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Xinyi Liuhe Quan - the secret art of Chinese Muslims

Part One - Brief History

by Jarek Szymanski
Text - Jarek Szymanski; photos - Jarek Szymanski and from author's collection

© J.Szymanski 2002

Xinyi Liuhe Quan (literally - Fist of Mind, Intention and Six Harmonies) is a martial art that has developed in Henan Province among
Chinese Hui (Moslem) nationality. It is considered one of the most powerful and fighting-oriented styles among other Chinese Martial
Arts, and for a long time it has been known for its effectiveness in fighting, while very few actually knew the practice methods of the
style. Xinyi Liuhe Quan, along with Cha Quan and Qi Shi Quan (Boxing of Seven Postures), have been considered "Jiao Men Quan"
("religious - e.g. Moslem - boxing") meant to protect followers of Islam in China.
For more than two centuries the style had been kept secret and transmitted only to very The art of Xinyi Liuhe Quan was passed secretly
few Moslem practitioners. Only at the beginning of this century first native Chinese among Chinese Moslems and has been known as
(Han nationality) learnt the style, but still up to now the most skilful experts of Xinyi "the most cruel style among Chinese martial
Liuhe Quan can be found within Hui communities in China. arts"

Since the arts of Xinyi and Xingyiquan are generally divided into Hebei, Shanxi and
Henan branches, the style is also called Henan Xinyi/Xingyi. In the West the style is
often referred to as Ten Animals Xingyi.

The early history of the style is not very clear.

According to "Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing" ("Liuhequan Xu") written in 1750,

the style was created by Yue Fei who "as a child learnt from a master of deep
knowledge and became very skilful at spear play; (on this basis) he created a boxing
method to teach his officers and called it "Intention Boxing" (Yi Quan); (the martial art
was) marvelous and ingenious, unlike any other before. After the King (e.g. Yue Fei)
(passed away), during Jin, Yuan and Ming dynasties the art was rarely seen. Master Ji,
called Ji Jike, also known as Ji Longfeng living at the end of Ming and beginning of
Qing dynasties in Zhufeng of Pudong (today's Zun Village in Shanxi Province), went Above: Horse Shape - one of Ten Big Shapes of
to Zhongnan Mountains to visit teachers with deep knowledge there and received the Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan
boxing manual of King Wumu (e.g. Yue Fei) (...)".
According to "Ji Clan Chronicles" (Ji Shi Jiapu) Ji Longfeng's spear skill was extraordinary and he was known as "Divine Spear" (Shen
Qiang). Ji (also known as Ji Jike) created a fist boxing using spear principles and taught in Henan.

These two texts talk about creating martial art on the basis of spear, although the first one attributes it to Yue Fei, while the other one -
to Ji Longfeng.

Recently one of Chinese martial arts magazines published an article about a discovery of a new branch of Xinyiquan, related neither to
Moslem nor Dai Family. The style is practiced only in a very small community in a small village in Henan Province. Many facts seem to
support the thesis that the style is a "living remain" of Yue Fei's boxing from before Ji Longfeng's times. For example - one of the rules of
that style does not allow to pass the boxing to people with the last name Qin - probably because Yue Fei was betrayed (which resulted in
death sentence) by Qin Hui, minister in Song court. The style shows some similarity to other Xinyi branches, but its movements are more
simple, methodology of Neigong (internal exercises) is practically non-existent and emphasis is put on practical fighting skills.
The first Moslem to learn the art and pass it to his disciples was Ma Xueli (about 1714-1790) of Luoyang in Henan Province.

The connection between Ma Xueli and Ji Longfeng is not completely clear and even Ma clan members did not know the name of Ma's
teacher. A wandering master of unknown name who spent several years in Luoyang's Beiyao village was considered by them to be Ma
Xueli's teacher. It is said that Ma's teacher for some reasons (one of them could be involvement in anti-Qing movement) wanted to keep
his name secret.

On the other hand Moslem Xinyi Liuhe Quan practitioners in Lushan and other towns in Henan
Province of lineages not directly related to that in Luoyang knew about Ji Longfeng and
considered him to be Ma's teacher. This is probably because of the exchanges between one of
Moslem Xinyi Liuhe Quan masters, Mai Zhuangtu, and Dai clan members.

A popular story says that Ma Xueli heard about Ji Longfeng and went to Ji's village in
neighbouring Shanxi Province to study Xinyiquan. However since Ji did not teach martial art
openly, Ma pretended to be deaf and dumb and was hired as Ji's servant. In this way Ma could
observe Ji practicing Xinyiquan and within three years Ma not only learnt a lot but also became
very skilful. After three years Ma was supposed to leave Ji's home and told his master about
everything. Ma was asked to demonstrate what he had learnt and Ji realized he was very
talented. Moved by Ma's sincerity Ji accepted Ma as his disciple and taught the complete art of
The statue of Ji Longfeng in his Xinyiquan to him.
hometown - Zun Village in Shanxi
Further research into history and techniques of Xinyi Liuhe Quan suggests that the style could be a compilation of at least two styles - old
Moslem style of Liuhequan (Six Harmonies Boxing; style different from Shaolin's Liuhequan; the name came from the name of six-
cornered caps that Moslems used to wear) and Xinyiquan (Mind and Intention Boxing) coming - probably - from Ji Longfeng. Xinyi
Liuhe Quan practised nowadays consists of two main parts - fist techniques (so-called "Ten Famous Fists" - Shi Da Ming Quan -
originating from old Liuhequan) and movements imitating animals (Ten Big Shapes - of Xinyiquan origin).

Ma Xueli taught very few disciples and only three of them are known: Ma Xing, Ma Sanyuan, Zhang Zhicheng.

Currently the most important branches of Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan are:

1. Luoyang Style, established by Ma Xing (also called Ma Style);

2. Lushan Style, coming from Zhang Zhicheng; the style was later developed by
Mai Zhuangtu and hence is also referred to as Mai Style;

Ma Xing was Ma Xueli's nephew; he learnt the system of Xinyi Liuhe Quan and later
reorganized the original set of many single movements he inherited from Ma Xueli into
less and more complex routines. Ma Xing's style has been secretly transmitted within
Ma clan relatives and Moslem community of Luoyang and re-discovered in late 80s. It is
known as "Luoyang branch of Xinyi Liuhe Quan" and is a relatively unknown martial
art. Ma Xing passed the art to his son, Ma Meihu; Ma Meihu was born in 1805 and
passed away in 1928, living 119 years. His disciple, Liu Wanyi, first learnt from Ma In Luoyang Style Xinyi Liuhe Quan single
Xing and then continued martial art study under his cousin, Ma Meihu. movements taught by Ma Xueli were combined
into short routines by Ma Xing

Once Liu Wanyi was invited to teach in Nanyang and immediately after arrival was challenged by a famous local fighter, Li Hu. Liu asked
Li to attack first and Li striked with both fists to Liu's ears. Liu blocked the strike, and then immediately grasped Li's belt with one hand
and pulled him at the same time hitting Li's head and breaking his backbone.
Liu's best disciple was Ma Mengle (Ma Mengluo), who taught many disciples in Luoyang, both Moslems and Hans (native Chinese).

Ma Sanyuan's skill was said to be very good, however Ma had bad temper and killed many people in fights. Later he became mentally
sick and killed himself. Ma Sanyuan organized famous Siba (Four Seizes) routine into 36 movements so that it contained the essence of
both fist and animal styles. Although generally Ma Sanyuan is considered to not have left any disciples, actually there are still practitioners
who inherited Ma Sanyuan's style. They live in remote villages in central Henan's countryside.

The most thriving lineage of Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan comes through another of Ma Xueli's disciples - Zhang Zhicheng. Zhang was
from Nanyang in Henan Province and taught the art to very few disciples; only his nephew, Li Zheng of Lushan County, inherited the
complete system.

There are many stories about Li Zheng - one says that Li escorted caravans and used to
practice Chicken Step (Ji Xing Bu) in the meantime - he first chased the caravan until
he caught up with it, then walked in the opposite direction for a while and then again
chased the caravan. In this way his legs became very strong, footwork evasive and
movements agile. In his late years Li's skill became very refined so that he was able to
push the challenging opponents far away while keeping a bowl full of water in one
hand. Even one drop of water was not spilled.

Although Li Zheng is also the person often held responsible for passing the art of
Xinyi Liuhe Quan to Dai Longbang and his sons (which happened when Dais opened an
Double Seize (Shuang Ba) performed by Mai inn in Shijiadian in Henan), it is actually not clear whether it was "this" Li Zheng
Zhuangtu's inheritor from Hebei Province - this (Zhang Zhicheng's disciple) or somebody else with the same name.
branch has been re-discovered only recently

Li Zheng's most famous Moslem disciple was Zhang Ju of Lushan in Henan Province.

