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The Connection Between Yinyang Baguazhang, Baguazhang , and Xinyi Liuhequan
Yan Zhiyuan, June 2007

Translated by Joshua Capitanio

Over the course of my many years of research into martial arts and martial arts history, I have more and more come to realize that the difference between Yinyang Baguazhang (Yinyang Bapanzhang) and Baguazhang resembles the difference between Dai family Xinyiquan and Xingyiquan. Baguazhang was an innovation developed on the basis of Yinyang Bapanzhang by its creator Dong Haichuan 董海川 (1816-1882) just as Xingyiquan was an innovation based on Dai family Xinyiquan (Guo Weihan 郭维瀚 and Li Luoneng 李洛能 [1807-1888] were the creators of Xingyiquan).

The name “Yinyang Bapanzhang” comes from the great Yinyang Baguazhang teacher Ren Zhicheng 任致诚 (1878-1967), of the remote Beidou Li Village in Wen’an County, Hebei. When Ren saw Sun Xikun’s 孙锡坤 book “Baguazhang zhen chuan ,” published in Tianjin in 1937, he thought that it showed some similarities with the Yinyang Baguazhang that he practiced, and it seemed like both styles shared a common root. In order to avoid confusion between the two styles, he published a book in 1937, at his own expense, entitled “Yinyang Bapanzhang.” Ren Zhicheng’s senior classmate Xiao Haibo 肖海波 was the teacher of Cheng Yougong 程友功 (the second son of Cheng Tinghua 程廷华, who studied with Xiao Haibo after Cheng Tinghua died when he was still very young), whose students to this day still call their art by its original name, Yinyang Baguazhang .

Note: Ren Zhicheng had three elder classmates. The most senior was Liu Baozhen 刘宝珍 (1861-1922), from Hongsi Village, Gu’an County. Liu Baozhen also studied later with Dong Haichuan, when Dong was in his later years. Xiao Haibo (1863-1954) was the second senior, and the third senior was Ren Shunan 任树南 from Liangzhao in Renqiu County. The first two had already left their teacher before Ren Zhicheng began studying with him. According to accounts, Ren Shunan’s skill was the most well-developed (he had learned before Ren Zhicheng, Ren Zhizhong任致忠, and Ren Zhihe 任致和); unfortunately, he never passed it on.

Guo Zhenya 郭振亚, whose lineage is from senior disciple Liu Baozhen, published his book “Bagua Saber” in 1983, in which, describing its history, he states: “This saber method was passed down by the famous teacher Liu Baozhen, of Gu’an in Hebei, to Guo Mengshen 郭梦深, who passed it to his elder son Guo Zhenya, and thus has been preserved until now. Liu Baozhen studied under the Baguazhang masters Dong Haichuan and Li Zhenqing 李振清, thus obtaining the true transmission. He integrated the essential saber methods of both teachers, developing this unique and innovative ‘Bagua Saber’ method into a form, and contributing to the richness of Chinese martial arts.”

Liu Baozhen, having also studied with Dong Haichuan, thus differed somewhat from Ren Zhicheng’s line of Yinyang Baguazhang . Also, because Liu became Dong’s student while Dong was in his later years, at which time Liu already was adept at the practice of Yinyang Baguazhang , his Baguazhang has a very different style from the Baguazhang of Dong’s other disciples (most of whom, before learning Baguazhang from Dong, had practiced external styles).

After leaving his teacher, Xiao Haibo in 1881 became known in Beijing for his “four foot two inch [~1.3m] Bapan Saber” (given to him by Li Zhenqing), where he met a certain Chen Pu 陈仆, visiting Beijing from Wen County in Henan. The two of them practiced boxing together and discovered that they practiced the same style. At that time, Chen Pu was already in his eighties, so he must have learned this boxing style twenty or thirty years before Li Zhenqing began studying. When Xiao Haibo met Chen Pu, Chen told him that the person, who had previously taught Baguazhang in secret in Henan, had relocated to the “slopes of Jehol,” [translator’s note: Jehol (Rehe) was the site of a large anti-Manchurian and anti-Western uprising by a “Boxer” or White Lotus-related sect, the Golden Elixir Bagua Sect, in 1891] causing Xiao to go there and study Yinyang Baguazhang for eight more years.

Thus, Xiao Haibo’s line is very similar to that of Ren Zhicheng, except that Xiao’s has much more content.

Ren Zhicheng had two junior disciples, Zhao Tingzhi 赵廷之 and Su Jingtian苏景田, in Fanjiakou Village, Ba County, but it seems that he never met them.

