The Origin of Hwa Yu T’ai Chi – A Biblical Perspective (Part 1)

The origin of Hwa Yu T’ai Chi is traditionally believed to be in China during the 9th and 10 centuries AD. Tradition is that Chen Tuan lived on Mount Hua (Hwa) in Shensi during the latter part of the Five Dynasties period (907-960 AD) and early part of the Sung Dynasty (960–1279 AD).  The mountain is located in the north-central part of modern China in Shaanxi province about 75 miles east of Xi’an. It is the western mountain of what is known as the Five Great Mountains of China.

Chen Tuan, also known as Chen Hsi I, is credited with being a martial arts expert who developed a style known as Liu Ho Pa Fa (also known as Hwa Yu T’ai Chi). Centuries later a master of Liu Ho Pa Fa, John Chung Li, brought the art from China to the United States. My teacher, Grand Master Robert Xavier, was a senior student of Grand Master Li and received the lineage of Hwa Yu T’ai Chi in 1980.

Training on Wudang

Chen Tuan was an expert in Chinese martial arts before he created Liu Ho Pa Fa. Tradition is that he studied martial arts at the Rock of Nine rooms on Wudang Mountain (also spelled Wu Tang).  Wudang is located in Central China about 405 miles from Mount Hua, certainly within travel distance for Chen Tuan to have trained there.

Wudang has a long history of “internal” or “soft” martial arts. Liu Ho Pa Fa (Hwa Yu T’ai Chi) is one of the internal martial arts. Other internal arts from Wudang are Hsing-I Ch’uan (Form of the Will Boxing), Pa Kua Chang (Eight Trigrams Palm) and T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Grand Supreme Boxing). It’s believed that these arts were created during the Ming Dynasty, many years after Chen Tuan created Liu Ho Pa Fa.

Some historians believe Chen Tuan taught Liu Ho Pa Fa on Mount Wudang and that he may have taught Huo Lung, who was the teacher of Chang San Feng (also spelled Zhang Sanfeng). Chang is said to be the creator of T’ai Chi and the concept of internal strength (neijia). It’s also believed Chang may have spent time on Mount Hua before finally settling in the Wudang mountains.

Some historians believe that Li Tung Fung was the senior student of Chen Tuan (Chen Hsi-I) and continued the lineage of Liu Ho Pa Fa. Others believe Li Tung Fung discovered a description of Liu Ho Pa Fa that Chen His-I wrote before his death.

Here is a short lineage of masters of Liu Ho Pa Fa (Hwa Yu T’ai Chi) beginning with Chen His-I.

Hwa-Yu Martial Arts Masters Lineage

  • Master Instructor Chen Hsi-I – Creator of Liu Ho Pa Fa (Hwa Yu T’ai Chi)
  • Master Instructor Li Tung Fung – Senior student of Chen Hsi-I … Master Fung was the author of the “Five Word Song”
  • Master Instructor Kwan Kit
  • Master Instructor Lan Wan Sing
  • Master Instructor Wong Tak Wai
  • Master Instructor Tai Yai Chin – Changed the name from Lop Hop Pak Fat to “Swimming Boxing”
  • Master Yeung King Kun – From Fon Shan, called the exercise “Twelve Movements of Exercise Before Birth”
  • Master Instructor Shut – Called the exercise “Idea Six Combinations”
  • Master Instructor Chen Kong Ta – From the town of Yellow Flower in the district of Cheung Pin of the Hopei Province. He studied the exercise under the names of “Idea Six Combinations” and “Idea Spiritual Kung Fu.
  • Master Instructor Wu Yiek Tai – Taught Lop Hop Pak Fat in the Republic of China. General Cheng Jee Kong brought Master Tai to the Chinese Martial Art GovernmentSchool in Nanking to teach Lop Hop Pak Fat. Master Tai later lived in Shanghai and taught a few students until the Communist Government appeared. He died in 1967.
  • Master Instructor Chan Yik-yan
  • Master Instructor Lo Chi-wan
  • Master Instructor John Chung Li
  • Master Instructor Robert Xavier

