Liu Cai Chen / Liu Feng Schan (Engelstalig)

Liu Cai Chen / Liu Feng Shan (1852 – 1937)

Liu Cai Chen has been a cardinal figure for the development of the wushu style taught at the Zhang Bingxin Liu He Men Federation. He was the teacher of Wong Suen Ting and taught him the system of liu he men, pa kua, xing yi and wu style tai chi. For his part, Wong Suen Ting became the teacher of Zhang Bingxin in Guangzhou. Later Wong fled from the communist regime to Hong Kong. There he also became the teacher of Henry Eleonora, who came from Europe to live with him in order to study liu he men.

In this article we want to tell about the life of Liu Cai Chen and place it in an historical background. After all, Liu lived in a period during which China underwent many transformations.

Information on Liu Cai Chen’s personal life was not easy to obtain. Most of Liu Cai Chen’s own students have already passed away or are of very high age. We obtained the information about Liu Cai Chen‘s life and character mainly from Gao Quan Li, a member of Liu’s lineage who lives in Beijing. He has received this information through conversations with Liu’s son, Liu Wen Hai and from an article on liu he men by Wong Suen Ting. But still the details are sparse, so we bid the reader to allow for some gaps in the story.

The young Liu

Liu Cai Chen was born in the Ningchin district of Hebei in 1852. As a young child he already learned wushu, though which style is unknown. Allegedly his favourite weapons during his youth were sword and lance. In 1867 Liu’s parents died and the 15-year old Liu left for Beijing. There he hoped to find a martial arts teacher who could further instruct him.

19th century’s Beijing

During this period Beijing was the imperial city, ruled by the Qing Dynasty. The Chinese population was not satisfied with its rulers. For one thing, the emperor was Manchu and the Han didn’t like to see the Mandate of Heaven in foreign hands. A second and more substantial cause of dissatisfaction were the heavy taxes that were imposed on the poor peasantry. The harsh living circumstances caused many peasants to become ruffians, rebels or secret sect members. The secret sects flourished during Qing-rule, striving to restore the Ming-dynasty.

This internal troubles forced the Manchu rulers to take military action. They had to turn to foreigners for help, but had to pay a heavy price for it. Foreign states such as Great Britain, The Netherlands and Portugal had since long tried to get their hands on Chinese valuables, like silk and silver. The Manchu paid for their help with trade concessions.

When Liu arrived, Beijing was a big and vibrant city where cultures, religions and a great number of ethnicities mixed together in colourful spectacle. But Beijing was also a vibrant city were cultures, religions and ethnicities mixed together in colourful spectacle. A description from a member of the British legacy, living in Beijing at that time:

“On the corner of the Tartar wall is the old Jesuit observatory with beautiful dragon-adorned instruments given by a Louis of France. There are temples with yellow-gowned or grey-gowned priests in their hundreds founded in the times of Kublai Khan. There are Mahommedan mosques, with Chinese muezzins in blue turbans on feast days; Manchu palaces with vermilion-red pillars and archways and green and gold ceilings. There are unending lines of camels plodding slowly in from the Western deserts laden with all manner of merchandise; there are curious palanquins slung between two mules and escorted by sword-armed men that have journeyed all the way from Shansi and Kansu, which are a thousand miles away; a Mongol market with bare-pated and long-coated Mongols hawking venison and other products of their chase; comely Soochow harlots with reeking native scents rising from their hair; water-carriers and barbers from sturdy Shantung; cooks from epicurean Kanton; bankers from Shansi – the whole empire of China sending its best to its old-world barbaric capital, which has now no strength.” (B.L. Putnam Weale “Indiscreet Letters From Peking”, pp.27-28.)

Here the boy had to earn his own money and for three years he had to pinche and scrape. His living circumstances were difficult but he managed by taking on any odd job. Then he heard of a man renowned for his martial arts skills, named Liu De Kuan.