In 1890, at the age of sixteen, Ren Zhicheng, along with his brothers Ren Zhizhong and Ren Zhihe, became a disciple of Li Zhenqing in Weijiaying, Ba County, and they invited him to their village to teach. According to both the branches of Ren Zhicheng and Xiao Haibo, Li Zhenqing was born around 1830 and practiced martial arts from a young age. His maternal uncle had been a manager at a bodyguard company, and at the age of sixteen he became a bodyguard himself, until the age of seventeen when he followed his uncle on an assignment to Henan, and he gave up his position and apprenticed himself to a teacher, learning the skills of Yinyang Baguazhang. After completing his studies and before leaving his teacher, his teacher told him that, several years prior, a certain man surnamed Dong from Zhujia Manor, Wen’an County, had studied this art with him. If, in the future, Li had any questions, he could go to ask Dong. Li Zhenqing gave up the bodyguard
business and traveled around, visiting friends and acquaintances, and teaching in Gu’an, Renqiu, Wen’an, and Ba Counties in Hebei. Li Zhenqing was said to have been able to jump up and catch birds with extreme speed, and was well-known as “Sparrowhawk Li.” In 1900 he died under the guns of the Eight-Nation Alliance’s armies, after joining up with the Boxers (Yihetuan).

Xu Yusheng 许禹生, discussing Dong Haichuan in his writings, has demonstrated clearly that when Dong first entered the capital, he was on a mission to assassinate the Qing emperor; from this it is not difficult to see why Dong and Li Zhenqing were unwilling to state the name of their teacher. Thus, the claim to have “learned from a transcendent” is a type of code that shows their conflicted feelings and difficult position. After the Republican era began, when Ren Zhicheng was no longer concerned about retaliation from the Qing government, he wrote about the origins of his style, claiming that, during the Daoguang period (1820-1850), Dong Menglin 董梦麟 taught both Dong Haichuan and Li Zhenqing, and that Li Zhenqing had taught the Ren brothers in his later years. He also said that “this art had already been transmitted three generations when it reached Dong Menglin.” From this we can tell that the first generation of Yinyang Ba[gua/pan]zhang practitioners was around the Qianlong era (1735-1796).

Dong Menglin of Henan could certainly have been from Huaiqing (see my three articles “The Life and Origins of Tongbeiquan Founder Dong Cheng,” “The Close Relationship Between Tongbiquan (Tongbeiquan) and Xinyi Liuhequan,” and “Tongbei of Huaiqing Prefecture – The Source of all Martial Arts”) and of the same clan as Dong Cheng 董成. On the basis of the boxing theory developed by Dong Cheng in his later years, he could have developed Dong Cheng’s “Horse Stance Double Pushing Palms” posture, turning the two knees inward, making it into “Squeezing Horse Posture.” He also could have taken Dong Cheng’s “Lesser Posture Steps” as his basic footwork pattern (calling it the “Fishscale stepping”) and his [theory of] the 3x3=9 nodes (three basins and nine nodes) and the triple dantian (the author has discovered that only Yinyang Bapanzhang places the three dantian in the same place as Dong Cheng) as his basis and created Yinyang Bapanzhang (Dong Cheng had previously created “Yinyang Eight Step Hammer”). In this, he would have been taking a similar route as Ji Longfeng, refining and specializing [these techniques], according to the principle of “different songs performed with equal skill.”

Ren Zhicheng said that Li Zhenqing had met his teacher in the Jiangnan region [generally refers to S. China “south of the [Yangtze] river”], and Dong Haichuan’s disciples also said that Dong had learned from a “yellow capped” Daoist priest in Jiangnan. Now, in the Qing dynasty, people from Hebei could have considered Henan [“south of the [Yellow] river”] as “Jiangnan.” In 1881, Xiao Haibo encountered Chen Pu, visiting Beijing from Wen County in Henan, and they discovered that they practiced the same style; moreover, a certain Liu Junwu 刘君武, visiting Tianjin in 1955, demonstrated a “Yinyang Baguazhang ” (exactly the same as that passed down by Li Zhenqing) that he had learned from an old bodyguard agency’s martial arts teacher in Henan. From this, we can surmise that “Jiangnan” referred to Henan, which matches the accounts of those in Xiao Haibo’s lineage; this is also a similar situation as Big Spear Liu Dekuan of Hebei studying his “Six Roads Heavenly Pattern Lance” in Henan. It is also difficult to deny the possibility that there may have been certain reasons for them intentionally stating “Jiangnan” instead of “Henan.”

From these accounts of Chen Pu and Liu Junwu learning in Henan, as well as Xiao Haibo going to the “slopes of Jehol” to study Yinyang Baguazhang , we can see that this Daoist who taught Yinyang Baguazhang in Henan not only passed it on to multiple different students, but also quite possibly taught people associated with anti-Qing secret societies. Examples such as Dong Haichuan’s student Ma Weiqi 马维祺 (known as “Coal Ma,” he often injured others when they fought) who learned a deadly palm technique from a certain Mr. Sha (claimed by Dong Haichuan as belonging to the same style), and the drunkard Zhang San 张三 (in 1872, Zhang, at the age of twelve, met a stranger who taught him martial arts) who practiced Inner Bagua, demonstrate that at that time there were many recluses and skilled people such as Chen Pu and Liu Junwu who taught and practiced martial arts. Those members of the anti-Qing society, the Golden Elixir Bagua Sect, with whom Xiao Haibo practiced martial arts on “the slopes of Jehol” were probably also quite numerous.

