The History of Tai Chi in the United States

This historical timeline shows the journey of Yang style Tai Chi, from a private Chinese family art, into the English-speaking world.


  • The Taiping Rebellion is crushed by Qing Dynasty forces in China. Both sides of this martial conflict use firearms. The era of “cold weapons” (e.g. sword and spear) has already ended.


  • John Dudgeon, M.D., describes Chinese Kung Fu as a form of preventative medicine.


  • Herbert Allen Giles publishes the first Chinese-English encyclopedic dictionary, and formalizes a system for writing Chinese with the English alphabet.


  • Herbert Giles publishes an essay about Chinese boxing. He translates neijia (內家) as “esoteric.”
Adversaria Sinica Vol. 5 (Shanghai, 1906)


  • Yang Chengfu begins teaching Taijiquan exercises to the Beijing public, at Zhongshan Park. Indoor lessons are supervised by his father, Yang Jianhou.
  • Tian Zhaolin (田兆麟), godson of Yang Jianhou, uses Taijiquan to win a national martial arts tournament in Nanjing.



  • Sun Lutang writes “On The Contrast of Neijia and Waijia Boxing” (论拳术内家外家之别), addressing popular myths about the definition and origins of so-called “internal martial arts” (or neijiaquan).


  • Chu Minyi (褚民誼) shares his Wu style Taijiquan practice on film.


  • Choy Hok-Peng (Cai Hepeng; 蔡鹤朋), a student of the late Yang Chengfu, arrives in San Francisco from Guangzhou. He begins teaching Taijiquan at the local branch of the Zhirou Boxing Club (致柔拳社).


  • The first English-language Tai Chi manual is published. It is an adaptation of Chen Yanlin’s 1943 book, 太極拳刀劍桿散手合編.


  • Sophia Delza returns to the United States after a four-year residence in China. She begins teaching Wu style Taijiquan to her dance students.


  • Sophia Delza holds a public Tai Chi demonstration at the Museum of Modern Art.


  • Da Liu offers public Tai Chi classes at the China Institute in Manhattan.


  • Choy Kam-Man (蔡錦文) begins teaching in the California Bay Area.
  • Gerda Geddes performs Tai Chi on a British television broadcast.


  • Sophia Delza is profiled in Popular Mechanics magazine.


  • Bruce Lee demonstrates Tai Chi and Kung Fu for KCTS 9 public television in Seattle.
  • Sophia Delza publishes her book, T’ai-Chi Ch’uan: Body and Mind in Harmony.


  • Black Belt Magazine publishes a three-part serial on “The Origin of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.” The author opines, “The number of reliable books on this subject is dismally microscopic…many writers based their entire conception of this art on fiction and popular hearsay.”
  • Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ch’ing; 郑曼青) teaches his Yang style short form on Canal Street in Manhattan.
Kuo Lien-Ying in The Killer Elite (1975)


  • Kuo Lien-ying (郭連蔭) offers Guang Ping Yang style Taijiquan lessons in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
  • Fook Yeung teaches a synthesis of Tai Chi and other Kung Fu styles in Seattle.


  • William C. C. Chen featured in Black Belt Magazine as “The Barnum of Brawl.”


  • Asian Fighting Arts, a new book by Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith, features a section on Taijiquan.


  • Hong Kong debut of Shaw Brothers’ action movie The Shadow Boxer (太極拳), featuring Cheng Tin-Hung (鄭天熊).
Beware the Bite of the Dark Dragon! Tong Kai-Ying (董繼英), Black Belt, August 1972.


  • Marvin Smalheiser’s T’AI CHI Magazine launches in the United States.
  • Jou Tsung-Hwa organizes the first annual “Zhang San Feng Festival” in New York City.


  • Jou Tsung-Hwa establishes the Tai Chi Farm, a school and retreat center, in Warwick, New York.


  • Chen Xiaowang demonstrates Chen style forms at “A Taste of China” exhibition in Virginia.


  • Yang style Tai Chi featured in the movie Road House.
Patrick Swayze in Road House


  • Yang Zhenduo leads a week-long Taiji retreat in Maryland.


  • Xie Bingcan teaches Yang and Wu style Taijiquan in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Fu Zhongwen and James Fu attend the International Kuo Shu Championship in Richmond, Virginia.


  • Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun establish the International Yang Family Tai Chi Association headquarters in Seattle, Washington.
  • Various English-language authors continue to sell romantic myths about the definition and origins of neijiaquan; which had already been disputed seventy years earlier by Sun Lutang, Tang Hao and other experts.

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