Wang Xiangzhai 王薌齋 (1885-1963)
Wang Xiangzhai was a native of Shenxian, in the province of Hebei. He suffered from childhood asthma and was, in order to improve his constitution, introduced to the great Xingyi styist Guo Yunshen from the neighbouring village. From the age of 14 to his master’s death 4 years later, Wang stayed at Guo’s residence, doing standing meditation and attending to his lectures. Unlike his martial arts brethren, he was not taught the traditional Xingyi system.
In 1907, the 22-year-old Wang left for Beijing, and became the chief instructor of the Chinese Army’s martial arts training centre. In turn, he hired experts such as Shang Yunxiang, Sun Lutang, and Liu Wenhua to help him with his work, and stayed at the centre until it ceased operation.
In 1918, Wang began his martial arts odyssey. He was convinced that there must be some common principles that link and define the various styles and systems of martial arts. His travels took him to Henan, where he met the monk Xinlin at the Shaolin Temple. Xinlin was an authority of Shaolin’s Xinyiba, which bore a strong resemblance to what Wang learned from Guo. After a month’s stay, he moved on to Hunan where he met Xie Tiefu who bested him in every encounter. At his invitation, Wang stayed and studied with Xie for about a year.
In 1923, Wang traveled south and met up with White Crane stylist Fang Shizhang in Fujian. Wang was defeated in six of ten tries. Fang, however, credited his victories to good fortune, pointing out that Wang won his points cleanly, while his own wins were marginal at best.
Because of political unrest in the south, Wang decided to head for home in 1925. On the way, he met Wang Muchiao in Huainan who introduced him to his “health dance”. In Beijing he encountered Tai Chi expert Yang Shouhou, and in Zhuoxian, Baqua stylist Liu Fengchun. He then visited Xingyi and Baqua expert Zhang Zhaodong in Tianjin.
Wang accepted an invitation in 1929 to officiate at the martial arts competition of the 3rd National Games in Hangzhou. He then continued on to Shanghai where he befriended Wu Yihui of Luihebafa fame. With students in tow, he returned to Shenxian by way of Tianjin in 1935. Two years late, he returned to Beijing to continue the teaching of his art.
After the war, interest in the martial arts began to wane as people turned their attention to national reconstruction. It was at that time that Wang began to look at the possibility of applying Yiquan to health maintenance and physical therapy. Through experimentation, he found standing meditation to have undeniable value in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments such as high blood pressure, hepatitis and chronic rheumatism. He passed away on July 12, 1963, in the city of Tianjin, age 78.
Han Xingchiao 韓星橋 (韓 樵) (1909-2004)
Mr. Han was the inner chamber student of Yiquan founder Wang Xiangzhai during Yiquan’s “glory years”. Starting in 1931, Mr. Han followed Master Wang for over a decade, soaking up what he had to offer. Between 1938 and 1946, Mr. Han was Mr. Wang’s teaching assistant, contributing greatly to the development and spreading of Yiquan far and wide.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic, Mr. Han continued his work tirelessly, benefiting many in the process. Under the directives of Premier Chou En-Lai, Mr. Han, working through the Chinese Sports Ministry, did a through and scientific analysis of Yiquan, and the results incorporated into China’s sports development. In the process, Mr. Han brought Yiquan, scientifically and comprehensively to the zenith of its evolution.
During the time that Mr. Han was chairman of the Xinjiang Martial Arts Federation, he studied traditional Chinese medicine in his spare time, and acquired particular expertise in therapeutic message and bone reattachment. Mr. Han was also an associate professor of the Xinjiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the distinguished director of the Xinjiang branch of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Association. After his retirement, he continued with his work in the researching and teaching of Yiquan. Then in 1985, at the invitation of the Hong Kong Yiquan Society and her president, Mr. Ian Fok, he moved to Zhuhai where he established a Yiquan training group and continued to train the next generation of students. In 1990 Mr. Han was elected Head of Zhuhai’s Yiquan Study Group. He passed away in 2004.
Han Xingyuan 韓星垣 (1915-1983)
A native of Hubei, Han Xingyuan was born in 1915. At the age of three, he followed his father to Beijing, and started training in Xingyi as he became older, first with his father, and later during his father’s absence, with a Mr. Wang Zhanheng who was known for his strong Xingyi foundation. (He also, at the time, studied with an uncle, Mr. Xiao Changshan, in traditional Chinese wrestling).
At the age of 16, Mr. Han met his older brother Han Xingchiao in Shanghai, and followed his lead in training with Wang Xiangzhai, the Yiquan founder. During that period in time, he also taught at a martial arts school established by his father.
In 1937, Mr. Wang called his older brother to Beijing to help him with his teaching duties. In 1938, Mr. Han also received the call. When he was in Beijing, Mr. Wang once sent him to teach in a military academy, where he taught soldiers the art of the “splitting spear”, including the techniques of throwing, splitting, and piercing.
In addition to teaching standing meditation, Mr. Han liked to concentrate on practical applications. The concept that one can not learn without being hit was an accepted “methodology” of the time and students were quite prepared to accept a certain amount of “scrapes and bruises”. According to Wang Yufang, the daughter of the founder, Mr. Han “liked me very much, so he often taught me. He enjoyed sparring, and he was good at it. So, I sparred with him, a lot”.
Mr. Han was young and skillful, so for pastime and to keep boredom at bay he would accept challengers who came to the school or he would meet them outside. Over time, his reputation grew and became known as the “entrance guarding tiger”. Wang Yufang once said that her father, the founder Master Wang Xiangzhai, liked him the most among all his students. The older brother also said that Mr. Han was well known in the martial arts world of Beijing, and that his own reputation did not match that of his younger brother. (It should be obvious to all that the modest and low-keyed Han Xingchiao was clearly impressed with his younger brother’s accomplishments).
During 1946, the two brothers bid Mr. Wang farewell and returned to Shanghai, where Mr. Han taught at the martial art school established by his older brother. Then in 1949, Mr. Han moved south to Hong Kong, left the martial arts community, became a Christian, and worked for a church.
Mr. Han Xingyuan restarted his martial arts career at the invitation of a friend and former students (from his Shanghai years) in the early 1960s. .
His school was moved to a new site in 1966, where he practiced traditional Chinese medicine and taught what he called Xingyidachangchuan (形意大成拳). In a span of twenty odd years, he taught numerous students at both Hong Kong and overseas.
During the late 60s, many of his students migrated to countries such as France, Australia, Great Britain, the US and Canada. He also had numerous students coming to see him from South East Asia, drawn no doubt by his considerable fame. In the 1970s, Mr. Han travelled extensively to the US, Canada, and Great Britain to spread his art, staying anywhere from a month to half a year, and in the process, became the first person to spread and teach Yiquan internationally.
Mr. Han passed away on January 18th, 1983 at the age of 68, survived by his wife and three children.
Introduction to our Chief Instructor
Francis HT Chan studied, year 1973, with Master Han Xingyuan until his passing. Then, his class mate, Mr. Ian CW Fok, arranged for Master Han’s older brother, Master Han XingChiao, to move south to Zhuhai so their studies need not be interrupted. Francis has over Forty years of Training and experience in Yiquan, and before that, over a decade of Seven Stars Praying Mantis. He also previously studied Tai Chi (Chen and Wu styles), Northern Shaolin, Chinese wrestling (Shuai Jiao), Luihebafa, Southern Shaolin (Fujian White Crane), Taekwondo, boxing and other arts. Trained in the British tradition as an engineer, Francis is a founding member of the Hong Kong Yiquan Society.