Part 8: The Development Of Zhao Bao Style Taijiquan

Of the popular styles of Taijiquan that have come into prominance in recent years, the Zhao Bao style Of Taijiquan is probably the most well known. Not to mention also one of the most controversial. There are two differring views on the origins of Zhao Bao Taijiquan and both have some logic to their claims.

We shall try to clarify what actually happened in the light of these two claims and present a plausible explanation to the confusion that exists today. Documentation on the Zhao Bao style is scarce and there are few published works to refer to. The Zhao Bao style is becoming increasingly popular and has spread to different countries. Perhaps in the future more primary and secondary sources will become available.

From Zhao Bao style comes a lesser known style of Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia Taijiquan. This style is just becoming known in the West and is arousing considerable interest. Works pertaining to this style are even harder to come by and investigation has been difficult because of this. But as the style is ultimately related to Zhao Bao style and its origins, more time has been devoted to the Zhao Bao style.

The Origin Theories Of Zhao Bao Taijiquan

There are two primary theories concerning Zhao Bao style Taijiquan. One comes from the Chen Villiage and the other from the Zhao Bao Villiage itself. Both, however, have the nexus on one key personage: Chen Qing Ping.

Of this noted personage we can only be certain of a few things. Chen Qing Ping had married and moved to the Zhao Bao Villiage which was his wife's home villiage. There he taught Taijiquan and had considerable influence. How he got the art is at the centre of the differences in opinion.

We shall examine the individual claims by themselves and then view them in the context of each other in an effort to determine the truth.

Claim 1: That The Chen Villiage Originated The Art

This claim was first put forth by Gu Liu Xin based on Chen Xin's seminal work on Chen style Taijiquan. In it, Chen Xin had written a family manual and that manual stated that Chen Xin had learnt his art from Chen You Ben and transmitted the art to the Zhao Bao Villiage.

Chen You Ben is widely acknowledged as the founder of the `new' style of Chen Taijiquan. We do not know for sure if he did know Taijiquan since it is disputed that the Chen Villiage did not invent Taijiquan since their claims have been proven untenable. In any case, Chen Qing Ping was supposed to have studied the Chen family arts from him and that is not what is in dispute. There is not very much material available on the `new' style and on the basis of postures there is not much variance with the `old' style.

This claim is the most widely believed due to the popularity of the works of Gu Liu Xin and Tang Hao. It was only in recent years with the liberation of China permitting more freedom that the Zhao Bao claims have been published and given air to. Beyond the recent work of Chen Xin, there is no other primary collaboration on it.

Claim 2: Zhiang Fa Transmitted The Art To Zhao Bao

In the recently published works of the Zhao Bao Taijiquan masters, there is a common belief that the art did not come from the Chen Villiage but instead was transmitted down by Jiang Fa, whose teacher was Wang Tsung Yueh, and that the art ultimately came from the Wudang mountain. This is in keeping with the early Chen references like that of Du Yu Wan.

The Zhao Bao masters hold that the art was first transmitted to the villiage by Jiang Fa who had once lived in the Zhao Bao villiage. Their placing of the date for Zhiang Fa puts him as a Ming Dynasty personage and could reflect an influence coming from the Chen Villiage on the placing of the dates. In any case, the old manuals in the Zhao Bao villiage record that the art came down from Jiang Fa.

This art passed down several generations to Zhang Yan who was supposed to have taught it to Chen Qing Ping and does not preclude the possibility that Chen Qing Ping was already skilled in the Chen family arts. The characteristics of Zhao Bao Taijiquan seem to bear this out.

Not all the Zhao Bao masters come down from Chen Qing Ping's lineage, some have come down from Chen Qing Ping's contemporaries and so it seems that the contention that Chen Qing Ping founded Zhao Bao Taijiquan may not be tenable.

The Zhao Bao Form

There are two forms of Taijiquan practiced in the Zhao Bao Villiage, one set consisting of 74 postures and another consisting of 108 postures. The postures within these routines are, however, identical so it is really just a matter of arrangement.

The postures resembles the Chen style of Taijiquan but way it is practiced, it resembles more the other major styles of Taijiquan. This makes it quite distinct from Chen style Taijiquan. There are postures in the form that are not found in Chen style Taijiquan but is evident in the other major styles and Zhao Bao style.

We need to note that the Zhao Bao Villiage and the Chen Villiage is in close proximity and so many common arts were practiced. It is entirely possible that Chen style Pao Chui was also practiced in the villiage and later softened by Jiang Fa which parallels what may have occurred in the Chen Villiage.

The form can be done in three heights and in two speeds. Each to achieve a different goal in training. There is only one type of push hands done at the Zhao Bao Villiage and that is moving step push hands. Zhao Bao Taijiquan does not have fixed step or fixed stance push hands. It also has its own weapons sets, two man sets and even its own neigong practice.

The Zhao Bao Classics

The Zhao Bao style Taijiquan lineage has the full complement of Taijiquan Classics in common with the rest of the major styles including the works of Wang Tsung Yueh. But unique to the Zhao Bao style is the 9 important treatises. No one knows who wrote them but for the Zhao Bao practitioners, these 9 treatises are very important and hold pride of place in the Classic writings as they are unique to their style.

Zhao Bao Taijiquan Today

Zhao Bao Taijiquan has now spread to many countries and is making an impact in the West. More and more publications are also becoming available for this unique style of Taijiquan and there is a growing interest in it. The style has since become acknowledged as one of the major styles of Taijiquan by the current masters of the art.

Zhao Bao Taijiquan also spawned an increasing popular style called Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia. Created by a student of Chen Qing Ping with input from another art, it is making its presence felt in the West.

Hu Lei or Hu Long Jia Taijiquan

This style of Taijiquan is becoming popular in the West in recent years. It was developed from the Zhao Bao style of Tajiquan and still retains many of its characteristics. The creator of this style was Li Jing Ting.

Li was a student of Chen Qing Ping and resided in the Zhao Bao Villiage. Hu Lei Jia Taijiquan is often classified under Chen style Taijiquan, much like Zhao Bao style is until recently when the Zhao Bao masters made it very clear that this was a misunderstanding promoted by Tang Hao and Gu Liu Xin. Hu Lei Jia Taijiquan is actually Zhao Bao Taijiquan as taught by Li Jing Ting.

Li spent most of his life around the Fu Ai area in China and there he taught his art. He also interacted with local martial artists and came into contact with styles like the Wang Bao Spear and Yun Qi Chui. All these could have had an influence on his final style.

The form itself consists of 74 postures and is almost identical to the Zhao Bao form. Due to the fact that the early practitioners of Li's lineage were illiterate, much of the information passed down was via oral transmission. This has led to some changes in the wordings handed down. For example, the style is also know as Hu Long Taijiquan. The name Hu Long comes from a name given to the jing usage in the form called `Hu Long Jing' or Sudden Dragon Jing. Hu Lei translates as Sudden Lightning.

The art has been popularised both in China and Taiwan and in recent years by Adam Hsu in North America. There has yet to be a book to be released about this style of Taijiquan and articles in the East and in the West are few and far between.

All comments are most welcome.

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