During the Qing, there were many expert martial artists who were closely involved with the political struggles of the times, such as Li Wencheng 李文成 and Lin Qing 林清 of the Tianli Sect (a branch of the Bagua Sect) who lead an uprising that attacked the imperial palace in 1813, and the uprising started by the Li Trigram branch of the Bagua Sect in the Linqing and Dongchang areas of Shandong in 1824. There was also the Taiping Tianguo rebellion of 1851, the Li Trigram uprising in 1861 in Xin and Qiu counties in western Shandong, the Nian uprising in 1865 that spread on both sides of the Yellow River, the Golden Elixir Bagua Sect’s rebellion in Jehol in 1891 and the Yihetuan uprising in 1900. The Bagua Sect used the practice of martial arts to establish connections among the people, and among their boxing styles was Yinyang Baguazhang . Many peasant movements like the Bagua Sect rose and fell; under such conditions, if someone were to brazenly declare where they had learned martial arts, from what person, and that it was called “Yinyang Baguazhang ,” this would certainly have resulted in great difficulties in the transmission of the style and threatened the lives of its practitioners. Yet, to claim that one had made up oneself the skills passed on by one’s teacher goes against the traditional values of the Chinese martial arts community.

We can compare this to the situation of Qianzai Temple, where ninth generation Chen Village member Chen Wangting 陈王廷 studied Tongbeiquan, 13 Posture Soft hands, etc. along with his cousins Li Zhong 李仲 and Li Xin 李信 of Tang Village; later, when the Li brothers participated in the peasant rebellion lead by Li Zicheng that was defeated by the Manchurian Qing troops, the Qianzai Temple was also implicated and destroyed by the Qing armies. Therefore, Chen Wangting never mentioned his connection to the Qianzai Temple to his descendents and students, and nowadays the Chen family members themselves are not aware of this bit of history, which has given rise to much confusion. Only since the Li family documents were discovered in Tang village are we now finally able to see clearly that the circumstances are the same.

In the Qing period, participating in such uprisings was always a capital offense. The fact that Dong Haichuan and Li Zhenqing would not openly state their teacher’s name suggests that they may have had some involvement with these anti-Qing secret societies. Yet both men stated that they had learned their arts from another, rather than claiming to have created them, in accordance with the moral values of martial society at the time.

When I studied Yinyang Baguazhang (Bapanzhang) myself in Hebei, my teacher Liu (a disciple of Ren Zhicheng) and all of Ren’s other students told me this same story:

The founder of Yinyang Baguazhang was a member of an anti-Qing secret society (whether it was Taiping Tianguo, Nian, or the Golden Elixir Bagua Sect is unclear). Dong Haichuan had learned some martial arts in his hometown when he was young. After coming of age, he left home to travel, and in Henan he met this teacher of Yinyang Baguazhang , with whom he studied for many years. Later, he was sent by these anti-Qing rebels to Beijing, with orders to assassinate the Emperor. In search of an opportunity to get close to the Qing Emperor, he castrated himself and became a eunuch in the household of Prince Su, where he waited for his chance. Later, when it became clear that these societies would not succeed, and because it was difficult to get close to the Emperor, he abandoned his assassination plot. At that time, martial arts were popular in the capital, and the Qing army employed martial artists as instructors, such as the Wanzi army’s Hushen Camp,
who employed Yang Banhou 杨班候; the Vanguard Camp, which employed Liu Shijun 刘仕俊; and Yang Luchan 杨露禅, who taught the royal family. Thus, when Dong’s martial arts skills were discovered in 1866, when he was around fifty years old, he began taking students. Yet, in order to protect his teacher’s identity and connections with the anti-Qing societies, he altered the basic principle of the boxing style, disguising all of the key training methods of Yinyang Baguazhang , taking eight movements from the martial arts such as Bafanquan that he had studied in his hometown and arranging these movements according to the fifth move of Yinyang Baguazhang , the “Earth Basin Posture Circle Walking,” adding multiple repetitions. These eight movements were performed while walking a circle; the footwork was the same, but the hand movements were different; later, the movements were continually developed. Thus, [what Dong taught] was different from the original Yinyang Baguazhang , and he was able to stay true to his teachers and the anti-Qing societies (by not passing on the true transmission of Yinyang Baguazhang ).

Note: The Bafanzhang that Dong studied would have included the ‘Four Soft Roads’ and ‘Four Hard Roads,’ from Dong Xianzhou 董宪周, of the Dong family hometown of Kaikou Village, Ligongchuan, Ditoucun, Xiong County. The “New Gazette of Xiong County” says of Dong Xianzhou that “his reputation was well known in the Heshuo region [Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong ] and he had no less than a few hundred students”; he was clearly a well-known martial arts teacher during the Xianfeng years [1850-1861]. Dong Haichuan’s ancestral hometown was originally Hongdong County in Shanxi, and in the early Ming his ancestors moved to Kaikou Village, and another branch that moved from Kaikou to Zhujiawu and Ligongchuan also practiced Three Roads Hongquan, Jingangquan, Xingmenquan, etc.

