Hong Jungsheng

Chen Zhonghua is a disciple of Grand-master Hong Junsheng.

Hong Junsheng  洪均生 was born Xiao Kun in Yuzhou, Yuxian County, Henan on February 17, 1907, during the period of the late Ching (Manchu) dynasty.

In November 1908, the Empress Dowager Cixi passed away, and her successor, the three year old Xuantong Emperor would rule until he was six years old, after which he abdicated, ending the Chinese monarchy and Ching dynasty.  A period of chaos ensued with warlords carving up China. The people had to learn to live under a new system with warlords, and a new life were everything had changed. The fragmentation of the old landlord-scholar-official system (the examination system was disbanded in 1905) resulted in the growth of a new landlord-merchant-official system.

Hong’s ancestors came from Ningbo in Zhejiang province.  In Beijing, Hong grew up with two older sisters and a few aunties, and his schooling was aimed at him inheriting the family business.

However, throughout his youth Hong was suffering from poor health, and was encouraged to learn Taiji.   The early 1920’s saw an increase in popularity of Taijiquan as a health exercise in Beijing, with Masters Wu Jinaquan, Xi Yusheng, Yang Shaohou and Yang Chengfu establishing popular martial arts schools)

At the age of 22, Hong was introduction to Wu Style Taijiquan Master Liu Musan.  Master Liu was a disciple Grandmaster Wu Jianquan (1834-1942) (son of Grandmaster Wu Quanyou who, as palace guard, had trained extensively with Yang Luchan, the first person outside the Chen family to learn the Chen style.  Grandmaster Wu modified his father’s forms, using narrower circles, developing new movements that applied the form in a more practical manner)

Master Liu invited Chen Fake, standards bearer of the Chen style, for a demonstration. Most folk in the Taiji community knew that the Yang style originated from the Chen style in Chen Village. Wu style Taiji people knew that Grandmaster Wu Quanyou had personally received instructions from Yang Luchan.

Then, as now, Yang Chengfu’s form (Yang Luchan’s grandson) is well known for its large frame, with slow, almost meditative (western interpretation) movements.  Those attending the demonstration expected a long slow form.  (There was a “Yang 136 movement” form that took more than 1 hour to complete!!)

Chen Fake’s demonstrated the Yilu and Erlu that includes slow and explosion movements, jumps, stomps, changes in speed and visible issuing of power. Surely, this could not be Taiji!

After the demo, Master Liu decided that he and his students could benefit from learning aspects of this style, and asked Chen Fake to teach them the Yilu, and asked Master Chen for some push hands, the application side of Taiji.  If insufficient, students would continue with their accomplished Wu style push hands.  If superior, everyone would continue to learn from Master Chen.  When Master Chen Fake pushed hands with Master Liu, the differences were immediately visible.  Master Liu was unable to keep steady, losing balance, and moving awkwardly to maintain standing.  Master Chen Fake could direct his opponent easily in any direction selected.  As a result, Hong and his fellow students became students of Master Chen Fake.

Not much later, Hong invited Chen Fake to practice at his family’s house.  Coming from a well to do family, Hong did not have to work every day, and so, when classmates training early mornings at Hong’s house, Hong would first observe Chen Fake explain and demonstrate the movements with every single student. Later, when his classmates went of to work, he would do the same. It would become one of his maxims of learning Taiji: “Observe first, watch”.

In the late 20’s, Chen Fake lived in the Hong house.  Master Chen Fake became more successful with his martial arts school, and his private classes and group classes became popular.  Because of his phenomenal abilities, Chen Fake established himself as a sought after Master Instructor.

However, during the 1930’s, the war drained resources, and for some, trade completely stopped due to the cumbersome pass systems.  This resulted in the loss of the Hong family business, and Hong was humbled by the invitation to live in the Chen house. In 1937, the Japan-China war broke out, and by November 1937, Shanghai fell. By December 1937, the capital city, Nanking and its population was destroyed.

In 1944, the war started to severely affect supplies, and food became scarce. Hong did no longer want to be a burden to Chen Fake, and moved his family to Jinan (Shandong).

