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taiji:wang_yen-nien_talks_about_zhang_qinlin

WANG YEN-NIEN TALKS ABOUT ZHANG QINLIN

An interview by Sam Tomarchio Translated by Julia Fisher-Fairchild (Volume 3, NO. 2, FALL 1995)

Part One

Zhang Qinlin came from a very poor family and did not have much of a family life. When he was young (about 12 years old) he went to the Yang family compound. He lived in Hebei, which was not far from Yongnian where Yang Luchan's family originated. In earlier times, those practicing the martial arts had to find a school with a good name. Why? Because if you came out of that school then your skills would be appreciated by the people. And so because Zhang Laoshi was close by to where the (famous) Yang family was located, that is where he went.

At that time, the head of the family was Yang Jianhou [Luchan's son]. Yang Chengfu [Jianhou's son] was also there practicing. When Zhang Laoshi (or whoever) was accepted by the Yangs, it did not mean that you started off studying with a teacher right away. First, students had to work doing manual labor and other tasks around the compound. For example, if guests came, they served tea and ran errands. If the teaching area needed cleaning up, sweeping, keeping things in order, etc., those were jobs for the students. They were responsible for anything that needed to be done. That was step one. Once they passed that stage, then Yang Chengfu would be responsible for taking them through their training steps. It was not something you could complete in two years or so. Probably ten years was a typical cycle of how long it took to go through everything and reach the stage where you had pretty much learned all you needed to learn. The teacher decided what it was you needed to be successful. Then after you were trained (and refined) and had learned the necessary things, then you were ready to go out into the world.

Zhang Laoshi's physique was unusual not like the average person's. He wasn't particularly tall, but was broad with very, very big hands and feet. They often talk about martial artists in terms of “material”. And we could say he was a strange material an unusual rnaterial. It is very difficult to find this type of material. Because he had an exceptional physique, everyone worked extra hard in helping him train, and hoped he would be a good representative of the Yang family teachings. Zhang Laoshi was honorable in the way he was with other people. He worked hard and could take a lot of pressure – he did not bend under pressure. Because he could work hard and pressure did not seem to affect him; he was able to take on things under dire conditions. He trained hard and well. Imperceptibly, without realizing how it happened, he seemed to get better than the other students -yet they all had the same training. But he was humble and did not feel that he was that good or all that much better than his fellow classmates. And so, because of his humble nature, he worked even harder. He obtained pointers from Jianhou and Chengfu, but was led through his basic training by Chengfu by practicing together, working with other students, and so forth. He advanced quickly. Nobody really knew how, since he received the same teachings and was taught the same things as everyone else. It was just that he had this unusual physique and was able to withstand long periods of training.

When I say unusual physique, I mean that he had great potential from the physical point of view. He had a very thick and wide body. The average person did not have hands the size of his hands. When practicing, these aspects were magnified.

At this time, Yang Jianhou was elderly, and Yang Chengfu was in charge of most things and managed the family compound. Often people would come to “knock on the door” and want to challenge someone from the Yang family to fight. Usually the average person who went there to issue a challenge was not a big problem – the average student was able to hold their own with them. But one time, as I mentioned in my book, there was a famous martial artist traveling from the south of China to the north, knocking on all the doors of different schools challenging and defeating each one. And one day he knocked on the Yang family door. When the students heard who it was, everyone looked at each other, wondering who was going to go out. Nobody went out. Nobody was willing to go out. This looked bad for Yang Chengfu, because if he then did not go out when a challenge was issued, it would be worse. It was at this moment that Zhang Qinlin, of all the students, stepped forward and said he would go out. The other students felt a sigh of relief, and thought that if Zhang lost or did poorly then it was his own business. But if he won, then it was everyone's good fortune. So Zhang Laoshi went out to meet the challenger.

