Ba Gua Zhang in the Cheng Family Village

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In the Pa Kua Chang Journal, Volume 3, Number 2, we explored Cheng Ting Hua's background, talked about a few of his senior students and discussed some of the characteristics of his style. In this article we will examine what may be the "purest' branch of the Cheng Ting Hua style of Ba Gua, that which was taught in his home village in Shen County, Hebei Province.

Although Dong Hai Chuan (ic/iMI) was the man who founded the art of Ba Gua Zhang (^^h IP), the one who was responsible for spreading Dong's art to the greatest number of students was Dong's student Cheng Ting Hua Even when Dong Hai Chuan was still alive, Cheng was the one teaching Ba Gua for his teacher in Dong's later years. While the majority of Dong Hai Chuan's students did not accept many students of their own and were conservative in their teaching, Cheng Ting Hua taught less conservatively, accepted many students, and associated with many other martial artists in Beijing, Tianjin, Bao Ding, and other areas of Hebei Province. In addition to teaching Ba Gua in Beijing, Cheng Ting Hua also taught his art in his home village in Shen County Hebei

Province pTit^).

Shen County is located approximately 200km south of Beijing and is famous for martial arts. Up until the end of the Qing dynasty almost every village in Shen County had a martial arts training program. Many of the famous Xing Yi Quan 0 masters at the turn of the century were from Shen County (see Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol 4, No. 3).

Cheng Ting Hua grew up in Cheng family village in Shen County, however, he moved to Beijing when he was in his twenties and began apprenticing with a gentleman who made eyeglasses. Later, Cheng opened up his own spectacles shop in Beijing. A martial arts enthusiast, Cheng also began studying the Chinese art of wrestling - shuai jiao) when he arrived in

Beijing. After studying shuai jiao for a number of years, Cheng became a Ba Gua student of Dong Hai Chuan when he was 28 years old (1876). While living in Beijing, Cheng frequently returned home to visit his family in Shen County. It is said that Cheng's father had died young and Cheng Ting Hua, the third of four sons in the Cheng family, returned home as frequently as once a month to look in on his mother. During his visits he taught Ba Gua to the villagers. Two of Cheng's first Ba Gua students in the Cheng family village were his younger brother, Cheng Dian Hua pK and his nephew, Cheng You Gong ff^^F-^). Prior to studying Ba Gua with his brother, Cheng Dian Hua had studied a Shaolin based system which was taught in the village and a little Xing Yi Quan with the famous Xing Yi instructor Liu Qi Lan (^J-^tt).

After Cheng Ting Hua started studying with Dong Hai Chuan he returned to visit his home village and told his brother about Ba Gua Zhang. Cheng Dian Hua was proud of his own progress in the martial arts and so he asked his elder brother if they might have a contest. Cheng Ting Hua knew that his brother was no match for him and that if they competed Cheng Dian Hua might be hurt. However, his brother had boasted so loudly about wanting a contest that he could not refuse. In order to avoid hurting his brother Cheng Ting Hua told him, "I will let you attack me with ten fists. If none of your attacks reach me, it will mean that I win. If even one of your attacks touch me, I lose."

People in the village heard that the Cheng brothers would compete and they all went to watch. Cheng Dian Hua was very proud to see so many people standing

Images Chang Chuan

A sketch drawing of Cheng Ting Hua's younger brother, Cheng Dian Hua

Famous Bagua Masters

Cheng Ting Hua's eldest son, Cheng You Long (also known as Cheng Hai Ting)

around. He sank his waist and stood in a horse stance, ready to fight. He quickly stepped forward flashing his left hand as a distraction and thrusting a powerful right fist at Cheng Ting Hua's underbelly. Cheng Ting Hua calmly evaded his brother's first attack. Those watching said that Cheng Ting Hua was so calm it was as if "he was enjoying a flower or gazing at the moon." Cheng Dian Hua attacked again to his brother's head with his left. Before this strike reached him, Cheng Ting Hua turned quickly and dodged the second fist. After several minutes Cheng Dian Hua had spent his ten attacks and failed on each try. Sweating and exhausted he said, "I am convinced. I lost."

After the match, the villagers praise Cheng Ting Hua's skill. Cheng Dian Hua was ashamed and depressed. Cheng Ting Hua told his brother, "What you have practiced is showy. You are far from real gong fu ^l). Why don't you come with me to Beijing and learn real martial arts." By this time Cheng Ting Hua had opened his own eyeglass shop in Beijing and so he offered his brother a job. Cheng Dian Hua agreed to follow his brother to the capital, work in the store, and study Ba Gua Zhang.

Once in Beijing, Cheng Dian Hua kept the books at the eyeglass shop and studied Ba Gua from both his elder brother and Dong Hai Chuan. Eventually, Cheng Dian Hua also helped his brother teach Ba Gua and became a great fighter. After the Cheng's began teaching Ba Gua in Beijing, many martial artist came to compete with the two brothers. Because Cheng Ting Hua was the most famous of the two brothers, he was challenged more frequently. However, when his brother was not at home Cheng Dian Hua was happy to accept challenges for him.

