History of Jiulong Baguazhang

Only a fool tries to become his father in every way. Those who wave the flag of history to impress others are trying to cover up their fear. So be silent, stop looking for the waving flag and make the art of your teacher your own.
-Li, Longdao.

Li, Ching-Yuen

Daoist Master Li, Ching-Yuen is said to have created Nine Dragon Baguazhang while studying at Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province. Li, Ching-Yuen was a controversial figure who was reputed to have lived to be one of the oldest men in the world. He claimed to have learned daoist taoistabout longevity from another Daoist he met on the Emei Mountain in Sichuan province near the Tibetan border.

The monk, according to Li, Ching-Yuen’s story, was well over 300 years old, was as agile as a monkey, as strong as a tiger and as wise as a dragon. It is wise to remember the Chinese like most Texans love their tall tales and take every opportunity to exaggerate a good story often to and beyond it’s credible limits.

This ancient Daoist sage reputedly instructed Li, Ching-Yuen in his secret method of health nourishing martial art exercises based upon the wisdom of the Book of Changes (Yijing). Most likely this was a Daoist of the Long-Men sect who practiced a method of circle walking meditation combined with chanting and visualization. The art of Li, Ching-Yuen came to be knows by the Li family as Jiulong Baguazhang (Nine Dragon Eight Diagram Palm).

Li, Ching-Yuen was a scholar of Daoism and the Yijing. He worked many years to create a method that contained strong emphasis on developing physical power (Li) through specific mind / body exercises. His method was to produce first (Waigong) external strength and then (Neigong) Refined mind /body power in conjunction with developing the powers of the mind (Yi) for the production of heightened life force (Qi) energy and longevity. It was truly a complete wholistic system.


History: A Pale Shadow of Truth

On this subject of history and lineage concerning Li, Ching-Yuen and his Baguazhang methods there is much debate. Due to the lack of credible written histories no one will ever know all of the story. Although there are specific stylistic differences and methods of instruction, it is now believed that the Li family system of Baguazhang possibly has the same roots as other Baguazhang systems from the Dong, Hai-Chuan lineage that developed in Beijing.

However because this system was taught to only a very few members of the Li family, a clan of professional bodyguards operating in Sichuan Province, the connection to Dong, Hai-Chuan’s Baguazhang by lineage is obscure. Many claims are made and stories told. Those who did know for sure, old time masters who were students of Dong, Hai-Chuan, Li, Zhang Lai, Li, Ching-Yuen and the monks who created the methods of Daoist circle walking have now passed on to higher realms.

American instructor John P. Painter of Arlington Texas learned this art from Mr. Frank Li (Li, Longdao) of Sichuan Province, who was the last living master of the Daoqiquan internal family system and, like his father, a professional bodyguard.

Mr. Li was also known to be a doctor of traditional Chinese healing and a scholar of the Yijing. So Jiulong Baguazhang training also included philosophical studies of the Daoist classics, meditation concepts, massage, herbs, acupressure and other healing modalities to supplement the martial training.

li zhang laiMr. Li told Dr. Painter that Li, Ching-Yuen’s methods of Baguazhang were refined by Mr. Frank Li’s grandfather, Master Li, Zhang-Lai, who was said to have been one of the few students of Li, Ching-Yuen’s Jiulong Baguazhang during the late 1800’s in Sichuan Province.

Because the Li families were bodyguards, they were only interested in what was practical. They rejected much of the so-called magical skills often associated with “quack” boxers of this period as being impractical. Methods that would ensure strength, health, longevity, tactical skill in battle and fighting prowess were most important.

This made for an art that would undergo continuous change and distillation, weeding out the esoteric and extracting the practical. Dr. Painter believes that the history of all Baguazhang is but a “pale shadow of the truth” and that it is more important to practice one’s art faithfully than to worry about historical authenticity. He says, “If the methods work and produce the promised results in the student that is all that truly matters.” Painter believes that over the years the Li family adapted many concepts into their Daoqiquan practice and that also goes for the Li, Zhang Lai version of Nine Dragon Baguazhang.

No matter what the version or teacher Baguazhang boxers who learned and taught the old styles systems of Li, Ching-Yuen or Dong, Hai-Chuan as they existed before the communist revolution were and still are among the longest lived, healthiest, and most feared of all the Chinese martial arts masters.

Jiulong Baguazhang art is a part of the trio of internal martial arts comprised of Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang taught under the family style of Daoqiquan by the Li family from Sichuan Province, China.


Historical Note

On a historical note: A Baguazhang research facility in mainland China has recorded over 100 separate styles of Baguazhang in existence today and reports that many others have been lost or died out with their creators.

If history is only a pale shadow of the truth then it might be wise for Baguazhang students to be more concerned with the results obtained by practicing daily than fretting over histories and lineage. Dr. Painter says, “After thirty years and over 4,000 students I can say that these results obtained from Nine Dragon Baguazhang are indeed wonderful for mind, body and spirit”.


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