Two Scholars

Once upon a time in Xinye County, Hunan Province, China, there was a temple known as the Jade Emperor Temple. It was quite far away from town, but many people still liked to visit it. The temple was very popu- lar as it made a lot of people’s wishes come true.

One day, two young scholars, Zhang and Li, were on their way to the capital to take the Imperial Examination and they decided to visit Jade EmperorTemple before they went on to the capital. At that time, the Chi- nese government held this special examination every four years in order to find the most talented people to help them run the country. If they passed with high marks, then they would be very famous in the whole country and earn a lot of respect from other people and be able to get a good position.

Zhang and Li came to the temple. Inside was a table behind which stood a Daoist named Ci Hui. On the table he had a sign which read, ‘Your date tells your life and death. My prediction tells your good and bad. I can save you, if you believe me.’ The two young men looked at the sign and then looked at the Daoist and then said to each other, ‘He does not look like an ordinary man. He looks like an Immortal! Maybe he can tell us our future as we are going for the Imperial Examinations.’ Although they were strangers, the two young gentlemen sat down at the Daoist’s table together and asked Ci Hui if he could tell their fortunes. First, he asked for Zhang’s date of birth and looked at his face.

Then he started to do some calculations on his fingers and murmuring certain words as he touched the pad of each finger with his thumb. This is actually a traditional way to find out the Five Elements for the hour, day, month and year of birth of a person’s horoscope.

He then looked at Zhang and said, ‘Congratulations! You will pass tomorrow’s Imperial Examination with high marks. You are in luck. This is because in your last life, you did a lot of good things and you are going to be rewarded in this life.’ Of course, Zhang was very happy to hear this. He bowed to the old man and paid him and then left to go back to the place where he was staying.

Next the old Daoist looked at Li and did the same calculations and looked at his face. After a few moments, he said to Li, ‘I am sorry, but your fortune is not good. In fact, it is very bad. Forget taking the Imper- ial Examination because today you are going to die. You have this ill fate because in your last life you did a lot of bad things and so now must pay back.’ Li was shocked. He felt all his Qi leave his body and his face become pale. He paid Ci Hui and stumbled from the temple in a daze, feeling his whole life turn upside down.

Zhang, on the other hand, was so full of happy spirits that he was like one in a good dream. He wandered here and there enjoying the scenery around him. He suddenly arrived at a rope bridge that crossed a power- ful river. The bridge was not that stable and only had loose wooden planks as a walkway. As Zhang was crossing over, he accidentally kicked some of the planks and they dropped into the river, leaving a big gap.

He guiltily looked around to see if anyone had seen what he did. When he saw that no one had, he turned quickly to run away. However, as heran back up the pathway, in his hurry he knocked over an old man who was coming around the bend in the path. He did not think about help- ing the old man up, but continued to run.

Li had been also walking and he came to the bridge from the oppo- site side. He was very depressed. As he walked across the bridge, he was so lost in his thoughts that he almost fell into the gap left by the missing planks. The gap was big enough that he could easily have fallen through if he had not caught himself in time. He stood gasping on the bridge with his heart beating fast.

Just then, he looked up to see an old man coming towards him on the other side of the gap. Li thought about what Ci Hui had told him. If hewas going to die today, he thought he would try and do something good and maybe atone for some of the bad things he had done in his previous lifetimes. So he called out to help the old man.

He shouted, ‘Sir, be careful, there is a gap here. You should turn and go back! Don’t come this way!’ The old man replied, ‘But I must go across here as I have to go to my home. My old wife is waiting for me. There is no other way. I am sure that I will be able to find some way to cross.’ Li thought for a moment and then said, ‘OK, how about this. I will lie down and cover the gap and then you can walk over me.’ The old man was very impressed by this and he was able to cross over the gap. He started praising Li for his goodness when suddenly it started to pour down with rain. Li took off his coat and covered the old man and helped him the rest of the way to his home. The old man said to Li, ‘You are a good-hearted person. You must have a good future ahead of you.

