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A Site devoted to XingYi (hsingi), BaGua (pakua) and Tai Chi (taiji).

Bagua History

The known history of the internal art of BaGuaZhang (pakuachang) written by Mike Patterson

BaGua (PaKua) HISTORY

BaGuaZhang - is attributed most often to Tung Hai Chuan around the latter 17th century, although there is no real historical evidence to support this claim. The story is that Tung was wondering around a mountainous area of China, freezing and starving to death when he was rescued and nurtured back to health by a reclusive Taoist hermit who then taught him the secrets of BaGua to preserve the health he had restored.

Tung’s skill became so high that eventually he was challenged by Kuo Yun Shen (a lot of that going on in that era), a famous Xingyi master, nicknamed the Divine Crushing Fist by the many opponents he had dispatched with his Xingi skill.

The legend says that they fought over three days, with neither able to attain advantage. So they became friends and made a pact that from that day forward all of their students would study both Bagua (Pakua) and Xingyi (hsingi) from each teacher’s lineage.

There are numerous systems of Bagua being practiced across the globe today. An exact count would be difficult but most scholars say that there exist somewhere between twelve and twenty main styles. Bagua is based largely on the philisophical premises found withing the "I Ching" but also incorporates concepts of the Five Elements and some animal movement. The correlation to animal movement, however, will not be as apparent to the eye as it is in XingYiQuan.

As with many things Chinese, the numerous periods of cultural upheaval and the enormous age of the Chinese society have their toll on the known history of BaGuaZhang (pakuachang). Lost manuscripts, books burned and oral traditions have all contributed to an overall and nearly complete denigration of the history of this martial art form. In fact, it was not until this century that an effort was made to retrace this lost history. So, the martial arts history passed down to us is fairly vague indeed.

After thousands of years of development, there have been countless numbers of martial arts spanning every period of Chinese cultural history. Also, many of the most highly skilled martial artists have, by personal choice, avoided publicity and practiced in seclusion. More than two thirds of the Chinese martial arts originated within spiritual pursuits such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam. Many of these practitioners chose seclusion to aid them in the cultivation of enlightenment. Martial arts were only a part of their training as they developed themselves both mentally and physically. Add to this the fact that most of the Chinese population was illiterate, even in the last century, and that many martial arts masters simply preferred to keep it secreted away in their mind, it was very difficult to compile and record history. In order to preserve the essence of the arts, the secrets of each style were often compiled into a series songs or poems which could be easily remembered.

Because of these reasons, the history of each style was passed down orally from generation to generation, instead of being written down. After being passed down for many years, with new tales being added occasionally, the history eventually turned into a story. In many instances, a more accurate record can actually be obtained from martial novels written at that time, since they were based on the customs and actual events of the period. For example, the novels Historical Drama of Shaolin (Shaolin Yen Yi) by Shao Yu-Sheng, and Qian Long Visits South of the River (Qiun Long Xia Jiang Nan) by an unknown author, were written during the Ching dynasty about two hundred years ago. The characters and background in these novels are all based on real people and events of the time. Of course, some liberties were taken with the truth, but since the novels were meant to be read by the public of that time, they had to be based very strongly on fact. Because of these and other similar novels, most martial styles are able to trace back their histories with some degree of accuracy.

This is the case with the history of BaGuaZhang. Nobody actually knows exactly who created BaGua. It was only in the Ching dynasty (1644-1912 AD.), that the first hand-written history of this style was composed. This record confirms that BaGua has existed for at least two hundred years and maybe longer.

From circa (1821-1850 A.D.) to (1881 A.D.), the art of BaGuaZhang reached its zenith of popularity. According to the available documents, it seems likely that the popularity of BaGua during this period was due to the BaGuaZhang Master Tung Hai-Chuan. Since Tung’s time, a more accurate and complete history of the art has been kept.

There are a few documents available to us which describe that Master Tung Hai-Chuan actually learned his BaGua arts from a Taoist named Tung Meng-Lin in Jiu Hua Mountain, An Hui Province. Tung Meng-Lin was also known by two other names; Huang Guan Tao Ren (The Yellow Cape Taoist) and Bi Cheng Xia (Blue Clear Chivalry). He taught his art to three disciples: Tung Hai-Chuan, Li Zhen-Qing and Bi Yue-Xia. Among these three disciples, Tung Hai-Chuan has become the most well known and has passed the art on to the largest body of students. Hence, we have more complete historical information on Tung Hai-Chuan than any other practitioner.

Tung Hai-Chuan was born in Zhu village, Wen An County, Hebei Province on the 13th of October, 1797, and died on the 25th of October, 1882. Tung Hai-Chuan taught many students, the best known of whom were Cheng Ting-Hua, Yin Fu, Liu Feng-Chun, Li Cun-Yi, Shi Li-Qing, Song Chang-Rong, Zhang Zhao-Dong, and Liu Bao-Zhen.

