Cheng Yougong: why he went to the Northeast.

Oral narration by Yu Baili
Edited by Wáng Tiechao

From Jingwu Magazine, Oct. 2001

Baguazhang was transmitted from Mr. Dong Haichuan.   He produced many famous masters.  Chéng Tínghuá, the head of Chéng Style, also produced many famous masters such as Chéng Youlong, Chéng Youxin, Chéng Yousheng, and Chéng Yougong, etc.  The most outstanding of the descendents are too numerous to mention.  The Chéng Style descendents also transmitted the art and produced their own students of great renown.  Only Chéng Yougong remains relatively unknown in the martial arts community.  While there are a few who know his name, very little is known of his students.  As for how he came to arrive in the northeast, even less is known.

Chéng Yougong was the son of Chéng Tínghuá’s older brother.  Chéng Yougong served as a shop assistant in Chéng Tínghuá’s eyeglasses shop.  (Chéng Tínghuá was given the nickname “Eyeglasses” Chéng because he ran an eyeglasses shop.) Every day he would look after the inside of the store and take care of business outside. Then he would study Bagua with his uncle.

Chéng Yougong had an uncommunicative and eccentric disposition.  He didn’t say much.  In practicing the art with his uncle, he devoted himself to training hard, but he never did it in front of people.  He was devoted to his studies throughout his many years with his uncle. His skills gradually became quite refined and he reached a high degree of proficiency.  According to my teacher, Miáo Yuchun, when Master Chéng practiced his skills, he would make two large round balls out of mud.  Before the mud could dry, he would insert his fingers into the mud balls.  He would leave his fingers in the holes.  After the mud balls dried, he would wear them on his hands when doing the turning palms.  Each ball weighed about ten pounds.  When Master Chéng was living with Teacher Miáo’s family, he would use this method to practice his skills.  When he was working in Fengtian (present day Shenyang city), he frequently trained his turning palms using a ten pound iron staff.  He trained morning and evening, year in and year out without break.

There were times when Master Chéng Yougong would speak of past events:  Everyone knows that Chéng Tínghuá was shot and killed during the conflict with the Eight Allied Armies.  However the details are not known.  According to Master Chéng, Chéng Tínghuá, liked to tie a small copper bell in the tip of his pigtail.  When doing the turning palms, the pigtail would be pulled levelly behind him because he did the turning palms so fast.  This thing was also used as a hidden weapon.  Chéng Tínghuá however never spoke of it with outsiders. When he fought against the Eight Allied Armies, he used a saber to quickly kill ten of the foreign devils.  When the foreign devils saw that their lives were threatened, they then took up their guns and shot at him.  Chéng Tínghuá waited for an opportunity to jump over a house to escape. Only when he was going over the house, the pigtail with the small copper bell attached got hung up in the rafters where the edges of the roof tiles meet.  His could not get over the roof, and was immobilized long enough for the Eight Allied Armies’ soldiers to take aim. Unfortunately he was killed.

After this happened to Chéng Tínghuá, the feeling in the Chéng Style School was gloomy.  At that time, in the capitol, there was a fighter of great skill.  Men called him ‘Mr. Two.’  His skills were exceptional.  He had heard of what happened to Chéng Tínghuá and wanted to check out the situation.  One day, when the students were practicing in the courtyard, it was suddenly announced that Mr. Two had come to visit.  Around this time students from all of the other Bagua schools in Beijing had gathered at the Chéng Style School.   “Mr. Two” came in, took a look around, and asked for a contest.  He competed with a number of people. They were all experts of the Bagua School, yet all were defeated by Mr. Two.  Mr. Two thereupon exclaimed, “Dong Gong’s wondrous skills have not survived!”   Saying this he turned around to leave.

At this time, Chéng Yougong sitting on the stairs watching the fighting.  He heard Mr. Two’s statement.  He got up and said, “Mr. Two stay a moment, a Chéng is coming down.” Mr. Two heard this and turned around.  As he looked below, he couldn’t help but be taken aback and catch his breath as he sees a big tall man coming.  Chéng Yougong arrived with a forceful presence, both eyes glimmering pure and bright.  Mr. Two knew in his heart that this man’s skill was sure to be uncommon, and thereupon adopted a strict posture to await him.  The two men came close and crossed hands.  Mr. Two saw the swift movement of hands and body.  At first Chéng was in the front, and then suddenly he was in the rear.  Mr. Two only saw the traces of Chéng’s palms overturning and flying.  In front of him was the form of a body, but true or false, empty or solid were hard to distinguish.  He made an effort to brace himself.  A slap like a black bear reaching with its claws hit his back in a surprise attack. Mr. Two quickly turned around to respond, but his opponent had already evaded, changed, and again arrived at his back.  Again he turned his back only he was too late.  Chéng Yougong used Push the Mountain into the Sea.  His hand rose and his palm fell.  Mr. Two went flying through the door to land in front of his horse.  As Mr. Two mounted his horse, he said, “The mysterious skills of Bagua have been passed down unbroken; Chéng [Tínghuá] Gong can close his eyes [in his grave]!”  He saluted and left.

Most people knew that Chéng Yougong practiced his skills, but they didn’t know how skillful he was. Now they knew that his skills had attained a high level of perfection.

After this, Chéng Yougong commonly traveled between Beijing and Tianjin, perhaps because he was invited by friends, perhaps to pay a call on classmates of other schools.  He was acquainted with many people of exceptional ability and people of ideals and integrity in the martial community.  There was his classmate Li Wenbiao who sent for him to come to Fengtian (present day Shenyang city, also known as Mukden) to take up a position working for the government.  In the Northeast, there was an area where burglars and thieves were time and again apprehended by Chéng Yougong.  Chéng often got to use his skills.  From this Chéng Yougong’s martial skills reached their highest degree.  He was also engaged by Zhang Zuolín to teach at his palace where he taught his art to Xiao Lìuzi  (Xiao Lìuzi was Zhang Zuolín’s son General Zhang Xuéliáng).

