Excerpts from "The Book of Chang Family Boxing" by Chang Naizhou

Translation from Chinese, biography of Chang Naizhou and notes - Jarek Szymanski; J.Szymanski 2000-2002


The Biography of Chang Naizhou

Based on the "Dictionary of Chinese Martial Arts Personages" and "Si Shui County Gazetteer" (fragments published in 12/1998 edition of  "Wuhun" magazine; by Song Maoyuan); translated from Chinese and edited by Jarek Szymanski; J.Szymanski 2000-2002

Chang Naizhou (1724-1783) also called Luochen, Chuncheng or "Third Chang" (Chang San), originator of Chang Family Boxing. Chang was born in Sishui (today's Xingyang) in Henan Province as a descendant of Ming dynasty (1368-1644) commander, Chang Shouzhong. Under family's influence (especially his oldest brother, Chang Shizhou) Chang studied first literature, including classical texts of Zhou Yi (e.g. Yi Jing, Book of Change).  Later he took up martial arts  study. During the reign of emperor Qianlong (1735-1795), Chang Naizhou was third in Junjieshi (hero) cathegory in military examinations. After he grew up, he learnt spearplay and boxing from Yu Rang. Yu Rang taught him the techniques of Huanhou Spear (also called Yi De Big Spear), which were kept secret within Yu clan. Chang also learnt stick fighting from Liang Dao as well as Luohan Boxing and internal skills from Yan Shengdao of Luoyang. Chang is also said to have visited Chenjiagou, Hua County and other places, exchanging skills with experts of local styles, including Taijiquan and Meihuazhuang (Plum Blossom Boxing). Later Chang also studied Forty Methods of Zi Quan and Monkey Staff in Thirty Two Postures.

With rich experience in martial arts and strong background in classical texts, Chang Naizhou created a new fighting method known as Chang Family Boxing (Chang Shi Wuji). Zhong Qi (Central Qi), described in Chang's "On Central Qi" text, is the core idea of the art. The fundamental method of Chang Family Boxing is Boxing in Twenty Four Characters (Er'Shi'Si Zi Quan). On the basis of Central Qi and Boxing in Twenty Four Characters, Chang developed advanced method of Twenty Four Great Battle Boxing (Er'Shi'Si Da Zhan Quan), using theories from the Book of Change as well as medical and boxing classics.

Chang Naizhou described his boxing in great detail in the book originally published in 1781. It contained two main parts: "On Nourishing Central Qi" (Peiyang Zhong Qi Lun) and "Martial References" (Wubei Cankao). The original text was divided into one hundred thirty one chapters and in the 30s of this century was edited by Xu Zhen* into seventy four chapters in six sections and published in 1936. Xu Zhen's compilation contains chapters "On Central Qi", "On Joining and Supporting of Yin and Yang", "On Moving Qi", "Methods for Beginners", "Spear Method" and others.

Chang Naizhou was not only famous for deep understanding of the theory of martial arts, but also for authentic boxing skills. There is a story about it:

"Chang Naizhou's wife was from a wealthy Qin clan in Henan province. Once, when Chang was visiting his wife's relatives, they wanted to test his skill, and threw a large (two feet in diameter) stone at him. Chang just waved his hand and the stone broke into pieces after contact with the hand. Seeing this, the face expressions of the relatives changed completely. Afterwards Naizhou went into the house using stone steps and all of them broke under his feet."

Chang taught not only his relatives, but also people from outside the family. One of them was Chai Rugui, who became famous for defending Si Shui against White Lotus army.

Chang Naizhou's book had great influence on the theory of other styles popular in 18th and 19th century in Henan province. Texts identical to some parts of Chang's books can be found in manuscripts of such Henan styles like Meihuazhuang and Xinyi Liuhe Quan (Mind-Intention Six Harmonies Boxing, a moslem branch of Xinyiquan). Although it has not been proved yet, Chang's text is probably the oldest one among them and was later adopted by practitioners of these styles.

*) Xu Zhen, also known as Zhedong (1898-1967), martial arts practitioner and researcher, author of many books in which he criticised the traditional versions of the history of Taijiquan and Shaolinquan. Along with Tang Hao, Xu Zhen is considered to be one of the most influencial martial arts researchers and historians in China. Read Xu Zhen's biography in the footnotes of this article.


Excerpts from "The Book of Chang Family Boxing"

by Chang Naizhou


Chinese reprint of Chang Naizhou's book is available through this site - click here!


On Central Qi

Translated from Chinese by Jarek Szymanski; J.Szymanski 2000

In the brackets I either put my own explanations or added certain words for better understanding (if in normal font); or put Pinyin (transliteration) for certain terms (in italics). All drawings come from "Chang Family Boxing".

