李少庵, 字梦瑞

Li Shao An, also named Li Meng Rui 

One day I will write a whole article on Li Shao An. He was the first man Ma Gui truly taught Bagauzhang. It was because of Li Shao An that true Baguazhang survived. He is the reason I am able to teach this art and share it with the world.

Li Shao An , also named Li Meng Rui(1889-1977),phto taken in 1972 in Beijing

 As a child, Li Shao An moved to Beijing from Shandong province. Due to strong interest and deep love for the martial arts, he started to learn Baguazhang from Yin Fu at around the age of ten. But because of his young age, Yin Fu forgot to add his name during a ceremony for accepting students. This hurt the young boy felt hurt and so he left.

It is amazing that something so small, a simple ceremony could change a person’s life so drastically. Luckily for us, Li Shao An did not become Yin Fu’s student and instead went off to become a successful inheritor of Ma Gui Baguazhang.

Then he went to Cheng Ting Hua’s school and started to learn from him for a while in the summer of 1900. It was then that the Boxer Rebellion began, and the united armies killed Cheng Ting Hua. These experiences with Baguazhang all happened to Li Shao An before he turned twelve.

It was after this that he began learning Bagua from Dong Hai Chuan’s early student, Shi Li Qing. Shi Li Qing was likely one of Dong Hai Chuan’s earliest students. Shi not only taught Li Shao An Baguazhang but also entrusted him with the very important Baguazhang songs as well as many other writings related to Baguazhang. The writings that we have now, such as the 36 Baguazhang song, were passed down to us by Li Shao An.

Liang Zhen Pu(1863-1932)

Liu Feng Chun(1853-1922

Later on in his life, he learned Bagua from another two teachers: Liang Zhen Pu and Liu Feng Chun. There is no doubt that he was the best of his generation and a very successful Baguazhang practitioner.

As a young man, Li also opened a restaurant named the Yu Chun Lou (Jade Spring Restaurant), in the Qianmen district of Beijing. 

He became successful and rich because of his business and was able to help many who were in need.

Qian Men district, Beijing in 1930s. Li Shao An run a Restaurant here and he mat Ma Gui and started to have connection and thus learned the Baguazhang from Ma Gui.

Later on, he opened another big restaurant called Wan Fu Ju, which became one of the top eight restaurants in Beijing, which was located in Chong Wen Men district. He ran this business and achieved great success and wealth until the end of 1950.

Before 1930, when he was 40 years around, even though his Bagua skills were extraordinary, Li Shao An’s started to have issues around the Dan Tian area. He suffered from pain but could not figure out the reason. Because of this, he stopped training for around three years.

 One day he met Ma Gui. He knew Ma Gui and his skill in Baguazhang, so he asked him the reason for his pain. Ma Gui just smiled and told him there was still something wrong with his training. This meeting was the reason Li Shao An began to learn from Ma Gui.

During the time he started to connect with Ma Gui, one of his relatives and best friends, Liu Wan Chuan, was working for him in the restaurant. Li Shao An and Liu Wan Chuan started on their journey together, learning Baguazhang directly from Ma Gui.

Ma Gui spent most of his time teaching the two of them in an isolated temple called Bai Yi An (white cloth temple), and after about three years, Li Shao An’s health problems were cured. Both Li Shao An and Liu Wan Chuan focused rededicated themselves to learning the true Baguazhang from Ma Gui. They were able to achieve a deep and special level of Baguazhang skill and ability. In the coming years of training, bother also received the full transmission of the Baguazhang system from Ma Gui, the same system that was passed down to him directly by Dong Hai Chuan.

Li Shao An, 85 years old in 1973 in his hometown Hai Yang County, Shan Dong Province.

Li Shao An was always a generous and heroic man. Just when Ma Gui had descended to poverty and given up hope, Li Shao An generously supported him. His kindness, friendship, and morality touched Ma Gui deeply.

In return for the generosity and due to Li Shao An’s upstanding character, Ma Gui gave him all he had left in the world, his Baguazhang. Li Shao An is the most important person in the continuance of the Ma Gui School of Baguazhang. Li Shao An had exceptional skills and was particularly skilled at daishou (dragging hand). Because of this, he earned the nickname ‘Iron arm Li.’

