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Center for Taiji Studies

About the Center for Taiji Studies
Wu Xiubao Biography
Yang Yang BioQiu Zhen YiTaijiquanRomanizationlineage

The following text is an excerpt from Appendix I, A Brief History of Taijiquan and Developments of the Modern Chen Style of Yang Yang's recent book
Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power

Wu Xuibao

Wu Xiubao, my first teacher, is currently living in Jiaozuo near the Chen Village. Because of his love of Taiji and his enabling position in the Communist Party, Wu Xiubao has done much to improve the living condition of the people of Chen Village, where he is greatly admired and respected. He also played a significant, but largely unheralded, role in the recent transmission of the Chen family art. In January 2003, I returned to Jiaozuo and, upon visiting him, learned more about his experience and knowledge of the Chen style. Following is a portion of the history that he told me.

Wu Xiubao began his studies of the small frame Chen style Taiji with Yan Lixiang, under whom he studied from 1944 - 1960. In 1960, he began studies with Chen Qingzhou (b. 1933), and in 1966 began studying directly under the 18th-generation master Chen Zhaopei. Wu Xiubao spoke highly of Chen Zhaopei's martial ability and his personal character. He relayed one story that, when Chen Zhaopei was already an old man, a martial artist from nearby Shandong province came to the Chen Village with an open challenge to any takers. Saying that he was already an old man and didn't care if he lost face,Chen Zhaopei accepted the challenge and won convincingly. As another testament to Chen Zhaopei's character, Wu Xiubao noted that he frequently offered to pay Chen Zhaopei for teaching him, but that Chen Zhaopei always refused money, accepting only a gift of coal and supply of sweet potatoes.

After several years, Chen Zhaopei told Wu Xiubao that there was no one else in the Chen Village who could further elevate his skills, and that if he wanted to further his study, he must go to Beijing to study with Chen Zhaokui. (As noted above, Chen Zhaokui is the youngest son of Chen Fake. Since Chen Fake had left the Chen Village in 1928, Chen Zhaokui grew up in Beijing.) So in 1969, Wu Xiubao traveled to Beijing carrying a note from Chen Zhaopei asking Chen Zhaokui to accept him as a student. When Chen Zhaokui read the note, he proclaimed, "You have studied with my number five brother (meaning that Chen Zhaopei was Chen Zhaokui's second cousin), let me see what you have learned." After Wu Xiubao demonstrated his form, Chen Zhaokui commented, "You have worked hard, but there is still much to learn. We will have to study gradually, piece by piece."

Wu Xiubao continued studying with Chen Zhaokui since that meeting in 1969 until Chen Zhaokui's death in 1981. Throughout the 1970's, Wu Xiubao would frequently travel to Beijing (about five times a year, each time for 8-10 days) and study with Chen Zhaokui in the evenings. From 1971-1981, Chen Zhaokui would travel to Jiazuo during the month of October, and stay at Wu Xiubao's house as his guest.

Wu Xiubao quickly developed a deep respect for Chen Zhaokui's martial ability, frequently commenting in our interview that Chen Zhaokui's skill was so high that when he threw an opponent his movement was so small and refined that it was often not possible to see what technique or movement he had performed. It was during this period in the 1970s that Wu Xiubao began to play a role in the transmission of the Chen style. This was a time of political unrest in China, and the younger generation in the Chen Village was segregated from and unable to study with Chen Zhaokui, who by then was considered by many to be one of the greatest living practitioners of the 18th-generation of the Chen family. Upon returning from his frequent trips to Beijing, Wu Xiubao openly shared what he learned from Chen Zhaokui with an eager younger generation still living in and around the Chen Village.

Ultimately, at the request of younger generation practitioners, Wu Xiubao was instrumental in persuading Chen Zhaokui to return to the Chen Village and teach, obviously a pivotal occurrence in the transmission of the Chen style Taijiquan. Chen Zhaokui taught in the Chen Village for a period of one week in 1973, one month in 1974, and two months in 1976. In subsequent years, he spent a few months in nearby Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province, and in my hometown of Jiazuo, and taught others then. Many Chen style practitioners owe their current knowledge and understanding of the art in part to the efforts of Wu Xiubao in convincing Chen Zhaokui to teach in and around the Chen Village.

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