Zhang San Feng Tai Chi 13 Shì
As the basis of Wudang Tai Chi, Zhang San Feng Tai Chi 13 shì (Simplified Chinese:张三丰十三势; pinyin: zhāng sān shí sān shì ) is considered to be the foundation of Tai Chi forms or movements. The original form was created by the Taoist priest Zhang San Feng in the 14th century.
Zhang San Feng 13 shì consists of 13 sets of movements, encompassing both offensive and defensive applications. In order to express the laws of Yin and Yang and five elements in Tai Chi, the 13 shì incorporates the concept of the five steps, in addition to the eight types of hand movements. Zhang San Feng, who was proficient in martial arts, Taoist medicine, and inner alchemy cultivation, incorporated activating the meridian lines of the human body into the Tai Chi 13 shì.
The Taoist inner alchemy technique involves enhancing the circulation of the meridian lines to prolong life. Tai Chi 13 shì is a method to regulate the accumulation of Qi and the flow of blood in the meridian channels.
Chinese martial arts were simply divided into two styles, the northern school and the southern school. There is an old saying in China that Shaolin is the model of martial arts in the north and Wudang, the model of martial arts in the south. Both styles share common themes although their techniques differ.
There are many legends about Zhang San Feng, the venerated Taoist monk who founded what became known as the Wudang Internal Martial Arts School while in Wudang Mountain. According to historical records including those of both the local government and folk sources which have been handed down over the course of generations, Zhang San Feng, in the Hongwu year of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD) predicted that “The mountain will flourish on another day” as he and his apprentices were clearing land on Wudang mountain, building structures, and spreading the teachings of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.
（Wudang Mountain Purple Xiao Palace, one of the palaces where Zhang San Feng practiced his work.)
(An ancient mural of Zhang Sanfeng in the Purple Xiao Palace)
Zhang Sanfeng was known for his pious, free spirited, and reclusive lifestyle. It is said that he was influenced in creating Tai Chi by the movements that came about as a result of observing the life and death struggle between a magpie and a snake. His creation of Tai Chi drew from the martial arts, the concepts of the Tao Te Ching, the Art of War, and Taoist internal alchemy.
Because of the mystery that surrounded him, many regarded Zhang Sanfeng as a divine being, a reclusive dragon who was wary of those who sought to discover his secrets. After he founded the Wudang School, it became one of the most influential schools of the Chinese martial arts and continued to evolve and develop under a long lineage of grandmasters to this day.
In time, as Zhang San Feng’s fame spread and many sought his wisdom, he decided one day to leave Wudang Mountain unnoticed and unannounced. His whereabouts were never disclosed but his impact and influence upon Tai Chi is still felt centuries later.
Although Zhang San Feng lived deep in the mountains in order to avoid fame and fortune, his proteges continued to spread his teachings and writings. The ultimate whereabouts of Zhang San Feng were never disclosed or discovered and so he entered the realm of myth.
Emperors, scholars, and screenwriters have all sought the truth behind the legend of Zhang San Feng and sought out his book which holds the secrets to the martial arts. The Yongle and Hongwu emperors of the Ming Dynasty searched for Zhang San Feng not only to possess the Taoist way of immortality but also to discover a method to govern their kingdom and bring peace and harmony to their subjects. According to ancient records, approximately 600 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty these emperors sent numerous envoy’s and troops into the countryside to find Zhang San Feng but failed to do so.
In time, Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty ordered that 33 palaces be built in the Wudang Mountains. The "Encountering the Immortal" Palace was built during the period of 1412-1417 to honor Zhang San Feng .
(The "Encountering the Immortal" Palace)
Today, visitors from all over the world have the opportunity to visit these palaces and to view the statue of Zhang San Feng housed in the Wudang Museum. As predicted, Wudang Mountain is one of the most famous mountains in China, because of its connection to the birth of Tai Chi.
For hundreds of years now, Wudang proteges have regarded Zhang San Feng as their patriarch. Visitors to Wudang Mountain still feel the energy of this location and awe at the magnificent architecture of the surviving palaces. On exhibit are stone tablets, murals, statues, and royal relics related to Zhang San Feng. (Photo by Shiyan Evening News of Wudang Mountain)
Centuries have passed since the creation of the "Zhang San Feng Tai Chi 13 Shi” and it can still be found in the ancestral writings held by several of the most respected Tai Chi schools in China. Zhang San Feng is held in high regard as the greatest of all Tai Chi masters.
As a 16th generation protege of the Wudang Sanfeng School, Jing will share with her students Zhang San Feng’s Tai Chi 13 Shi in order to pass on the knowledge and wisdom of his Taoist spirit as advocated by Zhang San Feng.