Interview with Wang Yen-nien


In 1996, Wang Yen-nien visited Great River to teach Advanced Taoist Nei Gong Mediation and Basic Sword Cuts. While in DC he often had lunch with GRTC senior students. Mark Zimmer had these recollections of his talks with Master Wang.

His Military Experience


Master Wang talked about his time in the Shanxi provincial army fighting the Japanese and later the Communists. His province was known as having the best artillery division in China and one of the most accurate in the world (1940s and 1950s). From what I could tell, he worked his way up through the ranks to command an artillery battery (eventually reaching Assistant Division Commander).

The battles he participated in were horrendous. It sounds like he mostly engaged the enemy from a distance with breach loaded pieces. He said many of the battles were standoffs where most soldiers on both sides were casualties. By the time his unit actually entered the battle, the fighting had mostly subsided. He considered himself very fortunate to have survived these bloody battles unscathed. His loss of hearing in one ear he attributes to being close to the big guns.

The five color star worn by all warlord and Republican troops.

Warlord Yan Xishan

The head of his province, Warlord General Yan Xishan, considered Master Wang one of six influences. When they fled to Taiwan, Master Wang was considered part of this provincial leader’s elite. This same warlord had a power struggle with Chiang Kai Shek and lost. Master Wang regrets being on the losing side of this political struggle. He had held one of the key positions in Taiwan’s defense department, but felt he had to retire when his warlord lost favor. He liked his time in the army.

Master Wang considers the current tension between Taiwan and China as China testing Taiwan’s government and the people’s resolve. He is confident Taiwanese forces world repel a Chinese invasion.

He considered Chiang Kai Shek a somewhat ruthless politician. But he also said that certain extreme measures were needed during the years after the flight from the mainland.



I asked him about Taiji Quan and its original use in fighting and self defense. How do you get this life-and-death focus when you are practicing Taiji Quan as almost a hobby? He admitted it was very difficult to compare the urgency of martial arts in ancient times with current practice. He said Taiji Quan and the forms have evolved to be primarily a health and spirit enhancing discipline. So how do you focus and make Taiji Quan closer to the original intent? He said teachers have to be twice as hard on their students.

Lastly, he said he expected much improvement from me when he returns in two years.