A martial artist named Li Kui had heard of

Cheng Ting Hua's reputation and was not convinced that Cheng was so good. One day he showed up at Cheng's shop and arrogantly shouted from outside the door, "Cheng San! 0JL-H- - Cheng San means the third child of the Cheng family). Dare you have a competition with me!?" Cheng Ting Hua was not in the shop on that day. Cheng Dian Hua heard the shouting and went out to see what was going on. He said, "My brother Cheng San is not at home. Is there anything that I, Cheng Si - fourth child in the Cheng family) can do for you?" Enraged that Cheng Ting Hua was not there and wanting to show off his strength to intimidate Cheng Dian Hua, Li Kui walked over to a water vat that was half buried in the ground. The vat was half filled with water and probably weighed several hundred pounds. Li lifted the vat out of the ground and then put it back. He looked at Cheng Dian Hua proudly as if to say, "What do you think about that!" Cheng Dian Hua said, "You are strong, but I will bet that you cannot lift me off the ground." Li put his arms around Cheng and tried three times to lift him, but he could not. After the third try Li acted like he was going to give up, but then in a last effort he suddenly grabbed Cheng's belt with both hands and tried to quickly jerk him off balance when Cheng was not ready. Just as Li's hands grabbed around Cheng's belt, Cheng expanded his abdomen in all directions as if there had been an explosion inside his belly. Li shouted in pain. When he pulled his hands out of Cheng's belt he noticed that the skin had been rubbed off where he had been holding the belt and his hands were bleeding. He quickly ran away to tend to his wounds and never bothered the Cheng brothers again.

After Cheng Ting Hua's death in 1900 at the hands of foreign soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion, Cheng Dian Hua closed up the spectacles shop and returned to the Cheng family village in Shen County, bringing Cheng Ting Hua's youngest son, Cheng You Xin (

^ it), with him. Cheng You Xin was not yet twenty when his father died and so he learned the majority of his Ba Gua from Cheng Dian Hua. Two of Cheng Dian Hua's other most famous students in the Cheng village were Liu Zi Yang (i'J "?* #) and his fourth son Cheng You Sheng pf£ ^ it).

The Cheng Family Village f^t)

In April of 1993, Xing Yi and Ba Gua instructor Liang Ke Chuan ffi^LM - see article on page 13) of Beijing took Vince Black, Bill Tucker, and I to visit the Cheng family village in Shen County. After a three-hour train ride from Beijing to Hebei's capital city, Shi Jia Zhuang, we hired a taxi to drive us to the Cheng Village. After leaving Shi Jia Zhuang, the view out of the car windows for the next two hours was of nothing but farms. In China today the farming is very similar to what I would image it was like several hundred, if not thousand, years ago. Observing the farmers working in their fields as our taxi passed by, we never saw any mechanized farm equipment and we rarely saw farm animals. All of the work in the fields is done purely by manual labor. If you see a man plowing his field, he will not be doing it with a tractor, nor will an animal be pulling his plow. The plow is pulled by 3 to 5 other men straining against the ropes that are attached to the plow.

The last few miles of our journey to the Cheng village were over roadways that had seldom been traversed by a motor vehicle. The wagon ruts in the dirt roads made the going slow. As we were approaching the group of small buildings that was the "village" it was easy to imagine that the scene was probably not much different one hundred years ago when Cheng Ting Hua returned home to teach Ba Gua to the members of this small community. When we arrived Liang Ke Chuan took us directly to the home of Cheng Dian Hua's grandson, Cheng Zeng Yue (il H). Cheng Zeng Yue's father, Cheng You Sheng, who was also known in the village as Cheng Zhong Fa fS ^ was Cheng Dian Hua's fourth son and one of the most famous Ba Gua fighters from the Cheng village.

Chine Cheng Ting

By the time we sat down in Cheng's home and the tea was poured, word had spread through the village that foreigners were there. During the interview with Cheng there was a continuous stream of people popping their heads inside the door to get a quick look at us.

The first questions I asked Cheng Zeng Yue were brought to mind during our ride to the village. Because the village was so remote and because the men in the village worked in the fields all day, I first wondered if Cheng Dian Hua had taught anyone outside of the village and secondly I wondered how the villagers found time to practice. Cheng Zeng You said that his grandfather taught Ba Gua to many people who lived within a 100 mile radius of the village. People who did not live in the village would come to the village to study when the work load in their own village would lighten up during certain times of the year. They would travel to the village and practice for a week or two and then return to their home village to practice what they were taught until the next time they had the opportunity to travel to visit their teacher. Cheng Dian Hua would also periodically travel to other nearby villages and teach. On the fifth day of the new year it was the tradition for all of the students to come and visit their teacher. On that day there would be many students in the village from all over the surrounding area.

Cheng style Ba Gua Zhang instructor Liang Ke Quan (second from left) stands with Cheng Dian Hua's grandson, Cheng Zeng Yue (third from left), and two of Cheng's Ba Gua students in the Cheng familiy village, April 1993. Cheng Zeng Yue's father, Cheng You Sheng, was one of the most famous Ba Gua practitioners from the Cheng Village.

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