Dong Haichuan’s innovative ability was certainly quite great. When he began teaching, “his disciples, for the most part, already possessed previous training; he would evaluate these students’ abilities and teach accordingly, taking their original boxing techniques and making them conform with the requirements of Baguazhang , altering and absorbing them into Baguazhang .” (See Li Ziming’s “Baguazhang mingjia yishi”) When passing on the essential teachings, he “recited them orally, and when his disciples had figured out the principle, he would demonstrate it for them himself.” (See Guo Gumin “Bagua quanshu jicheng” p.20-21) This style of “when his disciples had figured out the principle,” having them take the boxing techniques that they had already studied and transform them in this fashion, resulted in many different combinations of sixty-four palm techniques among his different disciples. Thus, already in the first
generation of Dong Haichuan’s disciples there were different systems.

For example, Yin Fu 尹福 had originally practiced Luohanquan. Within the baguaquan that his disciple Gong Baotian 宫保田 taught to Wang Zhuangfei 王壮飞, there is Bagua Luohanquan, Wulongquan, etc. The Twelve Road Tantui and Liantui that Shi Jidong 史计栋 had originally practiced were absorbed into his system of Baguazhang.

This transmission of Baguazhang material that was created by Dong Haichuan out of Bafanquan continued to the second and third generations (taking Dong Haichuan as the first generation). Cui Zhendong 崔振东 of the Shaolin Wuji school studied from Yin Fu (Cui had also received pointers from Dong), and Yin Fu incorporated and altered the Shaolinquan that Cui practiced; thus, the Cui Zhendong bagua passed down by Ji Jinshan 纪晋山 is completely different from Gong Baotian’s bagua, even though they were both students of Yin Fu.

Not only were the techniques themselves changed, the name was also changed, as Yinyang Baguazhang became Baguzahang. This is similar to Guo Weihan who, after concealing the fundamental training methods of Dai Family Xinyiquan, called the style that he developed “Xingyiquan” instead of “Xinyi.”

So, what were these training methods that Dong Haichuan concealed?

When I was studying Yinyang Baguazhang with Master Liu, I came to deeply understand its simplicity and depth.

It is a very scientific, methodical system of training; the most important training method is the first posture, the “Squeezing Horse” standing posture for body development. One must stand three years in this posture before learning the second one, just as in Dai Family Xinyi one must stand in “Squatting Monkey” for three years before learning footwork. The training progression and requirements have astonishing similarities [between Dai Xinyi and Yinyang Baguazhang ].

After three years of Squeezing Horse, the body method requirements (buttocks tucked, crescent moon, three drawn bows – which are just like the “five bows” in Taiji and Xinyi) are ingrained.

Next one practices the second posture “Eagle Overturning,” which specifically trains the waist and shoulder methods; the third posture “Piercing Palm” trains palm techniques. These are all performed in a fixed stance without any footwork, standing in Squeezing Horse. Next comes the first exercise with stepping, but it is not circle-walking; rather, it is back-and-forth stepping on a straight line, known as “Free Moving Posture,” which trains kicking techniques.

After this comes circle-walking with the yin-yang swing/hook steps of the “Earth Basin” posture. Swing/hook [bai/kou] steps are also called Yin treading and Yang hooking 阴踏阳扣步, and they accompany the Yin exiting and Yang entering hand movements during circle-walking. These hand movements are also called “One Palm jin” – the front hand performs the movement of the third posture “Piercing Palm,” with the palm facing up, and the back hand is in the “Eagle Overturning” posture, with the palm facing down (this is different from the posture taught by Dong Haichuan, with both palms facing downward; the footwork is also very different from the mud-wading step, which was developed as a result of exchanges with Xingyiquan). This fifth posture is for practicing footwork (in Wu Taijiquan, the two person wrapping pole, revolving pole, and pole swinging exercises also use the circular footwork of Yin treading and Yang hooking; the pole swinging contains the transitions from seated stance to bow stance, along with the contracting and lengthening of the body).

The sixth posture is called “Dragon Walking,” and it is for training the body method. Piercing left and right, it develops the basic circle-walking footwork to a much deeper level.

The seventh posture is called “Monkey Leaping”; it trains hand methods based on the foundation of the “Earth Basin” posture.

The eighth posture is called “Piercing the Forest”; it is made up of the “Entering the Forest Three Piercing Palms” and the “Sitting in the Forest” posture as well as the previous seven moves. According to one’s wishes they may combine and change between these postures freely; the first seven postures are all components of this eighth posture, which is a complete integration of all their movements. The free interchange between these pastures is called “coiling fists and exchanging hands,” 盘拳过手 and is not simply another palm method. Thus, the eight postures of Yinyang Baguazhang are very different from Baguazhang ’s eight palms, which are just different palm techniques performed while walking on the circle.

What Dong Haichuan concealed was this training progression and its methods. The eight palms that he taught were nothing more than different palm techniques performed back-and-forth with the footwork from the fifth posture, “Earth Basin.” Thus, his different students themselves created different sets of eight palms based on their own previous experience and individual strengths and weaknesses; yet, this is just a difference in palm techniques and not in basic methods and training progressions.