Meng Chang was a generous prince in the ancient time. He was famous for his generosity in Chinese history.

Not only was Li Shao An possessed of great wealth and Baguazhang skill, but he also possessed great humanity and kindness. Because of his wonderful character and generosity, he earned another nickname, ‘Surpassing Meng Chang.’

 Li Shao An’s generosity was not only extended to his Baguazhang friends. He also had a very compassionate heart. Many times, after hard training with either his Baguazhang friends or his students, he invited those in need to have a big meal in his restaurant. Not only did he serve them the best food, but also he asked them to take food for their wives and children. He did not act in order to gain praise; he truly cared for their lives and their wellbeing. 

 Let me give an example to illustrate Li Shao An’s personality better.

In the 1920s, a soldier led rebellion broke out in the Tongzhou district of Beijing. A great Bagua master named Li Wen Biao, who was Cheng Ting Hua’s top Bagua student and Li Shao An’s friend, was killed. His body left there, and no one, not even his family, students, friends or anyone else with a close relationship with him, dared to take the body. Anyone might die if they approached.

Li Shao An, taking a life risk, went to claim his body and buried him properly. That was how important friendship was to Li Shao An. 

Picture from 1942. First Row, From the right: Liu Wan Chuan, Li Shao An. Sharing a strong relationship with the Cheng Style Baguazhang community.

People might ask why Ma Gui passed all of his Baguazhang knowledge to Li Shao An. With one more simple fact, you can understand the kind of person Li Shao An was.

When Li Shao An started to learn from Ma Gui, not only did he supported Ma Gui and his family, he also tried his best to secure Ma Gui a better future. He introduced Ma Gui to one of his best friends, who was at that time the top governor in Beijing. This person was Tang Yu Lin, whom I have already mentioned. Tang Yu Lin held his friend Li Shao An in high esteem and even ordered his generals and soldiers to show great respect to Li Shao An.

By 1950, Beijing and the whole of China were controlled by the Communist party. There is no doubt that Li Shao An was treated as a capitalist, who at the time were persecuted and even killed. For many of those rich people, who were called capitalist, in Beijing, they struggled to protect their property. In the early years of the communist party, some agreed with them and allowed their property and businesses to be taken over by the government. They were told they could become part of the leadership and would be allowed to continue running their businesses. But after only a few years, none of their lives had prospered under communist control.

In the case of Li Shao An, he told the communist party that he was willing to give up all his property. But he refused to take any position in the party. All he wanted was permission to go back to his hometown so he could spend the rest of his life there and die in peace.
He left the wealth and his property in Beijing but was able to survive in his hometown. He lived another 27 years before passing. 

Li Shao An in his last 10 years went through the culture revolution in China, but there was no harm to him as he was old enough. 

Liu Wan Chuan/s personality was gentle and humble, his personality protected him from suffering! That was so lucky that Baguazhang could be kept with them to survive

Li Shao An was part of the Baguazhang world for almost 80 years. He cultivated strong relationships with almost all great Baguazhang masters and Dong Hai Chuan’s students. His knowledge of Baguazhang was the closest to the truth as anyone could be.

When he was around 80 years old, Li Shao An started to teach several of his relatives, Baguazhang. Though this was during the cultural revolution and there was a great risk of oppression, he was able to pass down some of his great skills and training methods to the young generation.

I have been lucky enough to have the chance to learn from and communicate with Li Shao An’s direct decedents and students. They have been able to show me all the valuable information and materials Li Shao An left behind.

刘庆福

Liu Qing Fu

Before I discuss our great master Liu Wan Chuan, I need to first mention another important Baguazhang master. His name was Liu Qing Fu.

Liu Qing Fu was born around 1862 in Hai Yang County, Shan Dong province. He moved to Beijing when he was still a young man and opened a rice store in the center of the Qian district.

The one in white clothes in the center is Liu Qing Fu. The first man sitting from the left Cong Jing Gao, the first man sitting from the right, is Liu Xue Hai, Liu Qing Fu’s first Son. On Liu Qing Fu’s left is Liu Wan Chuan’s father, Liu Qing Fu’s second brother, on his right is his third brother.