Live long and take care.’ Li decided to find a hotel to hide himself in, hoping to avoid any bad fortune that might be the cause of his death. After the dinner, Li went to bed and covered himself with the blanket, waiting to see if he would be able to pass the night alive. Eventually, after much worrying, he fell asleep without even realising it. The next day, he was so surprised when he woke to find the sun shining in his face. He was not dead! He was so excited that he hurried to pay his bill and go back to the Jade Temple to see Ci Hui.

He walked into the temple and saw the old Daoist, the same as yes- terday. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his hands folded as if he was waiting for him. Ci Hui said to Li, ‘Good morning, Mr Li. It is good to see you again. Today, your face is in luck.’ Li said, ‘Sifu, I don’t understand. Yesterday you said I was going to die and yet today you say I am lucky. How can this be?’ Ci Hui laughed loudly. He said, ‘You must have done some good things yesterday. Maybe you did something to help someone else, think- ing about more about their well-being than your own. These good deeds changed your fate.’ The Old Daoist then leaned over the table and clapped his hand on Li’s shoulder and said with a great smile, ‘Hurry up and go to the capital to take the Imperial Examination! You will place number one!’ So Li hurried off to do as he was bid.

After some weeks, the results of the examination were announced, and it came about that Li had, indeed, won first place. He received much attention and praise and became very famous throughout the country. However, Zhang did not place at all and did not get any title.

Upset, Zhang went back to the Jade Emperor Temple to talk to the old Daoist.

He saw Ci Hui sitting in his usual place and he knelt before him and asked, ‘Sifu, when I came to visit you before, you said I was very lucky and that I would come first in the examinations. However, I did not place at all. Why is this?’ Ci Hui said to Zhang, ‘Ask yourself, what did you do in the time before the examination to change your fate?’ He then told Zhang to look at the statue of the Jade Emperor behind him. When Zhang did this, his face went pale. The face of the statue was the exact image of the old man whom he had knocked down that day by the bridge.

Watching Zhang, Ci Hui said, ‘Sometimes we think no one sees our actions. However, all our actions will eventually have their result’.

Reference:
Qi Gong for Healing and Relaxation: Simple Techniques for Feeling Stronger, Healthier and More Relaxed
by Michael Tse
ISBN 0749924675

p. 35-39

Yang Cheng Fu – The Story of a Cotton Thread

by Mei Ying Sheng Translated by Ted W. Knecht

In the year 1932, Master Yang Cheng Fu and his disciple, Fu Zhong Wen, traveled south to the city of Guang Zhou in Guang Dong Province to teach the art of Taijiquan. One day, a martial arts teacher by the name of Liu and his disciples went to the residence of Master Yang. Upon observing the way in which Liu was dressed and the manner in which he held himself, Master Yang knew that this man’s talents in fighting were extraordinary. Upon meeting Yang Cheng Fu, Liu raised his hands, saluted Master Yang and said: “It is well known that your skills in Taiji are superior and for three generations your family has been without equals. I have especially come here to see your skills.” Master Yang realized Liu was challenging him to a duel and that the conflict would be unavoidable. Master Yang suddenly thought of an idea to prevent a fight but to maintain the code of the martial world (Wu Lin). He told his disciple, Fu Zhong Wen, to go and get out a one foot piece of cotton thread.

Young Fu was shocked when he heard this because the cotton thread was used as a training tool only among the indoor disciples of the Yang style. It was never before shown to outsiders.

Master Yang warmed up by performing “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail” and “Cloud Hands”; thereupon, he took the cotton thread between his thumb and index finger and asked: “Who has the strength of a thousand pounds to tear this piece of thread in half?” Upon hearing this, Liu sneered at Master Yang while sending one of his disciples out to take the challenge. The disciple grabbed the other end of the cotton thread and asked: “When shall we begin?” Master Yang replied by saying: “It is completely up to you.” Following, the disciple fiercely pulled at the thread. Master Yang adhered to his every move. Suddenly the disciple reversed the direction of motion, however, Master Yang, without hesitation, also moved in the same manner.