Liu Cai Chen / Liu Feng Schan - 2

Student of Liu De Kuan

Liu De Kuan owned a business in Beijing. He hired out guards to protect the houses and possessions of well-to-do citizens. His guards also accompanied transports of merchandise, since the countryside was infested with bandits and rebels. Liu De Kuan was responsible for the security of one of Beijing’s renowned Chinese families and often visited their mansion to check up on his men. Liu Cai Chen, knowing of De Kuan’s frequent visits to the mansion, tried to get himself employed as a servant of the family of the house. Despite his frequent attempts his plan didn’t work out. Fortunately Liu Cai Chen met Liu De Kuan by accident some months later. De Kuan was impressed by the boy’s fighting skills and his eagerness to learn, so he assented to take Cai Chen on as his student.

Under Liu De Kuan’s guidance Liu Cai Chen became proficient in the martial arts. De Kuan taught him liu he men, pa kua and xing yi. It is very difficult to get any idea of the character of Liu Cai Chen with the sparse information we have. It is said that he possessed a sharp, keen intellect and a strict discipline. All his time and energy were focused on developing his fighting skills. He analysed all the techniques and trained vigorously and concentrated. He also tried to attend as many fighting competitions as possible, but not because he was eager to show off his strength and skills. His only purpose was to observe and analyse the techniques of the fighters. Apparently Liu was a very modest man who disapproved strongly of show off and the misuse of fighting skills. According to him, a good martial artist should not only be skilled in attacking and defending, but also be integer and morally upright.

Wealthy and famous

After several years the both men left Beijing, hiring themselves out as guards. They came in Xaanxi and Henan, probably guarding transports of merchandise. It is said, that people everywhere were impressed by their fighting skills and knowledge. At the age of 30 Liu was already a renowned martial artist. He was nicknamed “Liu the Big Spear” because of his proficiency in the liu he men spear. Later the master and his student moved back to Hebei province where they set up another business providing guards. Even if Liu Cai Chen had arrived in Beijing without a penny, by now he had become a wealthy man and a renowned fighter on top of that. When De Kuan passed away (at the end of 1911 or early in 1912), Liu Cai Chen returned to Beijing.

Beijing again

With the beginning of the 20th century China found itself the scene of social turmoil and political chaos. The century started with the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The “Society of Harmonious Fists” or Boxers wanted to get rid of all foreign elements in China and attacked Christian mission posts and international trade posts. The conservative and scheming empress-dowager Ci Xi wanted to use the Boxers for her own purposes. Ci Xi also did not like the western influence and hoped to chase the foreign legacies out of the country with the help of the Boxers. She sended them the imperial militia to assist with the attack on the foreign legacies in Beijing. Her actions caused an enormous international scandal with military repercussions as a consequence. China was forced to approve of further economical and military concessions to appease the international community.

We are not sure if Liu had already returned to Beijing in 1900 and if so, what his sentiments were on the subject. His task had always been to defend the properties of the rich Chinese against the rebels. Could he suddenly have switched sides? We know that the Boxers had gained a lot of support from the Chinese population, even from the lower nobility. Maybe Liu agreed that foreign influence in China was harmful and thought the cause of these rebels a righteous one. We can only conjecture on this point.

A fact is that in Beijing Liu continued the development of his martial arts skills. He studied tai chi with Wu Chuan You. He became very close with the Wu family, especially with Wu’s son, Jian Quan, who was like a brother to him. Liu Cai Chen also studied xing yi with Keng Chi San.


Liu Cai Chen / Liu Feng Schan - 3

Promoting wushu

In 1912 the last weak Qing-emperor was forced to abdicate. A republican rebel group came to power and formed a provisional government in Nanjing with dr. Sun Yatsen as president. We do not know the exact details about Liu Cai Chen’s life in Beijing during this period, but we can assume it was not easy.