Liu Qing Fu started to learn Baguazhang from Yin Fu and was one of the first of Yin Fu’s students. By his later life, he had become one of the top students of Yin Style Baguazhang. He was also the first person from Shandong to travel to Beijing to learn Baguazhang. Thus, his success in both martial arts and business became a great example for others.
Later Gong Bao Tian followed Liu Qing Fu and went to Beijing and began working at Liu Qing Fu’s rice store. Liu Qing Fu eventually introduced him to Yin Fu, which gave Gong Bao Tian the chance to learn Baguazhang directly from Yin Fu.
Li Shao An also followed Liu Qing Fu and moved to Beijing when he was not even ten years old. Liu Qing Fu introduced him to Yin Fu and he was able to begin his Baguazhang journey. Liu Qing Fu became one of the most important Yin Style Baguazhang masters and earned his nickname ‘Rice Liu’ in Beijing for his extraordinary ability in Bagua.

After his teacher Yin Fu passed away in 1909, Liu Qing Fu moved back to his hometown, Lu Gu Bu village in Hai Yang county, which is in the Yai Tai and Qing Dao area of Shan Dong province. There he became the first Baguazhang teacher in Shan Dong province.
He started to teach Baguazhang there, but during his time in Shan Dong province, the mantis martial art system was popular and famous. Liu Qing Fu defeated all Mantis masters and many other martial art masters as well. This quickly brought him notoriety and fame across the province.
Not only was he well known in his hometown and across Shan Dong province, but Liu Qing Fu was also one of the most important Baguazhang masters in Beijing.

This depicts what his status was in 1930:

The reverse side of the tombstone of Dong Hai Chuan erected in 1930. The first red column is Zhang Xiang Wu, the vice president of Central Chinese Martial art Academy set up by the Chinese government in 1927 in Nan Jing, Capital city of China at that time. He was Liu Qing Fu’s Bagua student. The second two red columns were Liu Qing Fu and Li Meng Rui (which is Li Shao An), the directors of Martial art Academy in He Bei Province.

Liu Qing Fu taught many students in his hometown and became well known across Shan Dong province. This caused his village of Lu Gu Bu to become famous. Even today, there is a song that depicts this fame: A dog from Lu Gu Bu village has two martial art techniques! 

Liu Xue Hai, Liu Qing Fu’s son, was the most successful Yin Style Baguazhang Master of his generation. Our Ma Gui baguazhang maser Liu Wan Chuan called Liu Xue Hai big brother, as he was the first son from their father/s generation, also the first person started to learn from Liu Qing Fu. Liu Wan Chuan hightly praised his big brother often, his Baguazhang was as great as his father Liu Qing Fu, especially he got the best teaching of a Baguazhang weapon named Shuang Gou which means Double hooks.

In his earily age he helped his father in teaching, and he started his own teaching when his father was around 70 years old. But when the time started to move to 1940s, 1950s, his father Liu Qing Fu was tortured to die, and many of his father/s students also badly treated to die, he was totally despreate on teaching! 

In the 1957 he took his family and moved to Lan Zhou, Gan Su province, where he started a life as a doctor to make living. It was about in 1983, he passed away at the age of 93 in Lan Zhou.

It is such a great lose for Baguazhang as Liu Xue Hai gave up and stopped teaching due to teaching which brought him and all his family bad fortune. Even now nobody could find any Yin style Bagua in Lan Zhou, Gan Su province.

 

Liu Xue Hai, son of Liu Qing Fu.

Cong Jing Gao, one of Liu Qing Fu’s top students, was a great martial artist from Hai Yang county in Shan Dong province. He used to be a Mantis martial art teacher, and after Liu Qing Fu returned to Hai Yang, He challenged Liu Qing Fu and was soundly defeated. From that defeat, he was accepted as Liu Qing Fu’s student, becoming the Yin Style Baguazhang student in Shan Dong province.

Sometime later, he was recognized as the best martial artist of his generation in Shan Dong province. When Baguazhang became more and more famous in Shan Dong province, the local martial arts practitioners, such as those who studied the Mantis system, started to have problems with the Baguazhang taught from Liu Qing Fu. In the beginning, Liu Qing Fu competed with many of them, and later Cong Jing Gao became the one to represent Baguazhang and crossed hands with many challengers. Finally, the local governor decided to be the judge. He asked both sides to choose their best to compete. Cong Jing Gao thus became the best in Shan Dong province.