This can be compared to the immediate training of the Five Element fists in Xingyiquan; in Baguazhang one begins directly by practicing the basic eight palms (while walking the circle). Thus, Baguazhang and the original Yinyang Baguazhang (Bapanzhang) differ greatly. This disparity is apparent when comparing the photos of Ren Zhicheng with those of early Baguazhang practitioners; whether it is the body method or the use of force, the differences can be seen clearly.

The techniques of Yinyang Baguazhang taught by Li Zhenqing are just these few [described above]; after practicing them from a stationary posture, progressively training the waist, legs, and body one by one, one then practices the application of these hand techniques, finally culminating in spontaneous changing of postures with active footwork (“Piercing the Forest”). This sequential progression shows the tightly-knit, systematic, and scientific nature of this complete system of martial arts training. Ren Zhicheng also demonstrated some applications of these techniques with a sequence of twenty-four two-person postures, as well as such weapons as the 4 foot 2 inch (~about 1.3m) long saber known as the “Yinyang Bagua Concealed Body Plum Flower Dewdrop Saber,” and the nine foot (~ 3m) long two-headed spear known as the “Yinyang Bagua Five Tiger Forest Piercing Spear.”

There is a verse describing the saber method:

Four foot, two inch eight basin saber,
Its highest techniques are hanging, pushing, relaxing, and stabbing.
If chopping fails, turn it into an advance, and with a single ‘point’
Your opponent will have a difficult time avoiding, no matter how fast he retreats.
Upwards cutting and ‘pulling scissor’ all belong to the category of ‘pointing,’
‘Parting the Mane’ protects the legs, cutting like a flood dragon.
Partaking of the wondrous nature of this saber method,
On the brink of battle you will rush forward like a true hero.

Altogether there are eight techniques; they are: Hanging Saber, Pushing Saber, Pulling Saber, Relaxed Changing Saber, Chopping Saber, Upwards Cutting Saber, Stabbing Saber, and Parting the Mane.

The song for the spear method goes:

A nine-foot double headed spear
Is the king of the eighteen weapons.
“Hanging Dragon” and “Sitting Tiger” are not easily understood by others,
“Shaking the Head” and “Wagging the Tail” will submit your opponent.
The “Cutting and Stabbing” posture is like continuously reeling silk,
Horizontally blocking, you can avoid injury.
When you have mastered the subtleties of this spear method,
You can make a name for yourself among an army of ten thousand men.
Altogether there are five techniques: Hanging Dragon, Sitting Tiger, Pouncing Tiger, Green Dragon Shakes its Head, Green Dragon Coils its Tail.

These spear and saber methods are extremely simple; after perfecting them, they can be practiced with an infinite number of variations.
Based on surviving documents, it could be said that Yinyang Baguazhang has perhaps the most compact and specific curriculum of techniques of all styles of Chinese martial arts; it is said that “after seven years one can begin to perfect it.”

The Yinyang Baguazhang taught by Li Zhenqing had no sixty-four palm routine or any other content.

When we examine the theory [of Yinyang Baguazhang], the concept of “nine methods one body” 九诀一身 was clearly influenced by Xinyiquan’s theory of nine nodes. As for its body method and use of power, the concepts of the “five bows complete in one body,” “silk reeling,” “soft as cotton,” “relaxed changing,” “monkey leaping,” “cat pouncing,” “tiger overcoming,” “eagle overturning,” also seem to reflect the body method and energies of Taijiquan and Xinyiquan. Its footwork methods, such as advance, retreat, oblique step, horizontal step, coiling, tiptoe, dodge, and revolve, as well as its skill at swiftly linking these techniques together, also seem to reflect the influence of Xinyiquan’s footwork, as well as filling in some of its gaps. In fighting, [Yinyang Baguazhang] uses revolving steps to attack from the sides, attaining victory by attacking unexpectedly, which corresponds with the concepts in Xinyiquan and Taijiquan of the “front gate” and the interplay between straight and oblique.

The first posture [of Yinyang Baguazhang], Squeezing Horse, trains the dantian qi and body method; the second, Eagle Overturning, trains oblique and straight, and bending the middle node; the third, Piercing Palm, specifically trains the ability of the torso, above the kua, to contract, extend, and lean; the fourth, Free Moving, is very similar to the “Civet Climbs the Tree” Tiger Pouncing Seize of Zhoukou Xinyiliuhequan. (Zhoukou does not raise the leg higher than the knee, and specializes in striking the shins and knees head-on; the hand method used is the “Tiger Pouncing Seize,” with both palms cutting upwards; as for the Free Moving posture, in addition to raising the foot to strike the shin and knees, the height of the kick can be varied, striking the dantian, solar plexus, breast, chin, etc., similar to the “Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg” move in Wu style Taijiquan, and the Free Moving posture uses a “Tiger Overcoming” downward palm strike.)