Who was this person? His name was Wan Mou, and he was renowned for his speed. When Zhang Qinlin came out the door and not Yang Chengfu, who he really wanted, Wan said: What are you coming out for? I called on your teacher to come out. At the very least one of the senior students should come out. Zhang said: It is not necessary. You are not even up to their level of gongfu. The implication was that Zhang's was just a very average kind of gongfu, and if Wan could beat Zhang, then a more senior student would come out. So Wan realized there was no way around this. He looked at Zhang Qinlin and saw that he wasn't very tall (about my height or a little taller), not fat but wide and thick, with big hands and feet, and wondered: how could his hands and feet be so big? Because Wan had already defeated all the major schools in the south, he didn't think he would have any trouble in the north either.

Part Two

They started off with this. [Laoshi demonstrates the ceremonial gongfu hand gesture.] With speed being the major characteristic of Wan's style, and knowing that his hands were fast, as soon as the hand salutation was made, Wan attacked very, very quickly. There was no pause between bowing and attacking. It was a sudden burst, and so fast that an average person would not even see the punch coming. Zhang Laoshi was a very tranquil person. He was very quiet and held to the principle: from tranquility comes movement (Yi Jing Zhi Dong). So if the opponent does not move, he does not move either. But as soon as the opponent moves just a little, then he arrives first - unlike Wan who was starting fromfast movement, not from tranquility. Before Wan's fist reached Zhang Laoshi's face, Zhang Laoshi already had his fist ready. And… their fists struck. Since Zhang Laoshi's fist was so big (about two times normal), when the two fists came together, Wan's wrist was broken. With a severely injured wrist, and seeing that speed (his specialty) did not work, Wan held up his hands [in the gongfu salutation] and said: gaoming, gaoming (great). After that he retired, not asking for any more challenges.

It all happened very quickly. They did not spend days fighting before the match ended. The very first thing that happened was the last. Meanwhile, the people inside the Yang compound were thinking: Oh, the dust must be flying, Zhang must be bloody or flat on his back. They wondered how badly he was being beaten up. Just then Zhang Laoshi walked back in as if nothing had happened. Everyone looked and said: Wow, it doesn't look as if you two even met [for conclusions]. And they asked: Where did Wan go? Zhang said: He left. He didn't challenge you? they asked. Yes, he did, Zhang replied. How come we didn't hear any noise out there? What noise were you expecting? One punch. One punch and he left. His fists are so fast, how did you manage? Zhang said: I didn't hit him, he hit me. He moved first, I saw that his fist was coming. I just held up my fist, his fist hit mine and his wrist broke. On hearing this, everyone in the compound began to breathe easier. They said, no wonder there wasn't any noise, no dust flying. After this, people had a much different opinion of Zhang Qinlin. And Yang Jianhou looked at him in a different way – for many reasons he was good material not just because of his physique.

Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan should have been transmitted and taught to Yang Chengfu. But when Chengfu was young (twenties?) he felt that his father's training was too difficult. He left the family compound and tried to get into another school. Everyone laughed at him, saying: your father and grandfather are so famous and you want to come to our school? It was as if Chengfu wanted to forget what family he came from, but nobody would allow him to forget. So he went back to his family and started again. Because this happened. his father felt differently about him. Jianhou wondered how his son could have left in the first place. Something in Jianhou's heart had changed. Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan was not something that was taught to many students. It was taught to just one person -only to one who would keep it and pass it on. Why not teach it to two or more? During the Qing Dynasty, Yang Luchan had become famous, and was invited by the emperor to teach at the emperor's court. Luchan was unwilling to teach his personal martial art to a foreign ruler that he felt was suppressing the country. In addition, Yang was a Han, and the emperor was a Manchu. Yang was not willing to give these invaders his personal art. So he made up another. That became what we now know as the Old Yang style. While teaching at the emperor's court, there were Han people outside the court who knew of him and wanted to learn from him. Yang could not refuse them; they were Han. He also wished to see their gongfu improved. So he taught them as well, but he did not teach his own personal style. If he taught the Hans something different from the Manchus they might think he was trying to form an army and overthrow the government – which meant he would be beheaded. So he did not dare. Whatever he taught to the Manchus in the emperor's court, is what he also taught to those outside the court walls as well. That is how this idea of '`Michuan“ got started. The style taught to the emperor had different names: the “Long Yang” style, or the “Old Yang” style. It has also been called the “Court” style because of where it originated. From that time, nobody knew of Yang Luchan's personal style.