You can learn more about Hwa Yu T’ai Chi and its history by reading the following books:

Hwa Yu T’ai Chi Ch’uan: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Five-Word Song by Grand Master Glenn Newth

Hwa Yu t’ai Chi Ch’uan Part II: The Inner Workings by Grand Master Glenn Newth

The Chinese Five Word Song by Grand Master John Chung Li

A Biblical Perspective

While this lineage takes us back to the Sung Dynasty, the history of Hwa Yu T’ai Chi and Chinese Martial Arts goes back even further.

Chinese Martial Arts is thought by many to have originated with a legendary figure known as the Yellow Emperor. Huangdi (Huang – yellow .. di – emperor) is believed to have been one of ancient China’s earliest emperors. He was known as a great warrior and intellect and was given the name “Yellow Emperor.”  He is reputed to have been born on Xuanyaan Hill in Xinzheng County in the Henan Province. His birth name was Youxiong Xuanyuan and the beginning of his rule is believed to have been in the middle of the third millennium BC.

That’s interesting in light of the nations that descended from Noah. We find them listed in Genesis 10.

“Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.” Genesis 10:1

All the peoples (nations) of the earth descended from the sons of Noah. So, which son (or sons) of Noah was an ancestor of the Chinese people? Let’s begin with the lineage of Japheth.

“The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” Genesis 10:2-5

Some historians believe the Chinese came from the lineage of Japheth through his son Javan and grandson Kittim. Though the Bible does not list how long Japheth and his sons and grandsons lived after the Flood, we do know how long Shem and his descendants lived.

  • Noah was born 600 years before the Flood and lived another 350 years after the Flood
  • Shem was born 100 years before the Flood and lived almost 500 years after the Flood
  • Arphaxad was born two years after the Flood and lived to be 438 years old
  • Salah was born 37 years after the Flood and lived to be 433 years old

That gives us some idea about the possible ages of the sons and grandsons of Japheth. Javan and Kittim may have lived for several hundred years after their births.

Genesis 10 informs us that “the earth was divided” during the days of Peleg. It would appear from what we read in the Bible that the division of the earth refers to the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel that we read about in Genesis 11.

According to the record of Shem’s lineage in Genesis 11, Peleg was born about 101 years after the Flood. Peleg was the great-great grandson of Shem. He lived to be about 239 years old, so the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel occurred sometime between 101 and 340 years after the Flood.

The significance of this is that God scattered the descendants of Noah who all lived together at Babel (Babylon). Genesis 11:8 and 9 read – “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

That means the descendants of Noah and his sons were scattered across the earth sometime between 101 and 340 years after the Flood. Noah and his sons would have still been alive when God confused the language and scattered the people. Noah lived 350 years after the Flood and Shem lived almost 500 years after the Flood.

The sons of Noah and their descendants who were scattered abroad over the face of all the earth would have had the time and energy to establish many cities across the world. We know from the life of one of Noah’s great-grandsons that he set up cities throughout ancient Mesopotamia.

“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).” Genesis 10:8-12

Nimrod would have lived about the same time as his cousin Selah, who was born about 37 years after the Flood. If Nimrod was born about the same time and lived as long as Selah did (433 years), then Nimrod would have been living long enough after the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel to build all the cities attributed to him. He may have been stronger than members of other families since he built cities in the same area as Babel. Genesis 10 does say that Nimrod was a mighty hunter and a kingdom builder – which would possibly make him the first king after the confusion of language.

Nimrod would not have been the only person building a kingdom and cities across the world. His uncles and cousins would have also been looking for places to build their new lives after the confusion of language and many of them would establish themselves as kings and rulers in the new world.

Next Time

In the next part of our special series, we will look at where the families of Japheth, Ham and Shem moved to from Babel. We’ll also see which family or families may have moved to what would become China. We’ll also see if we can determine from the Bible the identity of the Yellow Emperor.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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