The fifth technique of Yinyang Baguazhang, the Earth Basin posture, uses the Yin treading and Yang hooking footwork to walk a circle, in which the heel of the foot touches the ground first, followed by the sole of the foot; these are the variations of yin and yang in the motions of the foot. Disguised in these stepping methods are the techniques of “Wind Scraping the Earth” and the cutting kick, as well as stamping. This is exactly like the “stamping leg” method of Xinyi Liuhequan; it is almost simply just “stamping leg” performed on a circle, and is completely unlike the stepping method of Baguazhang which, with its evenly raising and lowering of the foot, lacks the variations of yin and yang.

(Note: According to the chapter “History of Xingyiquan” in the book “Baoding Zhongxue Xingyi quanshu jiangyi” written in 1934 by Liu Weixiang 刘纬祥, student of the famous Xingyiquan master Guo Yunshen 郭云深, “during the Guangxu period, nearly forty years ago, I along with my sworn brothers – Taijiquan practitioner Liu Dekuan, Baguazhang expert Cheng Tinghua, Xingyiquan experts Li Cunyi 李存义, Di Xushan 耿继善, and others – gathered in Beijing and discussed the idea of combining the three styles Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan into one family. On that day we eliminated the boundaries and broke down the barriers between these styles; anyone practicing one of these styles would also be learning the other two, and we taught and learned from each other simultaneously. Every time we would get together there would be dozens in attendance.” It was only after this that the “mud-wading step” arose in Baguazhang.)

If we say that the circle-walking of the fifth posture, Earth Basin, is a fundamental footwork exercise like Xinyi Liuhequan’s “Stamping Chicken” or “Strolling Chicken” steps, then the sixth posture of Yinyang Baguazhang, Dragon Walking, can be compared to Xinyi Liuhequan’s “Dragon Walking” and “Chicken Walking” steps – a deeper elaboration of the basic footwork methods. Although the main footwork pattern in this posture follows an S-shape (not a circle), there are no limitations on its variations – horizontal, straight, dodging and leaping, interchanging effortlessly in all directions, overturning and revolving, advancing, piercing, and charging – almost as if it came from the same source as Xinyi Liuhequan’s “Dragon Walking,” tiptoe step, and “twisting-overturning lesser opening” 拧翻小拓; there are only differences in the hand techniques used and the execution. At the same time, the hand movements used in this sixth posture closely resemble Xinyi Liuhequan’s “Contracting Body Single Seizing.”

Thus, I have come to the following conclusions regarding Yinyang Baguazhang:

1.) Its creator was a Daoist hermit, who had connections with anti-Qing secret societies.
2.) Its place of origin was in Henan, in the area on both sides of the Yellow River near Luoyang, Jiyuan, Bo’ai, and Wen County.
3.) The style was formed sometime during the Qianlong period.
4.) Theory: It borrowed some theoretical aspects from Xinyiquan.
5.) Techinques: Its techniques seem to show some surviving connection with Xinyi.
6.) Its creator quite possibly could have been familiar with both Taijiquan and Xinyi Liuhequan.

(Note: Baguazhang was formed sometime during the Tongzhi period [1861-1875])

Because Yinyang Baguazhang is a little-known style, and its founder’s name was never revealed due to its connections with secret societies, there are several who have confounded its history with misleading statements.

The first of these concerns the birth and death of Dong Haichuan and Li Zhenqing.

There are many who have claimed that Dong was in his eighties when he passed away.

Dong Haichuan died in the winter of Guangxu 8 (1882); there are no discrepancies between this date and historical materials. It is recorded that Yin Fu and others gathered in spring of Guanxu 9 to set up the first memorial stele for Dong; from this we can see that the date is not a mistake.

As for the year of his birth, the article “Remembering Martial Arts Master Dong,” published in 1932, issue five of the Beijing “Physical Education Monthly,” states that Dong was “at the age of 66” when he passed away (placing his birth in 1816).

The evidence cited is this: Dong came to Beijing in Tongzhi 4 (1863) and began accepting students in Tongzhi 6 (1865), when he was in his fifties. This accords with the “Anecdotes of Yin Fu,” which states that, when Yin studied Baguazhang with Dong, “Master Dong, in his fifties, would sit cross-legged on the furnace.”

Yu Hui’s book “Bagua zhuanzhang huilan” states that “Master [Dong] came to the North in Tongzhi 4.”

Li Ziming’s “Baguazhang wutong” states, “after the patriarch of Baguazhang, around the age of fifty, came to Beijing around 1870, he began accepting students.”

That Dong was 66 [when he died] is correct; thus, his dates were 1816-1882.

As for Li Zhenqing: according to the materials from the lineages of Xiao Haibo and Ren Zhicheng, Li Zhenqing was born around 1830, and died in 1900 when he was shot by the armies of the Eight-Nation Alliance; thus, his dates are 1830-1900. Li Zhenqing’s return to Hebei, when he began teaching, would have been after 1870. Had Liu Baozhen begun studying with him then, since it required “seven years to begin perfecting,” he would have finished his studies around 1880, when he would have returned to the capital to study with Dong Haichuan; this corresponds with the statement that “Dong was already in his later years,” as he passed away in 1882.

