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Historical Origins of Xingyi Quan

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Tradition has it that Xingyiquan originated with General Yue Fei (1103 - 1142) of the Song Dynasty. Recent research has questioned the truth of this tradition. General Yue Fei is a national hero in China due to his spirit, character, and nationalism, so it is possible that practitioners of Xinyiquan borrowed his name to gain more recognition for the style.

General Yue Fei

In recent years scholars have published much research into the origins of Xingyiquan. There are some differences of opinion, but the general consensus is that the Xingyiquan system grew out of Xinyi Liuhequan. That is, that Xingyiquan originated with Li Luoneng (c. 1808 - 1890) of Hebei province, on the foundation of Xinyi Liuhequan that originated with Ji Longfeng (1602 - 1680also known as Ji Jike). Ji Longfeng taught Cao Jiwu (1662 - 1722), who taught Dai Longbang (c. 1713 - 1802), who taught Li Luoneng. This has been cnfirmed by the research of many scholars, most notably Huang Xin'ge, who spent many years on the topic and methodologically examined a huge amount of historical documents. It seems quite certain that Ji Longfeng created Xinyi Liuhequan and Li Luoneng in turn created Xingyiquan.

The three main branches of Xingyiquan - 'three streams from the same sources'- are commonly categorized by region: Shanxi, Hebei, and Henan provinces. The 'source of the stream' is Xinyi Liuhequan. At present, Henan province still refers to the style as Xinyi Liuhequan, and has essentially kept the original characteristics of Xinyi Liuhequan, most notably the chicken step and the ten animals. Shanxi and Hebei provinces refer to the style as Xingyiquan and really represent one branch with only regional and stylistic differences, both coming from Li Luoneng.

By the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty (1736 - 1796), Xinyi Liuhequan was already an established style with its own techniques and theory in Shanxi and Henan provinces. Li Luoneng studied Xinyi Liuhequan with Dai Longbang for ten years. Li Luoneng had trained in other styles and had a strong foundation in martial arts before studying with Dai, so after ten years of diligent analysis and practical experience he achieved a high level of skill in Xinyi Liuhequan. Li accumulated a great depth of theoretical and practical knowledge over several decades of training, and this gave him a lvel of mastery that allowed him to refine the style and germinate the idea of creating a new style from Xinyi Liuhequan - that is, to create Xingyiquan. By 1856 his style was spreading by this new name.

In classic Chinese there is only a small distinction between the meaning of the characters xin (心 heart, the emotional mind) and yi (意 will, the intentional mind). So the name Xinyi was repetitive, heart also partiall means will, and will contains heart in its meaning. Li Luoneng changed only one character xin (心 heart) to xing (形 form, shape, structure)to make the name (form and intent) more meaningful.

Although there is a difference of only one character in the names xinyi and xingyi, this was a milestone of reform in martial arts history, and a beautiful new 'martial flower' was created n the martial arts garden. Li Luoneng bravely undertook a systematic reorganization of Xinyi Liuhequan. He established a systematic training method with the santishi post standing as the basic training, the five element fists as the foundation, and the twelve animals as the advanced techniques. He based his system on a combination of of the ancient Chinese traditional theories of yin yang, and five elements (metal, water, wood, fire and earth); the Daoist life enhancing training, and refining methods and theories,; and martial arts internal refinement training. In this way he developed a three-level martial training (obvious, hidden, and transformed; to 'train essence to transform energy' , 'train energy to transform spirit' and 'train spirit to transform to emptiness'). These aspects were new, and Xingyi towered in the martial world with its systematic approach to training and scientific (for its time) theory. Although the theoretical kernel did not depart from Xinyi Liuhequan, it made a qualitative leap to a higher level. Similarly, the later development of Yiquan on the foundation of Xingyiquan created a new style with its own training methods that emphasized will and spirit.

Of course, the establishment and spread of any style, the improvement of theory and enrichment of the technical system take several generations of work. The Xingyiquan now popular throughout China has evolved in theory and technique as a result of the continued innovation of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th generations. With further social advances and developments in scientific understanding, future generations continue to make Xingyiquan's theory and techniques even more logical and modern and enrich all of mankind.



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