The History of Tai Chi Chuan Extract from Tai Chi Chuan and The Code of Life by Graham Horwood
The Four Styles of Tai Chi Chuan
The history of Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung sprang from ancient Taoist alchemy, a fact easily recognizable in such texts as The Secret of the Golden Flower. This arcane work, dating from the second century AD, was one of the first comprehensive Taoist meditation manuals made available to readers in the West. This and other Chinese alchemical, religious, and philosophical doctrines were absorbed into Tai Chi Chuan over the course of its development, producing the discipline we know today.
There are four “modern,” popular styles of Tai Chi Chuan, all based on the I Ching, which incorporate its philosophy and archetypes into their principles of controlled movement. The practice is an outward meditative expression of the essence of the Book of Changes. These styles are known as Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun, all named for the family clans who adapted the techniques.
Chen is generally accepted as the “oldest modern style.” . . This in turn gave rise to the Yang style, which is the most popular today and has evolved into several offshoots; the two most notable of these are the Wu and, least known of the four styles the Sun style, created by Hsing I and a Pa Qua Master named Sun Lu Tang.
All of these styles, if taught and practiced properly, will balance, build, expand, and contract the body’s chi, enhancing that internal energy in a flowing, natural manner. Thus, Tai Chi can be perceived as a moving mandala, expressing the universal life force, in human form, and embodying many Taoist themes, such as: “the only constant is change, but one must remain constant in change.” The many postures are therefore linked together to form a relaxed, flowing exercise that harmonizes the inner and outer energy of the mind and body.
An Ancient Art of War
Tai Chi Chuan is a moving Chi Kung (see Chapter Five) whose long historical development springs from an ancient style of “boxing” known as Mien Chuan, “Cotton Fist,” so called because of its emphasis on the softness and suppleness of the fighter. In many cultures throughout history, quietude was a method of allowing the spiritual forces to penetrate into consciousness, with the fringe benefit of allowing a fighter maximum efficiency in combat with a minimum of energy expended.
The earliest recorded use of the name “Tai Chi Chuan” comes from the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD). Although Tai Chi itself appears to have a fairly modern history – most historians agree on a rather late date for its wide practice across China, circa 1200 AD – its history is timeless. The meditative movements have been practiced since the I Ching was laid down in 2600 BC. Why, then, is Tai Chi only afforded a recent history? This is due to the consolidation of many styles at later periods. Nevertheless, beyond the later, secular veil of practice, Tai Chi was and still is a secretive art drawing on a much older source for its inherent qualities. Master Wang Li Shen who is pirctured above, is the 17th Grand Master of the Zhenwu Clan in Wudang Shan, and he told me that Tai Chi can be traced back 10,000 years. The I Ching, 2645 B.C. discusses esoteric breathing exercises relating to Tai Chi and Chi Kung probably the first written assocation to these timeles disciplines.
Examples of early “movement meditation” practices abound. There are the therapeutic drills devised by Hua To, a Taoist physician and pugilist from the Han Dynasty (around 200 AD). His calisthenics were nicknamed “animal frolics,” but his own name for them was Wu Quin Xi, “five animal play.” He had observed that certain creatures possess qualities that, if imitated, will enhance an individual’s health. Hua To also noticed that certain animals naturally perform movements to stay alert, fit, and healthy for survival purposes, using their instinctual chi. The creatures he observed in particular were the tiger stretching out its limbs; a deer extending its neck and head; a bear crouching, then extending up to its full height on two legs; and the movements of birds flapping their wings on the ground and in the air. All of these are incorporated in the Tai Chi form; for example, in the central route the “bird” postures evolved into the “crane” kicking sequence of the Original Yang Style.
These Chi Kung exercises were later referred to under the blanket expression of Taoyin. The science of Taoyin lies at the heart of much of Chinese calisthenics, having evolved constantly in the development of the classical martial arts; its practice enhances one’s ability to control the inner breath. Adapted by the monks of the Shaolin Monastery in the Tang Fung District of Henan, it was used as the basis for the exoteric Kung Fu school, as advanced by Ta Mo, the sixth-century AD mentor to the Shaolin.
