Direct Yang Family Lineage

lineage

The darker lines show the lineage from Yang Luchan (Founder) down to Yang Cheng Fu and his son Yang Sau Chung he has been described as ‘ … the most significant Yang family teacher in Hong Kong during this period (1940s and 50s) was the eldest son of Cheng Fu, the great master Yang Zhen Ming.’1 The eldest son of Yang Cheng-fu, Grand Master Yang Sau Chung (Yang Zhen-ming), also commonly written as Shao Jung and Shaozhong, was alive till 1985 and teaching Tai Chi in Hong Kong2. When his father Yang Cheng fu died in Canton (Guanzhou) in 1936, Yang Sau chung took over his father’s job and continued to teach until the Communists took over China in 1949. Yang Sau chung felt threatened by them so he left China and went to Hong Kong.

As Vincent Chu, the son of Chu Gin Soon (see below) has pointed out:

Today many people practice Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Cheng Fu taught many people in his lifetime. There are people who claim that they studied with him. However, Yeung Sau Chung told my father that Yang Cheng Fu had only five disciples who obtained the complete transmission. Yeung Sau Chung said that he began assisting his father when he was 14 years old, that many people who claimed to have learned from his father actually learned from him.

Yang Sau Chung’s three official disciples are: Ip Tai Tak (No. 1), Chu Gin Soon (No. 2) and Chu King Hung (No. 3), and his three daughters. I studied under Chu King Hung in London for ten years. John Ding (see Fig. 1.1) was studying with Master Chu King Hung in London during the same period. He then went on to study with the number two disciple, Chu Gin Soon in Boston (USA) and eventually became the number one disciple of Master Ip Tai Tak, in Hong Kong (in 1998). So he has the distinction of having learned under all three main Yang family disciples and becoming an official disciple himself. He runs a very successful school based in London and produces the magazine Tai Chi and Alternative Health. I have kept up contact with him. His son and Chu Gin Soon’s son(s) are also considered lineage disciples (7th generation).

Yang Sau Chung and his disciples, who still teach his approach (based on his father’s), to this day have received little recognition compared to some other teachers (for example, Chen Man Ching, discussed below). This situation is being remedied in more recent times by accounts that have appeared in magazines like T’ai Chi Magazine in testimony to Yang Sau Chung, as well as John Ding’s writings and magazine Tai Chi and Alternative Health. In an article written in 2003 Daniel Wong (he studied with Yang Sau chung from 1949-1970) states the following:

Unfortunately, Yang Shaozhong was not very well known in North America, partly due to his reclusive personality and partly due to the fact that not many of his students have been able to travel abroad to teach the authentic art of Yang Family Taiji before 1970, despite of the fact that Chen Man-ching’s Yang Family Taiji had already found root in North America, especially in New York … After 1970, some of Yang Shaozhong’s students and grand students have gradually settled in various places around the world, such as the USA, Canada, England and Europe (p. 30)3.

The latter statement refers to Chu Gin Soon and Chu King Hung.

There are also lineages that descend from some of the early disciples of Yang Cheng Fu like Chen Wei Ming, Tung Ying Chieh (Dong Yingjie), Chen Yua Po, Li Yaxuan, Cui Shiyi and Fu Zhong-wen who only passed away, aged 91, in 1994 in Shanghai. Some of their descendants like Fu Zhong-wen’s son Fu Sheng Yuan, who lives and teaches in Western Australia, also deserve recognition as a 6th generation disciple.

There is also Yang Zhen duo, the younger brother of Yang Shaozhong, teaching out of mainland China, and his grandson Yang Jun, who are Yang family lineage. However, Yang Zhen duo’s form seems to have been influenced by the PRC Government. According to Fu Sheng Yuan he ‘ … changed some of the traditional teachings in a covenant with the totalitarian government …4’. Apparently there was a falling out between Fu Zhong Wen and Yang Zhen duo about these changes made in association with the Chinese Sports Bureau5.

There are also lineages dating back to other Yang family disciples of previous generations like Chang Ching Ling, a disciple of Yang Ban Hao, Lu Chan’s second son and Chen Panling who studied under Yang Shaohao (see Fig. 1.1) but created his own considerably modified set of Tai Chi. They helped bring Yang’s tai chi to the West, but did modify the art. Another famous disciple, of Yang Chien (Jian) hou, is Tien Sau Lung (Tian Zhaolin) (1891-1960), who studied alongside his two sons Chengfu and Shaohao. Chien Hao instructed Shaohao to accept him as a disciple and he later also became a disciple of Chengfu.

Then of course there is the lineage that comes down from Chen Man ching (Zhen Manqing) who, for better or for worse, has helped proliferate Tai Chi in the West6, and his shortened version of the Yang style form. He is a controversial figure because he claimed to be a disciple of Yang Cheng Fu when he wasn’t and has left an indelible mark on tai chi in the USA through his interpretation of its principles. A lot could be written about this. Paul Crompton in his 1990 book, T’AI CHI COMBAT states that Chen Man-ching is responsible for an overemphasis on the soft, yin side of the art in the West and the neglect of the more yang, combat side:

One reason, and a powerful one, has been the influence of the late T’ai Chi master Cheng Man-ch’ing and his pupils. The Short Form of T’ai Chi, which he taught in the United States and Taiwan, a Form that has been perpetuated and written about widely since his death affected the attitude and modes of training of many people7.

According to 6th generation disciple Robert Boyd, who himself has managed to become quite a controversial figure, even within the Yang Sau chung lineage itself8:

… when tai chi moved to the West, the Yang family lost control over their name. Chinese teachers in America, for example, began teaching tai chi under the Yang name without permission or any connection whatsoever to the Yang family lineage. Today the Yang style is the most popular style of tai chi in the world, and yet some Yang styles are as different from each other as baseball is from football.9

So as you can see these lineages become quite involved and complex and as a result of modifications made it is little wonder that such confusion about authentic Yang family Tai Chi exists today.

 


[1] Clark, L., 1997, “Leaving the Chrysalis. Yang Style Unfolds it Wings”, Kungfu, Dec/Jan 1997, p.38.

[2] I clearly remember when Master Chu came in one evening and announced the death of Grandmaster Yang and lit a stick of incense under his picture in the training hall – he was quite sad. 

[3] See for example Vol. 25:4, 30-32. “The Teaching of Yang Shou –Zhong”, by Dr. Paul Lam 2001; Vol. 26:3, 47-54, “On Personal Studies with Yang Shao-zhong”, by Daniel K. Wong; Vol. 27:6, 30-38, 2002 “A Tribute to Yang Shaozhong, also by Daniel K. Wong.

[4] Clark, L., op. cit., p.38.

[5] See http://nytaichi.com/yang.lineage.htm.

[6] Aided by the fairly prolific writings of the American Robert W. Smith who seems to have considered himself THE expert on Asian Martial Arts.

[7] Crompton, P., 1990,T’AI CHI COMBAT, London: Paul H. Crompton Ltd, p.3.

[8] See for example http://nytaichi.com/onsnakestyle.htm and the title of his book – the ‘hidden Style’!

[9] Boyd, b., 2012, Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan. The Hidden System of the Yang Family, Burlington USA: Bao Tak Fai Tai Chi Institute, p. 87.

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