Since practicing the Chen style, Hong’s health has improved vastly, and his research and study of the Chen Family style Taiji continued.  Hong founded a school where the style and investigated all movement of the Chen style.  His research concentrated on reduce/striping the movement to its bare essential, to apply and to achieve power without force.  Hong did not learn Taiji to learn to “fight, repel, or hurt”, yet he became known as an extremely “touch fighter” who repelled fist strikes from Karate students (documented), with abilities to do so without hurting the opponent.

This Taiji emphasises proper alignment of the various body parts in order to stop horizontal movements, in favour of ‘vertical’ (or better, longitudinal) movement along the elbows, shoulders, hands, torso, dan tian area, kua and knees.  Hong said that big (bulky) muscles interfere with the ability to follow the principles because of ‘over-eagerness’.  Big muscles tie ‘knots’.  Hong wrote many articles about Taiji.  When he read Taiji articles that were removed from Chen Fake’s tried and tested theories, he would respond with detailed replies.

One example is the concept of “song” (or “Soong”), outside of the Practical Method interpreted as “relaxed”, so as to hold the arms like weeping willow.”.  In the Chen style Practical Method, “Song” is interpretation as “not doing ‘something’ back”.  When the teaser (the one pushing) pushes, the student (who is learning) cannot engage power against the teaser. The teaser does not feel “looseness from not doing”, nor does he/she feel an “engaged push back”.  The point of contact becomes the transmission point of the power between the teaser and the student.

In great secrecy, after arriving in Jinan, Shandong Province, Hong got together with other martial artists and discussed the situation in the country.  They decided to establish the “Anti-Japanese and Anti-Communist Association”.  After 1949, as a result of his association, Hong was arrested and declared to be an ‘undesirable’ and ‘Anti-Revolutionary Academic Authority’. As a result, he could no longer to gain employment or have access to a residence.  Hong moved into a tin shed large enough for a bed. Despite this hardship, Hong kept his promise to Chen Fake, not to forgetting to study Taijiquan.

In 1956, (after his wife pasted away ) Hong was granted leave to visit his old friend, Chen Fake.  Together they trained daily for four months (some sources say six months) to revisit the movement of the forms and the application of these movements in push hands exercises.  Every time an application of a technique was used, Hong asked if a movement was executed correctly, the answer was always, “Yes”.  Hong showed what he had found, and demonstrated every broken down movements of the elbow, shoulder, kua, knees, and others.  Chen Fake corrected or accepted every one of them.

In 1956, Hong was able to visit his old friend, Chen Fake. Together they trained daily for four months (some sources say six months), revisiting each movement of the forms one by one, and analyzing the substance of the applications.  Every time an application of a technique was used, Hong asked if a movement was executed correctly, whether it was useful or empty. The answer was always, “Yes”. Hong showed every movement, broken down by movement of hand, elbow, shoulder, torso, waist, kua, knees, and foot.  Chen Fake corrected or accepted every one of the movements, and gave Hong consent for Hon to integrate these into the routine originally learned.

When he returned to Jinan, Hong continued to teach the curriculum that was approved by his master. Continuing his research, and experimenting with many students, friends and other martial artists, his understanding of Chen Style Taiji became profound. One of Hong’s students, He Shugan, who started studying with Hong in 1951, said that Hong when returned from Beijing after further studies from Chen Fake, he noticed a quantum leap in Hong’s understanding and ability in Taijiquan.

Hong Mount Tai

During the Cultural Revolution, activities such as fighting art were suppressed. Martial artists were targeted for their ‘feudal activities’ and an attempt was made to destroy these traditional beliefs. For example, Yang style master Fu Zhongwen was put under house arrest and was labeled a ‘Capitalist’ and ‘Anti-Revolutionary Academic Authority’. His Taijiquan texts escaped the censor’s chop by avoiding a single reference to fighting technique. Yiquan Yao Zongyun was sent to the country side. Taijiquan texts were burned in piles. Hong, already labeled an ‘Anti-Revolutionary Academic Authority’ in 1949, again was targeted, and was given house arrest in his shed. In order to survive and lead a normal life, Hong’s his family were forced to renounce him. Hong survived by making match sticks and eating chicken feed. Every week he was required to report to the local police office, and a ‘minder’ followed his every step.

