“History is a pale shadow of the truth”
By: Master Liang, Shou-Yu
With research by Troy Kuan and John P. Painter
Emei Shan, (mountain) is one of the most renowned Buddhist and Daoist sanctuaries in China. The mountain is located in the basin of Sichuan Province. The beautiful majesty of this mountain has caused it to be named Emei, “the most beautiful mountain under heaven.”
Visitors of this mountain are treated to several peaks, bubbling springs, cascading waterfalls, tall ancient trees and abundant flowers along the many mountain paths leading to the many scenic spots and temples that dot the mountain side from the base to the summit.
Emei Shan Herbalist Wonderland
The vast difference in the temperature on the summit and below at the base of the mountain allows for a great diversity in plant and animal life. While spring flowers bloom at the foot of Emei, the summit is still covered in snow. Emei Mountain is known to botanists as a botanical wonderland. It houses more than 3,000 identified species of plants many of which are medicinal in nature.
Because of the various rare herbs and medicinal plants that also flourish here mount Emei was a favorite dwelling place for Daoist herbalists among them the Jiulong Baguazhang founder and Daoist master Li, Ching-Yuen. Scientists have recently identified over 100 rare plant and herb species that exist only on this mountain.
Emei Martial Arts and Baguazhang
Emei Shan is famous in China for numerous rare and mysterious martial arts that were either imported and modified or developed from the Gongfu (hard work) of Daoist, Buddhist and also laymen. Daoist temples were first erected on this mountain in the eastern Han dynasty (200 BC). Later Mount Emei became one of the holy Buddhist Mountains when Buddhism flourished in the Tang dynasty (800 AD).
One of these martial arts is called Emei Baguazhang Quan (Eight Diagram Palm Boxing). A heated controversy still smolders over the existence of Emei Baguazhang. There are numerous styles that bear the name Emei Baguazhang. Some of these methods might have developed before or outside of the accepted methods of Dong, Hai-Chuan of Beijing the reputed founder of the system,
Some martial historians claim there is no Emei Baguazhang apart from the art developed by Dong in Beijing. They say his methods were simply imported to the Mountain by his students. Others claim that a sect of Daoist monks the Dragon Door Daoists reputedly taught Dong when he visited Emei Mountain.
Dragon Door Daoists had many branches throughout China. The group at Emei Mountain are said to have developed a circle walking meditation based on the Yijing (book of changes) over 2,000 years ago and that this later became the art known as Baguazhang. No one really knows the origins of this art with absolute certainty and as one old master put it, “History is a pale shadow of the truth.” What is curious is that Dong, Hai-chuan himself would not admit from whom or where he actually learned his art. This portends that almost all Baguazhang origin stories are at best suspicious.
Closely examining those arts labeled Emei Baguazhang will show that some but not all of these systems practiced on Mount Emei appear to have originated from the teachings of a man named Yin, Fu a famous disciple of Dong Hai-Chuan who came to the mountain to learn Daoism and the Yijing, others using the name Baguazhang are quite different in execution from the methods espoused by Master Dong and Yin Fu. What all of the styles have in common is that at some point in the training the students learns to walk in a circle executing various self-defense maneuvers focusing on the use of the palms as both defensive and offensive weapons instead of the fist. Among the forms called Emei Baguazhang in the Emei Shan Wushu portfolio of martial art the following styles:
Shengmen Baguazhang: (Generation Door Bagua)
This style is said to be based on the use of the Yi (mind intent) and the Yijing (book of changes) theory. In terms of Yi training there are some similarities to the art of Yiquan (intention boxing) practiced in standing and circle walking methods.
Sengmen Baguazhang: (Monk Family Bagua)
This branch is also known as the Buddhist branch. It is characterized by high stances. Imported by Shaolin monks to Emei this was part of a larger system of Shaolin Wushu.
