Touring and Training in China – continued
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
Interview with Feng
Xiu Qian Laoshi, daughter of the founder of the Hun Yuan Tai Chi System
It is always a reluctant goodbye to Wudang as it holds enormous
charm for those who appreciate Chinese culture and the beauty of these
mountains. It was only a two hour drive to Xiang Fan, an old dusty
town. We had a spicy meal that we all enjoyed and then off to Hotel
Vienna. The following day, we flew to Beijing, the last leg of the
Arriving to grey skies in the capital was not the most pleasant
welcome. However, the scale of the new Beijing Airport was
monumental. Even the weather could not dampen our sense of awe.
Beijing is fast becoming a city of the 21st century. With a
population nearing twenty million, it pulsates with energy and power.
It still has its imperial past on display, in the form of enormous walls
and ancient buildings that speak volumes of a powerful and well
next morning, we were greeted with blue skies and warm weather – a
charming day to train with the effervescent Feng Xiu Qian Laoshi
(teacher), daughter of Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang, founder of our
Hun Yuan Tai Chi system. We trained in the Heavenly Temple Park which
covers 270 hectares. The grounds include the Heavenly Temple with its
old walls, peaceful gardens and ancient trees – a truly inspirational
setting. Feng Laoshi guided us through the fa soong qong (deep
relaxation), qigong, chan si gong (silk reeling) and the Hun Yuan Tai
Chi 24 form. Our trusty guide Vincent was there to help in the
translation of the important principles and philosophy behind the
in Beijing, I was able to interview Feng Laoshi to find out more about
her and her training. Feng Laoshi is the third daughter of four girls.
She has been training for about 30 years. At first, she did not like
her father’s gong fu (also commonly transliterated as kung fu)
training. As a young girl, she saw little of her father. He was busy
with work and instructing students in Tai Chi at night and on the
weekends. There were always people around who were studying with her
famous father. It was not until she became ill with work that she
decided to try Tai Chi.
child, Feng Laoshi was sickly and very introverted. Times were hard in
China. Food and medicine were in short supply. Her poor
constitution caused more health problems when she was employed in an
office, typing and sitting all day. She developed back and heart
problems. After seeing doctors and with no improvement, she decided to
try her father’s way. A month after she started her practice, she felt
better and was ready to resume work. The more she practised, the more
she could feel. Her energy improved to the point where her friends
hardly recognised her. No longer was she pale and sickly, she was now
vibrant and confident. She was a different person.
Laoshi’s father saw the changes and decided to train her himself. Now
he could see that she was determined and willing to persevere. At
first, she was learning from her father’s disciples. Feng Laoshi mentioned
that her father never praised her. He was very critical. At first she
found it difficult to accept. In Chinese they call this eating bitter.
Now she realised that he did this to develop her gong fu to a higher
level. If he was always praising her, she would not be able to go deep
in the training. To go deep means being able to see beyond the external
appearance of the practice and experience its essence.
journey to achieving gong fu in Tai Chi, you come to a certain level
where you are able to calm down. Feng Laoshi suggested this could be
easier for women because they are softer and more sensitive, and thus
more able to relax and capture the feeling of the training. Men tend to
be tense and have more pressures in general. In Chinese culture, men
are often referred to as mountain and women as water. In Tai Chi, it is
said that by accumulating more and more softness, we gradually achieve
hardness. When you practise correctly, you will begin to combine the
yin and yang energies to produce warmth in the Dan Tian in the abdomen.
As your practice develops, you will have many different sensations. It
is important that we do not look for these things. When the conditions
are right, the feelings will arise naturally. Sometimes people hear
about all these amazing phenomena and want to chase after them. If you
keep thinking too much, you will not be feeling. Just practise.
on Her Father
first, Feng Laoshi did not understand her father. She actually
resented his Tai Chi activities. It was only later that she saw him in
a different light. He was looking after his wife, four children and
running a large factory. He had a lot of responsibilities and was
respected by his co-workers and students alike.