The governor of Shan Dong province at this time, Han Fu Qu, honored him with a plaque on which written these four words: Dong Hai Ya Wang, the words mean the ‘Vice king of the east ocean.’

Cong Jing Gao died in 1957, like his teacher Liu Qing Fu who was badly tortured and died in 1950. This the reason why, as time went by, the Baguazhang taught by the Liu Qing Fu lineage lost its fame.

Cong Jing Gao, Liu Qing Fu/s student.

The vice King of the East Ocean Area.

Wang Kui San, another of Liu Qing Fu’s famous students. He would eventually move to Ji Lin province. He also was one of Liu Qing Fu/s great student. He was a very great in Bgauzhang, also very brave man. I heard stories about him a lot.

The below photo shows his student Sun Wu Ling with Sun/s  students had  a memoriy ceremony for him in 1990s.

Wang Kui San, Student of Liu Qing Fu.

Lu Shui Tian, Liu Qing Fu’s student, moved to Korea during the war when Japan invaded China. He was illiterate and possessed a thick accent, so when he told his students that he studied Baguzhang under Liu Qing Fu, his students in Korea pronounced as Li Jing Wu. This kept them from being able to discover the identity of Jing Wu, as there was no one by this name in Lu Shui Tian’s hometown or the whole of the Shan Dong province.

Now it is clear that through comparing the photos, Lu SHui Tian/s Baguazhang was from Liu Qing Fu!

 

Lu Shui Tian, Student of Liu Qing Fu. He moved to Korea, and left Baguazhang there. 

刘万川

Liu Wan Chuan

Now that we have clarified some background information, we can discuss Ma Gui Baguazhang Master Liu Wan Chuan. It is through his teachings that we have received the transmission of Baguazhang, and it is because of him that it is still alive today.

Liu Wan Chuan, also named as Liu Yi Hai. 1906  — 1992

 Liu Wan Chuan’s father was Liu Qing Fu’s brother,called Liu Qing Lu. During the time that Liu Qing Fu moved to Beijing to make his living and learn Bagua from Yin Fu, Liu Qing Lu also became Yin Fu’s student.

After Liu Qing Fu returned and began teaching Baguazhang in Shan Dong province, Liu Wan Chuan was put into private school. His father, Liu Qing Lu, was also a teacher there. Since his father was the only one in Liu family with an education background, he hoped that Liu Wan Chuan would become well educated and reflect well on him.

After only three years, however, Liu Wan Chuan was not able to continue with his studies. His father and his uncle had so many Baguazhang students, and he became more and more interested in learning. Finally, his father gave up on forcing his son to focus on his education and let him begin studying Baguazhang. And so, Liu Wan Chuan began his Baguazhang in 1914 at the age of eight. 

By the time Liu Wan Chuan was 17 or 18 years old, he had already become extraordinarily skilled in Yin style Baguazhang, which he learned from his father and his uncle. But his older brother Liu Xue Hai, son of Liu Qing Fu, as well as his martial arts brother Cong Jing Gao were better than he was.

For unknown reasons, Liu Wan Chuan eventually was forced to move to Beijing for the sake of his father and his uncle’s rice business. He desired to continue his study of Baguazhang in Beijing and asked Liu Qing Fu for advice in finding a teacher. Liu Qing Fu told him that he should only learn from his martial arts great uncle Ma Gui, as he was the most skilled at Baguazhang. 

Liu Wan Chuan around 17 years old.

Liu Wan Chuan around 18 years old.

Qian Men area, this photo show the time when Liu Qing Fu was there learning Baguazhang from Yin Fu.  That was the beginning that all the great Baguazhang persons started to gather there, and from there the great Bagauzhang history was on it way.

Qian Men area, this photo shows the time when Li Shao An and Liu Wan Chuan was there learning Baguazhang from Ma Gui. Even though it was old and weak during that time, the spirit of Baguazhang was there!

Qian Men area, this photo shows the time when all the great Baguazhang Masters passed away. The spirit of Bagauzhang or the great tradition seems vanishing in Modern time.