According to one story Zhang owned a Moslem restaurant in Lushan and whenever Li Zheng was passing by Zhang invited him inside.
Zhang treated Li with great respect and after ten years Li came to his restaurant and said to Zhang: "I know a high level neijia martial art
and decided to pass it to you as you are a sincere man of high morals. You should practice it hard and in the future choose one or two
students and teach them. If in your opinion none is worth teaching, keep it secret and do not teach it!". Later Zhang Ju achieved a very
high level of skill in Xinyi Liuhe Quan.

Zhang had two disciples: Zhang Gen (his son) and nephew Mai Zhuangtu.

Zhang Gen studied the art since early childhood and at the age of 15 became an accomplished expert. He was called "Stove for Scrap"
because he used to fight with many bandits proficient in martial arts and either kill or cripple them so that they could never fight again
(this was called "taking the art back" and was a common practice in martial arts circles directed against students who did not follow the
rules of Wude - Martial Virtue - and became bandits).

There is a story that once Zhang Ju's gongfu brother came to visit him. He sat on a wooden chair and asked about Zhang Gen's skill with
disrespectful intonation in his voice. Zhang Gen told his gongfu uncle to watch him carefully and before the uncle was able to react Zhang
Gen used Bear's Dan Ba (Single Seize, one of Xinyi Liuhe most famous techniques) to hit. Uncle was knocked out and it took him half a
day to regain consciousness. The chair he was sitting on collapsed under him after Zhang Gen's strike.

Zhang Gen used to teach in many villages around his hometown and was often coming back home late in night. Once in a forest on his
way he saw a shadow of a man in the darkness and decided to attack him with a "Sparrow Hawk Flies into Forest" (Yaozi Ru Lin)
technique. However what appeared to him to be a man was in reality a thick branch of a tree and Zhang died pierced by the branch.
Another famous disciple of Zhang Ju was Mai Zhuangtu, nowadays the most respected
master of Lushan lineage.

Mai Zhuangtu (1829-1892), native of Lushan in Henan Province. Mai was doing
leather trading business and often traveling across Henan and neighbouring provinces.
He is responsible for spreading Xinyi Liuhe Quan to Zhoukou in Henan, which became
the main center of the style in this century. Only recently it became known with
"discovery" of Xinyi Liuhe Quan in Shanxi and Hebei Provinces that during his travels
Mai visited also Qi County in Shanxi Province, Dai clan hometown, and taught some
students there. This is probably where Mai heard about Ji Longfeng as the creator of
Xinyi boxing. There are also some stories about visits of Taigu Xingyi masters to Mai's
hometown, Lushan, which are inscribed on a memorial tablet at Black Tiger Bridge in
Lushan. Technically Xinyi Liuhe Quan passed by Mai Zhuangtu shares many common
features with Dai family Xinyi.

Generaly speaking Mai Zhuangtu made the following contributions to Xinyi Liuhe Bao Ding (also known as Bao Xianting, 1865-
Quan: 1942) in a movement from famous Siba routine -
"Bear's Posture of Tiaoling" (Tiaoling Xiongshi)
• simplified the old style 36-movements Siba routine into a four movement set which became one of the most essential training
methods in Lushan branch of Xinyi Liuhe Quan;
• through exchange with Dai Family Xinyi practitioners probably incorporated some Dai branch practice methods into Moslem
style (although the contents of this exchange and its influence on both Dai and Moslem branches would require further research);
• spread Xinyi Liuhe Quan all over Henan Province as well as in Shanxi and Shaanxi Provinces; Zhoukou in Henan with its
Moslem community became the most influential center of the style;

Mai skills were legendary.

According to one of the stories Mai Zhuangtu was once sitting with his cousin, also Xinyi Liuhe Quan expert, Li Haisen (famous for his
Dan Ba), discussing boxing methods. The cousin became very unhappy about the noise of sparrows sitting on a nearby tree and wanted to
break the tree. Mai stopped him and while lifting the bamboo curtain covering the entrance, he caught the sparrow alive with the other
hand. Another time, in Wuyang County, asked by Ding Zhaoxiang, local Imam, Mai demonstrated "Sticking to Butterfly Method" - he
covered a flying butterfly with hand and was following it so that the butterfly could not escape from below Mai's palm. Mai was also
famous for hitting his opponents so that they were pushed into the air, and then catching them so that they did not fall on the ground after
the strike and hurt themselves.

Mai Zhuangtu had many disciples of whom the most famous were: Mai Xueli (son), Ding Zhaoxiang of Wuyang County, An Daqing
of Chang'an (today's Xi'an; both Ding Zhaoxiang and An Daqing were Imams, Islam priests), Yuan Fengyi (Zhoukou) and Yuan
Changqing (Zhoukou).

An Daqing's student, Bao Ding (Bao Xianting, 1865-1942) wrote first book
on Xinyi Liuhe Quan published openly in 1931, "Xingyi Boxing Manual".
His another book "Illustrated Explanation to Internal Method in Thirteen
Parts" was published in 1927.

Yuan Changqing passed his art to Mai Jinkui of Zhoukou, who later
moved to Wuhan in Hubei Province. Mai is said to fight a lot to survive in
Wuhan (Hankou). Using his favourite weapon, heavy two-sectional staff
only, Mai defeated many local gangs and became the head of harbor workers
in Hankou.

Yuan Fengyi's four most famous students were: Shang Xueli, Yang
Lu Song'gao (?-1962) brought Xinyi Liuhe Quan from
Dianqing, Lu Song'gao (these three were called "Three Heroes from
Henan's countryside to Shanghai - on the photo in "Dragon
Zhoukou") and Song Guobin.
Wraps and Strikes to the Side" (Long Xing Guo Heng)
Shang Xueli first learnt Chazi boxing (boxing emphasizing hardening skills) from Yuan Fengyi and became his disciple. Later, when
Yuan was defeated by Mai Zhuangtu and became Mai's disciple, Shang Xueli started to learn Xinyi Liuhe Quan from both Mai Zhuangtu
and Yuan Fengyi. Shang was Yuan's best disciple and won Leitai (free fighting) competitions in Kaifeng where he used a combination of
"Back Power" (Bei Jin) and knee strike (Ti Xi) defeating Shaolin expert, Zhang Qilin (who died few days later of internal injury).

Lu Song'gao (?-1962) was the first one to popularize the art and teach it to non-Moslems. Lu killed a man in a fight in his hometown,
Zhoukou, and had to flee. He first went to Wuhan where he met Tie family (Mai Zhuangtu's adopted daughter was married to Tie Bing),
then to Anhui Province, where he stayed for some time with his gongfu brother Song Guobin. Finally Lu moved and settled down in
Shanghai, where he defeated many famous martial artists. Later, along with more Moslem Xinyi Liuhe experts coming to the city,
Shanghai became new center of the art.

Yue Fei (1103-1142, born in Henan, died in Zhejiang) - ?

Ji Longfeng (also called Ji Jike, end of Ming and beginning of Qing dynasties; Zun Village, Shanxi Province)

Ma Xueli (1714-1790, Luoyang, Henan), Moslem Xinyi Liuhe Quan

  
Ma Xing (Luoyang, Henan), creator of Ma Sanyuan (Luoyang, Henan); his branch
Zhang Zhicheng (Nanyang, Henan)
Luoyang Style Xinyi Liuhe Quan has almost extincted
   
Ma Meihu (1805-1928, Luoyang, Henan) Li Zheng (Lushan, Henan)  
   
Liu Wanyi (Luoyang, Henan) Zhang Ju (Lushan, Henan  
    
Ma Mengle (also called Ma Mengluo, Zhang Gen (Lushan, Mai Zhuangtu
Luoyang, Henan) Henan) (Lushan, Henan),
creator of Lushan  
Style Xinyi Liuhe
Mai Xueli (Lushan, Henan)

Ding Zhaoxiang (Wuyang, Henan)

An Daqing (Chang'an, Shaanxi); his disciple, Bao Ding (Bao

Xianting) wrote first book on Xinyi Liuhe Quan published in 1931
Yuan Changqing (Zhoukou, Henan); taught many disciples, of
whom Mai Jinkui was the most famous;

Yuan Fengyi (Zhoukou, Henan), had four famous disciples: Shang

Xueli, Yang Dianqing, Song Guobin and Lu Song'gao (who brought
Xinyi Liuhe Quan to Shanghai)

(Click on the title to learn more about the contents)
Book "Mind Intent Six Book "Xingyi (Xinyi) Boxing
Book "Secret Classics of Xinyi Book "Xinyiquan" by Ma
Harmonies Boxing" by Tao Manual" by Bao Ding (Bao
Boxing" by Li Xinmin (X003B) Linzhang
Zihong (X004B) Xianting) (X017B)


End of "Xinyi Liuhe Quan - The Secret Art of Chinese Muslims - Part One - Brief History"; © J.Szymanski 2000-2002

Guo Weihan - missing link in the history of Xingyiquan found?

by Jarek Szymanski
Text and photos - Jarek Szymanski; © J.Szymanski 2002
While reading books written both in China and abroad, it often
appears that what we know about the history of Xingyiquan is more a
collection of tales and oral transmissions than true facts based on
historical records. From time to time some "facts" so far considered to
be obvious are questioned and only then we get closer to the truth,
although seldom can actually know it completely.

