History of Li Family Daoqiquan

The Legend of Tibetan Master Zurdwang

Tibetan monk, Lama, Zurdwang (1530 -1620) originally from Qamdo Tibet was said to have been a student of what Ming Dynasty Chinese called the five excellencies: painting, poetry, martial arts, philosophy and medicine. Research is unclear if he was a practicing Tibetan Buddhist or a Shaman. Stories told about his teachings indicate he was influenced by Buddhism, Tibetan Bon and perhaps even Chinese Daoist practices. Bon is commonly considered to be the indigenous spiritual tradition of Tibet, a system of shamanistic practices performed by priests called bonpo.

Legends state that Lama Zurdwang left Tibet in search of knowledge about Chinese Daoism, Buddhist practices and martial arts. His journey, which was said to have lasted some thirty years, took him from Qamdo Tibet into China through Sichuan Province and into central China and back again into the Sichuan area.

During his trek, Lama Zurdwang searched out knowledge of longevity and health development and what he described as the three essences of man: mental, physical and spiritual. On his travels through China, Zurdwang is reputed to have stopped at many Daoist and Buddhist monasteries; He examined the methods of healing, herbology and the external and the so called internal styles of Chinese martial arts as practiced by the monks and teachers he met.

During his stay in one Daoist monastery he took the name Daoren道人(man of Dao) and began to compile and develop his own personal martial and philosophical arts. His goal was to devise a complete system that would be a martial art and a lifestyle. A system that could be practiced by an individual for perfect all-around development of mind, body and spirit.

Into his new system he would incorporate his own skills brought from Tibet of his studies of Bon, Tibetan Buddhist, healing, herbology, meditation with Chinese Dao, Chan and internal martial techniques. He also studied many weapons tactics and was said to be especially fond of the double edge sword from which he developed a series of meditations using the sword to draw down natures rlung or vital energy often called Qi in Chinese.

From the honest simplistic life style of the Daoists he formulated his theory of the Si-De (four virtues): Honesty, Humility, Patience and Sincerity. Zurdwang held that someone who attempted to keep these Si-De in their body, their mind and their spirit would be open and receptive to the universal energy, and therefore able to use the rlung of the universe for their own ends. He posited that the four virtues would free man from his attachments to material desires and the need to triumph over others. To do this he reasoned would make a man not only healthy and powerful, but would serve to make him very wise. The four virtues served as the cornerstone upon which his method of self-cultivation and martial art was established.

A Wandering Lama Arrives at China’s Emei Mountain

Having formulated the basis of his system Zurdwang traveled into the wilderness, where he lived alone as a recluse for five years. During this time he meditated, practiced and developed the aspects of his art. Living on herbs, roots and nuts, his only companion his double-edged long sword. After years of practice he reached a high stage of internal energy and his knowledge and abilities in the internal use of his martial art was bordering what seemed almost magical.

Near the end of his time alone in the forest Zurdwang adopted a new Daoist spiritual name, Long Daoren龍道人 (Dragon Way Man). He set out to return to Tibet, probably to share with his fellow lamas the wonders that he had discovered. For some unknown reason, his journey was interrupted in Sichuan Province where he came in contact with other Daoist and Buddhist monks living and working in harmony on the mysterious Emei Mountain.

Long Daoren stayed in the Emei mountain temples perfecting his sword methods and studying the Yijing until 1585 when during a dream he saw a great dragon with it’s tail wrapped around a symbol for the Ying and Yang. The dragon enlightened him to a method of distilling all he had learned into eleven techniques. From this knowledge combined with his concept of Si-De he created what he called Wu quanzi Liu-bu Nei-jin Quan五圈子, 六步, 內勁 拳 (The five circle, six step, inner strength fist method).

His new method was comprised of a distilled essence of physical movements and philosophy, the five circles, were methods derived from Emei mountain Daoist long sword, the six stances were ways of shifting the body to generate power in motion. The four virtues were the cornerstone of his philosophy. Leaving the Emei mountain monastery a series of events lead Master Zurdwang (Long, Daoren) to become engaged as a tutor to the Li family in Daofu. Daofu village 道孚村, known as Dawu in Tibetan, it is a prefecture of China’s Sichuan Province.

The children of the family affectionately named him Xizang Xuezhe西藏 學者 (Scholar of Tibet)2. In this manner the arts of Daoqiquan developed by Master Zurdwang AKA Long, Daoren passed into the hands of the Li clan of Sichuan Province, China and over the years the family using the basis of Master Zurdwang’s art became known as highly reputable Baobiao (Bodyguards), healers and scholars in the Sichuan area.

Over the years each patriarch of the Li clan learned the original methods of Master Zurdwang’s arts including his external methods of Tibetan Snake and Blue Heron martial art. The family began combining the seminal principles with other styles and combat methods that proved useful. From these concepts the clan developed their own family styles of China’s internal boxing system such as Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan based on traditional practices, but always firmly rooted in Zurdwang’s original boxing principles. As to the current name of the system it is not clear if Master Zurdwang or a member of the Li family changed the name we have today to Daoqiquan 道 氣 拳 (way of dao fist).

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Note – Chinese many names: Although it is confusing to some, during these times it was not uncommon for artists, painters, poets, and martial masters to assume multiple names. Thus we have Lama Zurdwang, Daoren, Long, Daoren and so on all belonging to the same individual.