Origins and features of Bagua Taijiquan

Based on articles by Qiao Hongru and Chen Lixin; translated from Chinese and edited by Jarek Szymanski, photos: J.Szymanski; © J.Szymanski 1999

Bagua Taijiquan has been taught by Guo Zhushan, the third generation master of Baguazhang, and become popular in Jinan (capital of North China Shandong Province) and Tianjin areas. Although transmitted within Bagua tradition, the style belongs to Taijiquan.


Bagua Taijiquan comes from Yang Family Boxing; first Yang Luchan passed it to Xia Guoxun, Xia taught Liu Dekuan (nicknamed "Liu Big Spear"), Liu taught Cheng Haiting (Cheng Tinghua's oldest son), who passed it to Guo Zhushan (disciple of Cheng Tinghua and Li Cunyi) and Jiang Xinshan. It is said that Xia Guoxun was Yang Luchan's son-in-law so he must have received true transmission; Xia and Liu Dekuan were sworn brothers; Liu, Cheng Tinghua and Li Cunyi were also sworn brothers through Jinlan ceremony. Because of these close relations Bagua Taijiquan is said to relatively well preserve the original appearance of taijiquan. Since Guo Zhushan and Cheng Haiting were kungfu brothers and very skilful Bagua practitioners, they put some Bagua movements, kicks, etc. into Taijiquan, so that the flavour has changed. Since Cheng Haiting passed away early, Bagua Taijiquan that is known nowadays has been researched and developed by Guo Zhushan, who then passed it to Zhang Wanying, Jing Dewai, Qiao Hongru and others.

Guo Zhushan was born in Tianjin in 1901. His father, Guo Tiancheng, had a machine factory there, was very wealthy and was often inviting famous martial artists to stay at his mansion. Masters like Li Cunyi, Liu Dekuan, Zhang Zhankui, Li Kuiyuan and other were frequent guests. One of them, famous Bagua master, Cheng Haiting (also called Cheng Youlong) spent over ten years at Guo's house and was treating Guo Zhushan like his own brother.

On this rare photo - Cheng Haiting (Cheng Youlong), Cheng Tinghua's oldest son

Guo became Li Cunyi's official disciple at the age of eight and started to practice Xingyiquan first. Li Cunyi even took young Guo as his adopted son. However later, because of serious illness of legs, Guo took up Bagua Taijiquan Neigong (Internal Practice) under Cheng Haiting. Cheng taught him in the name of his father, Cheng Tinghua, so Guo Zhushan has been considered Cheng Tinghua's disciple. Practice of Bagua Taijiquan had miraculous effect on Guo, who at the beginning was able to exercise only in bed, and then, when his health improved, while sitting and standing, until he recover completely.

Later famous Wudang Sword master, Li Jinglin, asked Guo to teach Bagua Taijiquan to Li's sons and daughters.

In 1931 Guo moved to Jinan in Shandong Province and lived there until 1966, when he moved back to Tianjin. He passed away in 1968.

The name "Bagua Taijiquan" was decided in 1958. Qiao Hongru who originally studied Yang style Taijiquan, while learning the routine passed by Guo, realized that this Taijiquan has many Baguazhang features and as such differs from typical Taijiquan branches. Qiao suggested to change the name of the routine into Bagua Taijiquan, e.g. Taijiquan practiced within the style of Baguazhang, or Taijiquan that has Baguazhang features. Qiao's teacher, Guo Zhushan, agreed and since then the style has been called Bagua Taijiquan.


Bagua Taijiquan is a part of Bagua Taiji Boxing, which contains specific practice methods, empty hand routines, straight sword, pushing hands, etc. Bagua Taiji Gong is a set of eight exercises (it has been designated as universal practice method in Shandong Province by Qigong Scientific Research Association of Shandong Province); Bagua Taijiquan routines include simplified set (24 movements), Bagua Taijiquan in 128 movements and Kun Bagua Taijiquan in 118 movements; Bagua Taijijian (sword) in 54 movements; fixed and moving step Tuishou (pushing hands), San Shou (Free Fighting).


Analyzing the traditional 128-movements routine, one can notice that it actually has 88 different postures (other are repetitions), e.g. almost 70% of all movements, while for popular Taijiquan styles the proportion is only about 50%. This is also one of Bagua Taijiquan features. Out of these 88 movements, a half have names different from popular Taiji styles, while the others are practiced differently.


Main difference between Bagua Taijiquan and popular Taijiquan lies in the influence Cheng style Baguazhang had on the former. Many movements are based on Bagua techniques, footwork, spiral movements of hands, kicks in their majority come from Bagua. Since these movements are designed to stretch tendons, Bagua Taijiquan can also "stimulate the circulation of the blood and cause the muscles and joints to relax".


Bagua Taijiquan puts strong emphasis on single movements practice, which is the key for mastering the whole system.

  1. Single movements practice without partner - movements like Da Lan Que Wei (Big Grasp the Bird's Tail), Yun Shou (Wave Hands like Clouds), Da Bai He Liang Chi (Big White Crane Spreads its Wings), Teng Kong Ao Bu (Jump and Twist Step), Yan Zi Xi Shui (Swallow Plays in Water), San Yan Zhou (Three Hidden Elbows) etc. can be practiced in a row on both sides, similar to Five Elements Fists of Xingyiquan. In this way the movements are better "absorbed", understood and practitioner's level is increased. For example Big White Crane Spreads its Wings is composed of the following movements: Zhan Chi (Spreading Wings), Jiang Chi (Lowering Wings), Sheng Chi (Rising Wings), Dou Chi (Shaking Wings) and Liang Chi (Showing Wings); first four can be practiced on both sides. These movements are very effective in free fighting. Grasp the Bird's Tail in the routine has only two variations, Middle and Small, while in the single practice Peng (Warding) is divided into Big, Small and Middle, with fixed or moving steps. Ji (Press) includes pressing with wrist, elbow and shoulder. The sequence of Peng (Ward), Ji (Press), Lü (Roll back) and An (Push) is exactly the same as in Tuishou (Pushing Hands) exercises, while in popular Taijiquan the sequence is Peng, Lü, Ji and An.

