The most source of Dong Haiquan
life data was originated from 1883: Dong’s year of death, where Yin Fu
but also many other Dong’s students wrote directly on Dong graveyard.
This epitaph was composed by Gui Rong from Tieling and graved by Qing
Shan from Shenyang with cursive, graceful and mellifluent Chinese
characters in order to leave to the posterity the very touching details
of Dong Haiquan’s life.
Here are the five most important topics graved on Dong Haiquan’s stele
Genealogy study of Dong family.
It is generally admitted that Dong was from Zhujiawu village in Wen An
county of Hebei province. The ancestors of Dong’s family moved in the
beginning of Ming Dynasty from Hongdong (Shanxi province) to Gaocheng
(Hebei province), around Yongle era (1403-1424) still in Ming Dynasty,
some members moved to Kaiou village in Xiong county (Hebei province).
They will later move their dwelling house to Fuguanying village of
Wenam county. After suffering several floods, they will finally set up
in Zhujiawu village but remaining still in Wen An county. Aftere Dong
Haiquan, the Dong family members will continue to live in Zhujiawu
until our days.
Our research in Wen An, confirmed the following points: Dong Jide had
two sons Dong Shouxing and Dong Shouye. Shouxing will not have any
descendant. Shouye had three sons: the eldest Dong Dekui, Dong Minkui
and Dong Wukui.
Dong Wukui will later change his given name to Dong Haiquan and be the
creator of Baguazhang.
Dong Haiquan’s date of birth. 1797 or 1813
1813’s hypothesis: Kang Gewu, a renown expert in Chinese martial arts
history, wrote in his study: “Research on Baguazhang origins” and
mentioned Dong Shaole’s article: “Dong Haiquan is 40 years older than
Dong Shushan and Dong Sushang was born in 1853”. So according to this
source Dong Haiquan year of birth should be rather 1813.
According to the late great master Li Zhiming, in his article:
“Anecdoctes from Dong Haiquan”, it is mentioned that when Yinfu met for
the first time Dong Haiquan, Dong was already a middle aged man of more
than 50 years old, he was crossing his legs and sitting on a kang (a
heatable brick bed)…”.
Yin Fu’s great-grandson Yin Xisheng affirms that, according to his
grand aunt (Yin Fu’s daughter Yin Jinyu), when Yin Fu was 20 years old
he asked to become Dong Haichuan’s disciple, at that time Dong was
crossing his legs and sitting on the kang.
Then bearing that Yin Fufu was born in Qing dynasty Daoguang 20th year
(1840), the 20 years old Yin Fu met Dong around the 1860’s, if Dong
Haichuan was really born in 1797, that means that in 1860, Dong
Haichuan was already 63 years old, which is much more than 50”……
1797’s hypothesis: But Dong’s family has another opinion: according to
Zhujiawu village, Dong Xuexian had an uncle named Dong Shaoting. This
Dong Shaoting wrote in 1990: “Dong Minkui (Dong Haiquan) has 60 years
more than my father Dong Sushan. My father being 56 years more than me
and myself being born in 1913, therefore my father was born in 1857 and
Dong Minkui should be born in 1797.”
Discussion: For centuries in China one of most treasured archives kept
in each village is the “Jiabu” or genealogy book where every man of the
village has his date of birth consigned preciously, so we are tempted
to believe rather more the Dong family version (1797), because also
that in the other hand real practitioners of Baguazhang are looking
much younger that they are and are then also generally impressing
ordinary people when they know their real age.
So it is not impossible to consider someone very well preserved
physically even at 63 to look like something around 50s.
Dong’s journey in Jiangnan (south of Yangtze River)
When Dong was young he was not inclined to do countryside works, but
rather help poor people and defending people against robbers and
injustice. He was very fond of hunting and pass everyday in the forest.
Some people would say that Dong went for journey outside his country
side to earn his living but others would rather say that as he was
suspected for a murder case, Dong went to Shanxi and Sichuan provinces.
Along his peregrination, he met the Taoist Huang Guan Zhe.
In his burial site of 1883, no further details were mentioned about
this Taoist nether the date and the place of their meeting: “he crossed
many places, tour in any directions in Shanxi and Sichuan”.