However, Mr. Kang Gewu, in order to complete his MA thesis on martial arts, arbitrarily stated that Li Zhenqing was born in 1855. Consider that Ren Zhicheng, in his Introduction, states that “I loved to study martial arts as a child; I began learning at age 13, and my teacher Li was already in his seventies.” Even if he was exaggerating by saying “in his seventies,” and it is more reasonable to place Li in his sixties (as Dong Haichuan in his sixties was already considered “in his later years), Ren Zhicheng would have been thirteen in the year 1890, at which time Li Zhenqing would have been sixty; thus, Ren’s account corresponds with the dates above. If we follow Kang Gewu’s theory, then in 1890 Li Zhenqing would have been thirty-five; would it not have been absurd for Ren to say that he was “in his seventies?” The basis of Kang Gewu’s theory is unscientific, and it is difficult not to wonder if, for the purpose of producing a “convincing thesis,” he did not change the facts himself; thus, it is not credible.

In order to achieve his goal, Mr. Kang specifically related a certain story: “In 1900, Li Zhenqing joined up with the Boxers who were attacking the foreign occupiers. Because he had been nearsighted since childhood, at one point he saw a group of men entering the village, and mistakenly believed them to be the Boxer army. He approached them, yelling ‘Brothers!’ Not realizing that they were foreign troops, he was shot down in the street by their guns.” This kind of deliberate defamation of Li Zhenqing is just like those Chen villagers who say that “Yang Luchan was an old invalid who learned Taijiquan to alleviate his illness, and had no real gongfu.” Imagine, a prominent martial artist, who was known as “Sparrowhawk Li” because he could jump up and catch flying birds – how could he be incapable of recognizing a company of foreign troops, innumerable times larger than a single flying bird? Claiming to have heard such a story from “someone who lived in that village,” in order to disparage Li Zhenqing – this most certainly is another of Mr. Kang’s fabrications.

In addition, martial artists in these times prized the teacher-student relationship above all else. Would Li Zhenqing’s direct disciples such as Liu Baozhen, Xiao Haibo, Ren Shunan, Ren Zhicheng, andother, not be capable of remembering such details about their own teacher? Imagine if Yin Fu or Cheng Tinghua were unable to remember clearly who their teacher was, could such a thing be possible? If Li Zhenqing were not a Yinyang Baguazhang practitioner, but instead practiced Shaolinquan, why would Xiao Haibo and Ren Zhicheng claim to have been his students? They would at least have claimed to be from Dong’s lineage; otherwise, how could their boxing styles be so similar?

Moreover, if we look at the book written by Guo Zhenya, Liu Baozhen’s grand-disciple, if Liu Baozhen had not actually claimed to have studied from both Li Zhenqing and Dong Haichuan, then why would Guo Zhenya have fabricated the involvement of Li Zhenqing, who was nowhere near as well-known as Dong Haichuan? This simply would not make sense. Guo’s book explains very clearly that Liu Baozhen and his student Guo Mengshen were both men who respected their teachers and adhered to moral values, and Guo Zhenya also followed this tradition.

Third, when I myself was studying martial arts in my younger years, I studied under Ji Jinshan, the skilled disciple of Cui Zhendong, and also visited with Gong Baotian’s disciple Wang Zhuangfei and Master Lu Zijian 吕紫剑 of Sichuan. They all told me that Dong Haichuan had learned from a Daoist hermit, just as it is said that Xinyiquan ancestor Ma Xueli 马学礼 learned from a hermit.

Dong Haichuan’s nephew Liangcheng came to the capital several times, accompanied by his son Bangqing, to visit his uncle Dong Haichuan, and Bangqing always said that his great-uncle had learned from “a transcendent” in the Xuehua mountains, and never named his teacher. This is known by all the members of his village (and has been verified by Bangqing’s grandson Dong Shaoqin 董绍勤).

In addition to all of this, the statements of Dong’s first generation of students are the most authoritative. On his memorial stele, it states:

1.) Stele inscription of Guangxu 9 (1883): “His surname was Dong and his given name Haichuan, and he came from Zhujiawu to the south of Wen’an…. When he reached adulthood, he traveled far and wide, passing through the Wuyue (Shanghai, Zhejiang) and Ba/Shu (Sichuan) regions, visiting famous mountains in search of skilled people, in order to gain some worldly experience. Later, he met a yellow capped [Daoist] who taught him martial arts, and he became adept at boxing.”

2.) Stele inscription of Guangxu 30 (1904): “Master Dong… was visiting friends in the region of Anhui, when he became lost in the mountains…. A Daoist, robust with a childlike face and white hair, said to him, ‘Why have you come so late?’ Thereupon Dong learned methods of attack, advancing, and retreating, and the skills of cultivating the spirit and directing the qi. Every one of his teachings was new and unheard of.”

Neither of these stele inscriptions contain the word “founder,” “creator,” or “creation.”
Although the second stele was erected over twenty years after the first, it still maintains the story that Dong learned from a Daoist while traveling in the South.