[Back at the Yang family compound] Yang Jianhou knew that Zhang Qinlin had great potential not only from a physical point of view, but now also saw how he had taken on a very serious challenge and had been successful. After that challenge and after Zhang had saved the family reputation, Yang Jianhou took Zhang Qinlin aside and told him to come to Jianhou's part of the compound every night at 3 am to teach him this Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. And so from that time on, Zhang went every night and little by little Jianhou taught him Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. [Why three to five am? This is the time of deepest sleep and assured privacy, secrecy.] Once Zhang Qinlin learned this form, Yang said to him that it was not for teaching. You follow what we have done (what I have done too), and that means when you accept students, you teach the public form. One day you will find a student who you feel is worthy of this hidden family tradition teaching, and you may teach that person.

Zhang had been successful, had learned everything, his training had been completed. Then Zhang Qinlin left the Yang family compound and moved to Shanxi province.

Section Three

After moving to Shanxi province, Zhang Qinlin earned his living by buying and selling furs and skins. He did not hang out a sign and start teaching taijiquan. No one knew that he had been taught taijiquan. During this time he entered the Gold Mountain School of Daoism (Jin Shan Pai). Zuo Yifeng, who was my daoist teacher's teacher, was Zhang's daoist teacher. With Zuo, he began learning neigong and daoist gongfu. As his internal alchemy, neigong and daoist breathing improved, his taijiquan and gongfu took giant leaps forward. It was then that he began to be on the lookout for young potential martial artists - and accepted his first student: Wang Shanzhi.

Even though Wang Shanzhi was a pretty good student, Zhang Laoshi did not teach him Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. He first taught him the 81 Step (a version of the long Yang style Tai Chi form) using this time to observe Wang's character, how he practiced, and what type of person he was. Zhang wanted to see if Wang was the right “material”. He saw that Wang Shanzhi was good, but not exactly what he was either looking or hoping for, and Wang remained at the level of the 81-Step. So Zhang Qinlin was still on the lookout for young people with good potential. It is said that not only do students look for a good teacher - teachers also look for potential students.

Then he found a man named Hu Yaozhen. Hu, already an accomplished Xingyi practitioner and teacher, had a strong physique and worked hard. Hu had heard of Zhang Qinlin and knew that his gongfu was great. Zhang Laoshi saw that Hu was not afraid to train hard, and Zhang was willing to accept him as a student. But before he actually entered the door, Hu said he wanted to challenge Zhang. If Zhang beat him, then Hu would become his student. [To understand this, we must remember that] Hu Yaozhen was not only very skilled, but a well known master of Xingyi. He was the “king” of Shanxi, Hebei and Sulyuan provinces -and was known as the best xingyi master. No one in these three provinces had ever defeated him. He was also about five years older than Zhang Qinlin and so felt he had to challenge Zhang – and be beaten by him – . Zhang Qinlin said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You are not going to bow to your laoshi unless we do this?” Then Zhang told Hu that if he (Hu) lost, he would not take him as a student. Hu replied: “Who are you anyway? You just arrived in Shanxi province. Nobody knows you. You must be dreaming to be saying this to me.” Then Hu said, “If you win I'll be your student.” Zhang replied, “If you lose I am not going to take you.” They decided to go ahead with the challenge.

One of the key movements in xingyi is Pi (splitting) and this was the move that Hu made toward Zhang Laoshi's face. Zhang Laoshi made a Cai and caught his hand. The Cai was so fast and with so much energy, that Hu fell to his knees. In xingyi, this move is made with the weight on the front leg. Because Hu's weight was on the front leg, the cai pressed Hu forward so that he fell onto his knees in front of Zhang Laoshi. On his knees, Hu had to look up at Zhang Laoshi and gave up. Zhang Laoshi said, “You were defeated, now go home.” Hu quickly shouted, “No, no, no! I want you to accept me as your student.” Zhang said, “I told you, if you lose I am not going to take you.” Hu pleaded, saying, “You must take me, I am already on my knees. I am not leaving until you take me as your student.” Zhang Laoshi replied: “If you want to kneel there, that is your business, but I am not going to take you.” Zhang then walked away.