This went on for several rounds without the disciple being able to tear the thread in two. While the thread was being pulled it remained straight no matter which direction the force was being applied. Liu saw what was occurring and summoned his disciple to step back. After Liu performed several exercises to warm up, he jumped into the air and performed several tornado kicks. Immediately following this, he jumped towards Master Yang as agile as a rabbit and grabbed the other end of the thread. Master Yang was just as agile and moved in the same manner. Without hesitation, Liu jumped back in a retreating maneuover while trying to break the thread; in the same instance, Master Yang followed in Liu’s footsteps preventing the thread from being broken. Afterwards, Liu shot forward as fast as an arrow, then darted to the left and then to the right, moving in all directions. Within all of this motion, both Liu and Master Yang never made contact with each other. The way in which the two moved was similar to a dragon lantern moving in the night. Spectators witnessing the event were astonished by the skill of Yang Cheng Fu. The entire time this was occurring the thread was never broken nor was it even bent. The thread remained straight during the entire match. After a long period of trying to break the thread, Liu was completely out of breath and covered with sweat. Master Yang, on the other hand, was very calm and relaxed without any signs of exhaustion. When the match was over, Liu realized that the skill level of Master Yang was very extraordinary and therefore held a grand banquent in honor of Master Yang. From that day forth, both Liu and Master Yang became very good friends.

In the same way as Master Yang’s grandfather and father did before him, Yang Cheng Fu had developed his skills of understanding energy (Dong Jin) and listening to energy (Ting Jin) to an outstanding skill level. He was able to adhere and yield to every single move his opponent performed and did not expend any energy. Even to this day, the story of how a piece of thread can demonstrate martial skills is told in the martial arts community near the Guang Zhou region. Yang Lu Chan was able to build upon the basics of Chen style old frame Taijiquan and make it more compatible for the common person to learn no matter what his age. At that moment, people termed his style “Yang family Taijiquan”. The Yang style passed through reform and constant improvement during the first two generations of father and son. The formal standardization of the style finally occurred when it came into Yang Cheng Fu’s hands. The postures became wide and comfortable; the structure was strict and demanding; the body was upright and erect; and the movements were harmoniously flowing, light, agile, and rooted.

Master Huang Sheng Hsien

One day in Taiwan the famous White Crane Kung Fu champion and teacher, Huang Sheng Hsien, went to meet Professor Cheng Man Ching. T.T. Liang who was present during their meeting, engaged Huang in a Pushing-Hands and knocked him down almost immediately. Huang was both stunned and amazed. Liang said he was like a small baby, and couldn’t figure out why he was considered such a highly skilled kung fu master.

Huang in typical Chinese fashion, quit his White Crane Kung Fu immediately and took up learning T’ai Chi. Liang remembers not only Huang’s true expression of humility, but his perseverance in learning the T’ai Chi. According to Liang, Huang spent 7 years just learning solo form in order to gain root and develop his ch’i. Then for an additional seven years he just had people push on him, so he could develop his yielding and neutralizing skills. Lastly, he spent another seven years psuhing on people in order to learn how to issue. Huangs’s twenty-one-year learning program really impressed Mr. Liang.

Many times I heard Liang comment on how he considered Huang to be the best living T’ai Chi master in the world, equaled only by one of Liang’s other teachers, Wang Yen Nien. Liang showed me a film that was taken in Malaysia of Huang’s famous match against a champion wrestler named Mr. Liao. In a decision of twenty-eight knockdowns to none, Huang soundly proved his T’ai Chi skills before thousands of people.

Master Huang continued to reside in Malaysia until his death in 1995. He had thousands of students and was bestowed the nickname “The Grandfather of T’ai Chi”. Over the years Liang periodically received letters from Huang, wherein Huang would always humbly refer to Liang as his savior. What really impressed Liang the most about Huang was his unfailing trait of never speaking bad of others – no matter the rumor or situation. It was from Huang that Liang claims he learned the idea of “internally imagine your self as already being a master of T’ai Chi, but externally never express it to others.”

Reference: Steal My Art – The Life and Times of T’ai Chi Master T.T. Liang by Stuart Alve Olson
ISBN: 1556434162

Pages: 76-77

Huangs wrestling match with Liao on youtube.com

Huang Xingxian Vs. Liao Kuang Cheng I

Huang Xingxian Vs. Liao Kuang Cheng II

Anecdotes Of Dachengquan Founder Wang Xiangzhai

by Wang Xuanjie (Translated by Chen Shengtao)

DACHENGQUAN is a set of barehanded exercises for health-keeping and combat. It was developed by my instructor Wang Xiangzhai in Beijing in the 1940s. The following anecdotes about him will help you learn something more about Wang and his dachengquan.