Both of these steles were erected by Dong’s senior disciple Yin Fu, the most reliable source, and they are the most authoritative documents providing information on Dong Haichuan’s life, as well as the primary sources for researchers of the history of Baguazhang. They correlate with the account of Dong’s nephew, who heard from him that Dong learned from a “transcendent,” and prove that Dong never claimed to have created Baguazhang; he himself also said that he had learned it from a Daoist, and his first-, second-, and third-generation disciples all maintained this tradition. Sun Lutang 孙禄堂 in his 1916 book “The Study of Baguaquan” stated that “We do not know who created Baguaquan, but I have heard that Dong Haichuan… learned from an extraordinary stranger when traveling in Anhui.”

The story that Dong had learned in the Jiuhua mountains was first seen in the 1930 stele erected by Ma Gui 马贵 and others.

In 1932, Jiang Rongqiao 姜容樵 wrote “Taiji Bagua zhikao 2,” based on the fabrications of Zhang Xiangwu 张骧伍 and Ding Qirui丁齐锐 (subordinates of Li Jinglin 李景林) and here we find the first mention of the names Bi Yunxia 毕云霞, Bi Yuexia避月侠, Be Dengxia 毕灯侠, etc.

At the same time, the name of Guo Jiyuan 郭济元 was also mentioned.

Moreover, they also claimed that Wudang swordsman Song Weiyi 宋唯一 (who learned during the Guangxu period from Zhang Yehe 张野鹤) was a junior classmate of Dong Haichuan, mixing up the figures of Song Weiyi and Li Zhenqing. Li Zhenqing did once visit the capital to see Dong, when he was an official in the palace; Dong was so unwelcoming towards his junior classmate, and his students never knew that they the famous “Sparrowhawk Li” as their martial uncle. This demonstrates that Dong was keeping a huge secret, which was the mission that brought him to the capital; thus, he was unwilling to let others know, so he quickly drove his junior classmate away, and never mentioned that he had received such a visit.

Fourth, Kang claims that “Liu Baozhen only studied from Dong Haichuan.” Yet both the documents from Liu Baozhen’s disciples and the visible flavor of his boxing style prove that this statement of Kang’s is just wishful thinking.

Kang has also conjectured that Xiao Haibo and Ren Zhicheng had learned from Liu Baozhen. Would a martial artist at that time violate the principles of respecting one’s teacher and traditional morality, and so make the claim that his teacher was a different person, or claim that his teacher was actually his senior classmate? This theory is preposterous.

Fifth, most importantly, are the theoretical and compositional aspects of the boxing styles. Yinyang Baguazhang is simple and refined, and its training methods follow a strict progression. How could Xiao Haibo or Ren Zhicheng have learned Liu Baozhen’s complicated system of Baguazhang and refined it in such a manner? If they had been able to perform such a feat, would they not have been even more skilled than Dong Haichuan himself?

This is clearly illogical. For the simple, essential techniques of Yinyang Baguazhang to be diluted and developed into the complex system of Baguazhang is just like Dai Family Xinyiquan being transformed into Xingyiquan; this is a logical and scientific progression, and this fact cannot be purposefully ignored in an attempt to reach a certain conclusion.

Dong certainly was the creator of Baguazhang, but he was not the creator of Yinyang Baguazhang.

Sixth, Kang writes that: Ren Zhicheng’s disciple, Mr. Gao Zhikai 高植楷 (b. 1906) [who helped Ren Zhicheng write his book], on 12-12-1980, wrote a letter to Kang Gewu stating that, “Because of the publication of [Sun Xikun’s] ‘Baguazhang zhen chuan,’ we entitled our book ‘Yinyang Bapanzhang.’” This does not mean that Ren Zhicheng’s style was originally called Baguazhang or Baguaquan; it just demonstrates that it was called Yinyang Baguazhang, and in order to distinguish it from Baguazhang or Baguaquan, they changed the name to Yinyang Bapanzhang. They did not simply call it Bapanzhang because they could not omit the words Yin and Yang from the title, which demonstrates the importance of those concepts to this style.

Seventh, naturally, Mr. Kang Gewu’s work has made some important contributions; for example he has debunked several myths, such as Feng Keshan’s “Eight Direction Steps and Li Trigram,” Niu Liangchen’s “Kan Trigram” and Tian Hui’s separate branch of Bagua.

At the same time, Mr. Kang also discovered the relationship between Dong’s Baguazhang and the Bafanzhang that he practiced as a youth. These are important contributions made by Kang; yet for one to refute the evidence concerning the founder and lineage of Yinyang Baguazhang, for the sole purpose of finishing a master’s thesis, is unacceptable. Although Mr Kang is a practitioner of of Baguazhang, yet he should still not be narrow-minded; what is most unacceptable is to turn one man’s conjectures into the fixed position of the national physical education division, and to suppress any competing viewpoints.

We must remember the lesson of the [now-debunked] belief that “Chen Wangting created Chen Taijiquan”; only then can we restore some truth to our historical accounts, for the sake of the great masters of the past.

Yan Zhiyuan, June 2007, Wellington, New Zealand

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