An epitaph was added in 1904: “Dong was animated with an supernatural
power, expressed in martial arts in his young age and left with courage
his village, at around twenty, to learn more martial skills he visited
friends in Jiangsu and Anhui province, then lost in mountains, looking
back to find his way, he was surrounded by clouds and did not yet
realize that he found the place of his quest ”
In 1916, the famous martial arts expert Sun Lutang wrote in “Learning
Bagua Boxing”: “About Baguazhang, we don’t know when and who really
created it up, I heard that Dong Haichuan, very skilful in combat,
enjoying travelling, went to Anhui and met there someone to teach him
this art”. In 1929, Jiang Rongqiao for Huang Bainian wrote the preface
of a book entitled “Baguazhang Dragon Form”. Jiang mentioned it this
preface “Dong Haichuan met a taoist in Yuhua mountain of Jiangnan, then
they become friends and he taught to him Chinese numerology (Hetu or
River Map and Luotu or Magic Square) and Bagua techniques, this was the
beginning of Baguazhang”.
In 1930, another inscription on the memorial tablet of Don’s graveyard
was added, it says: “He was able to release an extraordinary power and
had a strange appearance, large waist and stout ribs, he was very fond
of combat, courageous and always ready to help and save other people,
when he was twenty years old, he travelled to Jiu Hua mountain in
Jiangnan, then met an immortal to improve his skills bringing them to
In 1934 Sun Xikun wrote in “A realistic approach of Bagua fist”:
“Dong’s courage and power excelled far over normal people, he went to
Jiangsu and Anhui to visit friends, then his martial art techniques
became simply sublime after being taught by a very talented master
living in mountain,. He will teach later this art under the name of
In 1936 Wu Tunan wrote in “Introduction to a national art“: “when, he
(Dong Haiquan) went to the mountain, he finally met the Taoist Bi
Chengxia, in watching the Taoist just practicing the technique of
Piercing Palm on the bluestone, with subtilety and vivacity, with
lightness and dexterity, so Dong asked immediately to be taught by the
taoist, he spent then three years in the mountain, reached a deep
attainment, created Baguazhang, and taught in his late years. Dong
Haichuan reached a very high level, his body and movements were like
unnatural and cannot bear any description”.
These last 50 years, as more and more people are doing further
researches on the history of Baguazhang and on Dong Haiquan, there are
many various versions about the origins of this art but all agree to
say the present development of Baguazhang is mostly derivated from Dong
Serve as eunuch get in mansion becomes man servant
The late Baguazhang great master Mr. Li Ziming just before his death
wrote an article called « Concerning the enigma of Dong
Haichuan’s life experience’s » he mentioned: « After mastering his art
Dong Haichuan devoted himself in the Tai Ping Heavenly Secret
Organization (Taiping Rebellion) and to accomplish his mission to
infiltrate Beijing, he had to serve as castrate servant in a famous
mansion, being their secret agent and awaiting an opportunity to kill
the King Xianfeng, later the Taiping Rebellion was defeated and the
organization was dismantled, the King Xianfeng became ill and finally
died, Dong decided to stay under his cover inside the walls of the
There are in fact different opinions about the reasons which led Dong
to serve as an eunuch in Su Wang mansion. Since 1883, date of the death
of Dong, there are many documents which unfortunately will not be found
nowadays to confirm with certitude any version.
But we can however compare with the two major motivations which led
someone to serve as eunuch servant at the time of Dong Haiquan:
a) to avoid poverty, many Chinese decided for castration,
b) to avoid from sentence of death after having committed
serious crime, castration was the only issue.
In autumn 1928, Wang Laisheng wrote in “Notes on Wushu”: “Dong Haichuan
after having committed a serious offence to the law, was submitted to
castration. He later was enrolled as an eunuch servant…” which is the
very plausible possibility as knowing Don Haiquan’s impetuosity and
passion for duels.
Dong as a reputed teacher in his older age
Around 1850 Dong Haichuan was teaching his art in Beijing at Su Wang
Mansion which revealed to be a perfect place to develop the art of
Baguazhang. Progressively martial arts circle was recognizing it, as
Dong was opening publicly his classes more and more disciples were
attracted in learning this new style of boxing.
Later from 1874, Dong, reaching an advanced age and requesting further
care, decided to move in one of his disciples house. This time he can
spend all his time to teach his large number of disciples among them
were some illustrious and influential officials but also scholars and
merchants. As just on his tomb where graved 56 names of disciples we
can imagine the very large exhaustive list which could be the total
number of disciples that Dong accepted.
This is probably also the reason why Baguazhang reached such a
development in China through a network of direct disciples who have
received the authentic instructions from Dong Haichuan himself.