Also during this year 1912 the Beijing Research Institute of Physical Education was established by Xu Yu Sheng. Several other martial arts instructors cooperated in establishing the Institute: Liu Cai Chen and his friend Wu Jian Quan, Tung Lian Yan and Chi Te. We do not know how they financed the project, most likely with private capital. Liu’s students mention that his strongest wish was to spread the knowledge of wushu, so the health and well-being of the Chinese people could benefit from it. To Liu wushu formed the essence of Chinese culture and a precious aspect of Chinese heritage. Setting up the Institute was a way to promote wushu and to pass it on to the next generation.

In 1916 the new republic came to an untimely end. Until 1928 China was torn to pieces by the imperial ambitions of the warlords. In the meanwhile the Communist Party and the Guomindang worked together to form some kind of government. Theirs was a desperate attempt to prevent the country from plunging into complete anarchy.

Despite this political and social upheaval Liu still managed to accomplish his dearest goal, promoting wushu for the good of the Chinese people. We can vividly imagine that a martial artist was a welcome sight in these dangerous times. Probably many people were eager to learn how to defend themselves. In 1916 Liu was involved at the establishment of the Beijing School of Physical Education, where he also became a teacher and lecturer. In 1920 he was invited by a friend, Tsai Yuen Pei, to teach martial arts for the “Association of attacking and defending techniques.” In these years he was also asked by Beijing Chiao Tung University to teach martial arts. Liu Cai Chen taught for more than 20 years at several universities at Beijing.

Old age

In 1928 the Guomindang managed to take Beijing. They formed a government until the Japanese Invasion of Beijing in 1937. Liu was already an old man by this time. The story goes that even at high age, Liu Cai Chen was still healthy and physically very strong. In 1932, 80 years old, Liu Cai Chen still accepted an invitation from the Nanking Central National Martial Arts Academy. There he was a teacher during the summer session of the National Meeting of Martial Arts Instructors. Liu Cai Chen passed away at the onset of the Japanese invasion in 1937.

Liu’s students quote their teacher as follows:

“The development of wushu depends on three aspects: practice, time and insight. If you practice, practice with full concentration and strength, else all your labor will be in vain. Secondly, a student cannot expect to become proficient at the martial arts from one day to the next. Only by consistent practice over a long period of time will he develop martial arts skills. Thirdly, the student has the develop insight, the ability to see that which is not obvious, to notice the smallest details. When these three elements are present, kung fu will come.”


Over Grootmeester Pang

Grootmeester T.Y. Pang is filosoof, dichter/schrijver, calligraaf, acupuncturist en herbalist. Hij schreef belangrijke boeken over Tai Chi Chuan, Chinese kruidenkunde en Confucius. Zijn grote bekendheid heeft hij echter vooral gekregen door zijn Tai Chi, Pa Kua en Hsing Yi. Grootmeester Pang

Pang werd geboren in Lanshan, op het platteland van de provincie Hunan. Al als jonge jongen begon aan een serieuze studie van de Chinese klassieken en de traditionele geneeskunde en met intensieve meditatie. Op de leeftijd van zestien jaar behandelde hij zijn eerste patiënten.

In 1949 vertrok hij naar Hong-Kong waar hij student werd van de grote lararen meester Dong Yingjie voor Tai Chi en meester Sun Sikun voor Pa Kua en Hsing Yin.

In 1964 vertrok hij naar Hawaii. Daar richtte hij in Honolulu met Robert Feng de Tai Chi School of Philosophy and Art op. In 1975 vestigde hij zich voorgoed in Amerika, waar hij een bekende leraar werd. Pang is nu 76 en beoefent de Internal Arts nu bijna zestig jaar en geeft meer dan veertig jaar les in drie werelddelen. Hij is een levend voorbeeld van wat de beoefening voor je kan doen, want zijn lichaam is nog bijzonder sterk, lenig en gezond en zijn geest is jong.

Pang woont op Orcas Island in de Noordelijke staat Washington maar verblijft de laatste jaren ook weer veel in China. Heel zelden komt hij nog maar naar Europa voor lezingen of een workshop. Wij prijzen ons daarom gelukkig dat hij weer speciaal voor ons naar Nederland komt, want hij is een van de laatst overgebleven studenten van de grote leraren van vorige generaties en een inspirerend voorbeeld.

