Monday, December 15, 2008

Lineage in Chinese Martial Arts

Baguazhang (八卦掌) master Cheng Tinghua (程廷華) was known for his friendliness and openness, and eventually taught baguazhang to many people, including Li Cunyi (李存義), Zhang Zhaodong (張兆東), Cheng Youlong (程有龍), Liu Bin (劉斌), and others. However, while Cheng Youlong (his eldest son) and Liu Bin are considered disciples of Cheng Tinghua, Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong are considered disciples of Cheng Tinghua's master Dong Haichuan (董海川); in addition, Guo Zhushan (郭鑄山), who learned from Cheng Youlong, and Liu Zhenzong (劉振宗), who learned from Liu Bin, are considered disciples of Cheng Tinghua as well. Furthermore, Cheng Tinghua's second son Cheng Youxin (程有信), who was very young when Cheng Tinghua passed away, is also considered a disciple of his father, although he likely learned very little from him. What is going on?

Lineage has always been a characteristic feature of Chinese martial arts that remains important today as a partial method of determining a practitioner's authenticity; thus, it is useful to understand this somewhat complex idea. Basically, lineage consists of the following principles:
  • Lineage, at its most basic, is a formal teacher-student relationship similar to a father-son relationship
  • Lineage also acts as an "entry point" to a formal school (or family)
  • Lineage also preserves Confucian hierarchy, as per generations, as an extension of the father-son relationship that it emulates; a corollary of this rule is that actual parent-child relationships are automatically also equal to master-disciple relationships
  • Lineage is principally singular; one can have only one master (i.e., one cannot have more than one lineage)

Participation in a special baishi (拝師) ceremony, the details of which differ greatly by lineage and by master, differentiates simple teacher-student relationships from the master-disciple relationship. Once a disciple is formally inducted into a particular lineage, the disciple has permission to learn from the master (or learn more than other students from the master), as well as having implicit permission to learn from other students of the same lineage.

In some cases, a disciple may not learn from his master at all, or may have never even met him; these special cases are in general a result of an effort to preserve Confucian senior-junior hierarchy. It may be useful to label special types of discipleship to simplify discourse, as elucidated below.

Honorary Disciple:

Sometimes, teacher and student are of similar age, and in such a situation, a normal master-disciple relationship is not possible. In this case, the teacher asks his own master to make the student a disciple.

Similarly, if the student is already a lineaged disciple of another art, the generation relationships must be preserved - for example, if a 2nd generation baguazhang teacher wants to teach a 2nd generation xingyiquan teacher, the teacher cannot become the student's master, because they would be of the same generation.

Some examples of this kind of disciple include Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong, who were originally of the xingyiquan (形意拳) school. Although they learned from Cheng Tinghua, since the three were of the same generation (and sworn blood brothers), Cheng could not have made Li and Zhang his disciples; thus, Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong are considered disciples of Dong Haichuan, although they most likely did not learn anything from Dong. Another example is that of Guo Zhushan - Cheng Tinghua's son Cheng Youlong taught Guo Zhushan, but Guo Zhushan was already a xingyiquan disciple of Li Cunyi, making them both the same generation (as Cheng Tinghua and Li Cunyi were sworn brothers). As a result, Cheng Youlong taught Guo Zhushan in his father's name, making him Guo a disciple of Cheng Tinghua.

Posthumous Disciple:

When a teacher wishes to make his student a disciple of his own master but his master has already passed away, the teacher can hold a special ceremony anyway, officially making the student an official member of the lineage.

One example of this kind of disciple is Liu Zhenzong, who was good friends with and learned baguazhang primarily from Liu Bin. As Cheng Tinghua had already passed away when Liu Bin wanted to make Liu Zhenzong an official member of the baguazhang lineage, he had Liu Zhenzong made into a disciple of Cheng Tinghua. Another example is Si Gentiao (司根條), who was a good friend of Dong's disciple Liang Zhenpu (梁振蒲). Although Liang had intended to ask Dong to take Si as his disciple, by the time Si reached Beijing, Dong had already passed away; as a result, Liang took Si to Dong's grave and held the ceremony to make Si a disciple of Dong, although his baguazhang came from Liang.

