Zhang-Sanfeng, the founder of Wudang Internal Boxing, was the famous Wudang Taoist in Wudang Mountains at the turn of Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty.
It was said that Zhang-Sanfeng, originally named Zhang-Quanyi, nicknamed Sanfeng, was born in Yizhou City, Liaoning Province and was tall and strong, with tortoise shape and swan bone, big ears and round eyes, hard beards and moustaches. He always wore a coir raincoat and a pair of straw scandals. No matter in summer or winter, he lived in the lonely and deep mountains or traveled in the crowded cities. He could remember what he had read just by one look and talked nothing but moral, kindness, faith and filial piety. He could talk with the gods and understand Taoism, so he could forecast the future and solve all the difficulties in the world. He could live without a meal for five days, even for two or three months; He could penetrate the mountain and drive the stones when he was happy; he lived in the snow when he was tired; He traveled here and there without any trace, so all the people at that time were amazed at him and thought him one of gods.
Wudang Taoist medical cultivation has a long history, especially the inner medicine, which is to cultivate the breath into medicine so as to make one strong and healthy, and prolong the lifespan by way of breathing. Zhang-Sanfeng had a profound cultivation in inner medicine. He said in On Taoism"To cultivate the mood before cultivating the medicine; to cultivate the character before cultivating the good medicine; when the mind is steady, the medicine will come naturally by itself; when the mood and character have cultivated, the good medicine will be in reach", which figuratively explained the progress of medicine cultivation. He had written many books on medicine such as The Gist of Gold Medicine, The Secrecy of Gold Medicine, A Song of Inner Medicine, Twenty-four Principles of Rootless Trees, Taoist Song of Earth Element and Real Immortal, which had been published in the Ming Dynasty. Later, the people had compiled them into The Full Collection of Zhang-Sanfeng's Works, with eight volumes.
Zhang-Sanfeng was not only profound in medicine cultivation but also in martial art, especially good at boxing and swordplay. He, on the base of Taoist theories, such as the naturalness of Taoist theories, keeping in a humble position and so on, had combined Taoist internal exercises, guarding skills of regimen, boxing acts of martial art, military sciences of militarists into one, and then created Wudang Boxing, which takes the internal exercises as the body, attacking as the purpose, regimen as the first important thing, self-protection as the main principle, and to defeat the tough with a tender act, charge the active by the still movement and attack the opponent with his own force, strike only after the opponent has struck. From the Ming Dynasty, martial art world have respected Zhang-Sanfeng as the founder of Wudang Inner Boxing and Taiji Boxing. Wudang martial art, through many generations' succession and development, has become one important school among China martial art and spread in the folk with a long and profound influence.
During the beginning years of the Ming Dynasty, Zhang-Sanfeng came to Wudang Mountain to worship Emperor Zhenwu on Heavenly Pillar Peak and built a hut to the north of Flag-stretching Peak in which offered incense to Emperor Zhenwu. Then he built a hut in another place, named Meeting Gods Temple. He once said to the seniors in the mountain that Wudang Mountain would be different from that day. Later, the second emperor of the Ming Dynasty did order to build Wudang Mountain at a large scale and made Wudang Mountain the head of the Five Famous Mountains in China, naming the Biggest Mountain.
In the twenty-second year of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty, he left Wudang Mountain without any information. When the King of Hunan Province, Zhu-Bai worshiped Wudang Mountain and could not find him. Then Zhu-Bai wrote a poem which eulogize Zhang-Sanfeng, which said to the effect that Zhang-Sanfeng loves gods. He drinks the water from the clean river in the morning and sleeps under South Cliff in the evening. He has cultivated Taoism in Wudang Mountain for many years, paying no attention to the changes of seasons and landscapes. When I could not find him in the bare mountain, how sad I am! There is only an empty hut left, an old Taoist sleeps under the pine tree."
In the 24th year of Emperor Hongwu, Zhu-Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, sent profound Taoists to put in order all Taoism in China. For that Zhang-Sanfeng was so famous, he specially ordered them: "If you meet Zhang-Sanfeng, invite him to me." But they could not find Zhang-Sanfeng.
When Zhu-Li became emperor of the Ming Dynasty, he wanted very much to invite Zhang-Sanfeng who was famous and highly influential among the folk to work in the central government, so he sent many men to look for him many times, but all ended in failure. He himself had written a letter to Zhang-Sanfeng, which said to the effect that: "A letter from the Emperor to Zhang-Sanfeng: I admire you so much that I want to learn from you. I have tried sending men to look for you all over the country, but you are a profound god, full of wonder and mystery, so I couldn't find you. Though I am not so clever and special, I look forward to meeting you day and night. So I send envoys again to look for you with my letter, waiting for your coming, so as to express my faithful feeling to you. On February 2, the tenth year of Emperor Yongle." From the letter, we can understand his anxiety and admiration to meet Zhang Sanfeng.
Had looked for him for many times, but all ended in failure; so Emperor Zhu-Li ordered to build Meeting God Palace and copper statue for Zhang Sanfeng and sent officials to clean the palace. That the highest emperor built temple, made statue, and offered incense for a Wudang Taoist was the only one in China Taoist history.