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Chen Tuan 陳摶 871-989a.d., also known under his pen-name of Chen Tu Nan 陳圖南, was a renowned Taoist from Bo-zhou City 亳州市 in Anhui Province 安徽省, China. In his youth Chen displayed a great ability at mathematics and interpreting the Yi Jing 易經 (Book of Changes). During the Tang Dynasty 唐朝, Chen Bo began scholarly studies to become an official in service of the Emperors. Chen was said to have failed the examinations, and left to travel in search of truth and meaning. From that time on he traveled and spent time with many great masters such as Lu Dong Bin 呂洞賓 (one of the famed Eight Immortals 八仙) and Ma Yi 麻衣, and was in succession of a group called Yin Xian Pai 隱仙派, the Sect of Hidden Immortals. One day he was advised by another Taoist to go to Wudang 武當 where he entered the Rock of Nine Rooms 九室岩 to practice breathing and cultivating the Tao 道. After 20 years at Wudang, Chen traveled to "Hua Yue" 華嶽 (Hua Mountains) to live in solitude.

Chen spent a lot of time with the Emperors during China's "5 Dynasties 10 Kingdoms Era 五代十國" 907-960a.d., often advising them in various matters. In 956a.d. he was called to court by Emperor Zhou Shi Zong 宋世宗 954-959a.d. who thought Chen desired the kingdom, and so had Chen imprisoned for 100 days. When the Emperor asked the guard about Chen's condition the guard reported that Chen was fast asleep. He then realized that Chen had no desire for power and released him requesting that Chen stay as his advisor. Chen answered his questions on alchemy and gave him spiritual advice, but soon departed to live in solitude. The Emperor gave him the name Bai Yun Xian Sheng 白雲先生, meaning "gentleman of the white clouds".

In 960a.d. Chen met with to be Emperor Song Tai Zu 宋太祖 997-1022a.d. becoming his martial advisor, and additionally taught him the Taiji Ruler 太極尺. Tai Zu went on to create the famous martial style Tai Zu Chang Chuan 太祖長拳, meaning "Emperors Long Fist". Though Chen was not interested he decided to play a game of Wei Qi 圍棋 (a type of chess) with the Emperor and leave it to fate. Upon winning the match Chen announced his decision to depart and return to the Hua Mountains.

In 984a.d. the Emperor Song Tai Zong 宋太宗 976-997a.d. (Tai Zu's younger brother) called upon Chen and treated him with great admiration. He requested Chen to help nominate his heir, and Chen without hesitation chose Song Zhen Zong 宋真宗, who did come to succeed the throne from 997-1022a.d. Thoroughly impressed by Chen's knowledge and expertise the Emperor gave Chen the name "Xi Yi 希夷" (Xi is what cannot be heard; Yi is what cannot be seen).

When Chen forsaw his own death, he ordered his disciple Jia De Sheng 賈德昇 to carve out a crypt for him in the mountain. In 989a.d. when it was complete, Chen entered the crypt and peacefully passed away in his sleep! He died at the advanced age of 118 years in Zhang Chang Valley 張超谷 under the Lotus Peak 蓮花峰.

Chen Xi Yi is a very famous figure in Chinese history. His advanced theories on philosophical Taoism 道教, Buddhism 佛教 and Confucianism 儒家 were all incorporated into his inner alchemic formulas as can be found in his works and teachings. Chen Xi Yi is credited with the creation of Liuhebafa 六合八法, 24 Section Daoyin Qigong Method 二十四氣導引術, Sleep Qigong Method 睡功法, and the Taiji Ruler, and was also the creator of the Taiji-tu 太極圖 (diagram of the great ultimate). He also authored many poems and books, one of which was called Fengjian 風鑑 (Mirror of Auras) which was a manual on Physiognomy, a type of fortune telling based on Yin Yang 陰陽, 5 Phases 五行, and the 8 Trigrams 八卦 of the Yi Jing 易經.


Chen Xi Yi
"The Sleeping Immortal"

One student of Chen Xi Yi's teachings was the Taoist Huo Lung 火龍道人, who was the teacher of Zhang San Feng 張三豐, the legendary founder of Taiji 太極拳. And yet another relation to Zhang is the Emperor Tai Zu, who was martially advised by Chen and developed "Tai Zu Chang Chuan 太祖長拳", the "Emperors Long Fist Style". Zhang San Fen 張三豐 purportedly learned this and based his creation of Taiji Chuan 太極拳 from it.

Additionally, Chen Xi Yi is said by some to have been the creator of the "Tong Bei 通背" principle, meaning "through the back", which the style Tong Bei Chuan 通背拳 was developed from. Many lineages of Tong Bei Chuan still hold Chen Xi Yi as their founder.


太極圖 Taiji-tu : Diagram of the Great Ultimate

This diagram created by Chen Tuan, consists of five progressive circles. The 1st circle depicts the Absolute (wuji 無極) as an empty circle, symbolizing the universe as a self-generative and self-reproducing entity. The 2nd circle contains intermixing semi-circles of Yin 陰 (the yielding cosmic force) and Yang 陽 (the active cosmic force), alluding to the notion that Yin and Yang are the "function" of Emptiness. The 3rd is a group of circles representing the Five Elements (wu xing 五行) which constitute a further stage in the progressive differentiation from Oneness to multiplicity. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth) are shown in their generative cycle, with "wuji" appearing again connected below to represent soil. The 4th circle represents the joining of Heaven and Earth, depicting how yin moves the female, and yang the male to describes biological reproduction. The 5th circle at the bottom represents the state of multiplicity, likening the process by which the myriad beings are produced through the union of the two sexes.