The photos above are the place where Liu Qing Fu,  Li Shao an and Lu Wan Chuan used to struggle for living and also became the centre of Baguazhang. Liu Qing Fu/s Rice shop, Li Shao An/s Restaurant, and Liu Wan Chuan/s home were all in this area.

Upon first arriving in Beijing, Liu Wan Chuan was very interesting in learning Baguazhang and asked the local Baguazhang community to introduce him to Ma Gui. But Ma Gui did not teach at this time, and it was impossible to get a chance to meet with him. Instead, he began learning from Yin Fu’s Son Yin Yu Zhang. 

Every Morning Liu Wan Chuan would walk to Yin Yu Zhang’s teaching place from his home in the Qianmen district. The round trip was about 10 kilometers. He would spend hours there training. And it was like this that nearly eight years passed by in a flash.

Yin Yu Zhang, son of Yin Fu.

During this time, Li Shao An met Liu Wan Chuan. He trusted Liu, so he hired him to work at his Yu Chuan Lou restaurant to take care of all the money and cashier work.

When Li Shao An began to grow close with and support Ma Gui, Liu Wan Chuan finally had a chance to meet Ma Gui. He very lucky and, through his relationship with Li Shao An, began learning Baguazhang from Ma Gui.

Ma Gui was quickly convinced that Liu Wan Chuan would someday become a great successor and inheritor of true Baguazhang.

Once he began studying under Ma Gui, Liu Wan Chuan’s skills improved tremendously. Of course, he also received much knowledge from Li Shao An as well. In his life, Liu Wan Chuan grew to respect Ma Gui and Li Shao An more than anyone else.

Liu Wan Chuan in 1952, luckily enough he survived around that year, true Baguazhang could be passed down thorugh him.

After successfully learning from Ma Gui for many years, Liu Wan Chuan was able to return to his hometown several times. His uncle Liu Qing Fu was excited to see that the man he once knew as  his nephew Liu Wan Chuan had received the highest level Baguazhang instruction from Ma Gui.

One day Liu Wan Chuan went to visit his uncle’s with gifts from Beijing in his hands. Liu Qing Fu hid behind the front door and waited with a wood stick for Liu Wan Chuan to arrive. As soon as Liu Wan Chuan entered the courtyard, Liu Qing Fu suddenly attacked Liu Wan Chuan from behind with the stick. In his surprise and without any preparation or thought, Liu Wan Chuan jumped back a few meters and turned to face Liu Qing Fu.

Liu Qing Fu was so happy to see his nephew’s ability and told Liu Wan Chuan that this was the reflexes of a true martial artist.

On another day, Liu Qing Fu’s top student Cong Jing Gao was very curious about the differences between the Baguazhang of Ma Gui and what he learned from Yin style. He picked up a long spear and asked Liu Wan Chuan to spar with him with a sick, hoping to find out how the seven-star stick could defeat a spear.

Cong Jing Gao was disarmed and put on the ground several times by Liu Wan Chuan and from that day, the Baguazhang weapon known as the seven-star stick became so famous in Shan Dong province at that time. Cong Jing Gao was recognized as the best martial artist during that time and he greatly respected Liu Wan Chuan and his seven-star stick.

Many know of iron palm training as a kind of external training, but Baguazhang used to possess this training method as well, but it was a kind of Iron Palm called Red Iron Palm which was different from what people usually understood. Ma Gui received this knowledge from Dong Hai Chuan and only passed it down to Li Shao An and Liu Wan Chuan.

Liu Wan Chuan was very famous for his iron palm. People knew of him and his skills in Beijing and even in the city of Hai Yang in Shan Dong province. Li Shao An and Liu Wan Chuan did not pass this training to the next generation. They were told that this was a dangerous skill and should not be passed down. I have heard many stories about the Baguazhang iron palm and I will share these stories in later videos.

In the early 1980s, Liu Wan Chuan was able to teach publicly at Tao Ran Ting in Beijing. In the spring of 1990, I had a chance to meet him when he was 85 years old, and I saw his amazing posture and structure. He told me about the Baguazhang he taught and how he learned it from Ma Gui. He told me that Ma Gui Baguazhang is very heavy compared with other Baguazhang styles.

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