The originator of Baguazhang.
Baguazhang has a history of about 160 years. The life experiences of the first grandmaster, Dong Haichuan, essentially reflect the history of the origins of Baguazhang.
Dong Haichuan was born around 1813, in Wen’an in Hebei province. In his adolescence, Dong was said to be naturally courageous. He had a straightforward character, with surprising strength, and an enjoyment of fighting. As probably all boys of that age, he wasn’t very interested in work but instead wanted to be like the heroes he had heard stories about, protecting the innocent and upholding justice. This would be important for his later life and his martial studies.
In his young adulthood, around twenty years old, Dong traveled throughout China seeking martial arts teachers, spending all his time discussing martial arts and sparring with anyone he could find.
Legend says, around twenty to thirty years old, he spent time in secret training in the mountains. This is when he met the Daoist master, Yun Pan, in the deep mountains, with whom he studied for fifteen years. There he learned of things he had never heard of before, saw techniques and moving methods he had never seen before, and trained techniques of qi cultivation.
From around forty until about sixty years old he lived and worked in the palace in Beijing. It was during his time living at the emperor’s palace that we hear the first stories about Dong Haichuan. While working at the palace Dong’s outstanding skills as a martial artist were discovered by the Prince. He was asked to give a demonstration and in the end was asked to teach at the palace. It is from here that he gradually started to take on apprentices.
After his time at the palace, from about sixty to sixty-nine, he spent living an ordinary life in Beijing. This is when he began to really teach openly and accepting apprentices. People from all walks of life sought him out, and it is said he taught over a thousand people.
Through this one person, Baguazhang took Chinese martial arts to a new level and Dong Haichuan became one of China’s greatest teachers.