History of Xing Yi Quan

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Maria Liang - Xing Yi 5 Elements - Pao
Maria Liang - Xing Yi 5 Elements - Pao

The history of the martial arts before the Ching dynasty (1644 A.D.) is very vague because almost all of the Chinese martial artists were conservative and the styles were passed down secretly. It is the same with Xing Yi Chuan. According to most of the available documents, the origin of Xing Yi should probably be dated at least as far back as the Liang dynasty (550 A.D.) at the Shaolin temple. This is because, at this time, the Shaolin temple was already imitating the movements and fighting spirit of five animals in their martial arts training. Later, during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1278 A.D.), it is believed that Chang, San-Feng combined the concepts of Shaolin martial arts with his own understanding of Chi and created Tai Chi Chuan. In fact, many Xing Yi practitioners believed that Xing Yi originated at Wudang mountain, the same as Tai Chi Chuan did.

Since the late Southern Song dynasty, when the soldiers in Marshal Yeuh's army were trained in Xing Yi, the art has become very popular, and Marshal Yeuh is frequently credited with creating the art. However, since his martial arts originally came from the Shaolin temple, many people trace Xing Yi's ancestry back to the Shaolin temple. Between the Song and the late Ming dynasties, the history of Xing Yi is again unclear. During the Ching dynasty (1644-1912 A.D.), Xing Yi became more popular because the mind of the Chinese people was more open, due in part to the more frequent contacts with Western culture. Consequently, its history during this period is better known.

Generally, it is believed that a martial artist named Ji Jih-Kee (nicknamed Long-Feng) of Pwu Jou, who traveled and visited the well known masters in the mountains of Szechuan and Sanxi provinces, obtained on Jong Nan mountain a secret book on Xing Yi written by Marshal Yeuh. After he studied the art for some time, he passed it down to his disciple Tsaur Jih-Wuu, who in turn passed it down to Ji Show and Maa Shyee-Lii. Ji Show later published Yeuh's book and popularized the art even more.

There have been many famous Xing Yi masters since then. From then (Ching Torng Jyh, 1862 A.D.) until now, countless people have learned Xing Yi Chuan. Here we can only name some of the bestknown ones. There were Day Long-Ban and his brother Day Ling-Ban who learned from Maa Shyee-Lii during the Shyan Feng period (18511862 A.D.). Then they passed the art down to Li Luoh-Neng. Li LuohNeng then passed it down to many of his students, the better-known ones being Song Shyh-Rong, Jiu Yeong-Horng, Liu Chyi-Lan, Guo YuenShen, and Bor Shi-Yuan. Among these five, Liu Chyi-Lan had many students such as his three sons, Liu Jiin-Tarng, Liu Diann-Chen, Liu RongTarng, and students Li Tswen-Yih, Jou Ming-Tay, Chang Jan-Kwei, Jaw Jenn-Biau, and Geeng Jih-Shann. Also, Guo Yuen-Shen passed down his arts to Liu Yeong-Chyi, Li Kwei-Yuan, and Chyan Yann-Tarng.

In the beginning of this century, when the Ching emperor fell and the republic was organized by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the entire country entered a new era. As the nation gradually became more open-minded, the traditional secrets were more easily revealed to the public, and an enormous number of people took up Xing Yi. For example, Li TswenYih and Chang Jan-Kwei had a great many students, among them Li Yuen-Shan and Shang Yuen-Shyang. Shang Yuen-Shyang's student Jinn Yuen-Tyng was a well known Xing Yi promoter fifty years ago. Also, Li Kuei-Yuan's student Suen Luh-Tarng was well-known as a Tai Chi, Xing Yi, and Ba Kua master. Finally, Jeng Hwai-Shyan learned from Suen Luh-Tarng and passed his arts to master Liang Shou-Yu.

You can see that a chart of the generations of Xing Yi masters would be very complicated. Keep in mind, also, that there are probably at least ten times as many people who also reached a high level of mastery, but are not well-known because they did not share their knowledge so generously with the public. This implies that the people mentioned were not necessarily the best Xing Yi players of their time. (A similar thing happened with Tai Chi Chuan. A great many people throughout the world know about Yang Chen-Fu and his style of Tai Chi Chuan, but fewer people know about his uncles and the generation older than his uncles whose techniques were said to be much higher than his.)

Because the origin of Xing Yi Chuan is so unclear, many martial artists would therefore credit Marshal Yeuh Fei with its creation. There are several reasons for this. First, Marshal Yeuh Fei was a Chinese hero and is respected by all Chinese. Second, Yeuh Fei's martial arts came from the Shaolin temple, which is considered the origin of both the internal and external styles. Third, Yeuh Fei's ten theses on Xing Yi demonstrate a very deep understanding of the art. Even though he may not be the creator, his theses have shown us the correct way to master the art. Fourth, Yeuh Fei compiled and organized the Xing Yi style into an effective martial system to train his soldiers. He is believed to be the first person to reveal the secrets of Xing Yi to the public. Fifth, Yeuh Fei was not only an expert in martial arts, he was also well known as a Chi Kung master. He is credited with creating the Eight Pieces of Brocade, which is a Chi Kung set for health, and the external martial style Yeuh Jar Ing Jao (Yeuh Family's Eagle Claw). It is believed that only a person who was an expert in both Chinese medicine and martial arts would be able to combine them to create these styles.