About this time, Japan was eyeing China like a tiger.  They were about to establish  their presence there.  Pú Yí was made the emperor of Manchuguo.  When Japanese arrived in Tianjin, they assigned Japanese Bushi to be his bodyguards.  The Japanese men naturally relied on their martial skills.  They never let Pú Yí out of their eyesight.  Still more not seize him because he is the emperor.  They became more arrogant and haughty every day and spoke mockingly of the Chinese.  Pú Yí truly exercised patience and restraint.  One day he made a suggestion.   He demanded that they change his bodyguard to be made of Chinese martial arts masters.  The Japanese said with despite that the Chinese martial arts masters were all are scorned as having flowery techniques.  They could all be defeated by the Japanese Bushi. They just laugh at Pú Yí’s demands.  When the opportunity arose, Pú Yí issued an official proclamation calling on Chinese masters to come forward and compete.  Although many men came forward, all were defeated by the Japanese experts. The Japanese Bushi became even more arrogant.  At this time in Tianjin, there was the great hero Huò Diàngé.  He did not compete because he did not wish to protect a false Emperor.  Although the competition lasted many days, he refused to come forward and paid no heed to it.  Later, he saw the defeated with the injuries they suffered at the hands of the Japanese Bushi.  The Japanese were wildly arrogant in the extreme, which made him most furious.  In addition, his classmates and friends advised him saying, “The issue is not about protecting Pú Yí or not. What this is really about is that the Chinese cannot compete with the Japanese.”  Mr. Huò thereupon went by himself to compete.  He used his pure and profound martial skill and strength to defeat the devils.  He subdued the Japanese Bushi.  Pú Yí was greatly pleased.  He insisted and pressed Huò stay.   Mr. Huò had no alternative and became Pú Yí’s bodyguard.

Later the Japanese forced Pú Yí to go to Changchun.  Huò Diàngé then arranged for his good friend, Chéng Yougong, to go with him.  In the past, Chéng Yougong used to get together with Mr. Huò and they would learn from each other by exchanging views and skills.  They appreciated each other’s superb martial skills and moral character.  They valued each others wisdom and associated closely with each other.  Now, even though he had no with to protect the Emperor either, he was still pleased to be able to go with his friend and be with him all the time, so he went with Mr. Huò.

As before, Chéng Yougong trained each day with great concentration.  Besides going to Harbin at someone’s invitation to teach Li Tianja’s father, La Yùlín, he did not accept any students.  Mr. Huò then set up a school and began to teach his art. He accepted many disciples and many students.  One day, Mr. Huò had a birthday.  His students and grand students all came to congratulate him on his birthday.  Mr. Chéng Yougong, as was only natural, was an honored guest.  He saw this lively scene, but in his heart he did not feel happy.  During the feast, Mr. Huò saw that Master Chéng was gloomy and not happy.  He said, “Brother Chéng, today my brother is in poor spirits. The students have all come to celebrate.  Everyone is having a good time.   Brother Chéng, what is the cause of your low spirits and unhappiness?”  Mr. Yougong smiled and said, “Brother Huò, you have pupils everywhere.  You have men to carry on after you….!”  He was never one to say much, but Mr. Huò already knew what he meant.  He said, “Brother Chéng, I know what you are saying.  Why do you worry about such things?  Pick and choose from among my students, who do you like?”  When Chéng Yougong heard these words he was delighted.  He asked, “Brother Huò, do you mean what you say?”  Mr. Huò laughed and said, “You and I are good friends, we never play with words.”  Chéng Yougong said, “In that case I wish to choose your best!”  “Brother Chéng, who do you wish to pick?”  Master Chéng pointed toward one man and said, “I don’t want many. I only want this one.”  Master Huò looked to where he was pointing. The only person he saw was his favorite student Miáo Yuchun.    In his heart, Huò did not want to give him up, but he had already has spoken.  Still, he admired Master Chéng’s discrimination. He went up to Miáo Yuchun and said, “Mr. Chéng wants you to be his student.  Are you agreeable to it?”  As a matter of fact Miáo Yuchun had wanted to study Mr. Chéng’s Baguazhang skills for a long time.  He would have liked to ask him to be his teacher, but he was hindered by being Master Huò’s favorite and found it difficult to bring up the subject.  That day, when he heard his teacher say those words, he was truly overjoyed.  At once he obeyed his teacher’s orders, and at the banquet he asked Chéng Yougong to be his teacher.  Mr. Huò said, “Yuchun, today you have asked Mr. Chéng to be your teacher, you are truly fortunate!”  Then he turned to Chéng Yougong and said, “Congratulations! Brother Chéng, you now have a student.”  The two men both laughed loudly, and enjoyed themselves to the fullest until the party broke up.

After this, Miáo Yuchun asked Master Chéng to live in his home where he was taught day and night.   Master Chéng was in Master Miáo’s home for seven years.  Master Chéng’s martial skills were the quintessence. Master Miáo inherited all of it.

After the liberation, Miáo Yuchun went to Jílín Provence.  There he taught students Wèi Míngyì (already deceased), Yú Baili, Yú Baixin, Zhào Yongfu, etc. Through him the teachings of the two arts, Chéng Style Baguazhang and Huò Style Bajiquan, took root and blossomed in Jílín.