Hu stayed there, kneeling and waiting for almost three hours. Mrs. Zhang said to her husband: “Hu is older than you. How can you let him stay on his knees for so long and ignore him?” Zhang Laoshi replied, “I did not make him kneel there, he is doing that by himself.” Zhang's wife, realizing that things were at an impasse, wondered what to do. She thought perhaps that finding a sponsor to intervene, rather than have her husband and Hu deal directly, would be a possible solution. She knew everything would depend on who Hu found to be his sponsor. If the sponsor was good at talking with Zhang Qinlin then things might work out. So Mrs. Zhang suggested this, and hearing of this possibility, Hu bowed to the floor and went off to find a suitable sponsor.

Hu Yaozhen, also a member of the Jin Shan Pai (Gold Mountain School) went to a member of the older generation - someone who would have influence over Zhang Qinlin - to ask him to be his sponsor. Because Hu's sponsor was an older brother of Zhang Laoshi's and was willing to introduce Hu, Zhang said, “Yes.” After the formalities were over, Zhang told Hu to practice only taijiquan, but Hu was not really able to let go of his xingyi. He was already a great master, and thus it was very difficult to “throw it out the window”. Zhang kept telling Hu that his jin (internal energy) was wrong - it was a xingyi type, not a taiji type of energy. Hu said that there was nothing he could do because he had been practicing that way for so long. Zhang decided to teach Hu the 81-Step form of taijiquan, realizing that unless Hu was able to let go of his xingyi it would be quite difficult to teach him Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan.

Jiu Zhiliang from Shanxi province and in the army, was accepted by Zhang as his student. Liu was a good person with many good characteristics, but was not able to truly relax. Being able to relax in the 81-Step was a necessary condition to move on to Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. So Zhang Qinlin still had not found the person he was looking for.

Section Four

Zhang laoshi then found Su Qigeng, also from Shanxi province. Su was a little bit taller than me. He was not thin and not fat, just an average physique - except he had very long arms. Zhang first taught Su the basic exercises and saw that he practiced very well, was able to relax, listened to instructions and was obedient. He decided to teach Su Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. He taught this one person for this was the way it had been handed down. He had found the person he had been looking for.

About two years later there was a national martial arts competition in Nanjing, and Zhang Laoshi took first place in the bare-fisted competition. Along came Zheng Manqing, who had studied both taijiquan and tuishou with Yang Chengfu. He saw Zhang Qinlin and realized how good Zhang's gongfu was. After the competition was over, Zheng Manqing asked the National Martial Arts Federation president, Zhang Zhijiang, and Pu Bingru's father to sponsor Zheng and recommend him to Zhang Qinlin. Zhang Zhijiang was an influential figure in the martial arts world. “Old Man Pu” was a high-ranking civil servant and philanthropist. Zheng asked them to say good things about him to Zhang Qinlin so that Zhang would take him as a student. The dinner invitation was made and Zhang Laoshi, seeing that these two men had agreed to sponsor Zheng, accepted.

After dinner Zheng Manqing demonstrated his form and asked Zhang Qinlin to do likewise. Zheng watched and saw Zhang do the 81-Step and thought, “Nothing special.” Zheng Manqing then asked Zhang Laoshi to push hands with him. Zhang Laoshi looked at Zhang Zhijiang and “OId Man Pu” with a questioning expression. Zhang then said to Zheng Manqing, “Do you really want to push hands with me?” Zheng replied, “Yes.” After making sure everyone agreed, Zhang Laoshi consented.