When Wang Xiangzhai created dachengquan half a century ago, wushu which waspopular among the folk was not much to the original and had become a showpiece rather than a fitness exercise and combat skill. To preserve the quintessence of traditional Chinese wushu, there was every need for all martial artists to pay attention to the prevailing deviation and make concerted efforts for a renewal. His determined resolution strengthened as he saw the Japanese invaders beating their victims of occupation for fun in Beijing. “We are a great nation,” he said indignantly. “How can we put upwith such insults?”

Then, while absorbing strong points of various schools of wushu, he created a style of barehanded exercises Dachengquan. To spread the newly emerging routine far and wide, Wang recruited a large number of youngsters and gave them lessons personally. His aim was very clear and that was to help boost the morale of the Chinese people and counter foreign pugilism. He issued a statement in a local newspaper and declared that he was ready to take on any rivals including those coming from foreign countries.

Wang’s remark angered Kenichi Sawai, a Japanese martial artist then living in Beijing. Sawai was good at karate, swordplay and judo. In his eyes, Chinese wushu was only something like gymnastics, having little value in actual fights. So, one day, he went to call at Wang’s in the hope of showing off his prowess. When he saw Wang Xiangzhai, he found that the Chinese shadow boxer, a man of middle stature clad in long gown, looked very gentle and suave. He was very happy to meet with such a weakling, thinking that he would win without fail. After introducing himself and explaining why he hadcome, he produced a newspaper which carried Wang’s statement and tossed it on a table.

“You are ready to have a dual fight, aren’t you?” asked the Japanese karate practitioner, his face wreathed in contemptuous smiles. “Yes, I am,” retorted sneeringly my instructor. “I always mean what I have said. I would never refuse anyone who wants to compete with me. Foreign martial artists are especially welcome.” Hearing that, Sawai went out of the drawing roomand stood in the courtyard waiting for a duel. Without any hesitation, Wang came out with hands placed behind his back. Directing his strength to bothhands through concentration, Sawai assumed a horse-riding stance and launched a sudden attack on Wang’s face with hands. Seeing this, my instructor, his left hand remaining still, extended his right forearm to parry Sawai’s hands. Then, with a slight exertion of strength, Wang threw the Japanese muscle man 10 feet away. Before realizing what had happened, Sawai was already Lying on the ground on his back.

Not admitting defeat, Sawai wanted to have a swordplay contest with Wang because he was so skilled at it that he could cut an apple on the head of aman into two without hurting the head. Considering that Sawai should get an idea of what Chinese swordplay was, Wang agreed to have another contest. With a sword held overhead in his hands, Sawai delivered a hard blow at Wang’s head. Wang stepped a bit to the right and wielded his sword to block the opposing sword. As the two swords clanked, Sawai was also thrown several feet away and flattened with his palms benumbed. (According to the son of Sawai, they did not fight with swords but with sticks.)

Irreconciled, Sawai rose to his feet and pounced upon Wang with his sword towards the throat. This skill is very famous in Japanese swordplay, with which one can catch his rival off guard. However, Wang was so good at Chinese swordplay that it seemed as if he did not make use of eyes but sense only in a fight. Wang turned his body to the right slightly, leaving Sawai’sattack wide of the mark. In another instant, Wang pressed his sword against his opponent’s. Sawai tried hard to draw his sword back, only to no avail, since it was “pasted” fast to Wang’s at the guard of the hilt. When Wang mustered up his strength, Sawai was flung out and slammed against a nearby door which caved in as a result.

Later on, Sawai engaged Wang in a qinna-something like judo- contest. By then, he was already a 5 – dan judoka in Japan. However, he could never get hold of Wang by the sleeve or the front in competition, no matter how hard he tried. Instead, he was grasped by Wang as soon as they came to grips.

