Wu Kung-tsao

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Wu Kung-tsao
Born1902 (1902)
Died1983 (aged 80–81)
StyleWu-style taijiquan
Notable studentsWu Daxin
Wu Kung-tsao
Traditional Chinese

Wu Kung-tsao or Wu Gongzao (1902–1983) was a famous Chinese teacher of t'ai chi ch'uan. He taught in Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha and Hong Kong. The second son of Wu Chien-ch'üan, he was the grandson of the first teacher of Wu-style t'ai chi ch'uan, Wu Ch'uan-yü.[1] Wu Kung-tsao was the younger brother of Wu Kung-i and the older brother of Wu Ying-hua. The Wu family were originally of Manchu ancestry.


As a young man, he studied t'ai chi ch'uan, along with his brother, under the supervision of Yang Shao-hou. There was a tradition in the Chinese martial arts that youngsters be taught by teachers of a generation older than their parents'. Since Wu Ch'uan-yü had died the same year Wu Kung-tsao was born, he and his brother were taught by Yang Shao-hou, who was technically a generation senior to their father. Both Yang Shao-hou and Wu Chien-ch'üan were famous for their "small circle" martial expertise. The motions of t'ai chi ch'uan forms and pushing hands are all based on different sized circles, small circle movements in the forms and applications follow a more compact pathway for different leverage applications than larger circles.[2]

In the 1920s Wu Kung-tsao served first as an infantry officer in the Thirteenth Brigade of the Nationalist army until 1929, then later as a martial art instructor for the Hunan Martial Arts Training Centre as well as an instructor for the famous Ching Wu martial art school. During the 1930s, he wrote a well-known commentary on the classic writings in 40 chapters on t'ai chi ch'uan that his grandfather had inherited from Yang Pan-hou.[1][3] His commentary (including the original 40 chapters) was published as Wu Chia T'ai Chi Ch'uan (吳家太極拳, Wu family T'ai Chi Ch'uan),[1] also known by English speakers as The Gold Book because of the colour of its cover.[3] In 1937, he established his family's first school in Hong Kong. In addition to his teaching and literary contributions to the art, Wu Kung-tsao became known as a specialist in the nei kung aspect of T'ai Chi training, both for martial purposes and for therapeutic interventions along the lines of traditional Chinese medicine.[4]

Wu Kung-tsao stayed on the mainland after the Chinese Communist takeover in 1949. During and for a short time after the Cultural Revolution of 1964-1978 he was imprisoned by the Red Guards due to his history as a Nationalist military officer, a traditional Confucian scholar and Taoist teacher as well as a hostage to ensure the "good behaviour" of the rest of his family who were at the time living in Shanghai and Hong Kong. He was routinely tortured while a prisoner but was finally released in 1979, when he moved again to Hong Kong.[4]

Wu Kung-tsao's second son Wu Ta-hsin was also known as an expert martial artist and teacher who in his turn was the senior instructor of the Wu family schools internationally from 2001 until 2005.[4]

Generational senior instructors of the Wu family[edit]

1st Generation

Wu Ch'uan-yü (Wu Quanyou, 吳全佑, 1834–1902), who learned from Yang Luchan and Yang Pan-hou, was senior instructor of the family from 1870-1902.

2nd generation

His oldest son, Wu Chien-ch'üan (Wu Jianquan, 吳鑑泉, 1870–1942), was senior from 1902-1942.

3rd Generation

His oldest son, Wu Kung-i (Wu Gongyi, 吳公儀, 1900–1970) was senior from 1942-1970.

Wu Kung-i's younger brother, Wu Kung-tsao (Wu Gongzao, 吳公藻, 1903–1983), was senior from 1970-1983.

Wu Kung-i's younger sister, Wu Ying-hua (Wu Yinghua, 吳英華, 1907–1997), was senior from 1983-1997.

4th Generation

Wu Kung-i's daughter, Wu Yen-hsia (Wu Yanxia, 吳雁霞, 1930–2001) was senior from 1997-2001.

Wu Kung-tsao's son, Wu Ta-hsin (Wu Daxin, 吳大新, 1933–2005), was senior from 2001-2005.

5th Generation

The current senior instructor of the Wu family is Wu Ta-k'uei's son Wu Kuang-yu (Wu Guangyu, Eddie Wu, 吳光宇, born 1946).

T'ai chi ch'uan lineage tree with Wu-style focus[edit]


  • This lineage tree is not comprehensive, but depicts those considered the 'gate-keepers' & most recognised individuals in each generation of Wu-style.
  • Although many styles were passed down to respective descendants of the same family, the lineage focused on is that of the Wu style & not necessarily that of the family.
  • This lineage tree is based on the refuted testimony of a single source named Tang Hao, whose contention that Taijiquan begins in Chen Village (and therefore implies a "Chen Style" prior to a "Yang Style" is an assertion based on opinion and not demonstrable in fact.)

Solid linesDirect teacher-student.
Dot linesPartial influence
/taught informally
/limited time.
Dash linesIndividual(s) omitted.
Dash crossBranch continues.CHEN-STYLEZhaobao-style
Wang Lanting
2nd gen. Yang
Yang Jianhou
2nd gen. Yang
2nd gen. Yangjia Michuan
Yang Banhou
2nd gen. Yang
2nd gen.
Guang Ping Yang
Yang Small Frame
WU (HAO)-STYLEZhaobao He-style
Yang Shaohou
3rd gen. Yang
Yang Small Frame
Wu Quanyou
1st gen. Wu
Qi Gechen
2nd gen. Wu
Xia Gongfu
2nd gen. Wu
Wu Jianquan
2nd gen. Wu
108 Form
Chang Yuanting
2nd gen. Wu
Guo Songting
2nd gen. Wu
Wang Maozhai
2nd gen. Wu
Dong Yingjie
4th gen. Yang
Qi Minxuan
3rd gen. Wu
Cheng Wing Kwong
3rd gen. Wu
Wu Yinghua
3rd gen. Wu
Wu Gongyi
3rd gen. Wu
Wu Gongzao
3rd gen. Wu
Ma Yueliang
3rd gen. Wu
Yang Yuting
3rd gen. Wu
Zheng Tianxiong
Wu Dakui
4th gen. Wu
Wu Yanxia
4th gen. Wu
Wu Daxin
4th gen. Wu
Li Liqun
4th gen. Wu
Wang Peisheng
4th gen. Wu
Wu Guangyu
5th gen. Wu
Luo Shuhuan
5th gen. Wu


  1. ^ a b c Wile, Douglas (1995). Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty (Chinese Philosophy and Culture). State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2654-8.
  2. ^ Yip, Y. L. (Autumn 2002). "Pivot – Qi, The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness Vol. 12 No. 3". Insight Graphics Publishers. ISSN 1056-4004. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b Philip-Simpson, Margaret (June 1995). "A Look at Wu Style Teaching Methods - T'AI CHI The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Vol. 19 No. 3". Wayfarer Publications. ISSN 0730-1049. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c Cai, Naibiao (2006). "In Memory of Wu Daxin - Journal of Asian Martial Arts Vol. 15 No. 1". Via Media Publishing, Erie Pennsylvania USA. ISSN 1057-8358. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]