The paragraphs below give a brief history of 100 years of the Yang Style Taijiquan teaching ground within the Zhong Shan Park in Beijing. There is nothing spectacular about the look of this part of the park, but this field has witnessed the footsteps and experiences of several generations of Taijiquan legends. Whether in wind, rain or sunshine, there is always Taijiquan. After knowing the history of this field, you may feel differently when you experience this place yourself. As fellow practitioners, we should cherish the privilege of learning Taijiquan on this precious ground; maintain and protect this number one Taijiquan teaching ground in the world; and cherish every second of learning Taijiquan from our teachers.
Cui Yi Shi (1892-1970)
Fourth generation direct lineage carrier of Yang Style Taijiquan
As the older generation of martial artists have recalled, “Yan Jing Tai Dou”1– Master Cui Yi Shi – began teaching Taijiquan to the public in Beijing Zhong Shan Park in 1945. Entering the park and passing through Defending Peace Gate, the Taijiquan field of Master Cui is on the west side of the statue of Dr. Sun Zhong Shan (Founder of the Republic of China, known as Sun Yat-Sen to the West). Even in those early years, the field was crowded with many students and was known as the “Number One Taijiquan Field in the World”. Nearby, another well-known Wu style Master was teaching, often had fewer students. An even smaller number of students were learning other branches of martial arts around there.
The number one Taijiquan field was later carried forward by Master Cui’s daughter, Cui Siu Chen, and his grandson (Cui Siu Chen’s son), Zhang Yong Tao. Three masters were passing the torch from generation to generation and continuously cultivated the training ground. This Taijiquan teaching was only interrupted once since the beginning, during the period of the cultural revolution. Many talented Taijiquan practitioners were nurtured from this field.
Master Cui’s Yang Style Taijiquan is a direct lineage of Master Yang Cheng Fu, who began teaching it in the Zhong Shan Park publicly over 100 years ago. Before 1914, Taijiquan was taught behind the high wall of the noble residences and was never taught publicly. As China changes, this tradition changed and Taijiquan teaching became open to the public widely.
Beijing Zhong Shan Park Cui Yi Shi Taijiquan field (1957)
In 1914, the Northern Government opened up an area on the west side of the Forbidden City as a park to the public the first time. It was called Central Park at the beginning and later became known as the Zhong Shan Park (named after Sun Yat-Sen, the founding father of the republic of China). In 1915, Xing Jian Association was founded inside the Central Park. This health club became the first membership-based public martial arts training place in Beijing. This club became the main place where Master Yang Cheng Fu taught Taijiquan to countless number of people untill 1928 when he left Beijing and moved to southern China. During this period, young Master Cui Yi Shi became a disciple of Master Yang Cheng Fu, and he later followed Shifu Yang Cheng-Fu to the south. He moved back to Beijing in 1945 and followed his teacher’s footstep to teach Taijiquan at the same place. After Master Cui Yi Shi passed away, his daughter – Cui Xiu Chen and grandson – Zhang Yong Tao continued to carry forward his legend. Many national leaders and social celebrities have learned Taijiquan here in the park. Based on my knowledge, the famous people who have been students of Master Cui Yi Shi included Marshal Chen Yi; Navy Commander Xiao Jin Guang; Transportation Department Head Wang Shou Dao; writers Ding Ling, Zhou Li Bo, and Zhou Yang; and Artist Li Ke Ran. The original location of Xing Jian Association where Master Yang Cheng Fu used to teach is nowadays the Defending Peace Gate, which is only a few steps away from the field where Master Zhang Yong Tao is teaching today.
Master Cui Xiu Chen teaching traditional Yang Style Taijiquan at Being Zhong Shan Park
Master Zhang Yong Tao teaching traditional Yang Style Taijiquan at Being Zhong Shan Park
Three generations of lineage carriers, four Masters; on the same training ground, a style of Taijiquan practice; One hundred years of passion without diminishing – This is a legend.
The Taijiquan field is one chapter in a longer story of the lineage of Yang Style Taijiquan. The very beginnings trace to Founder Yang Lu Shan in the 1800s. From there the second and third generations carried the tradition until the time of Cui Yi Shi and the Taijiquan field. The lineage chart is shown in the figure below.