While the question "who was Li Laoneng's teacher" is not the topic of
this article, I hope the information here will show some obvious
problems with what so far has been accepted without questioning.
Only because of such situations new claims are made, which
indirectly let us learn about rare styles that otherwise would hardly be
heard of.

The group of Guo Weihan's Xinyiquan practitioners whom I As already mentioned in the article about the origins and development
interviewed during my research trip to Shanxi. The noodles were of Dai Family Xinyiquan, we are still not clear how Xinyiquan as
delicious and local liquors strong but I wonder if all the material taught by Dai Clan in Shanxi province was transmitted to Li Laoneng,
presented in this article could have been collected without the who is considered the father of Xingyiquan.
help of Baijiu...

Li Laoneng's teacher - different opinions

1. Dai Longbang - Hebei Province Xingyi - the "only truth"?

Hebei Xingyiquan practitioners claim that Li Laoneng learnt from Dai Longbang and this version can be found in Sun Lutang's "The
Study of Xingyiquan" published in 1916 where in "Author's Preface" Sun wrote:

"(...)Mister Dai Longbang transmitted (Xingyiquan) to Mister Li Luoneng (of Zhili i.e. today's Hebei Province)".

In 1923 Sun Lutang published his another book - "True Description of the Meaning of Boxing" ("Quan Yi Shu Zhen") where he gave
detailed account of Li Laoneng's meeting with Dai Longbang and study under Dai:

"Mr.Li named Feiyu, styled himself Nengran, and was called Mr.Laoneng (...) went to Taigu in Shanxi (Province) in business; (he was)
fond of martial arts. (There) he heard about Mr. Dai Longbang, living in the (Taigu) county who excelled in Xingyiquan and went to visit
him. When they met, both the speech and manners (of Mr.Dai Longbang) were very elegant and refined, unlike of somebody who excels
in martial arts, which surprised (Li Laoneng) so he left. On another day (Li Laoneng) through formal introduction became (Dai
Longbang's) disciple. At that time Mister (Li Laoneng) was thirty seven. After receiving instructions (from Dai Longbang) (Li Laoneng)
was practicing days and nights, but in two years' time he only learnt one part of Wuxing (Five Elements) - Pi Quan (Chopping Fist) and
half of the Lian Huan Quan (Linked Fists) set. Although he did not learn much, but he did not look for more and was practicing with
sincerity without break. One year Dai Longbang's mother was celebrating her 80 birthday and Mister (Li Laoneng) went to congratulate
her on her birthday. The guests there were either relatives, friends and Mr. Longbang's disciples. After the birthday ceremony those who
knew martial arts were demonstrating in the birthday hall, and each was showing everything what he knew. Mister (Li Laoneng) only
demonstrated half of the (Linked Fists) set. Mr. Longbang's mother liked martial arts and knew all movements and principles of
Xingyiquan; she then (after the demonstration) asked Mr. (Li Laoneng) why he demonstrated only half of the set, and Mister (Li Laoneng)
answered "I only learnt this". (Dai Longbang's mother) immediately turned to Mr. Longbang ordering him "this man studied for two years
but was taught so little; he looks very loyal and sincere, so this method can be taught to him with concentrated attention." Since Mr.
Longbang was a dutiful son and besides received instruction from his mother in person, so he taught everything he learnt to Mister (Li
Laoneng). Mister (Li Laoneng) was practicing meticulously and achieved high skill at the age of forty seven".

However the main problem is the time frame - Dai Longbang is believed to live between 1720 and 1809 (according to Cao Jizhi's "The
Course of Dai Shi Xinyiquan"), while Li Laoneng - 1803 and 1888 (Meng Xianshi: "Detailed Explanation of Xingyiquan"; Li Laoneng
was employed by one of Meng ancestors to protect their property). Hence it seems impossible that Li learnt from Dai Longbang.

2. Dai Wenxiong - Shanxi Province Xingyi - very possible

On the other hand Xingyiquan practitioners from Shanxi Province, with the center in Taigu County, consider Dai Wenxiong, Dai
Longbang's second son, as Li Laoneng's master.

The only "hard evidence" is the text of "Memorial Tablet of Mister Che Yizhai"
written in 1925 - other texts, like "The Essence of Xinyi" ("Xinyi Jingyi") attributed Che Yizhai's Memorial Tablet in Taigu, Shanxi
to Li Guangheng, Li Laoneng's disciple from Shanxi, and said to be written in 1895, Province
can hardly be considered evidence as nobody has been allowed to have a closer
look at its contents (although recently a research team from Japan took photos of
the cover and table of contents of the book).

The text on "Memorial Tablet of Mister Che Yizhai", which still stands in Taigu,

"Martial arts are the unique skills of China and are divided into Shaolin, Internal
and External Schools. These arts were flourishing in our prefecture during the
reigns of emperors Xianfeng (1851-1861) and Tongzhi (1862-1874) (and were
practiced by) disciples of Wang Changle and Dai Wenxiong. (Wang) Changle was
from Jiao (i.e. Jiaocheng County). Mister Dai had a nickname Er Lü and was from
Qi (County). Dai Family Xinyiquan, passed within Dai Clan, belongs to Shaolin
External branch, and was transmitted outside (the family) to Li Laoneng (...)"

Since Dai Wenxiong lived between 1769 and 1861, this claim seems more
reasonable than that of Hebei.

Of these two "origin" versions the one from Hebei Province - Li Laoneng being Dai Longbang's disciple - was more popular and for a
long time considered "the only truth". Shanxi practitioners were loyal to their transmission and have been trying to prove their point.
However, with China's "revolutionary opening" to the outside world and as a result of Wushu Excavating and Sifting which took place in
1982/1983, more and more traditional martial arts came out into light. It was at that time when first articles about Dai Family Xinyiquan
were published and the name of Guo Weihan as Li Laoneng's teacher was mentioned.

3. Guo Weihan - Dai Family Xinyiquan practitioners speak

Dai Family Xinyiquan practitioners claimed Guo Weihan was nephew of Dai Longbang's wife (her brother's son) and learnt early
Xinyiquan from Dai Longbang. According to Cao Jizhi, author of "The Romance of Qing Dynasty Knights", a novel about Dai Clan and
their family art, and unofficial "spokesman" for Dai Family Xinyiquan practitioners, Guo Weihan learnt only the martial art of the system
and did not study the health preserving part, with Monkey Squatting method as its core. Cao in his another book - "The Course of Dai
Family Xinyiquan" made several claims concerning Guo Weihan:

1. Guo was Dai Longbang's disciple and gongfu brother of Longbang's sons - Dai Dalü (Dai Wenliang) and
Dai Erlü (Dai Wenxiong);

2. It was Guo Weihan who changed the name of the style from Xin (Mind) Yi (Intent) Quan (Boxing) into
Xing (Form) Yi (Intent) Quan (Boxing)

3. Dai Family Xinyiquan practice methods were divided into Daoyin (Qigong for health preserving), with
Squatting Monkey as its core, and fighting system; it was Dai Longbang who merged them together so
that Dantian methods became basis for martial art techniques and its inseparable part. Guo Weihan
learnt only the fighting system - Yue's Family Boxing - and did not learn Daoyin;

4. Guo Weihan created San Ti Posture, the core of the modern Xingyiquan; he also changed "Ten Big
Shapes" (Shi Da Xing) into "Twelve Shapes" (Shi Er Xing)

In 1998 I interviewed Dai Family Xinyiquan practitioners living in Guo Weihan's hometown and they confirmed that it was Guo who
taught Li Laoneng. We did not go into details concerning how Guo Weihan's system really looked like and it became obvious that more
information can be obtained only from the practitioners of Guo Weihan's style.