You Shen Baguazhang: (Swimming Body Bagua)
This style specializes in neutralizing energy, withdrawing and dodging methods. One famous Emei Baguazhang master on Emei was Li, Zhangye, titled “the Longevity Monk,” of the Emei Meeting Fairies Cave. Li was exceptionally good in You Shen Baguazhang. At the age of 108, he admitted his last disciple, Lui, Zijian, to his school. Lu was also the student of Yin, Fu the famous Baguazhang master a student of Dong Hai Chuan of Beijing. Lu later joined Shaolin and Wudang schools. At the age of 91 years old and he was still very quick in his movements.
Emei Jiulong Baguazhang
The Li family who were from Sichuan lived near Emei Shan and reputedly developed the Nine Dragon Eight Diagram Palm (Jiulong Baguazhang) system said to have been conceived by controversial Daoist herbalist and Chinese general, Li Ching-Yuen. This method can be called an Emei Baguazhang system because it originated in this area and conforms to concepts and principles found in most all Baguazhang methods. Jiulong Baguazhang was a Mi Zong Jiazu (secret or family style) not often included in the official lists of the Emei Wushu Baguazhang methods as practiced by the modern Emei Wushu Association.
This makes Jiulong Baguazhang no less an Emei martial art as it was taught in and around Emei Mountain and its main principles is derived from the Yijing and reputedly the practices of the fabled Daoist (Dragon Door Daoists) who in one historical account taught Beijing Master Dong, Hai-Chuan. Dragon Door Daoists are supposed to be the very same Daoists whom legends say directly taught Emei dwelling Master Li, Ching-Yuen the creator of Jiulong Baguazhang.
It is historically unclear if Jiulong Baguazhang is a branch of Dong, Hai-Chuan’s method practiced by disciple of Yin Fu and then imported to Emei Mountain or if it stems from the Dragon Door Daoists that pre-date Dong Hai-Chuan. In any case we can surmise that the principles and method of this style as the came to the Li family of Sichuan originated from the mysterious Emei Mountain.
Difficulty with the Source
Some of the above methods of Baguazhang can be loosely traced to Dong’s students however this still does not prove that other methods of circle walking and Yijing based martial systems did not exist in family and private styles practiced by Emei Daoist and Buddhist monks. Even today reliable sources report to have witnessed a group of Daoists who nightly practice the Jiugongdian (Nine Palace) circle walking and Zhuan Tian Zun (Rotating in Worship of Heaven) Baguazhang exercises on Emei Mountain at a secluded spot near the White Cloud Temple.
Other Emei Shan Martial Systems
At one time over one hundred temples were operating simultaneously. Buddhist and Daoist monks lived in harmony practicing meditation, healing arts Daoyin (Yoga) herbalism and the various modalities of their spiritual practices. Even today there is left behind in the museums a great wealth of poetry, literature, painting and medicinal knowledge as well as martial arts that developed on Mount Emei.
Martial art methods came collectively to be called the Emei Wushu School. Many of the arts blend the training methods, sparring techniques, hand forms, and weapon forms of both Buddhist and Daoist styles into one. Traditional Emei Wushu is both Buddhist and Daoist in nature as well as a mixture of internal and external martial arts. At the same time, the Emei School has extracted the essence of Shaolin, Wudang and other schools of Northern China.
Many famous body guard families and military men have also visited the Mountain to learn martial arts and later developed their own styles from the eclectic methods that flourished on Emei. In this way hundreds of “hidden” styles many of which were taught only to member of a family or clan were created thrived and later disappeared.
Shrouded in Mystery
Being mysterious has always been the perception of many people about Emei wushu. That is because the Emei wushu has never been readily passed on to “outsiders.” There is an old Chinese saying, “Shandong province has highwaymen, Hebei province has wushu experts, and Sichuan province has the men of Emei chivalry.” This means that these three provinces produce top quality wushu talents.
