Zhang Sanfeng, Founder of Tai Chi

Statue of Zhang Sanfeng at Wudang Mountain.
 (Image: By Gisling (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Statue of Zhang Sanfeng at Wudang Mountain. (Image: By Gisling (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Zhang Sanfeng was born in the year 1247 in what’s now known as Fuxin, Liaoning Province. When he was just 5 years old, he suffered from an eye disease. He was fortunate to be healed by a Taoist named Zhang Yunum. From that time, and for the next seven years, Zhang Sanfeng studied scriptures of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, using his photographic memory, with Zhang Yunum.

When Zhang Sanfeng was 32 years old, his parents passed away. He resigned from office to mourn for them. He later left home in search of the Tao — until he met Taoist Huolong (“Fire Dragon”) in Mount Zhongnan at the age of 67. Another 10 years was to pass before Zhang went to Wudang Mountain — where he faced a wall to practice the Tao for nine years before finally attaining enlightenment.

(Image: Secret China)

His untidy appearance earned him the titles ‘Sloppy Zhang’ and ‘Sloppy Taoist.’ (Image: Secret China)

Zhang Sanfeng is the sixth generation descendant of the Laozi-founded Yinxian Sect (also known as the Dulong Sect). He claimed he was a descendant of Heavenly Master Zhang Daoling, whose appearance was strange, tall, and sturdy — with a turtle-shaped back, round eyes, big ears, and spear-shaped whiskers. Regardless of the climate, from summer to winter, Zhang Daoling always wore a bamboo hat and a robe, and put on a straw rain cape when it was raining or snowing. His untidy appearance earned him the titles “Sloppy Zhang” and “Sloppy Taoist.”

Zhang Sanfeng believed that Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism were orthodox religions, and in short can be considered “Tao.” He emphasized that if one behaves like a human being — doing good deeds, and acting with kindness, benevolence, loyalty, filial piety, and honesty — this person will come close to immortality. He said: “If one keeps his mind righteous, the true essence of a being and his spirit can be well preserved, and he will be a magnificent and virtuous person.”

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