Ta Mo wrote his classic works on “sinew changing,” “the eighteen Lo Han” boxing, and “marrow washing” exercises at the monastery, which became the spiritual home of the external martial arts. These were disseminated through the centuries into hundreds of Kung Fu styles across China, including Wing Chun, Crane Boxing, Praying Mantis, Plum Blossom Fist, Tiger and Crane System, Snake Hand, and so forth. A general distinction came from the geographic origin of the different styles: in the northern states, the style emphasized the use of one’s lower limbs, while the southern systems employed more hand techniques in their practice. These styles eventually filtered into the Far East, and now all they are taught all over the world as Karate, Judo, Aikido, kick boxing, Tai Kwan Do, among countless others. All can claim the Kung Fu of Shaolin master Ta Mo as their philosophical antecedent.
While Kung Fu was being developed as an external, combative form of physical discipline, Chang San-Feng (living sometime in the period 960 – 1279 AD) was creating a technique that would make him a legendary patriarch of latter-day Tai Chi Chuan. He is often attributed to the time of the Sung Dynasty, though the most reliable and accepted evidence indicates that Chang San-Feng was the former magistrate and scholar of Confucianism for Chung Shan County, and was a native from I Chow in the Liao-Tung district. According to this evidence, he was born on the ninth day of the fourth moon of 1247 AD, in the Yuan Dynasty (1206 – 1368 AD).
His fame became established after he had completed a ten-year devotion at the Shaolin Monastery where, besides studying the Chinese Buddhist doctrines, he learned the “exoteric martial arts,” wai kung. Chang San-Feng went on to study Taoism at the K’o Hung Mountain Monastery, which led him on to wander as a hermit until he reached the Taoist enclave at Wudang Shan, sometimes referred to as Wu Tan or Wudan Mountain (“Wudang” is the modern spelling in Pinyin), found in Hubei Province. Here he founded his own monastery, Hsun Tien, and the first major esoteric or internal school, nei kung, of martial arts. This was the birthplace of modern Tai Chi Chuan.
Chan San Feng’s Cave – Wudang Mountain
Tai Chi Hermit
A Chinese Merlin, Chang San-Feng laid out the initial moves of the Tai Chi form, based on inspirational visions and dreams he had experienced. Composed much later, the Tai Chi classics state that one night he dreamed of a Taoist Immortal advising him to reform his strenuous training methods, to relax the rigors he had developed as part of his earlier Shaolin training. The message of the dream troubled him for a long time, until one day he spotted a snake and a crane in deadly combat.
Snake and Crane
Chang noticed that before the snake attacked, it would raise its head, bow its body, and appear to gather its intrinsic energy, ready to strike out like an arrow. In response, the crane would deflect the attack effortlessly with a downward arc of its powerful wing. From this, Chang developed an entire program of motions and responses. He adapted the crane’s motion into the “brush knee” posture. The crane would retaliate by stabbing its beak down at its prey, in a manner adapted into the Taking a Needle from the Bottom of Sea motion. The snake used its flexibility to sway or dodge the strike, as in “roll back”; this allowed the snake to lash out at the crane’s legs, but the crane would simply raise the vulnerable limb in a relaxed fashion so that the snake’s bite could not attach itself, thanks to the “emptiness” of the bird’s extremity. This became the Snake Creeps Down and the White Snake Puts Out Its Tongue postures.
Yin and Yang
These “crane” moves were integrated into the middle of the Yang style, especially with the kicking sequences designed to strengthen the lower limbs and improve balance. This natural display of yin and yang from the animal kingdom made a great impression, providing him with the realization that yielding is more effective than using brute force. Chang San-Feng still incorporated many of the martial postures he had learned from the Shaolin Monastery, but he tempered them with his own variations and innovations, creating his own into his chang chuan, “long boxing.”
The snake and the crane also have a magical significance in the West. Having deciphered obscure Western alchemical texts, Jung found that the snake symbolized the “chthonic,” with earth energy represented as a dragon or physis, which makes up the element equivalent to yin in Chinese philosophy. Distinct from this creeping reptile, the crane stands for the aerial, the spiritual, psychic energy that is the yang principle. Therefore, the snake and the crane present two principle opposites of Nature in both Chinese and European alchemy. In Tai Chi Chuan, the Snake Creeps Down has a martial application, but it also signifies the descent into Underworld. “Redemption” takes place in the next move, when the “Golden Bird (crane) Stands on One Leg,” portraying the ascent of the spirit. These movements, then, comprise paradise lost and found.