Gao Jiangheng's "Secret Methods of Xingyiquan Basic Practice" - the first and only written account on Guo Weihan's system

Some time later I had a chance to have a look at a very interesting book - "Secret Methods of Xingyiquan Basic Practice" (Xingyiquan
Jiben Xinggong Mifa) written by Gao Jiangheng and published in 1935. In his book Gao Jiangheng recorded stories told by his teacher, Jia
Dajun (Guo Weihan's disciple) as well as described basic practice methods of his style. The contents of the book was different from
anything I had heard about Guo Weihan's system before.

1.Historical part of the book sheds completely new light on the early history of Xinyiquan as well as relations between Dai Longbang, his
sons, Guo Weihan and Li Laoneng (this issue however will be further discussed in one of the next articles on this site).

According to Gao's book (chapter on "Origins") Guo Weihan was nephew of Dai Longbang's wife - although in the light of new
"discoveries" this relation does not seem to be true but this question will be briefly discussed below - and learnt his martial art from Dai
Longbang. In 1838 he went to Henan's Shijiadian together with Dai Wenliang and Dai Wenxiong to help in managing the inn Dai
Longbang ran there and learn martial arts. In 1841 Niu Xixian (Niu Xixian was Niu Gao's descendant; Niu Gao was one of the general's in
Yue Fei's army and Yue Fei's disciple) came to Shijiadian and Guo Weihan and Dai brothers became his disciples and learnt martial arts
from him. Gao Jiangheng also mentions that there was an oral transmission of Dai brothers and Guo Weihan learning from Li Zheng while
in Shijiadian.

In the generation chart in his book Gao places Guo Weihan on the same level (same generation) as Dai brothers, below Dai Longbang
and Niu Xixian, but above Li Luoneng and Dai Wuchang, Dai Liangdong, Wen Laoliu, Jia Dajun (Gao's teacher) and others.

First movements of Six

Combinations Stick (Liu He Gun) Since Guo went to Shijiadian in 1838 to help Dai Longbang manage Dai's business there, it not only
routine of Guo Weihan's system puts the dates for Dai Longbang's life given by Cao Jizhi into question, but also makes it possible
performed by Mr. Lϋ Hui, Fan that Li Laoneng actually learnt from Dai. Some recent discoveries concerning Li Zheng (said to be
Jiayuan's student: one of Dai's teachers - please refer to this article) also seem to support the idea that Dai Longbang
could have lived much later than Cao indicated.

2.Technical part of the book introduces the basic theory and practice methods of Guo Weihan's
Xingyiquan (as Xingyiquan - Form-Intent Boxing - is the name Gao refers to his style):

1.Sixteen Core Methods (Shi Liu Ben)

2.Sixteen Powers (Shi Liu Jin)

3.Meditation Practices divided into three levels:

3.1.Method of Using Qi (Yong Qi Fa) - breathing/meditation method to attain calmness of mind so

that Qi can move;



3.2.Heavenly Circle Method (Zhou Tian Fa) - on the basis of the "Method of Using Qi" one learns to
lead Qi along Small Heavenly Circle;

3.3.Method of Achieving the Truth (De Zhen Fa) - high level meditation practice

4.Dantian Methods - divided into Dantian Practice in Standing (Zhan Dantian) and Dantian Practice
3 in Movement (Ben Dantian):

4.1.Dantian Practice in Standing - is a method similar to Squatting Monkey method of Dai Family
Xinyiquan, composed of two phases - opening and contracting of the body. The main difference is in
the way arms are held in squatting position - according to Gao they should be crossed in front of the
body with backs of palms kept close to chicks.

4.2.Dantian Practice in Movement - is a footwork method which should be, as Gao Jianheng writes
in his book "(...) like shooting an arrow, where Dantian is a bow and Qi - the arrow. This is called
Neigong (Internal Method). On the outside hands are like a bow, leg is like an arrow. (...) In the
past Master Dai Erlü was able to attack the opponent from the distance of ten steps (...) it was the
skill coming from Ben Dantian".

Gao Jiangheng gives detailed description of Dantian methods practiced within Guo Weihan's
system, and the main one - Zhan Dantian - with slight differences is the same as Squatting Monkey
method of Dai Family Xinyiquan. This is in contradiction with Cao Jizhi's claim that Guo's style
4 does not include the Daoyin part - i.e. Squatting Monkey method - of Dai Family system.

Pi Quan (Splitting Fist) of Guo Weihan's system as introduced in Gao Jiangheng's book (Guo WeihanJia DajunGao
Jiangheng lineage):

5  4 3 2 1

Chopping Fist Right Chopping Fist - Left
Embracing the Moon Snake Form Six Harmonies Posture
Posture Posture
Pi Quan You Shi Huai Zhong Bao Yue Pi Quan Zuo Shi She Xing Liu He Shi

• Drilling Fist (Zuan Quan): Six Harmonies Posture (Liu He Shi) - Snake Form (She Xing) - First Movement of Drilling Fist -
Second Movement of Drilling Fist
• Crushing Fist (Beng Quan) - Six Harmonies Posture (Liu He Shi) - Low Posture (Xia Shi) - "Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg"
(Jin Ji Du Li) - Crushing Fist
• Cannon Fist (Pao Quan) - Six Harmonies Posture (Liu He Shi) - Cannon Towards Heaven (Chong Tian Pao Chui) - Cannon Fist

All Five Elements Fists start from Six Harmonies Posture and the main linking movement is the "Embracing the Moon" (Huai Zhong Bao
Yue) posture. They also contain animal movements (Snake Form, Chicken Form) as well as other techniques not included in animal forms
(Cannon Towards Heaven). The techniques are usually performed in Bow and Arrow Stance (Gong Jian Bu), also referred to as Tiger Step
(Hu Bu).

7.Twelve (Animal) Shapes (Shi Er Xing) - twelve sets of short, linked sequences; the movements that these sequences are composed of
can also be practiced as single techniques. Twelve Shapes are: Dragon (Long), Tiger (Hu), Monkey (Hou), Horse (Ma), Nag (Tai), Cat
(Mao), Swallow (Yan), Sparrow Hawk (Yao), Eagle (Ying), Chicken (Ji), Crane (He), Snake (She). Not only the Animals are different than
those in Xingyiquan, but the specific movements are different as well - for example Dragon Shape is a set of the following movements:
Wrapped Body and Hidden Hand of Dragon Shape Posture (Guo Shen Cang Shou Long Xing Shi) - Heart-dividing Palm (Fen Xin Zhang)
- Dragon's Tail Posture (Long Wei Shi).

In his book Gao gives no information concerning weapons practiced within Guo Weihan's system.

Guo Weihan's system - what the current practitioners have to say...

In 1998 I made the first but not very successful attempt to meet Guo Weihan's style practitioners in Shanxi Province. I was only able to
meet students of Ma Erniu (Dai Kui's disciple), Dai Family Xinyiquan practitioners, who lived in Guo Weihan's hometown. Although I
did not see the style itself and still had no idea how it looked like, I was told interesting story about Li Laoneng coming to Shanxi, how he
was rejected by Dai Clan and finally accepted by Guo Weihan as a disciple.
In May 2001 I had a chance to finally meet practitioners Another photo of Xinyiquan practitioners from Guo Weihan's lineage.
of Guo Weihan's style, not only talk to them, but also 'Shenzhou' of Guo clan hangs in the background
videotape some demonstrations as well as take photos.
The following information was shared with me during
conversations I had with Guo Weihan's style
practitioners in Shanxi's countryside:

1.Guo Weihan and his disciples - facts and stories:

There is no doubt Guo Weihan really existed - his

name appears on Shenzhou - sheet of fabric on which the
names of the dead belonging to one clan are recorded
and which is hang on the wall during main Chinese
festivals so that the living can kneel in front of it and
pay respect to the dead ancestors - of Guo Clan.
However the only information recorded there is Guo's
name, the fact that he was 15th generation of Guo Clan
and that he had three wives - Fan, Yue and Li.

Enlarged fragment of
'Shenzhou' with Guo Guo Weihan's aunt (father's sister) was married to Dai Longbang, so Guo Weihan and Dai's sons - Dai Dalü and
Weihan's name and Dai Erlü - were cousins. Guo Weihan studied Dai Family Xinyiquan from Dai Longbang. Guo spent some time in
surnames of his three Henan escorting caravans together with Dai Longbang and his sons. After he came back to Shanxi he became the
wives chief of his home village. Later he resigned and became a teacher teaching in one of the local private schools (Si


At the end of March 2001 an important discovery was made - Dai Clan descendants revealed four volumes of
their family chronicles (Dai Shi Jiapu) as well as their Shenzhou that had been kept hidden in Dai Longbang's
mansion for at least a century. Both materials are under strict protection of the local authorities and only a few
persons were allowed to see them. I had a long conversation with the head of the local Cultural Relics Bureau
who is one of the persons responsible for the protection of the books and Shenzhou. According to the Chronicles
Dai Longbang (Dai Xing'guo), 19th generation of Dai Clan, had two wives - Zhao and Liu. He had two sons -
older Dai Wenliang (Dai Dalü) and younger Dai Wenxiong (Dai Erlü), who also styled himself Dai Yemeng.

