Origins and characteristics of Fan Family Baguazhang

by Wen Dasheng

Translated from Chinese and edited by Jarek Szymanski; photos - Jarek Szymanski and courtesy of Mr. Wen Dasheng; © J.Szymanski 1999

Fan Zhiyong


Fan Family Baguazhang was created by Fan Zhiyong (1840-1922) of   Zheng Bai Banner in Manchu nationality. Fan, also called “Fan the Madman”, started martial arts practice in hus childhood and for eight years learnt mainly Shaolin boxing and Tan Tui. Later, being already a skilful martial artist, Fan became Dong Haichuan’s disciple and studied Baguazhang with Dong. After years of hard practice, Fan received true transmission from his teacher and achieved a high level of skill. He was not only very powerful, but also proficient in free fighting and Qinna.

In 1898 Fan Zhiyong, invited by Liu Baozhen, moved with whole family to Gu’an County in Hebei Province, and stayed there for three years. At that time in Xi Hong Buddhist Temple he killed at a famous local gang leader, a bandit called “Hei Luozi” (Black Mule). This incident was witnessed by Fan’s daughter, Fan Fenglan, at that time fourteen years old.

In the first years of the Republic of China (1911-1949), Lu Jinggui in his “Complete Manual of Cao’s Baguazhang” in the part on Dong Haichuan, wrote: (...) the most famous of his disciples were six man: Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Ma Weiqi, Song Changrong, Liu Fengchun and Fan the Madman. Fan Zhiyong once spent 49 days in Prince Su Palace alone with Dong Haichuan where he learnt Buddhist and Taoist combined method called “Wu Ji Baguazhang”, also called “Nei Quan Baguazhang” (Inner Circle Baguazhang).

Inner Circle Baguazhang does not have fixed routines, but, everytime it is practiced it becomes a natural routine. However, since Fan Zhiyong practiced external boxing prior to Bagua studies, there are fixed weapons and empty hands routines in his style.

Inner Circle Baguazhang is practiced in a following way:

Beginners should first practice basic exercises like “Zhuang Gong” (Standing Pole Method) and “Dan Cao Zhang” (Single Technique Palm). Then, after a year of two, the teacher takes them to a room where they first pay respect to the pictures of Da Mo (Boddhidarma) and Dong Haichuan, and then the teacher leads them through exercise (this method is similar to that used in Qigong practice with the exception that in Qigong there are only few movements, while Fan family method has palm and fist techniques, body movements, footwork). The essentials for this method are: sincerity during practice, Intention guides all the movements, being natural. Length of practice depends on the basic skill of practitioner and his Wuxing (power of understanding).

Since Fan Family Baguazhang has exceptional teaching methods, therefore the teacher is very careful about choosing students and teaches them very strictly. For this reason there were only few practitioners of this style. Fan Zhiyong taught Wang Zhi, Ning Hongliang, Li Ziyan, Za Lifen, Ao Qinghua, Tao Yongfu, Fan Fenglan, Shi Qingsheng and others. However, most of them did not inherit the art, only Fan Fenglan and Shi Qingsheng passed it to few disciples.


Fan Fenglan (1884-1967) was Fan Zhiyong’s only daughter. She enjoyed high prestige in martial arts circles, especially among Baguazhang practitioners. She was one of Three Elders of Beijing Bagua circles in the sixties (along with Guo Gumin, Liang Zhenpu’s disciple; and Cheng Youxin, Cheng Tinghua’s son). Since she was very honest, sincere and kind person, people called her with respect Fan “Dagu” – Fan Old Aunt. Fan Fenglan learnt from her father since early age and, as she was a bright and diligent student, received true transmission from him and became inheritor of the complete art of Baguazhang. Her most famous disciples were Yi Shilin, Zhao Zhihai, Wang Zengku, Wang Yuan, Wang Gang and Wen Dasheng.

Fan Fenglan (Fan "Dagu"), Fan Zhiyong's daughter

Wen Dasheng, Fan Fenglan's disciple, practicing Jingang Da Li Fa


Wen Dasheng started his Fan Family Baguazhang practice at the age of fifteen. Since Fan Fenglan, when already old, realized that the art would vanish if taught according to traditional methods, she was teaching him using many examples, with all the details and explanations. In this way Wen was able to master Fan Family Old Palms and weapons routines. In the seventies Wen decided to systematize the style, and his first article on “The Eight Forms of Fan Family Bagua Rotating Palm for Beginners” was published in 1984. Later Wen Dasheng also published articles on Collapsing Palm of Fan Family Bagua, Eight Methods Linked Palms, Jin Gang (Vajra) Great Strength Method, Linked Broadsword Form, etc. Besides, Wen summarized Twenty Four Essentials (twenty four characters) of Fan’s Baguazhang.


Fan Family Baguazhang contains the following material:

  1. Ba Da Zhang Fa (Eight Big Palms Method):

    1. Ta Zhang (Collapsing Palm)

    2. Zhuang Zhang (Knocking Palm)

    3. Pi Zhang (Chopping Palm)

    4. Chuan Zhang (Piercing Palm)

    5. Zhuan Zhang (Rotating Palm)

    6. Huang Zhang (Swaying Palm)

    7. Rao Shen Zhang (Body Coiling Palm)

    8. Lian Huan Zhang (Linked Palm)

Wen Dasheng with Xiaozigun, one of Fan Family Bagua double weapons

Each of these Palms has eight Techniques, and each of the Techniques can change into eight Hands. Only the fifth Palm, Rotating Palm, is performed on the circle, the others use mainly San Jiao Bu (Triangle Step), Da Si Mian (Striking Four Sides), Cai Ba Fang (Stepping in Eight Directions) and Chuan Jiu Gong (Piercing Nine Palaces), while walking in the circle is a supplementary method. However the hand techniques, footwork, body movements, although free and full of changes, in the final analysis, are performed either along half a circle or full circle.

  1. The fist routines include: Ben Zi Quan (Form on the pattern of character “Ben” – Root), Wu Xing Baguaquan (Five Elements Eight Trigram Fist), Ba Fa Lianhuan Zhang (Eight Methods Linked Palms), etc.

  2. Weapons routines include: Xuan Huan Dao (Revolving Broadsword), Chuan Yun Jian (Cloud Piercing Sword), Bagua Dao (Bagua Broadsword), Zhong Zi Qiang (Spear on the pattern of character “Zhong” – Middle), Duan Hun Qiang (Soul Breaking Spear), Chun Qiu Dao (Spring and Autumn Hallebard), Zhuang Yuan Bi (First Scholar’s Pen), Bagua Chui (Bagua Hammer), Ba Fa Xiaozigun (Eight Methods Flail), Lian Huan Shuang Dao (Linked Double Broadswords), Wu Ji Shuang Jian (Wu Ji Double Sword), etc.

  3. Practice Methods (Gong Fa) include: Wu Ji Zhuang (Wu Ji Standing Pole), Jin Gang Da Li Fa (Vajra Great Strength Method), Kao Zi (Shoulder Striking), Chuan Shou (Piercing Hands), etc.

  4. Supplementary exercises include: Dou Daqiang (Long Spear Shaking), Ning Bangzi (Cudgel Twisting), Da Shadai (Sandbag Striking), etc.

End of "Origins and Characteristics of Fan Family Baguazhang"; © J.Szymanski 1999


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