Even though he was a recluse on Wudang Tan Mountain, Chang taught openly, his reputation reaching the Emperor of China. That ruler, Tai Tso, sent soldiers to recruit Chang in order to increase the martial prowess of his court. The military escort was disappointed, though, when they found Chang San-Feng: he feigned madness (convincingly) and was able to elude the escort. The duped soldiers left empty-handed, leaving the hermit to continue his path in peace . . . but thereafter he taught more discretely.
Chang and the Emperor
Another legend tells of one of the Emperor’s sons who went hunting and encountered Chang in the forest. The prince’s courtiers ordered the disheveled Chang to leave the area immediately, as his presence was disturbing the game and therefore the hunt. Chang, quite literally up a tree at the time, politely refused. There was an order given to dispatch the recalcitrant monk to heaven with a flurry of arrows. Several ace archers fired their bows at the target, but, to the prince’s alarm, Chang jumped off of his branch and proceeded to catch and break all the arrows as he descended. When safely on terra firma, he returned the snapped shafts to their surprised owners.
Chang was ever-elusive – and he eludes us still when we seek more details about his life. When he disappears from history and legend, the course of Tai Chi Chuan becomes cloudy again. The story returns to clarity with the Chen clan, a powerful family from Henan province in central China. The Chens were devoted to Taoism. According to the custom of those days, the elders of powerful clans would patronize and retreat into monasteries. It seems reasonable to assume that the Chen clan were taught their Tai Chi Chuan by disciples from Wudang Mountain, which lies near to their home district.
Shaolin Monks and Tai Chi
In 2001, I became involved with a troupe of Shaolin monks. The head monk showed me their “new” forms of Chi Kung, which are Taoist methods, a kind of nei kung (i.e., internal style). The monks, for my benefit, did a Tai Chi form and they informed me that they also do Pa Qua and Hsing I. They have now adopted Wudang methods to circulate chi, so it seems that the process has come full circle since the days of Chang San-Feng. Since then I have met several groups of Shaolin Monks, in China and Europe who all advocate the benefits Tai Chi and Chi Kung.
In the sixteenth century, the next great innovator of Tai Chi emerged from the Chen clan. Chen Wang Ting lived at the end of the Ming Dynasty period (approximate dates: 1597 – 1664), dwelling in the Chen village of Chen Chia Kou of the Wen district. He not only improved on the earlier form of Tai Chi Chuan, but also publicly documented its practice for the first time.
Hardly the hermit Chang had been, Chen Wang Ting was an accomplished warrior who devised many new skills for Tai Chi, including “the pushing hands” exercise for two people. He designed this practice in order to increase a person’s sensitivity by animating the limbs and torso with a spiraling form of chi. This mind and body exercise produced an incomparably flexible, yet tensile, strength in the body. Ingeniously combining the principles of Chi Kung and shadow boxing from Tai Chi Chuan, Chen Wang Ting developed his style into a very effective method for practicing internal martial techniques without fear of injury.
Chan Shu Jian – Silk Reeling – Push Hands
Normally, when chi is developed by an internal master, the blows from nei kung martial arts are very dangerous because they can disturb the flow of chi in the meridians and internal organs. The systems underlying this martial art exploit the mind’s ability to project and concentrate its intention, which turns the chi into jing, or “power chi.” Jing can also be conceived of as a concentrated form of “thought chi,” which is an “invisible,” intrinsically powerful martial weapon. Through Chen Wang Ting’s innovation, the extreme damage possible from nei kung attacks can be tempered and lessened. To prevent damage to chi and the body Chen developed ‘push hands’ in order to test the internal skills of combat without harm as well as building chi.
Chen Wang Ting also developed Chan Shu Jian, the Silk Cocoon Reeling, a technique that exploits the advantages of spiral movements. He was inspired to create this method after watching young Chinese girls, who would tirelessly draw delicate threads from silk worms. He observed that the girls could do this effortlessly, but only if the movements were naturally gentle, slow, controlled, and continuous. Their circular movements wound the silk thread without interruption; this natural yin, equated with feminine action, could tirelessly perform these actions without breaking the thread.