Thanks to this discovery we can disregard the stories about two brothers - Dai Longbang and Dai Lingbang - that can be found in some of
older Xingyiquan books. However at the same time the relation between Dai Longbang and Guo Weihan has to be corrected as well - since
none of Dai Longbang's wives was of Guo family, Guo Weihan could not be the nephew of any of Dai Longbang's wives. There is a
possibility that one of Dai Longbang's brothers could have been married to Guo Weihan's aunt, but this would have to be checked either
with the Chronicles or Shenzhou.

Guo Weihan had eight main disciples, of which names of only five were mentioned to me: Guo San'er, Cheng Da, Cheng Er, Li Laoneng
(of Shenzhou in Hebei Province) and Lü Haigen.
Guo Saner killed somebody during a fight in his hometown and had to flee to Beijing Fan Jiayuan, one of Lü Haigen's grand-
where he hid under assumed name Li. His Qing Gong (Light Skill) was very good and he students and main teacher of the current
was probably the renowned "Li the Swallow" famous in the capital city. practitioners of the style
Cheng Da and Cheng Er were brothers and Guo Weihan's boxing manual (Quan Pu) is still
kept by their descendants.

Li Laoneng came to Shanxi and wanted to learn Dai Family Xinyiquan. Li bought some
land and was growing vegetables there. At that time Dai Longbang already passed away
and Dai Erlü, who was very respected locally and of high social status, did not agree to
accept Li as a student. As a result Li decided to ask Guo, another of Dai Longbang's
disciples, to teach him, but since he was afraid that Guo would not accept him either, he
was everyday pushing a cart with vegetables to Guo's house and selling the vegetables to
Guo. It was Lü Haigen, Guo Weihan's "page boy" (Shu Tong) who was always coming out
and buying the vegetables from Li. After some time Guo finally came out. Li grasped two
handles of the cart and lifted the heavy cart full of vegetables to let Guo choose them and at
the same time to show him his strength. Guo chose the vegetables and gave Li a bronze
coin to pay. Guo was holding the coin with three fingers and in spite of the efforts Li could
not take it from him.

Then Guo broke the coin with his fingers. Seeing this Li wanted to cross hands with Guo, but Guo defeated him easily using Snake Form
(She Xing). After the fight Li kneeled in front of Guo and asked to be accepted as disciple. Although Guo agreed to teach him, the style he
taught was a changed version which was based on San Ti Shi, and which Guo called Xingyiquan - Form and Intent Boxing. After some
time Dai Erlü heard that Guo was teaching the man from Hebei and became quite unhappy with him. Guo invited Dai Erlü to his house
and while Li Laoneng was practicing the style he learnt from Guo in the courtyard, Dai, sitting inside the house, was taking a peep at him
through a little hole in the window (windows at that time had no glasses, but a half-transparent paper was used instead). Dai Erlü was not
worried anymore seeing that Li did not learn his family art. Li Laoneng spent three years studying Xingyiquan and then went to Taigu.

2.The transmission of Guo Weihan's art:

Guo Weihan also passed his art to Lü Haigen (1812-1904), who in turn taught Guo He (1872-1959, who started his studies under Lü at the
age of 12). Guo He taught Fan Jiayuan (1909-1997). Fan's main disciples are: Yang Runsheng (1924-1996; the first disciple), Yang Liren,
Fan Zhengming, Lü Hui (Lü Shuangniu), Guo Yingchang and Guo Yingsheng. The people I interviewed were mainly Fan Jiayuan's

Guo Weihan - missing link in the history of Xingyiquan found?

by Jarek Szymanski
Text and photos - Jarek Szymanski; © J.Szymanski 2002

3.The contents of Guo Weihan's martial art:

The style Guo taught to his other disciples was Xinyiquan, the same as the art Dai Longbang taught. Its basics are:
• Dantian methods - Dantian Practice Zhan Dantian of Guo Weihan's lineage is basically the same as the one of Dai Family
in Standing (Zhan Dantian) Xinyiquan
practiced in two versions - with Opening Contracting
arms kept at the knees or near face
in the squatting position - it is
basically the same exercise as
Squatting Monkey of Dai Family
Xinyiquan; Pounding Dantian (Za
Dantian), Discharging Dantian (She
Dantian), Sitting Dantian (Zuo
Dantian), Removing Dantian (Ban
Dantian) and Sleeping Dantian

Standing in Tiger Stance is the main

Walking with Chicken Leg develops agile
standing exercise in Guo Weihan's
footwork (below)
• Standing in Tiger Stance (Zhan Hu Bu;
Tiger Step is another name for Bow Step)
and Walking with Chicken Leg (Zou Ji
Tui) are also very important practice
methods of the style - standing in Tiger
Step emphasizes correct aligniment of the
body so that nose, front knee and front
foot are on one vertical line (for this
reason Tiger Step is also called San Qi Bu
- Three-in-one-Line Step); walking with
Chicken Leg teaches how to move and
change direction fast.

• After that one learns Five Elements Fists

(Wu Xing Quan) - Chopping (Pi),
Crushing (Beng), Drilling (Zuan), Cannon
(Pao) and Horizontal (Heng) Fists and

• Twelve (Animal) Shapes (Shi Er Xing): Dragon (Long), Tiger (Hu), Monkey (Hou), Horse (Ma), Bear (Xiong), Eagle (Ying),
Sparrow Hawk (Yao), Swallow (Yan), Tai Bird (Tai) which is probably another name for magpie, Tuo (Tuo) a kind of insect able
to glide on the surface of the water, Chicken (Ji) and Snake (She)

During my stay in Guo Weihan's village I learnt that one of the last Dai clan members from the branch that practiced Xinyiquan lives
there. I was amazed to see Dai Guilan, daughter of the late Dai Hongxun (who along with Dai Kui was one of the last Dai clan members
actively teaching the art) who is 83 this year, jumped down from the kang (heatable brick bed) to greet me.

Below: rare photo of Dai Hongxun, Her fitness struck me and I wondered whether Below: Dai Guilan, Dai Hongxun's daughter,
who together with Dai Kui spread the she still practiced the art (and was the only in spite of her age is still very healthy and fit.
art of Dai Family Xinyi outside Dai Dai clan member to carry it). She denied Even if she practiced her family art the high
clan. saying she used to see her father teach so she walls around her house would make it
knew a bit about it but never learnt it herself. impossible for outsiders to know it...
Unfortunately the original photo was
damaged when we tried to take it
from behind the glass which protected
it Other people from the village said she had
never been seen practicing, and although she
was often invited to watch local martial arts
competition she never performed.

During the conversation I had with her she

mentioned that her father taught Twelve
(Animal) Shapes, although the lineage of Dai
Kui, much more popular nowadays, mentions
only Ten Big Shapes. It is possible that Dai
Hongxun merged some of Small Shapes (Dai
Kui's lineage has Seven Small Shapes) with
Big Shapes in this way creating the set of
twelve. In any case it is difficult to put the
final word on who actually increased the
number of Shapes into twelve.

Hence Cao Jizhi's claim that it was done by

Guo Weihan can't be taken for granted.

Guo Weihan's system also contains other methods:

• Seven Cannons (Qi Pao): Heaven Opening Cannon (Tong Tian Pao) strikes upwards, Ground Digging Cannon (Wa Di Pao)
strikes downwards, Whip-holding Cannon (Zhua Bian Pao) leftwards, Crossing-Out-with-a-Whip Cannon (Mo Bian Pao)
rightwards, Ground Brushing Cannon (Ca Di Pao) strikes centrally, Head Cutting Cannon (Zhan Shou Pao) strikes through the
back, Linked Cannons (Lian Zhu Pao) is a series of strikes.
• Shoulder Methods (Bang Fa)
• Three Fists Three Sticks (San Quan San Gun) - Three Fists (three hand techniques, San Quan) are: Drilling (Zuan), Wrapping
(Guo) and Scissors (Jian); Three Sticks (three stick techniques, San Gun) are: Pounding (Pao), Carrying (striking upwards, Peng)
and Through-the-Back (Fan Bei).