Central Qi (Zhong Qi, Vital Energy of the Center) is the one that Taoist classics call Primary Yang (Yuan Yang) and medical books call Primary Qi (Yuan Qi). It resides in the center of human body. Hence in martial arts it is called Central Qi. This Qi is the Primordial True Qi (Xiantian Zhen Yi Qi).

If practiced in spiritual way (Wen, in stillness) it becomes Internal Elixir (Nei Dan). If practiced in martial way (Wu, in movement) it becomes External Elixir (Wai Dan). However no (people) achieved Internal Elixir without borrowing External Elixir (practice methods). This is because movement and stillness come one from the other. Gently Nourishing (Qi in stillness) is the appropriate method. The miracle of embryo creation (Jie Tai) and Returning to Original State (Huan Yuan) comes from this (method). Ordinary students do not know the origins of Central Qi and only devote their efforts to practice of external movements. (Those who) desire to reach high level of Qi development (literally "enter Primary Gate" - Ru Yuan Qiao), should not (only focus on external movements).

A human being receives Primordial Spirit (Xiantian Zhi Shen) by transforming Qi, gathers Qi by transforming Vitality (Jing). When mother and father have sexual intercourse the Vitality (is given) and at the beginning it condensates inside the Xuwei Point. Xuwei Point has navel in front and kidneys behind (e.g. lies between navel and kidneys). (It is) neither higher nor lower, towards the right or left, the front or back, not inclined to one side or another. It resides right in the center of the body. It is called Heavenly Root (Tian Gen) and Gate of Life (Ming Men). Book of Change (Yi Jing) calls it Taiji. True Yin and True Yang both reside there and Spirit (Shen) firmly holds on to it.

The capability of this Qi is clear. It brings into existence the spirits of Five Internal Organs (Wu Zang): Spirit (Shen) of the heart, Spirit (Hun) of the liver, Intention (Yi) of the spleen, Spirit (Po) of the lungs, Vitality (Jing) and Will (Zhi) of the kidneys. (All these spirits) are directed by this (Qi). Breathing yields to it. Inhaling Qi of Heaven and Earth, exhaling Qi of Five Internal Organs.

Exhaling starts from Gate of Life (Ming Men) and goes through kidneys, then liver, then spleen, then heart to lungs.

Inhaling starts from lungs and goes through heart, then spleen, then liver, then kidneys to Gate of Life.

Peach of Immortality Gives Longevity - "Yin" Character Posture (also referred to as Bending Forward Posture)

Twelve Main Channels (Jing) and fifteen Collateral Channels (Luo) are (Qi) circulating system. The main and collateral channels (Jingluo) are the paths of Qi and blood. When a man exhales, Qi and blood move by (the distance of) three inches. (One) breath is defined as (one) inhalation and (one) exhalation. (During one breath Qi and blood) move (by the distance of) six inches. A man during one day and one night takes thirteen thousand and five hundred breaths. In a day and night (Qi and blood) move by eight hundred and ten Zhang (unit of length, =3 and 1/3 m). Yang moves by twenty five degrees, Yin also moves by twenty five degrees, which is in total fifty degrees in one day and night. (Qi and blood) circulate within (all parts of the) body, come out of Internal Organs (Zangfu, e.g. Wuzang - Five Internal Organs: heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and Liufu - Six Hollow Organs: gallbladder, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, bladder and Sanjiao) and enter the channels, from channels flow into internal organs.

In this way two Poles (Yi) emerge, e.g. kidneys and bones [left kidney is Yang, right kidney is Yin].

Kidneys are the organs belonging to Water. Water creates Wood. Liver is the organ belonging to Wood, it produces tendons. Tendons are attached to bones. Thus when liver is created, tendons grow. Wood creates Fire. Heart is the organ belonging to Fire; it governs blood circulation. Fire creates Earth. Spleen is the organ belonging to Earth, it produces muscles. Earth creates Metal. Lungs are the organs belonging to Metal. They govern skin and hair. Thus when spleen is created, skin and hair grow. Five Internal Organs grow in this order. Six Hollow Organs are created in this order.

The Shape (Xing) comes into being because of True Qi (Zhen Yi Zhi Qi) combining in wonderful way - through concentration. It (e.g. Qi) moves into one hundred (e.g. all) bones and resides there. One but on the other hand two (e.g. Qi and Xing). Two but on the other hand one. They cannot leave (each other) even for a moment. Martial arts are like this. Shape is refined to achieve external harmony. Qi is refined to firm the inside. Solid and hard as iron. One acquires the body of Golden Elixir (Jin Dan) that can never be ruined, and transcends worldliness and attains holiness, ascends the highest level. Like clouds, (one) is not afraid of the enemy as he (the enemy) is so small.