Beyond possessing peerless martial implications, Chan Shu Jian reinforces the chi within the meridians, primes the waist to twist and turn, and thus stimulates the kidney “essence” jing (that is, seminal essence) at the same time. Jing being the generative and primal motive energy of the body which, when animated by nei kung methods can be transmuted into chi.
Spirals from Galaxies to DNA and Tai Chi
All the moves of Tai Chi are performed as an implementation of this spiral Chan Shu Jian, after the fashion of the Tai Chi Tu. We have already seen one example of how the spiral form exists as an embodiment of cosmic law: the double-helix of DNA mirrors the spinning motion of the universe, found everywhere in Nature from the coil of a galaxy down to the humble snail carrying its own DNA code in the spiral on its shell. The Indian mystical tradition uses the Sanskrit word for “spiral or snake coil,” kundalini, to denote the primal yogic power. In the West, the twin snakes entwined around the winged staff of Mercury form the caduceus, which has become the western symbol of healing and medicine.
Manmade spirals exist everywhere on earth, taking the form of the rifling in a gun barrel that gives the weapon greater accuracy, the twist of flight feathers on an arrow, the elliptical space orbit of some rocket or satellite, the handyman’s drill bit, the Archimedes screw for drawing water up an incline, the twist of rope, and so forth. Looking at its origin, we find that the word “spiral” derives from same source as “spirit” and “inspire” – terms based on and indicating the concept of breath.
Chen Wang Ting lived to see the death of one of China’s great dynasties, the Ming (1368 – 1644). With the succession of this dynasty to the throne, the Mings had brought about a period of native-born Chinese rulers who founded a stable – but very autocratic – system of government. Their excessive reliance on a vast bureaucracy ended up creating a corrupt core, which literally rotted the very foundations of the dynasty out from beneath it. The over-stretched collective structure crumbled, giving rise to its own end. Their rule was terminated in the fateful struggle against Manchurian invaders (who, in victory, were the founders of the Ching Dynasty, the Manchus).
Even though Chen Wang Ting, as commander-in-chief of the civil militia, defended his province successfully against the Manchu army, he became disillusioned with the pointlessness of the struggle for power. Reflection on his violent career opened his mind to the influence of the more profound aspects of Taoism, and so he ended his days as a recluse, far from the noise of politics and war.
During his later years Chen Wang Ting composed a poem about his life as a warrior. He reveals that, despite the apparent rewards of the warrior existence, in the end he had realized how hollow his life had been, compared with the final journey that lay ahead. He took up the study of the Taoist medical canon, the Huang Ti Nei Ching (“Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine”), and worked alongside the peasants in the fields, all the while teaching and practicing martial arts in order to benefit the lives of the ordinary people of his county. As a gentleman sage, then, he concluded his inspiring and multifaceted life.
Tai Chi goes Underground
Taoism and other free-spirited disciplines went underground during the reign of the oppressive Ching Dynasty. They held an iron grip not only on the people but also on their culture, especially targeting anything that might threaten the rulers’ authority. Tai Chi Chuan was perceived as a threat by the Manchus, because of its martial, philosophical, and spiritual independence.
Curiously, Western Alchemy became very secretive in Europe at the same time, due to the various inquisitions and the repression of many alternative beliefs. Alchemy, the study of the Kabbalah, and other forms of arcane, esoteric wisdom were banned. One classic example of such suppression can be found in Isaac Newton’s invention of the story of the apple falling on his head, used to cover up his studies of alchemy, the true inspiration for his many discoveries (see Chapter One for more examples of how Newton and his rival, Leibniz, secretly implemented the knowledge they had gained from their arcane studies).
In China, even though Taoism and Tai Chi Chuan were becoming more secretive, they acted as an “inner” yin psychic balance to the yang found in the Manchus’ oppressive administration . Again in parallel, western alchemy compensated for the dogmatic social and religious mores of the time by becoming more abstruse.
Yang Lu Chan the founder of the Yang Style and Shadow Boxer
It took Tai Chi Chuan nearly two hundred years to enter its next historical phase, when an impoverished lad of ten years named Yang Lu Chan (1799 – 1872) set out from Hebei province in North China to seek fame and fortune. The year was 1810. The boy’s destiny led him to the Chen Chia Kou village, where he purposely found work with the Chen Clan – the descendants of Chen Wang Ting.