  2. Single movements practice with partner - is a good fundament for Pushing Hands practice; it includes Huang Ying Luo Jia (Oriole Lands on Rack) (Da Lü - Big Ward), Yun Kai Shou (Wave and Open Hands like Clouds), Ye Ma Fen Zong (High Pat on Horse). Usually Da Lü practice exists in all Taijiquan styles, while practice with partner of Yun Kai Shou and Ye Ma Fen Zong can be found only in Bagua Taijiquan.

  3. Short sequences practice - four movements (Wan Gong She Yan - Bend Bow and Shoot Wild Goose, Zai Chui - Falling Fist, Gai Ma Chui - Horse Covering Fist, Wo Hu Ting Feng - Lying Tiger Listens to Wind) are often practiced as a sequence; most of the movements in the routine are done only on one side; practice in a sequence allows to master certain techniques on both sides.

  1. Breath naturally and relax - breathing should be natural through nose, tongue should touch upper palate; after a basic skill is acquired, breathing should be co-ordinated with Rising and Falling,  Opening and Closing; first relax shoulders/hips, then elbows/knees, then hands/feet;

  2. Move Qi with Mind and body with Qi - Mind is responsible for Intent, movements should be directed by Intent, movements should direct Qi. Movement of Intent and Qi is guided by eyesight. The usage of eyesight can be divided into directed at objects and reversed. The former is used to look at a certain part of the body during practice; the latter can be directed at Dantian, meridians, etc. Correct combination of eyesight, Intent and movements is the key to correct practice of Bagua Taijiquan;

Guo Zhushan, student of Cheng Haiting, in practice

Bagua Taijiquan
  1. Movement and Stillness existing together, Round and Alive, in coordination - in all movements of Bagua Taijiquan, in Rising and Falling, Contracting and Expanding, movement Forward and Backward, Upward and Downward, there is Stillness in Movement and Movement in Stillness. Body has to be well co-ordinated according to Liu He (Six Combinations), arms and legs are like bows, all movements are round and soft;
  1. Stretching tendons and moving fingers, joints are strung together - the tips of the body (fingers, toes) shall move first in order to stretch tendons, then other joints are affected one after another; in case of arms, fingers move first, then they lead wrist, wrist leads elbow, elbow leads shoulder; this kind of movement has four advantages: first, all joints are affected and in this way all are exercised; second, because all joints are affected, ones one moves, all other move too; once one does not move, all others do not move either; third, since fingers/toes are traditionally considered to be tips of tendons, then moving fingers/toes promotes tendon stretching; fourth, since arms/legs move first, and only then body is affected and follows, this is in conformity with Taijiquan classics; the root is in feet, (power) is delivered through legs, spreads to both arms, takes shape in both hands. If one practices this boxing for long time, s/he will naturally have skill in her/his hands;

Qiao Hongru performing Bagua Taijiquan during First International Baguazhang Conference in Beijing, 1993

  1. There is Rising and Falling in movements, Opening and Closing, Expanding and Contracting - all movements of Bagua Taijiquan have Rising and Falling, Opening and Closing, Expanding and Contracting; Rising and opening, Falling and Closing are usually combined together, while Expanding and Contracting are hidden within Rising and Falling, Opening and Closing; while Rising, the power should move to the top of the head along neck, shoulders should relax, all joints should rise as if carrying a load on a shoulder; while Falling, belly should relax and Qi sink, toes should grasp the ground, all joints relax and fall down; while Opening whole body should expand, while Closing - relax and contract; Rising and Falling, Opening and Closing is one of Bagua Taijiquan features;

  2. Advancing and Retreating, Empty and Solid clearly distributed - Empty and Solid clearly distributed is  a common requirement for all Taiji styles, however Bagua Taijiquan has its own way of changing between Empty and Solid; for example, in Gong Bu (bow and arrow stance), front shank moves first and affects front thigh, and then torso moves, which drives rear thigh and rear shank; in Gong Bu original movement is in front and all joints are driven forward, this is called "Stepping forward and not backward"; if Gong Bu changes into Xu Bu (Empty Step) by sitting down, then the order of movements is reversed - first rear leg bends and rear shank relaxes, then afects rear thigh, torso, front thigh and front shank, so that center of gravity shifts from front leg onto rear one; this is called "Stepping backward and not forward". This method exercises legs and teaches power transmission; this is of course practice method, while in application one should look for Zheng Jin (Complete Power of Whole Body).

End of "Origins and Features of Bagua Taijiquan"; © J.Szymanski 1999

Following VCDs on Bagua Taijiquan are available through this website:

Taiji Gong (Basic Methods) First Routine Second Routine Third Routine
Fourth Routine Pushing Hands and Free Fighting Routines Demonstrations

Click here to order

HomeAbout meUpdatesTaijiBagua Xinyi-XingyiOther Styles News Store CommunityEmail

© Jarek Szymanski 1999-2002. All rights reserved

© 2002. All rights reserved