However, the Emei chivalry man is mysterious and is similar to the Chinese legendary Yuxia (Knight Errant) who like Chinese robin hoods performed only good deeds and keep their methods hidden from the eyes of the profane. A few of the rare “hidden” styles are said to still exist in and around this mysterious abode of Daoists and Buddhists. Like a huge river having many tributaries, the Emei Wushu School has many branches. Each branch has its own distinctive styles in sparring, weaponry and hand techniques. A few of these methods include:
Emei Snake – There are three sets of Snake forms in the Emei School. The first one emphasizes Qinna (locking) and the pressure points techniques, the second one on the wrestling techniques, and the third one on striking techniques. All techniques are required to be executed swiftly, accurately and ferociously. Monk Xu Kun taught the three snake forms to Mr. Liang, Zhi Xiang. Master Liang, Shouyu of Canada is a direct inheritor of this system.
Xizang She Quan / Tibetan Snake Boxing is another style of snake boxing, is part of the Li family Daoqiquan style and was developed by Lama Zurdwang near the area of Emei Mountain. Dr. John Painter is a direct inheritor of this rare method of Emei ground fighting.
White Eyebrow – Founded by Daoist monk named Bai Mei (white eyebrow), this branch is characterized by hard and explosive short movements. Bai Mei is also famous for being capable of almost supernatural feats of skill with Baguazhang methods of mysterious origins.
Emei Dragon – There is the Green Dragon form by Monk Dan Zhen of Chunyang cave at Mt. Qingcheng. There is the Swirling Dragon form of the Green Coat Palace in Chengdu, the Black Dragon form by Priest Ji Shan of Fuhu Temple, the Plum Blossom Dragon form by Nun Wu Mei, the Fire Dragon form by Daoist monks Shen Deng and Qing Xu, and the Golden Dragon form.
Emei Tiger – The Emei School has many different Tiger forms. Some of them are the Hungry Tiger Snatching Food form, the Five Tiger form, the Tiger Roar form, the Black Tiger form, the Tiger Claw form, the Fuhu form and the White Tiger form.
Wuji Form – This form is a blend of Daoist and Buddhist martial arts. Like Taijiquan it is soft, yet dynamic. It stresses the use of internal Jin (force) and applications. There are two sets of Wushu forms. One set develops power and “explosive” Jin. The other set is mentioned in history books; no one in present day has claimed to know this method. This form is only known by a handful of masters and it is taught to pupils who are carefully selected by the masters.
Emei Sword Fairies – This branch, founded by Hui Yun, is based on Daoist and Buddhist Xiu Sheng Shu (the art of life or essence enhancement). There are numerous Qigong exercises, fist forms and weapon forms.
Master Shou-Yu Liang is well-known and respected internationally. He was selected by the China Wushu Magazine in the “Biography of Today’s Extraordinary Martial Artists”. He has been awarded the “World’s Top 100 Outstanding Martial Art Professional Award” He has also been selected to be included in the “Current List of Famous Martial Artists” and in the Chinese “Who’s who in the world” as well as the “international Who’s Who of Professionals Historical Society.”
Master Liang’s martial arts ancestry originated five generations ago. He started his traditional Emei Gong Fu and Qigong training with his grandfather in 1948. Through the introduction of his grandfather, Master Liang then sought out other renowned masters and other styles from Shaolin and Wudang. In the early sixties, Master Liang began his study and research in the few major styles of Taiji such as Yang, Chen, Sun, and Wu style, Buddhist Esoteric Qigong, and Taoist Qigong. Master Liang had many times been a gold medalist in Wushu and Taiji competitions held in Sichuan province. Representing Sichuan province, he entered national and international competitions and won many gold medals.
Master Liang has written and produced numerous books and video tapes. Many of these books and video tapes had been translated into five languages. He has been featured on international television networks including Chinese Central Television (CCTV), Cable News Network (CNN), Discovery Channel and many other Canadian, Mexican, Greek, British and various European networks. He has also been featured on the covers of many prestigious Chinese, American, and Canadian newspapers and magazines. He is one of the few recipients of the Coach of Excellence title, given only to the most outstanding Chinese martial arts instructors by the People’s Republic of China. We are pleased to have him as our personal friend and contributing author.
Portions of this article were excerpted from an internationally copyrighted article in
IAM Magazine / winter 1998
Entitled Emei Wushu