Hong 1972In the late 1970;s things changed for the better. Around 1977, Japanese Taiji students at the Jinan University had been searching for Hong to learn Taiji. One of Hong classmates, Pang Yongszhou who studied with Chen Fake from 1931-49, had managed to flee China in 1949 and started a Taiji school in Japan. When his Japanese students went to Jinan University, he asked them to continue their Taiji study with his classmate, Hong Junsheng. The Japanese students found Hong and started studied Taijiquan with Hong at the Black Tiger Springs in Jinan. At the end of their course, they insisted upon meeting Hong at his house. In order to prevent embarrassment, the Jinan Chai Chee Village Government for Hong to be supplied with a Jinan Hotel room in which to teach Taiji. Later, Hong was issued with a small apartment where he could receive visitors.

One of the maxims that Hong Junsheng lived by was: “Never to bend to authority.”

In 1981, the sports commission of the Shandong Province organized a large martial arts demonstration in celebration of the Chinese culture. The governor and other leaders of the province were the honored guests for the event at the renowned Hall of One-Hundred Springs. Hong was invited to demonstrate. There were rehearsals and pre-event screening to ensure that the governor would be pleased.   Everyone was encouraged to shine and to wear their best uniforms. At the rehearsal, the director of the sports commission noticed that Hong Junsheng wasn’t wearing a silk uniform, and ordered him to get one. “Master Hong, with all due respect, there will be consequences if you don’t wear a proper uniform in front of the governor. It’s an honor people like you would die for, to have a chance to perform for the governor. You should be so rash about it.” Hong answered with a big smile on his face. “Talking about consequences, well, what consequence to an old man? I am not a party member so I cannot be excommunicated. I don’t have a job so I cannot be fired. I don’t even have an identification card.” Hong made light of the fact that he didn’t have anything.

Not allowed to work after 1949, narrowly escaping all the political turmoil with careful navigation through turbulent waters from 1949 to 1985, underground training of Taiji toughened him, made him strong both physically and mentally. A man without any fear.

In the end, he became the only master in Shandong who demonstrated his martial art to the governor in his usual street clothes. Hong kept his word: never stoop down to authority when it is used unnecessarily. He upheld his integrity and gained admiration of his peers.

In his entire life, he never wore a uniform. His “uniform” was always whatever he was wearing that day. With this normal poor man’s clothing, he defeated many famous martial artists and survived 66 years of martial challenges.

In 1990 faith came looking for Hong again. He suffered a stroke, resulting in paralysis of the lower body. Even at the age of 84 year, Hong wasn’t about to give up. Receiving the challenge of his faith, within several months of hard work he was able again to practice Taijiquan. Other then practicing Taijiquan he was not able to walk around freely. As the situation appeared he devoted his entire time to practicing Taijiquan.

In 1995, Hong students organized a 90th birthday party. His first request was to start practicing push hands. With two students supporting him at his waist to stand up, he still continued to push 20y old students out with ease. Right alignment to the end.

On January 23, 1996 in Jinan, Hong passed away to become an immortal in the firmament of Chen style Taiji Martial Artists.

Hong published books including “Chen Shi Taijiquan” , “Chen Shi Taijiquan Shiyong Quanfa (Practical Chen Style Taijiquan)” (which he started writing in 1961), “Chen Shi Taijiquan Techniques”, and “Interpretation of Taijiquan Treatise of Wang Zengyue”. In 1994, he was working on his last book, “Comparisons of Characteristics and Methods of the Five Styles of Taijiquan”. The book was completed but not published.

Hong, educated and learned, read extensively and had an amazing memory. He was an expert of “temperament” (study of the rhythms of Chinese poetry) and was a poet and calligrapher.

In his Chen Style Taiji research, Hong combined philosophy, physics and logic into his experiments. He followed Chen Fake’s habit of using everyday life analogies in his explanations of the principles, theories and techniques of Chen Style Taiji. Using common terminology removes the unnecessary layer of mystery. Hong refused to use words such as “qi” in his teachings and his writings. Yet everyone who personally experienced his push-hands knows that Hong reached a very high level of ability even in the eyes of “qi” masters.

Hong Calligraphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 29, 2015, with contributions from disciples and students of Hong’s system, a new tomb unveiled to commemorate Hong Junsheng. View video.