Yang Cheng-fu (1883 – 1936) was the grandson of the founder of Yang family tai chi, Yang Lu-chan (1799 – 1872). Douglas Wile (1983, T’ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions) relates how Yang Lu-chan, drawn by the reputation of the martial art of the Chen clan in Honan province, went there to learn their art.
Wile notes that he returned later an accomplished soft style boxer, and gained national acclaim teaching his art at the Manchu Court. Wile says of Yang Lu-chan ‘Whatever the case, it seems safe to say that a man from humble origins, through a combination of genius and circumstance, lifted T’ai-chi ch’uan from a courtyard in the provinces to a place of prominence in the nation’s capital, and trained his three sons to be worthy successors’. One of Yang Lu-chan’s sons, Yang Chien-hou (1839 – 1917), was the father of Yang Cheng-fu.
The Yang family adapted tai chi to a world which had developed fire arms, by emphasising it’s health benefits and personal self defence, rather than its use in a military context. Under Yang Cheng-fu’s influence, the Yang style of tai chi chuan became the dominant internal martial arts system in China (Wile, 1983, Translator’s introduction).