Master Yang Lu Chan is a master who has had the most impact and influence on the development of tai-chi chuan. He is often qualified as the first “stranger” to have been able to learn and master the secret art of tai-chi chuan under a member of the Chen family; the family which were the only ones to possess this knowledge until then. Thus the heritage of Yang Lu Chan continues to resound loud and strong today.
Yang Lu Chan (also called Yang Fu Kui) was born in 1799 in the Hebei province of China. According to many accounts, Yang began his tai-chi chuan apprenticeship in the Chen Jia Gou village in 1820 under Master Chen Ghang Hsing, with whom he trained until he was 18 years old. Because of his exceptional skills, he received permission from Master Hsing to teach tai-chi chuan and to have his own students.
Portrait of master Yang Lu Chan
He then moved to Beijing, where he had a number of students, including certain powerful members of the Qing dynasty; among whom notably included Wu Yu Hsiang and his brothers Wu Cheng Ching and Wu Ju Ching. Wu Yu Hsiang came from a very rich and influential courtesan family. In addition, he would go on to create his own school of tai-chi chuan called “Wu” or “Hao.” Yang Lu Chan also accepted many challenges and his reputation grew within the capital, where he was given the admiring nickname “Yang the invincible.”
In 1850, Master Yang was engaged by the imperial family to teach tai-chi chuan. He also taught the elite units of the Manchu imperial guard within the walls of the prohibited city. One could find, in the ranks of the imperial guards, Chan Yu (Wu Chan Yu) who would go on to create another school of tai-chi chuan called “Wu” with his son Wu Chien Chuan. For Yang Lu Chan, this was a delicate position to be in as the Manchu dynasty was always considered an invader of the Chinese people, including the Han people, of which he was a part. The transmission of sound tai-chi chuan was thus performed under historic and very particular circumstances that would have great affects on the different currents to follow…
The renowned greatness of Yan Lu Chan in the milieu of the nobles, intellectual circles and in the milieu of skilled martial arts practitioners contributed to rapidly making tai-chi chuan very popular and reputable. Master Yang is recognized today by many of the major tai-chi chuan schools as being a direct source of knowledge. His school would carry the name “Yang.” Today this is the tai-chi chuan school which, with its various versions, often very different from one another, is the school most practiced throughout the world.
Over the course of his life he trained, among others, his sons, Yang Ban Hou and Yang Chien Hou, and indirectly, his grandson Yang Chen Fu. The two different currents called “Wu” of Wu Chien Chuan and of Wu Yu Hsiang (style Hao) descended directly from his teaching. In the third generation, deriving equally from his teachings, are a number of celebrated schools like: Sun Lu Tan‘s “Sun” school, Chen Pan Ling and Wang Shu Jin‘s “Zhen Zong” tai-chi chuan and many others.