Sun, his wife, and daughter went back to Pao Ting and Sun stopped eating. He said, "I came into this world empty and I will go out empty." He did nothing but sit in meditation all day and would only drink water. Sun told his daughter not to cry after he died. He left his daughter with instructions concerning what she should do when he was gone. He said he would die sitting up. They were to wait for one half hour after which they could lay his body down. After he was laying down he said his son and daughter could then weep for him.
On the day he had predicted he would die, Sun was sitting in a chair meditating. His family and friends were trying to talk to him, but he wasn't paying attention. He didn't want to put on any clothes that day because he said he wouldn't need them. On three different occasions he opened his eyes and asked what time it was. The third time he said "Good-bye," closed his eyes, and died.
The room Sun died in was the same room he had been born in. The house was 0. old and made of mud bricks. He was buried in his home village. One year later his wife died and was buried next to him.
There is a famous story that says that just before Sun died his students asked him what was the secret to internal martial arts training. This story states that Sun wrote a character in his hand, showed it to his students and then died. The character he had written was the character for "practice." Sun Jian-Yun, who was with her father when he died, said that this story is not true. However, she said that he did say that if there was any secret to internal arts it was simply to practice hard.
Sun Jian-Yun said that her father kept a dairy until he was 60 years old. He did not like to talk to people a lot, but he kept records of everything; what he had learned from his teachers,
Sun Lu-T'ang with his wife Chang Chao-Hsien in 1932
Sun Lu-T'ang in 1929 at the Chiangsu Province Martial Arts School people he taught, people he fought, etc. in his diary. For Sun's 60th birthday (a very important birthday to the Chinese) several dozen of his students came to Beijing. Sun's diary was on the bookshelf in his home. After everyone left the party, the diary was gone. After Sun Lu-T'ang died his daughter put an ad in the paper asking whoever borrowed the book to please return it and she would make it available to all of his students. No one returned the diary, however, later she found out that one of his live-in students had taken it and had given it to his son. Later she finally tracked down the son, but it was after the Cultural Revolution and the diary had been destroyed.
Sun Lu-Tang's grave site also suffered during the Cultural Revolution. In 1966, the Red Guard came to Sun's grave site to rob its contents. They figured since he was famous he must have been wealthy and had some of his valuables buried with him. All they found was a few coins and Sun's sword. They took the coins and threw the sword on the ground. Someone in the village retrieved the sword and put it in a safe place. Later the villager presented the sword to Sun Jian-Yun and she subsequently donated it to the government as a national treasure. In 1982, Sun style enthusiasts helped Sun Jian-Yun restore Sun Lu-Tang's grave sight.
Sun Jian-Yun, who at 80 years old is full of life and appears very healthy, states that her father was always a humble and honest man, he was never proud or arrogant. Although the only formal schooling he received was between the ages of seven and nine, he was a respected scholar. He wrote five books during his lifetime. The first book, The Study of Hsing I-Ch'uan was published in 1915, the second book, The Study of Pa Kua Boxing in 1916. His T'ai Chi Ch'uan book (The Study of Tai Chi Ch'uan) was published in the 1920's and his Pa Kua sword book (The Study of Pa Kua Sword) was published in 1929. His final book was the True Essence of Boxing. Sun Jian-Yun says that there was a scholar named Liu Chun-Li who was ranked number one in the last imperial examinations given in China. After Liu read a few of Sun's books he was convinced that a martial artist could not have really written them. Most martial artists of the day were illiterate and uneducated. Liu went to visit Sun and said, "You didn't write these books. Who wrote them for you?" Sun told the visitor that he had in fact written them himself. Liu, convinced that Sun was not telling the truth, grilled Sun all day on the literary classics, the I-Ching, and mathematics. He was not able to stump Sun on any subject. Liu finally said, "You are a master of both the literary and martial arts."
Sun Lu-Tang's Pa Kua Chang
Looking at Sun's background one can see that he really did not spend a long time teaching in any one place, so it is quite possible that he did not have many long time Pa Kua Chang students. He spent five years teaching in Pao Ting in the late 1890's and then spent about eight years teaching in Hsing Tang in the early part of this century. After he moved to Beijing in 1906 he held various jobs with the government, either as a martial arts instructor or a bodyguard, and he spent a great deal of time traveling.
Talking with elderly Hsing-I Ch'uan and Pa Kua Chang practitioners in Beijing, it is clear that Sun's forte was Hsing-I Ch'uan and later in his life he preferred to teach his T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Because he traveled widely during the 1920's and taught at many of the martial arts schools in China, many practitioners where exposed to Sun's Pa Kua, but it is not clear how many were actually taught deeply. When I asked Sun's daughter to name his best Pa Kua Chang students, she only offered one name, Sun Chen-Ch'uan.
The majority of the students who I can verify as having studied directly with Sun only did so for a relatively short time (a few years at most). So most of what you see of Sun style Pa Kua Chang today is very simple. Those who studied with Sun at any of the various martial arts academies only had the opportunity to study with him for a month or two as this was as long as he tended to stay at any one place teaching. For instance, he is always listed as one of the instructors at the Central Martial Arts Academy in Nanjing and people who went to the school claim to have studied with him, 14 however, the truth is that he was only there for a total of
Sun Lu-T'ang's Calligraphy three months in 1928. So, while students who were there at the time may have studied with him, they certainly could not have been taught much. If the Pa Kua Chang teaching of Sun Lu-T'ang which is being handed down to us today is primarily from these students, it seems as though we may only be seeing bits and pieces.
Li Tian-Ji's father, Li Yu-Lin (1885-1965) was a close friend and student of Sun Lu-T'ang. When the two met, Li was already skilled at the Li Tsun-I style of Hsing-I Ch'uan and Pa Kua Chang which he had learned from his teacher Hao En-Kuang and, to some extent, from Li Tsun-I himself. After Hao died, Li Yu-Lin impressed Sun Lu-T'ang and Sun accepted him as a student. Li was 35 and already an accomplished martial artist when he started studying with Sun. Li Tian-Ji also studied with Sun Lu-T'ang when he was a boy.
When I visited Li in his home in Beijing last fall, I asked him about Sun's Pa Kua Chang method. He told me that in Sun's Pa Kua, the circle walking is the most important. He said that Sun taught students differently depending on who they were and their skill level. He also said that Sun's Pa Kua system was very deep. When I
asked him if he could tell me something about the depth of the system he said that there was not enough time in a short interview. I pressed him, asking if he could simply outline the teaching sequence so I could have an idea of what kinds of things Sun's Pa Kua student's practiced. He said that even this would take all night to explain. When I asked Li about Sun Lu-T'ang's Pa Kua Chang book he said that the book barely scratched the surface of Sun's Pa Kua. He stated that the information in the book was what Sun showed to outsiders. He said, "Sun had the public version, and then there was a reserved private version for his disciples."
What Sun published in his book is commonly what we see "Sun style" practitioners practicing today, however, there is no doubt that there was more to Sun's Pa Kua than the simple form that is shown in the book. This form is very typical of the beginning level Pa Kua Chang form taught by many in Ch'eng T'ing-Hua's Pa Kua system. As our friends in Britain have discovered (see pages 18-24) , it is evident that Sun's Pa Kua Chang becomes much more difficult than what we have been exposed to in his written work.
(Chinese Character index for this article is on page 30)
Li Tian-Ji's father, Li Yu-Lin (shown above), was one of Sun Lu-T'ang's most famous students
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