Stone statues of Chen Xi Yi on Mount Hua


Chen Xi Yi’s successor by chance was the Taoist Li Dong Feng 李東風. As the story goes Li was climbing Mount Hua when he came across the cave of Chen Xi Yi. Inside he found the remains of the late Taoist and his manuscripts. The manuscripts that Li had found were a detailed analysis of body mechanics and principles of internal motion, among which was the 6 Harmonies and 8 Methods 六合八法, and the 5 Hearts 五總 internal principle. They were in essence detailed blueprints on an ancient internal way. Li spent his lifetime understanding Chens works and eventually consolidated them into a physical form that he named Zhu Ji 築基, meaning “Discover the Foundations”, with its accompanying practice called Wei Tuo Gong 韋佗功. Wei Tuo Gong, named after one of eight deities that protect Buddhism, is the method of developing Wu Zong Jiu Jie Li 五總九節力 and properly referred to as "Internal Mechanism Meditation"!

Li further contributed to the art authoring several pieces of literature. The most well known of his writings is Chuan Xue Wu Zi Jue 拳學五字訣, meaning "5 Character Secret of Martial Study", which contains profound knowledge pertaining to Liuhebafa and the internal martial arts in general.

  • Verse 89 : Hua Yue Xi Yi Men 華嶽希夷門 - Chen Xi Yi's art from Hua Mountain
    i named the style "Hua Yue Xi Yi Men" (Chen Xi Yi's art from Hua Mountain) so that later generations would always remember the styles founder and where it originated.
  • Verse 81 : Wu Gen Zhu Ji Fa 無根築基法 - Zhu Ji is without limit
    The practice of Zhu Ji (Discovering the Foundations) is the embodiment of the 6 Harmonies and 8 Methods. Li reminds practitioners of this when he wrote "Wu Gen Zhu Ji Fa" (Zhu Ji is without limit).
  • Verse 68 : Wu Zong Jiu Jie Li 五總九節力 - Force of the 5 Hearts and 9 Joints
    Significantly placed at the very middle of Li's poem "Wu Zong Jiu Jie Li" (5 Hearts 9 Joints Power) is the defining source of Liuhebafa's internal force, and brings to life the 6 Harmonies and 8 Methods.

Unfortunately, perhaps, much of his writings cannot be accurately translated in full as the meanings depend entirely on ones comprehension and interpretation of the art and its methods. As ones progression in the internal arts is infinite their understanding of the art constantly changes and deepens.

liuhebafa starts with the heart
intent is the source of the supreme within
comfort with nothingness will move the stillness
stillness cultivates the breath and mixes it with the essence
essence intersects with life
circulation must reach to the crown
hard and soft advances and recedes with will
impatience arouses disharmony of physical motion
come and go in the same direction to refine yin and yang
continual deepening brings new levels of understanding
Zhu Ji cultivates the spirit without desire
study to achieve this method within your lifetime
obtain what is natural regardless of the obstacles
self-interest serves the universe becoming outer shape and inner spirit
realization of desire shows the origin of shape is formless
to separate from nothing you must first become one with it

"Song of 6 Harmonies and 8 Methods" written by Li Dong Feng. As stated above accurate translations of Li Dong Feng's works is difficult and depends entirely on ones understandings of the art.

Though the events of Chen Xi Yi's life and his worldly contributions were well documented, it is hard to say for certain his connection to Liuhebafa, and many refute the legend of Li Dong Feng finding and learning Liuhebafa from his scrolls. They might not be taking into account however that Liuhebafa alike the other internal arts is formulated and devised around a concept (the 6 Harmonies & 8 Methods in this case), with the particular movements and techniques coming later. Whether or not Li's tale of how he came about Chen Xi Yi's "6 Harmonies & 8 Methods" was true though is quite irrelevant, as it was he who manifested the physical form, and the lineage has been recorded and kept well intact from him on.

It was said that Li Dong Feng taught Liuhebafa to a small group of taoists who trained together and maintained the teachings, though all but the name of Li's successor Song Yuan Tong 宋元通 have been lost from history. Not much is known about the generations that preceded Li Dong Feng, however there are several individuals worth mentioning:

Wang De Wei 王得威
            Wang was a villager of Xianyang 咸陽市 in Shaanxi Province, and followed master Yuan Rong 圓融. He took Liuhebafa as a highly combative style making the style known to martial scholars through his matches. Wang changed the name of the style from Liuhebafa to Shui Chuan 水拳, meaning “Water Boxing”. People today say that Liuhebafa was originally called Water Boxing, unknowing that it was this lesser known practitioner who made the contribution.

Yang Jing Qun 楊景群
            Yang was from Fangshan 房山, and followed master Pan Zhi Huo 潘致和. He originally practiced Liuhebafa as a form of health practice under the name of Xin Yi Liu He Yi Bing 心意六合醫病, meaning “Cure of the Intent and Six Harmonies”. Later, he changed the name calling it Xian Tian Shi Er Shi 先天十二勢, meaning "Pre-heaven 12 Spirits". This is the first reference in the styles history to the 12 Spirits, perhaps suggesting that he was the originator.

Chen Guang Di 陳光弟
            Chen was from Guangping 昌平 in Hebei Province. He was a martial arts enthusiast and disciple of Da Yuan 達遠. He later went to Kaifeng 開封 and studied from master Li Jing Ran 李靜然, and along with master Li's clansman Fan Gu Guo 范固國 sought out further training from a master in Henan Province's Nanyang City 南陽市 under master Li Zhen 李蟬. Chen assembled very much of the Liuhebafa system that exists today.


The contributions of these individuals are still remembered earning them a place in Liuhebafa's history. But with out a doubt the most important person in Liuhebafa’s history is none other than Wu Yi Hui 吳翼翬, who was the first to introduce Liuhebafa to the public, becoming the 1st generation Grandmaster of Liuhebafa.