Q: How can we know that the Li Family Manual is genuine?

A: There may have existed a number of copies of the manual texts in the Tang Village, and we don’t know exactly how old these particular copies are or if any of them are originals. They were, however kept by the family who originally wrote them, and the texts are clearly not corrupted from having been copied many times like the other known versions of the classics. The previous versions of the Tai Chi classics are full of obvious copying mistakes, most do not disturb the meaning, but many do. The Li Family Manual is seemingly flawless, and all sentences make good sense.

The documents included in both the Li Family genealogy and the martial arts manual have been examined by several university professors. The first was Wang Xingya from the History Department of Zhengzhou University who had no doubts about the validity. A number of academic papers have analyzed the texts, and although a few express some doubt, there are no proof of forgery in any of them.

The two main reasons to forge things are usually money and fame. But the person who owned the house where the manuals and biography were found was illiterate. No one in the family had any idea they had a sensation hidden in a small room over the door. It was the historian Li Libing who insisted he wanted to see it, and it was he who brought it out in public. Although the owner had the manual for many years he never attempted to sell it or become famous by publishing it. And, apparently, no one in the family has practiced the family’s Tai Chi heritage for many years. If they were forged, it would have been long before the revolution where these texts were largely unknown, and since there were no well-known Tai Chi schools in the village no one would have benefitted from forging the texts. Furthermore the well-known story that Wu Ruqing found the classics in a salt store in Wuyang is another strong indication that the texts are genuine because the salt store was, in fact, owned by a member of the Li family of the Tang village.

Back to Q&A