In 1993 I went to Shanghai and met with Pu Bingru. Pu was an avowed student of Yang Chengfu and the only one alive today to have studied with both Zhang Qinlin and Yang Chengfu. She recounted the same story (that Zhang Laoshi told me) but from Zheng Manqing's point of view (as follows):

“In the room was a table where they had eaten. The two men were on one side of the table pushing hands. On the other side of the table was a wall, which was not very thick and made of wood (something like plywood). At that time Zheng Manqing considered himself to be pretty good. While pushing with Zhang Qinlin, he was very intent on trying to push Zhang over. Zhang Laoshi was just deflecting right, deflecting left. He then made a Ji, and Zheng Manqing flew - over the table and into the wall, which almost fell over.”

Pu bingru (who was laughing while telling the story) said that the impact left a hole in the wall, and Zheng Manqing, after crashing into the wall, slumped to the ground. Everyone ran over, picked him up while asking if he was okay. Zheng stood up (a little shaken but not hurt - the outcome was not what he had anticipated) then went to his knees and said to Zhang Laoshi, “You must take me as your student.” Zhang replied, “I just came for dinner. You demonstrated your form, and I demonstrated my form. This is not something I had expected.” He told Zheng, “At the moment I do not have any time, and I am only here temporarily. I live in Shanxi province right now. If you want me to be your teacher, you will have to send someone to get me.”

Zheng Manqing was very happy and realized that he would have to send a proper invitation to Zhang as well as make whatever special arrangements were necessary in order to bring Zhang Laoshi from Shanxi to Shanghai, where Zheng Manqing was living. Zheng spent a lot of money making these necessary preparations. In those days, there were no commercial planes. Because Zheng Manqing had a lot of connections he was able to use a military plane to fly Zhang Qinlin from Shanxi to Shanghai. In those days, the people used those round coins on strings, and the plane trip cost one string (about $100) and another string (or two) was given as a gift to Mrs. Zhang for her use while Zhang Laoshi was away. A string of money in those days could buy quite a lot. After Zhang Qinlin arrived in Shanghai he said to Zheng, “You already know taijiquan, so we are not going to work on that. Because you are so interested in push hands, we will concentrate on that.” For about three months, Zhang Laoshi lived and worked with Zheng Manqing. Some people say that Zhang Laoshi stayed with Zheng Manqing for three years, but it is not true - it was about three months. So, of course, Zheng Manqing did not learn Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan.

Five

In 1937 the Sino-Japanese war began. The Japanese invasion extended into Shanxi province and the city of Taiyuan. Su Qigeng, mentioned earlier, was in the city center when the Japanese surrounded and attacked Taiyuan. Su was killed by a bomb. Now the only person to have been taught Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan was dead. At this time, I was in the army. During the war we were sent away from Taiyuan (to fight elsewhere). In 1945, the Japanese retreated, the war ended, and I returned to Talyuan, my hometown. It was then that I met Zhang Qinlin. My daoist teacher, Zhang Maolin, knew that I loved all martial arts and taijiquan. Zhang Maolin suggested that he (Maolin) introduce me to him (Qinlin). Because Zhang Maolin and Zhang Qinlin were of the same generation, that makes Zhang Qinlin my daoist uncle. Zhang Maolin took me to Zhang Qinlin's house and made the introduction. My father was also an initiate in the Gold Mountain School of Daoism, and Zhang Maolin explained how I came from a long line of daoists from this particular school of internal alchemy, and how my father was from the same generation as both Zhang Maolin and Zhang Qinlin. Zhang Maolin explained that it was not just my father, but I also was practicing in the same school. From all these points of view, he explained, I was an acceptable student.

