Brief Introduction to Yin Yang Bapanzhang

by Jarek Szymanski

Photos - Jarek Szymanski and from author's collection; J.Szymanski 2001

Yin Yang Bapanzhang (Yin Yang Eight Basins Palms) is a martial art usually classified as a branch of Baguazhang (Eight Trigram Palm). Although the practitioners of the former art claim that their style has been developed independently of Dong Haichuan's teachings,  Prof. Kang Gewu, martial arts researcher from Beijing, proved that actually Bapanzhang came from Dong Haichuan through Liu Baozhen, one Dong's disciples from Wen'an County in Hebei Province. Below is the version that Yin Yang Bapanzhang followers introduced in two books describing the style: "Yin Yang Bapanzhang" written by Ren Zhicheng and published in 1937, and "Yin Yang Bapanzhang (Original Baguazhang of Qing Period)" written by Zheng Wen (Lu Zhongren's pen-name; Lu studied from Xiao Haibo) and Ren Wenzhu (Ren Zhicheng's grand-disciple, student of Gao Junkui and Liu Hushan; I plan to interview Mr. Ren Wenzhu in the next months) and published in 1987. Professor Kang Gewu's version will be presented later.


The are two explanations of the name of the art - "Bapanzhang". Ren Wenzhu and Zheng Wen say that the name "Bapanzhang", often translated as Eight Basins Palms or Eight Coiling Palms, is actually derived from the theory of the style, which names eight parts of human body as "Eight Basins" (Ba Pan). These parts are: Shoulders, Elbows, Wrists, Hips, Knees, Ankles, Chest and Belly. There are specific requirements for practice of each of these parts and trigrams are related to them. Ren Zhicheng gives very similar explanation in his book:

"Ba Pan originally comes from eight postures and for this reason (the martial art) is called Ba Pan.

Ren Zhicheng in Earth Basin Posture (Di Pan Shi)

After martial arts practitioner makes his power complete (Zheng, e.g. focused power of the whole body), his steps follow and hands are accurate, eyes clear and heart firm, then it is said that he achieved Six Harmonies (Liu He) and only then he can cross hands with others. When he crosses hands with a martial artist, it is called 'Coiling Fists and Crossing Hands' (Pan Quan Guo Shou) and for this reason it is known as Ba Pan (Eight Coils, Ba Pan). There is a division into Upper Four Pan and Lower Four Pan. The upper ones are divided into Exiting (Chu, Wrist [1]), Entering (Ru, Elbow), Retreating (Tui, Shoulder), Canopy (Huagai, Chest), the lower ones are divided into Earth (Di, Ankle), Hanging (Xuan, Knee), Void (Kong, Hip) and Turtle-dove's Tail [2] (Jiu Wei, Belly)".


The art was passed in nineteenth century by Dong Linmeng (Dong Menglin; also called Bi Dengxia) in Henan Province to his three disciples: Xue Yonghe, Li Zhenqing and Dong Hanqing (said to be another name of Dong Haichuan). Li Zhenqing (ab.1830-1900; native of Ba County in Hebei Province) learnt the art about 1850 and in the 1870s brought it to his hometown.

Li Zhenqing's three most famous students were Liu Baozhen, Xiao Haibo and Ren Zhicheng, author of famous book "Yin Yang Bapanzhang".

Liu Baozhen [3] (1870-1944) originally studied Chuojiao Fanzi boxing (a martial art famous for kicking techniques) from Ma and Zhang, two teachers from Shunying. Later he became Li Zhenqing's first disciple to study Yin Yang Bapanzhang, but then he began his Baguazhang studies under Dong Haichuan. Today Liu's lineage is represented by Guo Zhenya, whose father, Guo Mengshen, was Liu Baozhen's disciple.

Ren Zhicheng in Zi Xing Posture, aimed at developing leg skills

Xiao Haibo (1863-1954) became famous in Beijing martial arts circles for fighting skills and taught Yin Yang Bapanzhang in Prince Zhuang mansion. He modified the style into so-called Xiao's Bapanzhang. His most well-known student was Lu Zhongren from Tianjin, who created a new fighting system called "Lu's Structure", based on Bapanzhang, Xingyiquan and western science (anatomy and physiology).

Ren Zhicheng (1878-1967) was one of Li Zhenqing's last disciples and learnt the art together with his three brothers. Ren wrote a book "Yin Yang Bapanzhang" (he actually dictated the book to his student, Gao Zhikai - also known as Gao Junkui - who wrote it down) and published it in 1937 at his own expense.

The art is still popular mainly in Wen'an County, where Ren Wenzhu, one of most famous experts of Yin Yang Bapanzhang, has his martial arts school.