On Joining and Supporting of Yin and Yang

Refining the Shape is not beyond Yin and Yang. How will one practice if Yin and Yang are not clear? The Du Channel in Taoist classics goes along the middle of the back and commands all Yang Channels. Ren Channel goes along the front of the body (Fu, literally: belly) and commands all Yin Channels. That is why back is considered Yang and front of the body is considered Yin. Both channels meet at Hui Yin at the bottom, and at the gums at the top. South and north, they are opposite like midnight and noon. Or like Kan trigram which resides at the center of north, and Li trigram that resides at the center of south, not easy to define.

Bending forward posture is a Yin posture, but it joins Yang Qi and is beneficial to Du Channel. It leads Qi of all Yang channels, and returns completely to the front of the top.

Bending backward posture is a Yang posture, but it joins Yin Qi and is beneficial to Ren Channel. It leads Qi of all Yin channels, and returns completely to the back of the top.

Rhinoceros Stares at the Moon - "Yang" Character Posture (also referred to as Bending Backward Posture)


On Moving Qi

The point of contact (Luo Dian) is hard and solid. Fierce and brave, irresistible. (It) relies on Qi of the whole body, but yet (Qi must) concentrate in one place. Nevertheless, it can be used without loss of Qi. It is harmful if Qi is lost or pulled. It means that one does not know the method of Moving Qi (Guo Qi). All Qi of the body has its beginning in the Gate of Life, which is the source of Qi. Qi is manifested in four ends, which fill with Qi. (Qi) flows along (its) paths. Generally (speaking) Qi must not be sluggish nor pulled and only then can flow beneficially (for health), be nimble and unfathomable.

Hence upper Qi is in the bottom, so the bottom (must) not be pulled (e.g. stopped) if (one) wants to move downwards.

Lower Qi is on the top, so the top must not be sluggished if (one) wants to move upwards.

Front Qi is in the back, so the front will naturally enter if (one) smoothens the back.

Back Qi is in the front, so the back will naturally go away if (one) regulates the front.

Left Qi is in the right, so pay attention to the right.

Right Qi is in the left, so pay attention to the left.

For instance, in straight strike with palm, Qi should flow forward. If the other hand is not pulled back by the elbow, (then) Qi is not allowed to flow forward from the back. In upward strike, if the other hand does not insert (e.g. move downward) and shoulder does not drop, (then) Qi is not allowed to flow upward from ribs.

Two Rainbows Spread Colors - "Cheng" Character Posture (Carrying Posture)

In separating techniques, if the chest does not open, then Qi is not allowed to flow backward. In embracing techniques, if the chest does not open (should be: close), then Qi is not allowed to wrap the front. While rising (Qi), (one) must hook the foot. While falling (Luo) (one) must draw back the crown of the head. Qi of left hand is in the right leg, Qi of right hand is in the left leg. In bending forward posture, tumbling posture and forward exploring posture, lift the heel of the rear foot. In dropping, sink arms. In lifting posture, turn over the feet. In tumbling, do not lift up feet (because you) may hit the ground with (your) head. In kicking do not straighten the leg, (but) consider drawing it back. Expand and strengthen it. All postures are like that.

To summarize it - during contact Qi moves to one place. (However) Qi does not come from one place. Its paths will be smooth only if (you) dredge its source and clear its course. (Your will) suffer from being sluggish (stagnant) or pulled Qi (and you will) not progress unless (you) advance gradually and dig in at every step, .

On Coupling Hardness with Softness

Each posture, within three points, has always one point of contact. Qi, within three extremes, has always one when it is used. This is called (when) revolving, Yin turns into Yin with Yang in-between, and Yang turns into Yang with Yin in-between.

Place of contact is the place where Qi gathers and blood condensates, (to where they) move. Appropriate use of hard method (means) combining Yin and Yang (and) this benefits Qi circulation. Appropriate use of soft method does not go beyond this (either). If using only hard method Qi is seized all over the body, stagnant and not nimble. The point of contact is certainly neither fierce nor brave. If using only soft method, Qi is dispersed and not gathered and there is no place it goes to. Point of contact is not hard nor solid. (When one) should use hardness but (there is still some) softness (at the same time), then Qi does not (completely) concentrate; (When one) should use softness but (there is still some) hardness (at the same time), then Qi does not (completely) disperse.

White Crane Spreads Wings - "Kai" Character Posture (Opening Posture)


(This person) has not received the secret of coupling (hardness with softness). Hence (that who is) good at using hardness and softness is like a dragonfly skimming the surface of the water; just touches it lightly and immediately flies upwards. Move Qi like a windmill, rotate and roll (it) without stopping. In this way hardness and softness are used properly. Only then one will not suffer from deficient and not firm, unsmooth, not nimble Qi.

End of "Excerpts from 'Book on Chang Family Boxing' by Chang Naizhou - Part One"; J.Szymanski 2000



HomeAbout meUpdatesTaijiBagua Xinyi-XingyiOther Styles News Store CommunityEmail

Jarek Szymanski 1999-2002. All rights reserved

ChinaFromInside.com 2002. All rights reserved