Knowing that I was still in the military and had duties to perform every day around the city, Zhang Laoshi said, “I am afraid that since you are in the army you won't have much time to practice.” Talyuan was a rather large city, and I was in charge of public safety for all Taiyuan. Even so, I said to him, “Yes, I have time to practice.” During this interview-type meeting, he asked me if I had studied other kinds of martial arts. I thought: If he thinks I never learned martial arts, he might think I would be too difficult to teach; if I say no, I am sure he will not believe me. I knew that I had to tell him and answered, “Yes.” He then asked me what I had studied. I said, “I have studied Shaolin Quan, Xingyi Quan, Taijiquan with Wang Xinwu [a famous martial artist of that time], and several others.” He started to laugh and said, “You have learned a lot. You must be very good.” I said, “No, no, no. I am not very good.” “Are you sure you want to study with me” asked Zhang. I said, “Yes - that is why I asked my daoist teacher to introduce me to you.” Zhang then replied, “If you really want to study with me, you will have to take all the martial arts that you just named and throw them out. If you cannot throw them out, then I don't want to take you. Can you throw them out?” “Yes,” I said. “Really?” Zhang replied. I said, “Yes, if you accept me as your student, I will throw them all away.” Only then did he agree to accept me. He then asked me when I was coming. I replied, “Tomorrow morning I will be here.” Zhang Laoshi said, “You are in a hurry. Are you going to be here for just three days and never come back again?” “No,” I replied, “that will not happen.” He asked me what time would I be coming. I said, “I have time, but what about your time?” Zhang Laoshi replied, “I am here from morning to night, it is up to you.” I then answered that I would arrive at 5:00 am. He said, “That is wonderful. You can practice until 7:00, then go to work.” Then he asked, “Just once a day?” I said, “No, I will be back.” “When?” “I will be here at 12 (noon). I will eat a little something and be right over. I can practice until 2:00 PM.” Zhang then asked if I was afraid of working too hard. Being 31 years old, I said it would not be a problem and that I would not get tired. Zhang said, “Will twice a day be enough?” When I said no, he said, “You are going to come again at night?” “Yes,” I said, “If I am going to practice, then I am going to practice. I will be here after dinner at 7:00 and practice until 9:00.” That is how we began.

During my first lesson, Zhang Laoshi had me stand in the basic stance (Zhan Zhuang) just to see if I was going to be obedient. That is all we did the first day. The next day we did the same thing. He just watched to see if I was talkative or complained, and in general to see my character. It went on like this for three days. During this time, I did not complain or say anything - not a word. On the fourth day, Zhang Laoshi said, “Now we really begin,” and he started to teach. The first step was to develop qi. Because we were in the same daoist school, Zhang Laoshi explained a few more things about meditation, worked on the basic exercises, and watched me perform the 81-Step that I had learned with my first teacher Wang Xinwu. He saw that my 81-Step was okay, I was obedient and listened to what he said, and was able to relax in the form. About a month later, Zhang said, “You are young, honest and work hard.” At that time my position in the army was rather high, a colonel. [It was not uncommon for the people to treat officers like royalty.] Zhang Qinlin saw that even with a high rank and much responsibility, I was still able to humble myself in front of a teacher and was not afraid of working hard and practicing [diligently].

After we went through that stage, Zhang Laoshi told me I was going to learn something different and told me that once I learned this, I could not teach it to anyone. “Why?” I asked. He replied, “Don't ask.” I said, “Okay,” and started learning the Yangjia Michuan style of Taijiquan. After learning the form, we went on to push hands, and so forth. By then, the civil war between the communists and nationalists, was getting closer and closer to Taiyuan. Talyuan was becoming a mess. All the action in the north was centered around this very strategic city. As the war got closer, things became more and more chaotic, and the social situation was awful. Zhang Qinlin said to me, “We have a saying in Chinese - transmit to one, not to two (chuan yi, bu chuan er). But we have to break this tradition now.” He then said, “l can only teach one, but seeing the situation, I can also see that in the future you will be a great taiji teacher. So I say to you that this is just a saying, and although I can teach only one, you may teach many. We will end this 'transmit to one, not two' practice. If you teach, teach many. If you have the opportunity, find a way to share this art with others and transmit it to the outside.”

