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Yang style diversity

Yang Yang Lu-Chan combined different fighting styles and his own insights into an innovative style for combat, later called Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. The moment he started teaching this style, evolution and diversity started to take place. It is traceable that already the children and pupils of Yang Lu-Chan were at the basis of different styles. In general teachers have their own insights and interpretations with respect to Tai Chi and pass those on to their pupils. If an interpretation differs on essential points from the original style we call it a new or derived style.

It is perfectly natural that a teacher has his own opinions about Tai Chi Chuan and reflects this in the teachings, only as long as the principles of Tai Chi are not violated. This makes it a little hard for some people to know what you are talking about if you say that you practice Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. Insiders might ask you about your lineage, the teacher(s) you had and their teachers, to get an idea.

When I was looking for another Tai Chi teacher I started getting confused by the diversity in styles. I came across people that performed the form of Chi Chiang Tao differently than I did, people that used different names for the same thing or worse, the same name for different styles.

I captured my findings in the following table and a poster. I hope this clarifies the confusion about the different Yang styles at least a bit. This data is far from complete (there are as many interpretations as there are teachers) but the mainstream information is there.



Imperial Yang family style
Bejing Yang style
(small frame)
Yang Lu-Chan (Yang Fu-Kui 1799-1872) →
Yang Jian-Hou (Yang Chien Hou, 1839-1917) →
Wang Zhong Lu and his son Wang Yong Chuen (1903-1987) → Wei Shu Ren
(Old) Yang Large frame
Long Imperial 108 Form Set
Imperial Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872) /Yang Ban-Hou (Yang Yu 1837-1892) → Gong Tian-Ren
Classical Tai Chi:
Yang Lu-Chan / Yang Ban-Hou →
(Wu) Quan Yu (a Manchu who adopted the Han name of Wu, 1834-1902) → Wu Jian-Quan (Wu Chien Chuan, 1870-1942) → Young Wabu (1904-2005)
Yang Ban Hou style
Guangping form (Yang Ban-Hou lived in Guang Ping)
Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872) → Yang Ban-Hou → Wong Jao-Yu (1836-1939) → Kuo Lien-ying (1891-1984), Wong Xir-Chun (1902-1980)
Old Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou/Yang Ban-Hou → Yang Shao-Hou (1862-1930) → Gu LiSheng → Zhang Zhou-Xing (1920-2001) → Shi Dan Qin
Old Yang style
Yang Shou-Hou style
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou/Yang Ban-Hou → Yang Shao-Hou → Hsiung Yang-Ho (1880-1984) → Tchoung Ta-Tchen (1911-2000)
Old Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan style
(small frame)
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou/Yang Ban-Hou → Yang Shao-Hou → {Chang Yiu-Chun, Chen Pan-lin} → Erle Montaigue (1949- )
Old Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Tien Shou-Lin (1891-1939) → Shen Jing-Ling → Shen Zaiwen → (e.g. Steve Higgins)
Yang Long boxing
Authentic Yang
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Yang Shou Zhong (1910-1985) → (3 dochters + Yip Tai Tuck, Chu Gin Soon, Chu King-Hung) (ITCCA)
Authentic Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Fu Zhong Wen → Fu Sheng Yuan (1931- ) → Fu Qing Quan (James, 1971- )
Authentic Yang style
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Chen Wei Ming (1881-1956) → Liang Zheng-Yu (1900-2002) → Lau Yiu Lam (David)
Public Yang style
Family Yang style
Original Yang style
Yang Cheng Fu style
(Large frame)
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Chen Wei-Ming(1891-1975), Fu Zhong-Wen1907-1994, Tung Ying Chieh1886-1961, Yang Zhenduo (1925- ), Yang Zhen Ming(1910-1985), Hu Yuen Chou(1903-1997), etc. etc. → Yang Jun(1968- )
Chen Man Ching style Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Chen Man Ching (1901-1975)
Tung (Dong) familie stijl Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Yang Cheng-Fu → Tung Ying-Chieh (1897-1961)
Michuan Yang style
(hidden family tradition)
Yang Lu-Chan → Yang Jian-Hou → Zhang Qin-Lin(1887-1969) → Wang Yen-nien (1914 -)

Click here for the Yang style diversity as a tree structure.

Some remarks:

  1. When the Yang family members started teaching Tai Chi Chuan for a living they traveled a lot through China. They had a lot of students and it is likely that there are more people who’s lineage can be traced back to the founders, other than via the lines I provided here.
  2. Yang Lu-Chan (“the invincible”) and his sons were well known for their fighting skills. Many people, including the Manchu princes, wanted to learn the art from them. Students first learned a simple form. Once they showed enough skills and devotion they could become disciple and admitted to the inner circles. There they learned the advanced set and combat forms. This is not only a common style of education but also guarantees work for a considerable time hence having a steady income. Note that other authors claim that the advanced forms were kept in secrecy. This theory is not in line with the described practice.
  3. Yang Jian-Hou had a much milder character than his brother Yang Ban-Hou. Therefore he had more students and followers. Yang Ban-Hou was more interested in the martial side of Tai Chi.
  4. Yang Shao-Hou, the son of Yang Jian-Hou, received the teachings as well from his father as from his uncle Yang Ban-Hou. He therefore had a complete education in all aspects of the Yang style.
  5. Normally the heritage of the family style would go through the eldest son. There are two places in the Yang family tree where this is not the case. Yang Ban-Hou was two years older than Yang Jian-Hou but did not inherit the style (probably because he did not have many followers). Yang Shao-Hou was 21 years older than Yang Cheng-Fu, received the complete training even before Yang Cheng-Fu could walk but is not the heir for unclear reasons. Some authors say that Yang Cheng-Fu was an easy going, playboy type of person that did not take Tai Chi too serious (until a certain age). He therefore did not receive the complete curriculum.
  6. Yang Zhen-Duo was ten years old when his father died. He received his training mainly from his uncles and their disciples. In fact also a violation of the “from father to son” tradition.
  7. There are discussions about Erle Montaigue and his lineage. It is disputed if his teacher Chang Yiu-Chun ever existed and whether he made up his own style. For what it is worth, the man was a great fighter back in the eighties and has an impressive curriculum. He is very actively promoting Tai Chi and very open about what he is doing. Many clips from him can be downloaded via the Internet. He published a lot of writings and he has many titles on DVD that can be ordered. Without doubt, he has made a great contribution to Tai Chi.
  8. I have seen clips from many of the styles on the list. Some differ considerably. The style promoted by the ITCCA is one of those that has a vague resemblance with the Yang Cheng-Fu style but is using different principles (very high elbow positions for example). Unfortunately it is not possible to find any clip on the Internet of this form neither could I find any book or DVD.
Additional references:


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