Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, is definitely not the China you see in the coffee table books. Shanxi is the centre of China’s coal-mining industry, and it shows. Anyone planning a long-term stay in Shanxi should first consider whether they mind living with air pollution like this:
Fortunately, I was not in Shanxi for sightseeing, but to visit one Cao Zhiqing, who practices an interesting branch of xingyiquan coming from Wang Fuyuan, who has been profiled elsewhere on this blog. Although Wang’s main teacher was Liu Qilan, he also received many pointers from some of Li Luoneng’s other disciples such as Song Shirong and Che Yizhai. M Cao’s lineage, in full, is: Wang Fuyuan – Mu Xiuyi – Shang Changsuo – Cao Zhiqing. He is well known in China for his 2 books on xingyiquan, “Research on Xingyiquan” (1984) and “Practice methods and applications of Xingyiquan” (2001).
I was received warmly by M Cao to his house in the centre of Taiyuan. Although 71 years old, he was still sprightly and active and demonstrated xingyi movements with a grace that belied his years.
M Cao mentioned that in the system that he practices, there are several different ways of practicing each of the 5 element fists, with each variation differing either in the footwork or in the arm movement or both. For example, in his system there are at least 8 variations of Pi Quan (splitting fist). Some of these 8 variations differ merely in the footwork used, but others look nothing like a ‘conventional’ Hebei Pi quan, at least to my rookie eyes .
He also cautioned against thinking that the 5 fists can be directly used in a real fight ‘as is’, instead stressing that the 5 element fists are more to train the various ‘jins’ and to cultivate a xingyi body.
With M Cao, as with other masters I will be writing about, if you would like to visit him I would be happy to provide his contact details, just leave a comment below the article concerned and I will get back to you. Note, however, that none of the masters I interviewed on this trip speak English.