Pi Quan (Splitting Fist) of Guo Weihan's system (Guo WeihanLü HaigenGuo HeFan Jiayuan lineage) perfomed by Mr. Lϋ
Hui, Fan Jiayuan's student:
3  2 1

Empty hands routines practiced within Guo Weihan's style are:

•Si Ba (Four Seizes) - Guo Weihan added two movements to the routine that
originally had only four movements, so it is also called General Formula of Six
Gates (Liu Men Zong Jue);
• Five Sets of Breaking Postures Hammers (Wu Tang Za Shi Chui)
• Twelve Linked Hammers (Shi Er Lian Chui) - the importance of this routine in
Guo Weihan's system was very much emphasized by my interlocutors and it is
considered the trademark of the system; single movements (like "Leopard Climbs
Tree" and "Sun Behind Clouds") are practiced first on both sides, and only then
they are linked into one routine.
• Kicking Mastering Linked Fists (Jing Tui Lianhuan Quan) is a set almost lost
which emphasizes low kicks.

There are over twenty weapon routines in Guo Weihan's style. They can be generally
divided into single routines (practiced by one person) and matched routines (by two and
more practitioners). These are all short routines which are performed for less than a minute.

The weapons are:

• Broadsword (Dao) - the routines are Six Combinations Broadsword (Liu He Dao),
Dragon's Tail Broadsword (Long Wei Dao), Thirteen Broadswords (Shi San Dao)
• Stick (Gun) - a short stick, also called Thirteen Seizes Stick (Shi San Ba Gun); the
main routine is Six Combinations Stick (Liu He Gun)
• Steel Chopsticks (Tie Kuaizi)
• Emei Daggers (Emei Ci) - unlike in Dai style, in Guo's style the routine is
practiced with one weapon only (in Dai style - with a pair of weapons)
• Sword (Jian) - the routine is Twelve Shapes Sword (Shi Er Xing Xiang Jian)
• Tiger-head Hook (Hu Tou Gou)

• Eyebrow-level Stick (Qi Mei Gun), Three-sectional Whip (San Jie Bian), Two-
sectional Staff (Shaozi Gun), Spear (Qiang) are weapons used in matched (two
persons, weapon vs weapon or empty hands vs weapon) routines


The way techniques are practiced differs depending on the season of the year:

• In Spring - Agile Power (Ling Jin) - in a light, fast fashion

• In Summer - Soft Power (Rou Jin) - slowly, like Taijiquan
• In Fall - Light Power (Qing Jin) - in a light, slow fashion
• In Winter - Hard Power (Gang Jin) - to exercise tendons, bones and skin

All these powers put certain requirements on the practitioners.

Hard Power (Gang Jin) requiries Hard Skill (Ying Gong). To develop Hard Skill Xinyiquan practitioners of Guo Weihan lineage
practice standing upside down on their hands. Those who already have some skill use only three fingers of each hand to support the body.
In more advanced version of this exercise one has to walk on hands while upside down - this is called "Scorpio Covers Its Tail" (Xiezi Yan
Wei). It is said the Guo He when 70 was able to walk like this over a distance of 700 meters. This skill however has to be learnt at young
age, before one gets married (Tong Zi Gong)
Light Power (Qing Jin) requiries very good flexibility of the body, Mr. Lü Hui, 58, can still touch foot with his chin. Flexibility
especially legs and waist. It is said that "one is like a blind demon if one is very important part of Guo Weihan's Xinyi basic training
practices martial arts without stretching". Those who wanted to learn Guo
Weihan's Xinyiquan had first to acquire basic skills and good flexibility was
indispensary. Young kids would start from jumping and stretching for the
first years of their martial arts study. It also gave their teacher an opportunity
to see whether the student really deserves to learn the advanced art of
Xinyiquan. Only once he decided they qualified for further study they would
learn Zhan Dantian (Squatting Monkey).

Mr. Lü Hui started his practice at the age of 11/12 from basic exercises,
including stretching, jumping, general conditioning. At the age of 40 he was
still able to touch his chest with the tips of his toes - even today, at the age of
58 he can still touch his chin (Pic. on the right). He can still stand upside
down supporting himself with three fingers of each hand as well as perform
"Scorpio Covers Its Tail" over a distance of several meters. His gongfu
brothers also said that he was able to jump with a somersault over three big
(one meter in diameter) water vats.

The table below compares three styles - Dai Family Xinyiquan, Guo Weihan's Xinyiquan and Xingyiquan. It is obvious that Guo Weihan's
system is more closely related to Dai Family Xinyi than to Xingyiquan. Its main differences with Xingyiquan are in the way the body is
used - it is trained through Squatting Monkey, not San Ti, hence Shu-Zhan (Contracting-Opening) are its main features. At the same time
it is Bow Stance based - a stance which allows for more complete turn of Dantian than San Ti and full use of rear leg's pushing power
(Deng Jin), which is considered a key element required in issuing power in all Xinyi and Xingyi systems. On the other hand Guo's
Xinyiquan includes routines which share same names as those of Xingyi system. The basic material of the system is very similar as well -
Five Elements and Twelve (Animal) Shapes. However it has to be pointed out that not only Five Elements fists but also the Animals in
both styles are performed differently. Another thing is that there are differences within Guo's system. While Pi Quan (as the drawings and
photos above show) is very similar, the Animals are not exactly the same - Jia Dajun's system includes Crane (He) and Cat (Mao), while
Fan Jiayuan's (coming from Guo through Lü Haigen and Guo He) has Tuo insect and Bear (Xiong) instead.

A brief comparison of Guo Weihan's system, Dai Family Xinyiquan and Xingyiquan:
Dai Family Xinyiquan Guo Weihan's system Xingyiquan

Zhan Dantian (in movement),

Squatting Monkey (in
Basic Internal Methods: Standing in Tiger Stance (still), San Ti Standing (still)
Six Harmonies Posture (still)

Basic Body Method Contracting and Opening Contracting and Opening

San Ti (usually back-weighted

Basic Stance Bow Stance (front weighted) Bow Stance (front weighted) with weight distribution of 3-7, 4-
6 or 5-5)

Basic Techniques Five Elements Five Elements Five Elements

Ten Big Shapes + Seven Small

Shapes (Dai Kui)
(Animal) Shapes Twelve Shapes Twelve Shapes
Twelve Shapes (Dai Hongxun)

Main Single Routines Si Ba (Four Seizes), Four Four Seizes (Si Ba), Five Advancing and Retreating Five
Routines of Breaking Postures
Fists (Za Shi Chui), Twelve Elements Linked Fists (Jin Tui
Routines of Za Shi Chui
Linked Fists (Shi Er Lian Chui), Wuxing Lianhuan Quan), Mixed
(Breaking Postures Fists),
Excellent Kicks Linked Fists Form Strikes (Za Shi Chui)
(Jing Tui Lianhuan Quan)

Main Weapons Short Stick Short Stick Spear

As it appears one would hardly call Guo Weihan's system a missing link between Dai Family Xinyi and Xingyiquan. Not only because of
general technical characteristics, but also because of uncertain transmission (as indicated in the beginning of this article). However during
the conversation with Guo Weihan's Xinyiquan practitioners another interesting information came out. I was told that that Guo Weihan
also practiced Tongbeiquan of He Family, style which was also referred to as "Ape" (Yuanhou) Tongbeiquan. This fact was not only
mentioned by the practitioners of Guo Weihan's style, but also other people I met in his home village. It is quite interesting that the latter
did not seem to be aware of the fact that Guo also practiced Xinyiquan.

It is possible that the secret of transformation from Dai Family Xinyiquan into Li Laoneng's Xingyiquan was through He Family
Tongbeiquan. Detailed analysis of Xingyiquan movements and powers not only shows many similarities with its "mother art" of Dai
Family Xinyiquan, but also between Xingyiquan and northern long fist styles like Tongbeiquan. On the other hand we do not really know
how Dai Family Xinyiquan looked like in the days of Li Laoneng...

On the other hand the book "Famous People and Famous Styles of Shanxi Wushu" compiled by Zhang Xigui and Guan Bin mentions Li
Gong of Pingyao in Shanxi Province who excelled in Tongbeiquan. In 1920 Li Gong passed the art to Guo He of Qi County. As we
already know Guo He was also a Xinyiquan student of Lü Haigen. This would suggest that the combination of Xinyi and Tongbei took
place decades after Guo Weihan. This is another question that remains unanswered...

The main idea for this article was to introduce Guo Weihan's style for the question who Li Laoneng's teacher was and why Xingyiquan
differs so much from Dai Family Xinyi requires more thorough research on the history of both styles and martial arts in general as well as
comparative studies of theory, training methods and techniques of the styles. While attempting to explain the relation between Shanxi
Xinyi (Guo Weihan's and of Dai clan) and Xingyiquan new questions were raised. I sincerely hope the information in this article will help
other researchers to find answers to these questions.

