What evidence suggests Tai Chi came from Shaolin, alongside Wing Chun?

Wing Chun is commonly taught as coming from Shaolin, but Tai Chi is not, however there is ample evidence to link them, as follows.

  • ChénJiāGōu (Chen family creek) village is within 1 day’s walking distance from the Northern Shaolin Temple at SōngShān (Mount Song). Considering the size of China, this would be a massive coincidence if their respective martial arts evolved independently of each other.
  • The Chen family say their system was taught to them by a Monk who was also a Ming soldier during the time of the Ming-Qing war (where the nearby Shaolin Temple were a Ming military base). Although they claim he were a Daoist monk (not Buddhist), this does not entirely discount him from having trained at the Shaolin temple. In fact his status as a Ming solider during the war almost certainly puts him there. Whether he were Buddhist or Daoist or neither or both (simultaneously or transitionally), so long as he were a respectful Han Chinese committed to restoring the Ming dynasty he would have been welcomed by the Shaolin at least during the war.
  • Chen family tai chi was initially not called Tài Jí Quán (太極拳) in those days, it was called Cháng Quán (長拳) (Long Fist) as per how it’s referred to in the Classics. Shaolin also has a system called Long Fist which contains pretty much the same syllabus of techniques in its forms albeit typically executed more aggressively, as in an external style, at least from what we see today. Shaolin Long Fist even has the Single Whip (單鞭) technique, which is often thought of as a hallmark of Tai Chi and is representative of the highest levels of grace & sophistication in martial art – few people really ‘feel’ this move today, they tend to just go through the motions of doing it how they’re shown.
  • Shaolin also has a soft form – Rou Quan (柔拳) – which contains pretty much all the same moves as Chen Tai Chi, just joined up in different ways, and is executed in the same smooth soft-hard-soft manner too.
  • Tai Chi’s push hands exercises have immense similarity to Wing Chun’s sticky hands exercises. Especially pre Ip Man style sticky hands, which was much more based on Huen Sau (圈手) circling and looked practically identical to a popular tai chi push hands circling exercise. At the higher levels of both Push Hands and Sticky Hands, one learns that circling should be the driving force of the exercise mainly because hands on top is the dominant position. In theory, this old style of sticky hands was derived from Shaolin Crane style, just as Wing Chun was a merging of Shaolin Snake and Shaolin Crane (and White Crane Kung Fu’s ancestral home since the collapse of the Shaolin has been YǒngChūn county (永春县) which translates to Cantonese as Wing Chun county). And there’s no lack of Crane style references in Tai Chi either – for example the famous White Crane Spreads Wings technique (Bái Hè Liàng Chì, 白鹤亮翅) which itself is practically identical to certain segments of the Wing Chun wooden dummy routine.
  • Tai Chi technique names have plenty of references to other Shaolin animal systems too.
  • So many teachers blend Tai Chi and Wing Chun today, because they have so much in common and they complement each other so well, to the extent that they are practically each other’s missing link.

This should be ample evidence to suggest that Tai Chi and Wing Chun were probably once a single consolidated system – at least part of a single family of closely related systems taught by the Shaolin around the end of the Ming dynasty when the Shaolin monastery peaked, collapsed and scattered.