Every year throughout China, Taijiquan competitions and public demonstrations are held at every level, sponsored by many different organizations. Conventions also are held where prominent Taijiquan masters and experts lecture and transmit their skills through seminars, training classes and technical level assessments of all kinds. As an example, I will briefly note some of its highlights of the International Taijiquan Health Conference I attended as a Taijiquan expert in March 2001 in the beautiful Chinese city of Sanya on Hainan Island.
Some 3,000 people from all over the world attended the conference, and it was an impressive sight to see many of them practice 24-Step Taijiquan together in the morning, along with local people, in a group that stretched several miles along the Pacific shore. Bathed in the morning sun and cool ocean breeze, this diverse group came together to perform slowly to the rhythm of music in harmony under the blue sky and white clouds. The natural and harmonious spirit of Taijiquan was fully present in this flowing magnificent scene.
Invited guests included 90-year-old Sun Jianyun, daughter of Sun Lutang--founder of the Sun-style Taijiquan; Chen Zhenglei, the 11th generation disciple of Chen-style Taijiquan from Chenjiagou in Henan Province; Yang Zhenduo, great grand-son of Yang Luchan--founder of the Yang-style Taijiquan from Shanxi Province; Qiao Songmao, the fifth generation disciple of the Wu (武)-style Taijiquan from Hebei Province; Li Bingci, the fourth generation disciple of the Wu (吴)-style Taijiquan from Beijing; Zhao Zengfu, follower of the Zhaobao Taijiquan from Henan Province; Zeng Nailiang, one of the top-10 martial arts coaches in China; Men Huifeng, one the top-10 martial arts professors in China; Xia Paihua, researcher in the Chinese Martial Arts Research Institute; and Chen Sitan and Wang Erping, both champions in National Taijiquan Competitions. These experts and masters of Taijiquan selflessly presented their skills and valuable experiences accumulated over the years to people who love Taijiquan.
Among the many exchanges and demonstrations of Taijiquan at the conference were competitions in 42-Step Taijiquan and 42-Step Taiji sword, evaluations of traditional and optional forms of Taijiquan, Taiji push-hands competition, group Taijiquan performance competition, and all kinds of performances with weapons.
In traditional Taijiquan competition and performance, the styles included such popular ones such as the Chen-style, Yang-style, Wu (武)-style, Wu (吴)-style, and Sunstyle, as well as those forms known locally such as the Zhaobao, He-style, Li-style, Fustyle, and Bagua-style of Taijiquan. Modern Taijiquan forms included Hunyuan, Siwei, Dongyue, the 36-Step Chert-style, the simplified Sun-style, the 13-Step Wu (武)-style Taijiquan, as well as Taiji club, Taiji spear, Taiji fan, Taiji ball, and Taiji stick. The office staff of the central government office from Beijing and the Macao Martial Arts Association both were given special awards for their group performances. Young athletes from Guangdong Provincial Martial Arts Team won a special award for their group performance of Taijiquan that expressed solid basic skills, a high degree of technical difficulty, and dazzling choreography and artistry.
Among the modern forms of Taijiquan, those considered as the official standard are those created, designed, examined and approved by the experts organized by the State Martial Arts Administration. Often referred to as prescribed Taijiquan, these standard forms include the 24-Step Taijiquan, 48-Step Taijiquan, 88-Step Taijiquan, 32-Step Taiji Sword compiled under the direction of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission; as well as all kinds of competition forms for Taijiquan and Taiji push-hands compiled under the direction of the Chinese Martial Arts Association.
The martial arts grading system under the State Administration of Martial Arts consisting of three grades and nine levels was presented at the conference through a demonstration of the beginning levels of instruction for Taijiquan -- 10-Step Taijiquan at the first level, the 16-Step Taijiquan at the second level, and the 24-Step Taijiquan at the third level. Based on the Yang-style Taijiquan, these instructional materials help teach and assess those applying for beginning levels through concise and clear instructions suitable for people of all ages with different physical abilities.
The conference also heard reports on special topics given by experts on such topics as "The Development of Taijiquan," "The Basic Physiological and Health Care Element of Taijiquan," "The Teaching and Training of Taijiquan," and "The Cultural Implications of Taijiquan." In response to these lectures, audiences asked for even more reports, so extra night sessions of the lectures were added on demand.
Beyond all the official activities, this international gathering offered Taijiquan practitioners many other ways of getting together, such as sightseeing. People took walks on the beaches among the coconut trees or visited nearby temples and mountains, fully enjoying the beauty of nature in the company of friends looking toward a bright future -- truly a manifestation of an international community dedicated to health, peace and harmony.