Pang over Tai Chi

Grootmeester PangAlthough Tai Chi is widely recognized as a self-defense art, a physical fitness exercise and a type of relaxation therapy, very few people truly understands its profundity.

By following the right teaching and through diligent practice, Tai Chi enables your conscious mind to communicate with your autonomic system, thereby improving physical vitality and bringing about a quiet, peaceful mind. When you are healthy, happy and peaceful, you are truly spiritual.

A true Tai Chi artist coordinates body movements into a dance, a dance that embodies the flow of life force in a spiritual way. The conscious mind is choreographer, the body is artist, and the life fore is music. Hence the dance is graceful, energetic, peaceful, a dance of spiritual life.

Pa Kua performance van meester Pang, Hawaii 1974


Zomervakantie van zondag 24 juli t/m zo 28 augustus 2011

In de zomer sluit de Liu He Men Kung Fu School ruim een maand. Behalve op feestdagen zijn we verder het hele jaar door geopend. De tijd dat de School dicht is, valt binnen de Zomervakantie van de basisscholen in Amsterdam. Dit jaar sluiten we vanaf zondag 24 juli t/m zondag 28 augustus.

Vrijdag 22 juli zijn de laatste lessen. Maandag 29 augustus 2011 zijn we weer open voor een nieuw seizoen. De lessen voor de kinderen starten een week later, maandag 5 september.

Zie ook de School agenda om alle data op een rij te zien.


In de zomervakantie buitentraining in het beatrixpark

In de vakantieweken kan je toch gezamenlijk blijven trainen als je daar zin in hebt.

Elke zondag en woensdag komt sifu daarvoor naar het Beatrixpark. Tegenover de laatste ingang van de kinderspeeltuin, bij de ingang van de gesloten tuinen.

Voor meer informatie over tijden, locatie (inclusief foto’s), klik op Beatrixpark buitentraining.


Van belang voor je agenda

  • De Open Dag na de zomervakantie is op zondagmiddag 25 september 2010; in augustus meer hierover.
  • Grootmeester Pang komt in november voor de laatste keer naar Nederland. Hij geeft dan een workshop van vrijdag 4 t/m 6 november. Binnenkort volgt meer nieuws.

Terugblik Guo Shu Cup 2011

Het evenement begon volgens de traditie met Leeuwendans voor de wedstrijden. De gehele dag is goed bezocht en verliep prima, in een uitstekende sportieve sfeer.Read more


Terugblik 100 Jaar Chinezen in Nederland

In 1911 arriveerden officieel de eerste Chinezen in Nederland. Het waren zeelui die af- en aanmonsterden op Nederlandse Schepen. In Amsterdam en Rotterdam, vlakbij de haven, woonden ze in logementen die ook door Chinezen werden gerund.

Het 100-jarig jubileum werd op zaterdag 9 juli 2011 gevierd met 100 Chinese leeuwen op zowel de Dam als op de Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam. Lees hier verder over het verloop van het 100-jarig jubileum: 100 Jaar Chinezen in Nederland.


Roosterwijziging: extra lessen Kung Fu voor kinderen

Eind 2010 zijn er nog twee extra klassen Kung Fu voor kinderen erbij gekomen. Dit is nodig omdat we de afgelopen jaren veel kinderen moesten teleurstellen doordat de jeugdklassen vol waren.

Kung Fu jeugd lessen worden gegeven op:

  • maandag van 17.00 tot 18.00 uur (nieuw, vanaf 13 september)
  • woensdag van 15.30 tot 16.30 uur (nieuw, vanaf 15 september)
  • woensdag van 17.00 tot 18.00 uur
  • vrijdag van 17.00 tot 18.00 uur (gevorderden)

Klik hier voor het complete lesrooster.

Heeft je zoon of dochter interesse in Kung Fu, neem dan contact met ons op voor een gratis en vrijblijvende proefles.