According to Xiao Haibo, from the times Yang style Taijiquan became famous in Beijing, there was a saying among martial artists: "Taiji, Xingyi Five Elements, Yin Yang Bagua". Baguazhang (and Bapanzhang) had always two characters "Yin Yang" preceeding their names. This Yin and Yang idea is also expressed in techniques:

  1. Hand Method - according to "Yin Exits Yang Enters" (Yin Chu Yang Ru) principle the hand that moves out (Rising Hand, Qi Shou) is turned upwards (Tuo Zhang - Supporting Palm), while the falling hand (Luo Shou) is turned downwards or slightly slant (Li Zhang - Standing Palm). Bapanzhang practitioners usually use Supporting Palm to strike and very rarely use Falling Hand.

Ren Zhicheng performing Gua Tui (Sweeping Leg) technique belonging to a matched set described in his book

  1. Footwork - is called Yin Yang Toes Out Toes In (Yin Yang Bai Kou) - the step using toes turned outside is called "Yin - Toes Out" (Yin Bai), while the one using toes turned in - "Yang - Toes In" (Yang Kou). Li Zhenqing called it "Yin Collapsed Yang Toes In" (Yin Ta Yang Kou). Yin Yang Bapanzhang practitioners do not use popular Mud Wading Steps (Tang Ni Bu, in which inner leg makes step forward in straight line while the outer leg makes toe-in step and the footwork is  accompanied by so-called Jianzi Gu - Scissor Thighs), but so-called "Little Steps" (Xiao Cai Bu) composed of Bai Bu and Kou Bu (inner foot uses Bai Bu while outer one - Kou Bu). Each step contains several powers, of which Lifting (Ti), Stepping on (Cai), Hooking (Gou), Sweeping (Gua), Kicking (Ti, Chuai) are the most important ones. Although Sun Lutang in his "Study of Baguaquan" (published in 1916) did not mention Mud Wading Step, however his postures with weight slightly on the rear leg show influence of Xingyiquan. According to Xingyiquan practitioner Liu Weixiang (1862-1936), at the end of nineteenth century experts of Taijiquan (Liu Dekuan), Baguazhang (Cheng Tinghua) and Xingyiquan (Geng Jishan, Liu Weixiang and Li Cunyi) met in Beijing and became sworn brothers. They decided to combine their arts into one family. Only since that time "Mud Wading Step" has become very popular among Baguazhang practitioners and it was heavily influenced by strong straight steps of Xingyiquan [4].

  2. Main Contents - There are eight basic, primary postures in Bapanzhang called "Eight Big Postures" (Ba Da Shi): 1.Horse Riding Posture (Jia Ma Shi), 2.Overturning Eagle Posture (Ying Fan Shi), 3.Piercing Palm Posture (Chuan Zhang Shi), 4.Walking Posture (Zi Xing Shi), 5.Earth Basin Posture (Di Pan Shi), 6.Moving Like A Dragon Posture (Long Xing Shi), 7.Jumping Monkey Posture (Hou Zong Shi), 8.Passing Through Forest Posture (Chuan Lin Shi); besides, there are also seven secondary postures related to each of primary ones. These secondary postures are called "Small Postures" (Xiao Shi). Altogether there are sixty four empty hand movements. Apart from empty hand routines there are also weapon sequences, of which most famous are: Four Feet Two Inches Eight Coils Broadsword (Si Chi Er Cun Bapan Dao) and Double Headed Snake Spear (Shuang Tou She Qiang).


[1] Names of the parts of the body were added by me according to a drawing in Ren Zhicheng's book.

[2] Zheng Wen and Ren Wenzhu use different character for Jiu than Ren Zhicheng. Ren Zhicheng in his book uses incorrect character meaning "Nine", while Zheng Wen and Ren Wenzhu - meaning "Turtle-dove". "Turtle-dove's Tail" is the point at solar plexus.

[3] According to the "Dictionary of Martial Arts Personages" Liu was expert at broadsword and was known as "Liu Flying Broadsword" (Fei Dao Liu). He worked for the Gu'an County magistrate and was famous for catching many local bandits. One of them, known as "King of Bandits" became Liu's disciple. However, since Liu was afraid that the "King" was not loyal to him, he killed the "King" secretly. Later ashamed of this murder, Liu left the society to become buddhist monk.

[4] When I interviewed Mr.Wen Dasheng (please see the article on Fan Family Baguazhang) in 1998 he mentioned that Fan style Bagua practitioners also used Xiao Cai Bu prior to 1960s. Only after Fan Fenglan passed away in 1967 Wen Dasheng received some pointers from Guo Gumin (1887-1968, Liang Zhenpu's  disciple) and changed the footwork into "Mud Wading Step".

End of "Brief introduction to Yin Yang Bapanzhang"; J.Szymanski 2000



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