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Master Wang Xiang Zhai

3 mars 2008

This small man was a giant in the Chinese combat arts. Trained at one of the toughest schools by Master Guo Yun Shen, one of the greatest wu shu masters of his time, Master Wang overcame a number of obstacles during his training and was able to synthesize a very rich training method from both a martial and health point of view. An honest and irreproachable man, he left us a rich heritage, especially a method for obtaining the state of zheng-ti where all the facets of our lives are integrated to reach the just state of a virtuous man.

Wang Xiang Zhai was an incredibly remarkable man who was given the name « the hand of the country » by his compatriots, meaning he was the treasure of his country.

 

mae Wang Xiang Zhai

Master Wang Xiang Zhai

Wang Xiang Zhai (1886-1963) was born in the Shen Xian district of the Hebei province of Northern China. Often sick as a child, he began to study xing-yi quan (boxing of the form and spirit) at the age of 14 under the supervision of the famous Master Guo Yun Shen. Instead of training by multiple combat techniques (kata or tao lu), Master Guo preferred to train his young pupil with the unique practice of a standing meditation called zhan zhuang (or ritsu-zen in Japanese). For 4 years, the young Wang had to submit to this difficult practice, without question or complaint. It is said that Master Wang had to hold the zhan zhuang « until the ice melted under his feet »! For a young man, submitting yourself to such discipline under penalty of being beaten by his master, constitutes an intense and harsh test. However, Master Guo‘s training method was effective because Wang achieved an exceptional level in his art. It is also important to understand that, normally, the zhan zhuang training was only introduced to students at a high level in the art of combat. In choosing to train his young pupil by the essentials of this art, the famous Guo Yun Shen (immortalized by the admiring expression: « in moving only a half-step, Guo dominates the whole world ») showed a great intuition of the character of Wang Xiang Zhai
Master Kenji Tokitsu wrote, in Le fondements de la practique du Shaolin-mon, 1991:

 

In effect,

Wang Xiang Zhai showed an extraordinary ability very early. In spite of his weakness and small size, during the course of his travels throughout China, he delivered more than a thousand victorious fights with the grace of his explosive force. He remained close to those that had been able to beat him, thus reaching an exceptional level.

 

Towards the middle of the 1920s, Master Wang taught his art under the name i chuan (boxing with intention), which would later become known as da cheng chuan (great achievement boxing). He was also equally interested in the therapeutic applications of his practice, which some of his pupils, notably Master Yu Yong Nian, continue with worldwide recognition to this day. Moreover, there are currently a number of scientific studies being conducted on the benefits of ritsu-zen practice. Today, more than eight million Chinese people practice some form of zhan zhuang ( Paul Dong & Aristide H. Hesser, Chi gong, The ancient chinese way to health, 1990).

The heritage of Master

Wang Xiang Zhai continues today from both a martial arts and health maintenance point of view. In any event, these two facets are indistinguishable in the practice of i chuan/da cheng chuan. He trained many pupils, including Yao Zong Xun (who later trained Guo Gui Zhi), Zhao dao Xin, Han Xin Qiao, Hong Lian Shun, Zhou Zi Yan, You Peng Xi, Li Wen Tao, Yu Yong Nian (who was also the professor of Guo Gui Zhi) and many more.

 

mae Wang Xiang Zhai

Master Wang Xiang Zhai in a zhan zhuang posture

Bibliography:

  • Charles Georges:Hsing I Chuan, l?art interne du Kung-fu/Wushu, Sedirep, Paris, 1986.
  • Diepersloot Jan: Warrior of stillness, meditative traditions in the chinese martial arts vol.1,Ed.private,USA, 1995.
  • Dong Paul & Aristide H. Esser: Chi-gong, the ancient way tohealth,Paragon House, New-York,1990.
  • Lam Kam Chuen:The way of energy, Gaia books, New-york, 1991.
  • Sawaennichi:Taikiken, the essence of Kung-fu, Japan publications, Tokyo, 1976.
  • Tokitsu Kenji:Les fondements de la pratique du Shaolin-mon, private Paris, 1991.
  • Wang Xuan Jie: Da Cheng quan, Hai Feng Publishig, Hong Kong, 1988.

Interpreted from Philippe Munn’s
original French language article
by J.L. Munn

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