While still a lad, Yang Lu Chan happened upon a private training session of the Chen family, where they performed their shadow boxing skills. These were kept highly secret by the family for reasons of self-preservation. Watching clandestinely from a treetop over many nights, the boy memorized all that he saw, to practice the forms later in private. (Master Chu, my own teacher and a Yang family member, told me during my first lesson that this vigil lasted ten years.)
His hard work, loyalty, and honesty made him popular with the Chens, especially with a senior of the clan, Chen Chang Hsiang (1771-1853). During an outing, Chen Chang Hsiang, accompanied by family members and the young Yang Lu Chan, was challenged by outsiders to a customary duel. The purpose of the challengers was undoubtedly to gain a reputation by defeating the Tai Chi master. Several clan members went to defend their chief but without success. Then, out of respect and honor for his patron, Yang Lu Chan stepped forward, defeating the adversaries easily.
Chen recognized that Yang had used the family’s secret techniques, and summoned the young man to appear before him at dawn the next day, to account for this outrage. Yang was very concerned, as it was a serious offense to infringe on the privacy of such a noble family, especially concerning martial practices.
In the morning Yang confessed that no one had betrayed any secrets, explaining his clandestine apprenticeship. Chen was impressed by the story and the skills of the young lad, but in true Chinese martial tradition ordered him to return at the same time on the following day. A daily ritual grew out of these meeting, where Yang would enter to find Master Chen, crossed-legged, meditating on the podium of his chamber; after his hour was up, Yang would politely leave.
One morning, a year later, Yang patiently attended while Chen meditated, as he had done every day. Today, though, he noticed the Master begin to lean forward. Yang jumped up to catch his teacher, only to receive a shock that sent him flying across the room. When he looked up at Chen, he was surprised to see that the Master was still sitting quietly, meditating.
Yang had passed the first test of patient endurance. Thereafter Yang was accepted into the family martial circle, where he enjoyed a privileged learning status for the next twenty years. He learned the shadow boxing forms, “push hands,” weapon forms, Chi Kung, and self-defense.
When Yang Lu Chan was about to return to his homeland of Hebei, to continue following his destiny of fame, Chen Chang Hsiang told Yang that, as he had become such a skilful master in his own right, he would never have to worry about food or clothing ever again. These parting words of the elderly Chen proved true.
Yang Lu Chan’s fame traveled across the land as he taught and dueled on his journey through China. His exploits led him to Beijing where he was summoned to the Emperor’s Palace in the Forbidden City to demonstrate his skills.
Yang Family and the Emperors of China
On his visit to the Emperor, the gates of the Forbidden City were opened to Yang Lu Chan by court eunuchs, who had mischievously left two courtyard dogs loose for their amusement. The dogs attacked Yang’s legs, but he just shook them from his legs in a casual manner. Later that evening when the eunuchs were feeding the dogs, they wondered why the hounds had lost their appetite. On closer inspection, the servants noticed that the dogs had lost their teeth! Lo and behold, the dogs’ teeth were found at the spot of their attack on Yang. The Chan Shu Jian training had allowed chi to permeate into his bone and soft tissue, strengthening his body. From this tale comes the Tai Chi maxim, “limbs of steel wrapped in cotton wool.”
After several more displays of his prowess, defeating many Imperial champions, Yang was naturally offered a senior teaching post at the Court. Although he was obliged to teach Court officials – and even the Emperor himself – he was in a quandary because if he showed the Emperor and his staff the secrets of Tai Chi Chuan, he and his family would be dispensable, and most probably would be hunted down with their own martial arts. At the same time, if the Emperor discovered that Yang held back any of his secrets, the same outcome might come to pass.
So Yang devised an “external” or public form of Tai Chi that would promote health without showing the more intrinsic aspects of self-defense that made Tai Chi such a formidable martial art. Several times the Emperor would ask why his ability did not match Yang’s, whereupon the Tai Chi Master disingenuously explained that the Emperor should relax and practice more. Thus, he saved his neck, and his secrets – not only for the rest of his life, but for three generations of the Yang family, all of whom duped the outside world with their “external” teachings. Notwithstanding their duplicity, the Yangs became the official martial arts instructors of the Imperial Court. This remained a private joke for the Yang family, down to the reign of Last Emperor of China.