Cheng Ting-Hua, who was the second disciple of Tung Hai-Chuan and was commonly regarded as Tung’s best student, was born in Cheng village, Shen County, Hebei Province. Because he managed an eyeglass business, he was also sometimes known as "Glasses Cheng." Cheng Ting-Hua died in 1900 while resisting foreign troops during the Opium War. Among his stu-dents, the best known are his oldest son, Cheng You-Long, his youngest son, Cheng You-Xin, Zhou Xiang, and Sun Lu-Tang.

Yin Fu, who was the first disciple of Tung Hai-Chuan, modified what he had learned from Tung Hai-Chuan to originate what is now called the Yin style of BaGuaZhang. He also taught many students. Two of his students, Yin Yu-Zhang and Gong Bao-Tian, wrote books about BaGua. These books, which were published in 1932, are valuable contributions to our understanding of the art. One of Gong Bao-Tian’s students, Liu Yun-Qiao, had taught BaGuaZhang in Taiwan until 1991. In addition, another student of Yin Yu-Zhang, Pei Xi-Rong, contributed a great effort in developing BaGua in Southern China.

Fu Zhen-Song, a student of Sun Lu-Tang, also brought the BaGuaZhang art to Southern China and became one of the pioneers in developing BaGua there. Fu’s eldest son, Fu Yong-Hui, continued his father’s steps and with great effort, contributed in spreading BaGua in Southern China. Another student of Tung Hai-Chuan, Li Cun-Yi, also passed down his art to many students. Among them, Shang Yun-Xiang, Hao En-Guang, Zhu Guo-Fu, and Huang Bo-Nian have contributed significantly to the popularity of BaGuaZhang. Huang Bo-Nian was one of the BaGua teachers in Nan King Central Kuoshu Institute before World War II. Huang Bo-Nian wrote a well-known book called Dragon Shape BaGuaZhang. In addition, a student of Shang Yun-Xiang, Hin Yun-Ting, had a student named Ling Gui-Qing who also made a large contribution to the popularity of both XingYi and BaGua in that period.

Naturally, Zhang Zhao-Dong also had many students. Among them, Jiang Rong-Qiao, wrote a very valuable BaGuaZhang book: The Expounding of BaGuaZhang Techniques. Another student, Han Mu-Xia, had a student named Wu Meng-Xia, who wrote the book: The Essence of BaGuaZhang Maneuvers.

In addition, Peng Zhao-Kuang, whose teacher Yang Rong-Ben studied with Shi Li-Qing, passed down a valuable manuscript: The Principles of BaGua Palm Maneuvers in 1955. Also, Chang Chun-Feng, whose teacher Gao Yi-Sheng studied with Song Chang-Rong, passed his manuscript: The Important Meaning of BaGuaZhang on to his students, Wu Meng-Xia (also Han Mu-Xia’s student) and Wu Zhao-Feng.

In addition to these older publications, an author named Ren Zhi-Cheng wrote a book called: Yin Yang Eight Coiling Palms, in 1937. It is interesting to note that Ren Zhi-Cheng's teacher, Li Zhen-Qing was a classmate of Tung Hai-Chuan, and though both apparently learned from Tung Meng-Lin . Tung did not learn Yin Yang BaGuaZhang. This tells us that in the time of Tung Hai-Chuan there were probably already several versions of BaGuaZhang in existence.

Currently, the best-known styles of BaGuaZhang are Wudang, Emei, Yin Family, and Yin Yang. Some of the representative old masters of BaGuaZhang well known today are Sha Guozheng, Li Ziming (a student (If Liang Zheng-Pu), Lu Zijian (who learned from a Taoist, Li Chang-Ye on Emei Mountain), and Tian Hui (Yin Yang BaGuaZhang).

BaGuaZhang has another branch which was developed in Korea. It was credited to Lu Shui-Tian who brought BaGua to Korea when he moved his family there during the Sino-Japanese War. Mr. Lu's teacher was Li Qing-Wu and unfortunately, the origin of his BaGuaZhang is not clear.

BaGuaZhang has become so popular in China since the beginning of this century that it is impossible to trace all of its practitioners. The only ones who can be traced (and in some cases, whose pictures can be found) are those who have written books, passed down documents, or who have been mentioned in any of the books. There are probably hundreds more who have mastered the styles, but there is no way of knowing their names.

After so many years of individual perspectives and modifications by different masters, there have now evolved many different distinct styles of BaGuaZhang. The basic theory and foundation of all of these styles remain the same, but it is very interesting to see that each style has taken the same basic theory and principles and developed its own unique characteristics in both training and application of the art.

Accordingly it is not uncommon to find teachers who have studied more than one style of BaGua in an effort to further their own understanding of the common roots holding all of the different styles together.