Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Life of Yang Lu Chan

Below is an abstract from a longer article by Douglas Wile, the noted Taijiquan historian, about the founder of Yang style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan. The full article may be read here.

The life of Yang Luchan, patriarch of the Yang lineage and founder of taijiquan’s most popular style, is a biographical blank slate upon which conservative, progressive, orientalist, and just plain rice bowl
interests have inscribed wildly divergent narratives. 

Conservative scholar-disciples sought to link him with the invented Wudang-Daoist lineage, while progressives emphasized his humble origins and health benefits of the practice. 

His life (c.1799-1872) straddled the height of the Manchu empire and decline into semi-colonial spheres of foreign influence, while successive generations of Yang descendants propagated his ‘intangible cultural heritage’ through Republican, Communist, ‘open’, and global eras. 

Practiced world-wide by hundreds of millions, taijiquan’s name recognition made it ripe for media appropriation, and Yang Luchan has been remythologized in countless novels, cartoons, television series, and full-length feature films. 

The case of Yang Luchan offers an unusual opportunity to witness an ongoing process of mytho-
poesis and to compare these narratives with traditional Chinese warrior heroes and Western models of mythology and heroology. 

If the lack of facts has not constrained the proliferation of invented biographies, neither should it discourage the quest for historical context as we sift and winnow truth from trope in the many reconstructions of Yang’s life.

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