It is said that when the great master Yang Luchan (杨露禅) taught Taijiquan in Shenjiying (神机营) –
Emperor’s elite Capitol Garrison – the Modern Firearm Division, only three of his students, all low-ranking
officers, really understood and mastered his superlative skills. These men were Wan Chun (万春), Ling Shan
(凌山), and Quan You (全佑).
Brilliant and accomplished as these students were, they could not be made formal disciples under Yang
Luchan, because Yang had accepted Shi Shaonan (时绍南) who was the third rank king called Beile (贝勒)
and General Yue Zhucheng (岳柱臣) who was Wuzhuangyuan (武状元) – the title of the first position in
national martial arts examination as disciples, and was also teaching the royal prince King Duan (端王) who
was their commanding general. As fellow disciples, these lowly commoners would become gungfu brothers
with royalty, in fact elevated to an equal status - a transgression that was strictly taboo in a feudal society.
So Yang Luchan arranged to make them disciples under his second son Yang Banhou (杨班侯). Mostly that
was in name only. Also they studied with Yang Banhou, who was a great Taiji master in his own right, they
continued their direct training with Yang Luchan.
Quan You (全佑) (1834 - 1902) was Manchurian. Following the cherished tradition of his people, Quan
You studied martial arts from a very young age. Later he would join the army and become a security guard
for the emperor. In his twenties, he and fellow guards studied Taijiquan with Yang Luchan.
One day the King Duan, commanding general of Shenjiying and student of Yang Luchan, asked Yang if
there were anyone in his camp whose gongfu skill was good enough. Yang said from long time practice he
noticed there were three young guards that are good. They were Wan Chun, Ling Shan, and Quan You. The
king then asked Yang to give these men special intensive training.
Wu Jianquan (吴鉴泉) (1870 - 1942) was Quan You's son. His original Manchurian name was Ai Shen. He
studied Taijiquan with his father from very young age. When Quan You passed away, Wu Jianquan and his
older gongfu brother Wang Maozhai, unsatisfied with their current level of skill, rededicated themselves to the
practice of the art. For the next ten years, they led other brothers in an intense effort in research and practice.
It is said they practiced behind closed doors at Wang Maozhai’s home every day during that period. Besides
Quan You’s teaching, their training was also influenced by that of enigmatic Taiji master Song Shuming (宋书
铭). Finally they succeeded; arriving at their unique style of practice, that of medium-frame form, with very soft
and refined techniques in push hands, and very detailed internal practice.
In 1928, Wu Jianquan moved to Shanghai in southern China. He was the first person to teach Taijiquan in the
south. It is said when Wu first arrived Shanghai, he took many challenges and won his great reputation first in
this most developed modern city of China, and then in most southern provinces. In 1933, Wu established
Jianquan Taijiquan Association (鉴泉太极拳社). He had many students, including some famous high ranking
government officials and generals. Some of his students, such as Xu Zhiyi (徐致一) and Ma Yueliang (马岳梁)
etc., published Taijiquan books that had a huge influence on the teaching of Taijiquan.
Wu taught Taijiquan in southern China while Wang Maozhai remained in Beijing. These two great Taiji Quan
masters came to be known respectively as Nan Wu Bei Wang (南吴北王) - South Wu and North Wang. This Wu
style was differentiated into two main groups, one in Beijing and one in Shanghai. Later Wu Jianquan’s son, Wu
Gongyi (吴公仪), organized a third group in Hong Kong. Today therefore, there are three distinct groups of Wu
style practitioners. Wu style would go on to become well-known and popular in Southeast Asia, North America
and Europe, and then all over the world. So it is that Wu Style Taijiquan has a very important position not only in
the development of skills, but also in its widespread popularization through its fighting reputation.
Wu jianquan practiced form
Wu jianquan practiced push hands
As a result, it is said that Wan Chun possessed enormously powerful internal strength, Ling Shan excelled at throwing opponents very far away, and
Quan You was wonderful at softly dissolving and neutralizing attacks. This meant Quan You was the one who possessed more detailed and refined skills.
And of the three, he was the only one who passed on his skills to subsequent generations, in the process developing a new and distinctive style.
After the Republican Revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Quan You’s family changed their Manchurian surname to the Han name of Wu (吴
tone 2). Hence the style Quan You developed became known as Wu style. In time, Quan You was recognized as the founder of Wu style Taijiquan.
Quan You had many disciples in Beijing. The most famous were Wang Maozhai (王茂斋), Guo Fen (郭芬), Xia Gongfu (夏公甫), Chang Yuanting (常远亭),
Liu Caichen (刘彩臣), Qi Gechen (齐格忱), Ying Jiechen (应洁忱), and Quan You’son Ai Shen (爱绅), who is more commonly known as Wu Jianquan (吴鉴
泉). Among them, Wang Maozhai and Wu Jiangquan were the most famous for their amazing skills.
It is said that there was an earlier source of influence on the development of Wu Style Taijiquan. Known only as "Mr. Li", no one seemed to know much
about him. There were many myth and legends surrounding him. In his time, some people actually believed he was an immortal from Wudang Mountain.
According to legend, he first encountered Quan You's by chance when Quan You was ambushed by a group of enemies and left for dead. He saved Quan
You's life that day, and would reappear later several more times to render assistance when Wu group practitioners ran into serious troubles. What we do
know for fact are the skills he passed down, for example the distinctive hooked front foot of Wu Style, and the spear skills (Wudang 384 spear, from which
today's 13 Spear form and 24 spear form are derived).
Yin Cheng Gong Fa Association North American Headquarters
Copyright © 2000 YCGF_NAH. All rights reserved.
Taijiquan Manual "Taiji Shuo Fa" (太极说法) - “Description of Taiji Quan”
passed down from Wu family. Wu Jianquan's son Wu Gongzao wrote below
sentences on this page: “This book was given by Master (Yang) Benhou to
my ancestor Wu Quan You after his bai shi ceremony. It is a copy coming
from the palace of King Duan Fang and is in my family more than one
hundred years. Gongzao kept it from young age until today.”