Laoshi considered her father to be a very virtuous man. In
Chinese culture, philosophers such as Lao Tzu, Confucius and Chuang Tzu
regarded virtue as one of the hallmarks of an accomplished person.
Virtue means doing something good for its own sake; doing good because
it feels right and accords with laws of nature. This quality is
enhanced through the practice of arts such as Tai Chi. A good master
would not pass his knowledge to a person of questionable character, even
for a great sum of money. People of virtue always try to keep a good
standard, no matter what. When Grandmaster Feng was challenged by a
young ruffian, he controlled his power and simply unbalanced the
attacker without causing serious harm. He could have quite easily
hurt this man.
Grandmaster Feng recommends the practice of xiu lian (self
cultivation). He encourages students to develop mindfulness and to try
to amend shortcomings they may have. This practice will sharpen
and purify your energy. Feng Laoshi stated that her father's
virtues include a deep level of gong fu (mastery of his art) and
bravery. His deep understanding of the principles is expressed through
his ability to apply his gong fu in different situations. He never
shows fear and always defends the weak. Intelligence alone is not
enough to enable us to implement this knowledge. It also requires
courage. Only when your gong fu is deep will you feel calm in the face
of danger. If you want to learn from a real master, you will also need
to have virtue.
Requirements to Achieving a Good Level of Practice
Developing gong fu needs the time and accumulation of daily practice.
When you stop, you break the connection. Finding the correct path
to good training requires a good teacher. There are many twists
and turns along
the path. A good teacher will always find your weaknesses and
correct you, thus helping you to improve.
movement until you know it well and it feels natural. The
movements are based on principles which in turn are based on nature.
Nature follows the Tao (the Way). The more you practise according
to the principles, the closer you are to the Tao. Tai Chi is based
on 13 kinetic movements:
- the 5
directions: left, right, forwards, backwards, centre, and
- the 8 energies:
pung, lu, ji, an, tsia, li, jou, khor (ward off, roll back, press, push,
uproot, split, elbow, "shoulder".
well individually, then combine them
and your form will be good.
Learn to communicate with the Dan Tian. As the energy grows stronger,
the Dan Tian becomes warmer. Other important areas include the
kidneys, Ming Mum (Gate of Life) and the perineum. The more you
practise, the more you will feel these centres of the body. Before we
are born, our nutrients come from our parents. Once we are born,
we take in nutrients from nature through air and food. Our training
enables us to absorb more energy from nature. Training is about
transforming jing (essence) to qi (energy) to shen (spirit or greater
consciousness and vitality). Essence is drawn from the organs and
refined in the Dan Tian into qi. Eventually, qi is further refined into
vitality or spirit. This process is called Hun Yuan and comes from time
of the Yellow Emperor.
Discovering the Art in Health or Martial Arts
Tai Chi training is endless. There is
always a higher mountain to climb. The more you practise, the more you
see there is to learn. Once the basic principles and techniques are
mastered, you can use them in many more creative ways. Reaching the
stage where your Tai Chi becomes an art means you have transcended the
limitations of form and are now able to embody and express its
principles in everything that you do. Most arts deal with various
objects such as wood in sculpture or paint in art. Our art is the human
body, mind and spirit. This is high level art. Watching Grandmaster
Feng practise is like watching an artist expressing his masterpiece on
the canvas of the human body. Every movement expresses power and grace,
evoking feelings of joy and tranquillity.
Unfortunately, in our modern world, most people are driven by profit,
not virtue. This is confusing and it becomes harder to distinguish the
real masters. Virtue sounds so old fashioned in today’s internet savy society.
However, some values hold true and enable us to become better people,
regardless of time. Grandmaster Feng's teachers, Hu Yao Zhen
(1879-1973) and Chen Fa Ke (1887-1957), were people who refined
themselves and embodied the principles of their arts. They are still
respected for the legacy they left behind and which Grandmaster Feng
(1928- ) continues. The more you cultivate yourself, the more virtuous
you become and the greater your influence. I hope you all practise well
and understand the true flavour of the Hun Yuan system and become a
beacon of light in your communities.