In August 2001 I visited Shanxi again to watch International Xingyiquan Competition in Pingyao. It was there where I was given a thin
brochure written by one of Guo Weihan's Xinyi practitioners. The brochure introduced history, development and technical contents of the
style. However brief look at the contents of the brochure makes the reader realize that at least a part of the material presented there has
simply been made out and is not reliable. It is not a pleasant feeling to witness an attempt to create history, but such materials are common
traps that everybody who digs in the history of martial arts in China often comes against.

Ode to Che Style Xingyiquan

by Che Xiangqian
Translated from Chinese by Jarek Szymanski, © J.Szymanski 1999-2002, photos: J.Szymanski and courtesy of Mr.
Bu Bingquan

Prof.Che Xiangqian explains details of

Che style Xingyiquan
Prof. Che Xiangqian was the first president of Taigu Che Yizhai Xingyiquan Society (currently
acts as its honorary president) and for many years acted as president of Shanxi Province Taigu
County Martial Arts Association. Che started his Xingyiquan studies under Che Caizao (Bu
Xuekuan's disciple) in 1950. In his articles Prof.Che actively promotes development of
traditional art of Xingyiquan. He has greatly contributed to demystifying of Xingyiquan,
explaining the principles, practice and applications of the art in simple and easy to understand


Che Style Xingyiquan with Che Yonghong as its main representative, is a crystallization of
collective wisdom and experience of Che Yonghong and vast numbers of his disciples with Li
Fuzhen and Bu Xuekuan as key figures; it is a branch of Xingyiquan that was formed through
practice as a summary of rich and varied experience of its practitioners, with Li Luoneng’s
Xingyiquan as the base and by assimilating strong points of other styles; this combination of
health preserving exercise and fighting art created by master Che, master Li and master Bu can
be used as a criterion for judging real value of any martial art.
I have studied and practiced Che Style Xingyiquan for 49 years, and am very fortunate to express its unique style in a poetic form of this

1. Historical Personages

Che Style Xingyi became famous because of Che Yonghong from Taigu; While Li Fuzhen and Bu Xuekuan were excellent succesors
respecting the teacher and the art;


Che Yonghong (1833-1914), also called Che Yizhai or Second Master Che (Che Er Shifu) was born in Taigu in Che Yonghong (1833-
Shanxi Province. Coming from a poor family he first worked as a carter. In 1848 started his martial arts studies of 1914)
Shaolin boxing under Wu Hongpu and Wang Changdong. In 1856 Che was accepted by Li Laoneng as a student
and learnt Xingyiquan. Che was a very good fighter, especially skilfull at hitting with fourteen parts of body
(Shi'er Chu Dafa). He changed and reformed Xingyiquan to form his own branch, famous for narrow stances and
refined power - Che style Xingyi. After becoming a proficient master, Che worked as a guard of rich mansions in
Taigu for over thirty years, everyday practicing free fighting with his disciple, Li Fuzhen. Most of those, who went
to challenge Che, were defeated by Li Fuzhen. In 1988 Che went to Tianjin where he crossed swords with a
japanese master and defeated him. His most famous disciples were Li Fuzhen, Bu Xuekuan, Lü Xuelong, Fan
Yongqing, etc.

Li Fuzhen (1855-
Li Fuzhen ( 1855-1930), also called Changyou Master (Changyou Shifu), started to study Xingyiquan under Che 1930)
Yonghong at the age of thirteen. Later Li Fuzhen worked for many local banks as a guard.

Li was very famous for his fighting skills, always defeating challengers. However once he was kicked by a martial
artist, Wei Changyi (Chuojiao Fanzi Quan expert from Hebei province), and, surprised by Wei's skill, asked him
for teaching. Later Li changed what he learnt from Wei into Xingyi's Eighteen Kicks (Shi'ba Tui), also called
Mandarin Duck Kicks (Yuanyangjiao).

Bu Xuekuan (1876-1971) started Xingyiquan study at the age of sixteen under Che Yonghong. He also learnt Bu Xuekuan (1876-
Yuanyang Jiao (Mandarin Duck Kicks) together with Li Fuzhen and Taijiquan and Baguazhang from Sun Lutang. 1971)
Bu compiled set of health preserving exercises "Marrow Washing Classic" (Xisuijing), Xingyi practice with
partner (Xingyi Duilian), Linked Hands (Lianhuanshou) and famous technique he became famous for, "Lion
Swallows Hand" (Shizi Tun Shou). In 1913 Bu started to accept students, of whom the most famous were Sun Deyi,
Zhang Yongyi, Yan Yuewu, Wu Chaoxiang (who took Xingyi to Brasil) and Li Ying'ang (who taught in
Guatemala). Bu Xuekuan became president of Taigu Sports Association in 1918 and martial arts coach at Taigu
Mingxian School (the school was established in Taigu by Americans) in 1932.

Later Bu was also director of Taigu County Guoshuguan (Martial Arts Academy). After liberation (1949) Bu Xuekuan was actively
promoting Xingyiquan in Shanxi Province as well as taking part in political life. Bu died at the age of 96. His youngest son, Bingquan,
was born when Bu was 70.

2. Aim of Learning Martial Art

One is health preserving, second is self-defense, spare time hobby; Learn the rules of the school, practice routines, but it only counts when
you know “Si Pa”;


Che Yonghong's inheritors practice Xingyiquan not for fame or personal benefit, but for good health, fighting skills and out of interest.
One learns the rules of the school before learning martial art, and the core rules are "good health, self-defense, loyalty (to friends, gongfu
brothers, etc)". However, the main goal one should pursue is fighting skill, which in Taigu dialect is called "Si Pa".

3. Cultural Features

The principles of the martial art should be understood, the method should be correct, simple and practical, wins by clever moves; It has
living examples, is easy to practise, the harmony between Form and Intention can be examined;

Bu Xuekuan in "Picking Flowers
Posture" (Cai Hua Shi)
One can only practice martial art well if the principles are clear; knowing movements,
routines, applications is not enough. Since martial art is a practical science, it has many
examples showing its methods and principles. The requirements in Che style regarding
movements, postures, coordination, rhythm, breathing, use of Intention (Yi) have specific
expressions in Che style routines. The harmony between Form (Xing) and Intention (Yi) means
relation between external movements and internal intention, e.g. the idea kept in mind while
performing the movements. These two should be united. Old saying says"Once he stretches his
arm, it is clear if he has it or not", which means once a martial arts practitioner makes a
move, it can be seen whether his Form and Intention are united or not.

4. Important Points on Practice

Hardening exercises are forbidden, do not practice too much of still methods, Qi and Strength should combine so that Internal and
External are connected; Do not practice until exhaustion but be persistent with it; the skill should grow but good health be preserved, so
balance your practice with Tuna (breathing) exercises.


Hardening exercises like hitting sand bags (Da Shadai), lifting weights (Ju Shisuo), hitting wooden targets (Zhuang Mutou), Iron Sand
Hand practice (Tie Sha Zhang) are forbidden in Che style Xingyiquan. Still methods like sitting meditation (Jing Zuo), standing practice
(Zhan Zhuang) should be practiced but not for extended periods of time. For example Santi standing should be done for 5 to 10 minutes,
while Qigong practice (sitting/lying) up to 40 minutes a time. This differs Che style from Hebei Xingyi branches, which stress importance
of Santi standing over long periods of time. One of the meanings of combination between Qi and Li is coordination between breath and
power, which is related to certain body structure. Only then Internal (breath) and external (movements) can be in harmony (connected).
Che style Xingyiquan stresses "Internal and External are unblocked and balanced by breathing exercises"; one should neither practice to
exhaustion (because it will only lead to bad quality of movements and wrong habits as a result) nor practice when tired. It is better to
practice more often for shorter periods of time. Although very hard training can improve one's skill, but it is very easy to overstrain and
hurt oneself. Best skill is good for nothing if you are not healthy.

5. Practice of Routines

Traditional boxing, self-defense art, art of defeating enemy with three pieces; Broadsword and sword are short weapons, spear and stick
are long ones, reach the position in two steps, do not confront hard with hardness;


As already many times stressed, martial art should first of all be the art of self defence and fighting ability is the key skill. In Che style
Xingyiquan routines can be divided into three categories: traditional ones, for self-defense and for actual fighting (most advanced). In the
last category many kicks are added to hand movements, so often one would use both hands and a kick at the same time - this is called
"striking enemy with three pieces" (San Jian Da Ren). This is also one of Che style features. While using weapons, one should with first
step neutralize or break opponent's attack, and strike with the second step - this is called "reaching position with two steps". The weapons
routines that express this feature are "Liu Qiang Dianzi" (spear) and "Bagua Dao" (broadsword).