Then came an Italian boxer who had made a name for himself in West Europe.His surname was James. When he was on a tour in Beijing, he learned that Wang Xiangzhai, founder of dachengquan, was looking for a rival, so he was also eager to have a try believing that it was a good chance for him to earn fame in China.

After exchanging a few words at Wang’s, they came out into the courtyard and began to warm up for competition.

James, with shorts only on, put on a pair of gloves and gave several straight punches to a thick tree and leaves fluttered down from the swaying branches. When James took off his boxinggloves and changed into a pair of cotton-yarn ones and assumed a boxer’s classic stance, the onlookers on the scene held their breath. The alien contestant appeared so powerful, so muscular and so agile, and he dwarfed Wang by a head. Could Wang be his match? Looking as calm as ever before,Wang was all geared for the contest, with his right hand in front of the chest. James was an experienced boxer endowed with long and powerful arms and highly proficient in the art. With his right hand in front and left hand at his lower jaw, he suddenly delivered a straight left to Wang’s face. As James came up with his fist, Wang raised his right forearm for a parry and in quick succession made a powerful push that shot James up and grounded him six feet off. Without knowing what it was all about, James rose to his feet and composed himself for another bout. This time, he changed tactics. He first made an arm feint and then gave his chest a right uppercut. Turning slightly to the left, Wang put his right wrist gently on the right elbow of James, who felt benumbed all over at once, and collapsed on the ground after tottering for a moment.

Now, he realized that he was not as good at fighting skills as Wang, which should account for his previous defeats. However, he thought he could outplay his rival in the third bout; he believed that he was much more powerful than Wang. To show this Italian boxer what Chinese boxing was really like, Wang asked James to punch his chest and ribs. A hail of hardblows followed and Wang was as firm as a rock. Getting desperate, James gathered all his strength and landed a heavy punch on Wang’s abdomen withhis right hand. Wang’s abdomen heaved a bit and James fell down onto theground with his right wrist sprained.

Later, a Mongolian wrestler, who had been living in the suburbs of Beijing, came to compete with Wang Xiangzhai. This story sounds quite incredible, but it has been on the lips of martial artists to date. Named Bator, this lad was a son of a former official in charge of military affairs in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Bator began to learn xingyiquan (form-and-will shadowboxing) from his father at the age of 14 and took a fancy to archery and horsemanship four years later.When he was 20 years old, he started to practice wrestling under the guidance of a former imperial court trainer. After five or six years of training, he made rapid progress and became quite versed in wrestling. He was strong enough that he could subdue a galloping horse. One day on his way home, a shying horse ran up to him, pursued by a yelling crowd. When the horse arrived in front of him, this Mongolian wrestler first moved aside, then, to the great surprise of the pursuers,jumped forth to catch the horse by the neck and upset it.

When he heard that Wang Xiangzhai was willing to have contests with other wushu devotees, Bator went into the city to rise to the challenge. At the start of the contest in Wang’s courtyard, the two stood a few meters apart, face to face. Bator moved forward, trying to throw Wang down with a unique skill he had mastered in wrestling training. As they were about to come into contact, a small insect buzzed into Wang’s left ear. Disturbed as he was,Wang continued with his firm steps forward while picking his ear with hisleft little finger. At the sight of this, Bator jumped out of the way and, bowing to Wang with his hands folded in front, said: “You are so good at martial arts. I am no match for you.” The two exchanged a smile out of their tacit understanding for each other and the contest thus ended. The onlookers were all in a maze. One of them asked Bator, “How come you acknowledged defeat? You should have a try for it.” “As an old saying goes, a master knows what a man he is fighting against the moment he takes the opponent on. He was so sedate and self assured at this juncture that he could afford to pick his ear. If he was not an adept in the art, how could he have so much confidence in winning the contest?”

In the year he developed dachengquan, Wang Xiangzhai kept having contests with dozens of martial artists, Chinese and foreign. They all came in confidence, but went in failure. Since then, the name of Wang Xiangzhai has spread far and wide and dachengquan become a beautiful blossom in the flowergarden of Chinese wushu.

Reference: Martial Arts of China Vol. 1, No. 7 , Page 297

Book:
Dachengquan
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
ISBN: 9622381111