi classics state that one night he dreamt of a Taoist Immortal advising him to reform his strenuous training methods from his Shaolin disciplines. The content of the dream troubled him, until one day he spotted a snake and a crane in deadly combat.

Chang noticed that before the snake attacked it would raise its head, bowing its body, gathering up its intrinsic energy, ready to strike out like an arrow ‘store the energy in the spine’, only for the crane to deflect the attack effortlessly with a downward arc of its powerful wing – ‘the brush knee’ in –Brush Knee and Twist Step- and -Crane Cools Its Wings- Punch Downwards. The crane retaliated by stabbing its beak down in the manner of –Taking A Needle From The Bottom Of The Sea-.. The snake used its flexibility to dip and ride the strike as in –Snake Creeps Down-, allowing the snake to lash out, –White Snake Puts Out Its Tongue – at the crane’s legs, which simply raised the vulnerable limb in a relaxed fashion so that the snake’s bite could not attach itself, due to the emptiness. Thus the crane moves were integrated into the middle of the Yang style especially with the kicking sequences designed to strengthen the lower limbs and improve balance and root. This natural display of yin and yang from the animal kingdom made a great impression on the hermit. Chang realised that yielding was more effective than using brute force. He also incorporated many of the martial postures from the Shaolin Temple into his ‘chang chuan’, long boxing, such as –Fist Under Elbow-Repulse Monkey-Elbow and Shoulder Stroke-Downward-Punch-Single Whip- Part Wild Horses’ Mane etc..

The snake and the crane also have a magical significance in the Occident, cited in Western alchemical texts of Nicolas Flamel et al. designating that the snake represented the dark, earth energy (yin), whereas the crane acts as an aerial, spiritual energy (yang).

There is a legend that a son of the Emperor of China was hunting and encountered Chang San Feng in a forest. The courtiers ordered the dishevelled monk to leave the area immediately, as his presence was disturbing their sport. Chang who was up a tree at the time, politely refused. There was an order given to dispatch the recalcitrant hermit with a flurry of arrows to his next incarnation. Several ace archers fired their bows at the hermit but to the Prince’s surprise, Chang jumped off his branch, catching and breaking all the arrows during his descent. When safely on terra firma, he returned the snapped shafts to their surprised owners.

Although a Wudang recluse, Chang taught openly, his reputation reaching far and wide causing the Emperor Tai Tso to send soldiers to recruit Chang in order to increase the martial prowess of his Court. The military escort was disappointed on finding Chang Sang Feng because he convincingly feigned madness. The duped envoys left empty handed, leaving the monk to continue his path in peace, but thereafter he taught more discretely. For a more detailed history of Tai Chi Chuan and its Western correspondences please refer to Tai Chi Chuan & The Code of Life By Graham Horwood-  www.tai-chi-horwood.com

The fourteenth generation and present incumbent is Master Yeo, assisted by Master Wang Li Ping. Thereby developing your Tai Chi Chuan, Pa Qua Chang and Hsing I  in Wudang Shan in this unique visit to these places on a trip to China. It will include workshops at Wudang Shan as well as a comparative visit to the Shaolin Temple. The trip also includes Beijing with an optional visit to the Wu Shu Institute and Grand Master Yang Zeng Do as well as The Forbidden City, White Clouds Taoist Monastery, Great Wall, Xían-Terracotta Warriors, -with six days at Wudang  with two days at Shaolin..




© I Graham Horwood hereby assert and give notice of my right under section 77 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. to be identified as the originator and exclusive author of the above work and article.

Exclusive copyright and intelligent property of Graham Horwood in all countries including the United States, Russia, China, Australia, Indonesia, All States of the European Union including the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. 

Chief Instructor of the Taoist Group. Est. 1976