Familial Disciple:

In most cases, a parent-child relationship is also considered a master-disciple relationship as the Confucian master-disciple relationship is modeled after the father-son familiar relationship already. In some cases, even if the child in actuality principally learned from others (not the parent), they are still considered disciples of the parent.

Some examples of this kind of disciple include Cheng Youxin, who was the second son of Cheng Tinghua (Cheng Tinghua died when Cheng Youxin was but a child) and Yin Yuzhang, who was the fourth son of Yin Fu (Yin Fu died when Yin Yuzhang was young as well).

In some cases, a parent gives his child to another lineage member of the same generation to become the master of his child. This is one of the few cases in which a person may thus in a way hold more than one lineage.

An examples of this kind of disciple include Liu Xinghan (劉興漢), who was the son of Liu Zhenzong, but Liu Zhenzong asked Liu Bin to be his son's master, after teaching him as a child.

Although the special types of disciples are detailed above, it is in general silently acknowledged that the latter types of discipleship are inferior to the "standard" type of discipleship (of which the best would be the first disciple), as disciples of the latter types are often not well-known or not mentioned. In addition, much confusion occurs as certain disciples are said to be lineaged to a certain master, or another (for example, Zhang Zhaodong may be said to be Dong Haichuan's disciple or Cheng Tinghua's disciple). It is thus important to realize that lineage is not a simple question of "who taught who."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The City

Well, I didn't submit my module in time for the Contest! Various problems hindered my progress and I thus did not get very far (yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses)... but maybe next time!

In the meantime, there is a new collaboration probject of sort - The City! Basically, several people have gotten together to build the City of Cities, dividing it in wards for each person to administer himself. So far there are 5 participants, including me!

I have thus started working on some new backgrounds and walls, although drawing such takes time for me... At the least I will have to fix up some of the unfinished walls I have sitting around (cave walls, trees, etc.) so that I can use them. Of course, I am also considering just using walls and backgrounds that others have made already, which makes sense since the rest of the city might be using them! At this point, there aren't that many walls in there, though...

In terms of ideas, right now I am fiddling with the following:
  • Five sectors (northwest, northeast, southeast, southwest, and central)
  • A fully aquatic sector (sort of like an aquarium!) - the perfect place to use all my aquatic-themed art
  • A primarily human sector
  • A primarily elven sector
  • A primarily "reject" sector (dwarves, gnomes, and worse!)
  • A spooky (?) sector inhabited by...
  • An extra futuristic level in the sky, the "City in the Sky" inhabited by robots and...
  • Magical gates for travel between parts of the ward (and maybe out!)
  • An extra extradimensional level (or two)

The picture above is a little experiment on making new backgrounds for this new project. Hmm - doing complex things like grassy ground is rather fussy. Will have to redo that part later!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Li Shao'an (1888-1977)

Li Mengrui (李夢瑞), whose style name was Shao'an (少庵), was a native of Nancaiyuan Village, Haiyang County, Shandong Province (山東省海陽縣南才苑村). When he was young, he moved to Beijing to study and work at Shandong Restaurant (山東飯館). At the age of 20, he became a disciple of 2nd generation baguazhang exponent Liang Zhenpu (梁振蒲). He later became sworn brothers with Li Wenbiao (李文彪) (Cheng Tinghua's (程廷華) disciple), Liu Dongchen (劉棟臣) (Yin Fu's (尹福) disciple), and Big Broadsword Wang Wu (大刀王五) (i.e. Wang Zhengyi (王正誼), Six Combinations Boxing disciple of Li Fengyan (李鳳崗)); of these, unfortunately, both Li Wenbiao and Wang Zhengyi were killed during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Like his teacher Liang Zhenpu, Li Shao'an was good at Daishou (a special technique of the bagua school), so people called him Iron Arm Li #4 (鉄胳膞李四). In 1948 he returned to his hometown and worked as a farmer. Unfortunately, Li Shao'an never took disciples, although he sometimes taught others in the bagua school.

Li Shao'an, Guo Gumin (郭古民), and Li Ziming (李子鳴) were the most famous of Liang Zhenpu's disciples, and the three often trained and studied baguazhang together.