Yang Family Internal Style
To ensure the security of the family secrets, the hidden tradition was only passed on to sons (owing to the vow of obedience to their spouses daughters must swear before their wedding – the traditional rules of complete obedience to husbands were very strict in pre-twentieth century China). The Grand Tai Chi master of our age, Yang Shou Cheung (1909 – 1984), broke this tradition by teaching Tai Chi to all of his daughters, some of whom still teach Tai Chi today in Hong Kong; it was there that the Grand Master lived, after his forcible exile from China in 1949.
The Yangs privately called the public forms “Tai Chi dancing.” There are several systems of so-called Tai Chi Chuan being taught today that stem from these public forms. Neither the Manchu Emperors nor their courtiers could fathom the internal aspects, largely because the student requires careful instruction in nei kung.
Yang Lu Chan modified the Chen Family form of Tai Chi, eliminating the acrobatics, alternating speeds, and the foot stamping that were the hallmark of that earlier style. He thus made the practice a subtler flow of movements incorporating the more natural principles of yin and yang. The Yang style was developed with an internal emphasis, using the “spirit” or mind to control chi transportation, as opposed to a physical bias using force to move the body. From this is derived another of the Tai Chi precepts: “the spirit moves the chi, which moves the body.”
Yang taught all of his sons. The most renowned was his third, Yang Chien Hou (1839-1917), who grew into a gentleman and scholar who revised the form yet again. Chien Hou is famous for his technique of “adhering,” as he could follow an opponent’s movements relentlessly without losing touch or being felt himself. The following anecdote demonstrates his unusual skill in this.
A local Kung Fu expert had borrowed some money from the wealthy Yang Chien Hou and one day came to Yang asking for more time to repay the debt. Yang, being as generous as he was jocular, offered him an alternative method to settle the outstanding sum by way of a challenge: if the debtor could shake loose the Tai Chi master’s touch on his shoulder, the debt would be null and void.
The Kung Fu master readily accepted this and they mounted the roof overlooking the master’s courtyard. The challenger stood in front of Yang on the roof’s edge, while Yang positioned himself behind, with his right hand imperceptibly placed on the other’s shoulder. Instead of jumping straight down as expected, the challenger to Yang performed a complex somersault in the air, landing nimbly on his feet in the courtyard below. Thinking that he had left the master back on the roof, the Kung Fu master looked around smugly. To his astonishment, Yang was standing behind him, exactly as he had on the roof, still touching his shoulder with his right hand gently placed on the same spot.
Yang Cheng Fu laid down The Original Yang Style
One of Yang Chien Hou son’s, Yang Cheng Fu (1883 – 1936) became very famous at the turn of this century as a Tai Chi champion. He also modified the form into the style recognized today as the “Original Yang Form,” which had a “public” and “family” face. He realized that Tai Chi had lost its martial advantage with the general introduction of firearms into China at beginning of the twentieth century. Yang Cheng Fu took stock of this and moved south, still teaching, selectively, the “public” Tai Chi, but now to a wider range of students. His aim was to improve the health of as many people as possible, to counteract what he saw in China and its peoples as impoverishment and illness. This was the birth of Tai Chi Chuan as a Chinese health art, which stealthily spread out of China following its introduction.
When the communists took power in 1949, there was a mass exodus of Chinese intellectuals and aristocracy. These waves of exiles included the Yangs, because however dubiously the Yangs had served the Imperial Court, they were still considered nobility by the communist faction. The stain of aristocracy caused many Yang family members and Tai Chi Masters to leave China during the revolutionary upheavals of the mid-twentieth century.
As the Revolution reached its height, Yang Cheng Fu’s eldest son, Yang Shou Cheung (1909 – 1984), moved from Beijing to Hong Kong, where he lived modestly to the end of his days. He spent his life teaching selected students, including Master Chu King Hung, his third adopted son. In 1978, I was fortunate to meet, then to study with Master Chu for over eight years in England.
Tai Chi Books
The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan: Way to Rejuvenation, by Jou Tsung Hwa.
Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions, edited by Douglas Wile.
T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen: Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, by Chen Wei Ming.
The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan: The Literary Tradition, by Benjamin Pang Lo.