Six

In 1949, the communists came in full force to Talyuan, and that was the start of a journey that eventually ended in Taiwan. At that time, I had no intention of teaching taiji. It was something that I loved, but it never occurred to me to teach. After I arrived in Taiwan I was still in the military. I practiced by myself in the park. One day two mens came and watched. Afterward, they said, “We have seen a lot of taiji, but we haven't seen anything like what you are doing. What is this?” they asked. I didn't dare say that this was called the Yangjia Michuan (hidden or secret) form. I said it was the Yang style. They said, “It doesn't look like the Yang style.” “Well,” I said, “It is the old Yang style.” They said, “It doesn't look like the old Yang style that we have seen.” And I said, “It is older than that.” One of the two men, Zhang Pinqing, told me that after seeing this form demonstrated he realized that this style of taijiquan, while unlike any Yang style he had seen before, was exactly what he had been looking for. He saw that it matched perfectly the ideas and theories described in the taijiquan classics. And they asked me to be their teacher.

Now 46 years later [as of 1996], I am still teaching. You might find someone who has been teaching for 25 years, but 46 years? After all these years of teaching and practicing taijiquan, I am happy to say from first hand experience that the practice of taijiquan is truly of benefit to one's health, especially when combined with the practice of tuishou. Until recently, no one was very interested in Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. Interest started to increase about two years ago. In Taiwan people have been doing taiji for decades, since about 1949. Before then, there were no people practicing taijiquan in Taiwan. We can say that when you eat a certain type of food often, you get sick of it. Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan is like a food too, but – the more you eat it, the more you like it.

After I left Taiyuan, Zhang Laoshi's life was not easy. During the time I studied with him, three times a day, every day for four years, I paid all of his expenses, including food, fuel for heat, spending money and every other family expense. In those days, Zhang Laoshi did not work. Beside himself, he had a wife and daughter to feed and clothe. In earlier times, a teacher did not need more than one or two students. Students, like sons or daughters, would take care of you. A teacher did not need to take many students. After I left Shanxi there was no one to take care of him. In addition, times were very hard and bitter for everyone. Zhang Laoshi was a martial artist. He had to eat, but the communists rationed food for everyone. What there was, was not enough. During the cultural revolution, artists, scholars and martial artists were teased, bullied and ridiculed in ways that left them angry [but helpless]. Artists were not allowed to be artists, while those whose skills and talents were inferior were encouraged. This is what happened to Zhang Qinlin. He was a great martial artist, and he was bullied. He died near the end of the cultural revolution [1976] nearly blind and starving. Hu Yaozhen, who I mentioned before, had gradually become more and more famous also. During the cultural revolution everything was turned upside down, and he was reviled because of his greatness. The great had to be brought down; they were pressed down. Hu Yaozhen died with a cone on his head, chained and led around to be publicly ridiculed.

And finally, I would like to mention Li Yunlong, another of Zhang Qinlin's students. He was the one who started the search for Zhang Laoshi's picture, and the one who corresponded with me. He was also a great xingyi master. During the cultural revolution he was sent to Inner Mongolia. In 1993 we visited his tomb in Baotou.

These are the seven students who Zhang Qinlin had accepted. There is one other man, Li Fuyuan, who we met in the mainland and who said he had also studied with Zhang Qinlin. However, I never knew him or heard of him before my trip in 1993, so this is uncertain. Of those students who studied with Zhang Qinlin and who are still alive, there is Pu Bingru who was 86 (in 1993) and living in Shanghai; Li Fuyuan, who we are not sure about and living in Hebei province, and me. Of these three, I am the only one who knows Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan.

Up until my time, this form has been taught “one teacher, one student.” To prevent this teaching from becoming extinct, I have, as Zhang Laoshi counseled, sought to share this precious art with anyone who wants to learn, regardless of race, color, or anything else. Thanks to the many thousands of students who are today working diligently to investigate all aspects of this style, I have no doubt that not only will this practice endure in the world for as long as it is needed, but also that the people who do practice will find their wisdom and good health nurtured simultaneously.

taiji/wang_yen-nien_talks_about_zhang_qinlin.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/11 17:15 by serena