On 22nd April representatives from the six major styles of Taijiquan (Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao), Sun and He) came together for a series of events in Chenjiagou and the surrounding locale. Coming from all over China, the Chen stylists included both Chenjiagou players and students of Chen Fake’s disciples. Officiating the events were Kang Gewu, President of the Chinese National Martial Arts Research Centre, Taijiquan professor Yu Gongbao and various officials of Wenxian and Jiaozuo. The slogan for the grand and high profile gathering was “Meeting at Taiji’s holy ground! Harmonising Taijiquan!” The event included a symposium with speakers presenting their take on Taijiquan and the direction the art is going, and demonstrations by the Taijiquan masters present.
Taijiquan is cool and mainstream in China Today
|Billionaire and Taijiquan enthusiast Guo Guangchang (Image China Daily)|
It’s obvious that the Taijiquan scene in China is booming. Over the last few posts I’ve highlighted a number of large scale events happening there and a quick glance at the mainstream Chinese media confirms this. With high profile individuals like AlI Baba internet entrepreneur Jack Ma and Guo Guangchang the billionaire behind Fosun, China’s biggest private conglomerate being avid Taijiquan practitioners, and a booming middle class looking to reconnect with their own heritage. In short, today Taijiquan is cool and mainstream. It has not got the new age and slightly flaky reputation that it has in the West.
|Chen Xiaowang leading the group in paying respect to Chen Wangting|
On the following day representatives from all the major styles gathered at the Chenjiagou Ancestor’s Hall to pay respects to their common Taijiquan ancestor Chen Wangting. Chen Xiaowang represented the whole group for the ceremony burning incense and offering wine, as younger generation practitioners brought garlands of flowers to Chen Wangting’s alter. Next, Zhu Tiancai read aloud a poem he had composed honouring Taijiquan's ancestors and telling the history of the source of Taijiquan. All present then solemnly bowed to Chen Wangting pledging to work together+ for the spread and propagation of Taijiquan.
|Zhu Tiancai reciting his poem|
Professors of Taijiquan
Martial arts have never really enjoyed a high status in China. Many martial artists were severely persecuted during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, and the bad experiences of Taijiquan practitioners in Chenjiagou and many other places are well documented. The opening of the China Taijiquan Professional Education Centre and nomination of the first 13 practitioners to be given official recognition as “Professors of Taijiquan” marked a symbolic recognition of the importance of these ancient arts in the modern era. Little wonder that those receiving the awards looked so delighted. Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei, Wang Xian and Zhu Tiancai were recognised alongside masters from the other styles of Taijiquan.
|Newly recognised Professors of Taijiquan - Back row rt-Lt: Zhu Tiancai, Wang Xian, Chen Zhenglei and Chen Xiaowang.|
Handprints Hollywood Style
|Chen Xiaowang's handprint immortalised for the Taijiquan Masters Wall|
Hollywood is a Mecca for movie lovers, and the must-visit shrine in Hollywood, to which every Tinseltown pilgrim pays homage, is Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Visit the Chinese Theatre at any time and you'll find hordes of tourists staring down at the footprints, handprints and autographs of Hollywood superstars past and present immortalised in the forecourt’s cement. Now a “Famous Taijiquan Masters Wall” has been unveiled in Chenjiagou. Following a tradition immortalised by stars such as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood and Nicholas Cage – Taijiquan masters lined up to have their hand prints taken. I guess that’s progress. It’s clear that Taijiquan has been recognised as a valuable product and attraction by Chinese officialdom. Personally, I can’t help pining for the small rural village of the 1990s.
|Hollywood's Chinese Theatre comes to Chenjiagou!|