6. Fighting Strategy

Iron triangle, linked hands, whole body is fist, step with Tiger Step; Body is like a wind, fists like water, "mobile war" where you neither
go against opponent's power nor loose contact with him;

Santi Shi (Three Bodies Posture) is the most basic body posture in Xingyiquan and main Bu Xuekuan's son, Bu Bingquan, in Che
combat position. In Che style it is divided into static Santi Shi, which is, generally speaking, style San Ti Stance
the same for all Xingyi branches, and dynamic Santi Shi, characteristic only to Che style.
This dynamic Santi Shi is called "iron triangle". In fighting movements of both hands should
be well co-ordinated, as if both hands were linked. Tiger Step (Hu Bu) is a footwork
composed of three steps: Ce Bu (Surveying Step) done with front foot; Shang Bu (Step
Forward) with rear leg forward; Gen Bu (Following Step) with rear leg. This footwork is
very usefull in fighting - Ce Bu "roots" body, and next two steps immediately follow to reach
the opponent. This is different from Hebei Xingyi where emphasis is put on Ji Bu (Chicken
Step) - front leg is "rooted" when rear leg moves and stops at the inside of front leg's ankle.
Che style requires the body to move like a wind, be in a constant movement (in Hebei style
body is required to be "firm like Mountain Tai"), hit the opponent in movement; fists (e.g.
shoulders, elbows, forearms, hands, hips, knees, shanks, feet) should strike like water filling
all gaps (e.g. parts of opponent's body that are not protected); fighting should be based on
guerilla tactics, always in movement, sticking to the opponent, never using power directly
against his power;

7. Postures and Movements

Waist is the axle, steps are roots, combined in eight directions, rhythm is clear; body posture is low, stances large, keep the Middle, stand
single weighted, be like a "top";


The power should be rooted in steps and directed by the waist; eight directions - front and rear ( e.g. front and rear hand or foot), left and
right (e.g. left and right arm or leg), up and down (up are shoulders, elbows, hands; down are hips, knees, feet), opponent and I (two
adversaries) - should be combined, in harmony (in case of "opponent and I" - one's movements should be chosen according to opponent's
movements, not preconceived). Rhythm of movements should be clear, fast and slow separated. Both practice and fighting should have
distinct rhythm: in practice Che style demands "practicing movement after movement", correctly; fighting also requires certain
composition, one should not move in a disorderly fashion. In practice one should use low and large body postures to build up strength.

One of main streets in Taigu, center of Shanxi Province Xingyiquan Keeping the Middle (Shou Zhong) has two meanings: first is
that in all movements one should hollow the chest and
straighten the back, hands should be kept close to heart
(chest) and elbows close to ribs; here "keeping the middle "
actually means "guarding the center"; the second meaning is
applied to fighting - one should stand in the middle and the
opponent should move around him - in Taigu this is called
"standing in the middle of the millstone".

Keeping the Middle does not mean focusing on dantian. Body

is single weighted when most of the body weight rests on one
leg only - the weight distribution can be 4:6, 3:7, 2:8, 1:9, but
when body weight is equally distributed on both legs, then it is
considered double weighted; similar situation is with hands,
which are also divided into "solid" one and "empty" one - are
single weighted. Top is a popular toy, that can be rotated
either by twisting it with fingers or using a whip.

Top, in Taigu called "Nian Ba'er" was often used by Che

Yizhai to explain Xingyiquan principles.

8. Power and Fighting Methods

Power should be soft and elastic, strength explosive, line of softness and point of hardness, circle connected with straight line; know
obvious and hidden, be able to change and link, do not be in a rush or panic when you break opponent's defense or defend yourself and


The power developed during practice and used in fighting should be soft and relaxed, elastic, neither stiff nor completely loose. Only then
in fighting one can strike with explosive strength. Soft power moves in lines, both straight and round, like a circle and its chord - this is
called "circle connected with straight line". Hard power is used in explosive manner for a very short time, that's why it is called "point of
hardness". "Line of softness and point of hardness, needle hidden in cotton, circles and straight lines mutually transforming, like wind or
water" - these metaphors describe well Che style Xingyiquan. Obvious (Ming) and hidden (An) mean obvious and hidden applications of
certain techniques. Typical example of hidden technique is strike to a temple in Pao Quan (Cannon Fist). One of most important skills in
fighting is ability to change according to opponent's reaction, only then one will be able to control situation and not be in a rush or panic
dealing with the opponent.

9. Battle Formation and Using Soldiers

Protect yourself, take a favorable position, it is closer and faster when "soldier" goes only half way; avoid "muzzle of the rifle", use
straight to attack slant, use entire to strike dispersed, strong beats weak;

During fighting one must first of all protect oneself, then using agile footwork take a Old Xingyiquan experts from Taigu
favourable position, usually on opponent's side. Striking with fist, elbow, other part of the practice applications
body (here called "soldier") will be faster if one stands near the opponent in a position in
which one's "soldier" has shorter distance to reach target than opponent's "soldier". One
should always avoid the main power of the opponent's attack, the "edge of weapon". "Use
straight to attack slant" means one's frontal attack at the opponent' side; "use entire to strike
dispersed" means using one's whole body power against part of opponent's body. "Strong
beats weak" means striking hard against opponent's weak and vital part, e.g. using fist
against opponent's pit of stomach or kicking his groin.

10. Battle Essentials

When you attack, he will protect himself; when you give, he will take, linked attack should be based on a plan; the opponent attacks to the
West, you should strike to the East, "besiege Wei to rescue Zhao", highly value initiative;


While fighting one should make some fake movements to cause certain reaction of the opponent; for example, a strike to the head will
force the opponent to protect his head; on the other hand, if one's hands are kept down, then the opponent will probably try to attack one's
head, e.g. not protected part of the body. This is the meaning of "when you attack he will protect himself; when you give he will take". One
can plot a plan to defeat the opponent using these principles that should be followed by strikes in a linked way. One's attacks should
always be responses to opponent's movements. However, opponent's movements shall be reactions to one's movements, that's why
initiative is so important and crucial. "Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao" is an idiom based on facts from Chinese history. "Chronicles of the
Historians - Biographies of Sunzi and Wu Qi" (Shi Ji - Sunzi Wu Qi Liezhuan) note that during the period of Warring States (475-221
B.C.) Wei soldiers besieged Handan, the capital of Zhao State. Zhao unable to protect itself asked Qi State for help. Qi generals, Tian Ji
and Sun Bin, knowing that Wei main forces are outside the country and Wei State is not protected, attacked and destroyed Wei's capital,
Daliang. Wei army immediately went back after having learnt about it. However, they were stopped at Guiling and defeated by Qi forces.
Today this idiom indicates military strategy based on raiding enemy's back in order to force the enemy to withdraw its main attack. This
emphasizes the importance of initiative in fighting.

11. Actual Combat Circumstances

Within one second, on a distance of one inch, the most important is to be accurate when you attack quickly in a linked manner; do not be
afraid to loose, you will not be defeated, it is a comprehensive competition of virtue, wisdom, physique and technique;


In real combat the strikes should be issued within very short time and on a very short distance. However, fastest and shortest strike will
not be effective unless it accurately reaches its target. Once it fails, then it should be followed by another movement in a linked, smooth
way. One should also be mentally prepared for fighting, not be afraid of defeat but rather have the spirit of a winner. Martial Arts
competitions are divided into two categories: routine and free fighting. In both of them Virtue (De), in martial arts called Warrior's Virtue
(Wu De), is very important. The Virtue of judges is expressed in a fair and unbiased way they give points; competitors show their Virtue
by following the rules. Competition is not the place for death and life fight but rather for making friends in martial arts community. When
two highly skilled martial artists meet, their strikes are not destroying but rather pointing at a certain part of opponent's body and this is
enough for the opponent to recognize own defeat. When Che Yizhai and Guo Yunshen met, Che did not hit Guo, Guo did not hit Che
either, but the result of the fight was recognized by both of them.
12. Direction of the Path

Noble warrior's virtue, strong skill in martial art, seek truth from facts, make many friends among martial artists; stress science, love
people, there will be spring of ten thousand years in the forest of Chinese martial arts;


This is the last part of the "Ode". Martial skill has no value without Warrior's Virtue (Wu De), that's why Virtue should precede the skill.
The truth about martial arts should not be sought in novels and anecdotes, but in facts. Only through scientific research, without
superstition, by making friends and exchanging knowledge of Martial Arts with generosity, Chinese Martial Arts will flourish and develop

End of "The Ode to Che Style Xingyiquan"; © J.Szymanski 1999; © J.Szymanski 1999-2002