The origins of Taijiquan are often attributed to one Zhang San Feng (a Daoist of either the Twelfth or Fifteenth century depending on the source) who created the Art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane (I’m sorry but I have to say this is baloney!). Although there is evidence that Zhang San Feng actually existed, there is no historical evidence to support the claim that he had anything to do with the creation or practice of Taijiquan.
These stories were popularized in the early part of this century and were the result of misinformation and the desire to connect the Art with a more famous personage. All various styles of Taijiquan which are in existence today can be traced back to a single man, Chen Wang Ting, a general of the latter years of the Ming Dynasty. Chen was a native of Chenjiagou, Wen County, in Henan Province. After the fall of the Ming and the establishment of the Ching Dynasty (Originally, the Art was only taught to members of the Chen clan until a promising young outsider named Yang Lu Chan was accepted as a student in the early part of the Nineteenth century. After mastering the Art, Yang Lu Chan (nicknamed “Yang without enemy” as he was reportedly a peerless fighter) modified the original Chen style and created the Yang style of Taijiquan, the most popular form practiced in the world today. Wu Yu Xiang learned from Yang Lu Chan and a variation of the original Chen form from Qing Ping (who taught the ‘small frame’ version of Chen Taijiquan) and created the Wu style. A man named Hao Wei Zhen, learned the Wu style from Wu Yu Xiang’s nephew and taught the style to Sun Lu Tang, who in turn created the Sun style (Sun was already an established master of Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang when he learned Taijiquan. He combined his knowledge of the other arts when creating his style). Yang Lu Chan had another student, a Manchu named Quan You, who in turned taught the Art to his son, Wu Jian Quan. Wu Jian Quan popularized his variation of the Yang style, which is commonly referred to as the Wu Jian Quan style. In recent times (this century) there have been many other variations and modifications of the Art, but all may be traced back through the above masters to the original Chen family forms.