The Institute offers instruction in the rare art of Qingping Jian, a complete Chinese sword fighting system. Authorities on Chinese weaponry consider Qingping Jian one of the “crown jewels” of Chinese swordsmanship. Qingping Jian consists of six straight sword routines characterized by a variety of swift, hard to predict directional changes designed to outwit rather than overpower an opponent. Hard and soft, as well as fast and slow moves are interwoven into a rich tapestry of techniques used to attack, defend, counter, deceive, entrap and evade an enemy. Because the routines demand excellent body mechanics, flexibility, nimble footwork, speed, balance, and timing, students should be at an advanced level before they begin training in Qingping Jian.
The routines are arranged in ascending order of difficulty. The first one emphasizes foundation skills, focusing on fundamental sword work, stable stances, balanced postures, and more evenly paced directional shifts. The other five routines involve much more complex sequencing and dynamic pacing. Many of Qingping Jian’s basic techniques are common to other well known sword routines. These include: Dian (point), Beng (drop), Ci (stab), Yun (circle), Mo (press), Gua (parry), Tiao (stab upward), Liao (glide up), Ti (raise), Jie (intercept), Pi (split), Lan (obstruct), La (pull back), Chan (spiral), etc. However, what sets Qingping swordsmanship apart are the extraordinary ways the techniques are integrated and executed. Qingping Jian moves are famous for being light, quick, fluid, vigorous and elegant.
History of Qingping Jian
Historical references to Qingping Jian date back as far as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), a term used by a man named Chen Lin to describe a type of sword. He wrote, “If you are a nobleman of strong stature, then you must have Qingping Jian.” However, an 18th Century Daoist monk named Pan Zhen (whose Daoist name was Yuan Kui) is credited with creating Qingping Jian as a sword fighting system. Pan was a scholar as well as expert swordsman who, according to legend, spent many years in meditation at Long Hu Shan (Dragon and Tiger Mountain) in Jiangxi Province. He developed a profound knowledge of sword fighting and traveled throughout China exchanging techniques with the best martial arts masters of his day. After years of study, he assembled the best sword fighting techniques he could find into a series of six routines for a total of 365 movements. According to legend, Pan developed one move for each of the 360 days of the old lunar calendar; one for each of the four seasons; plus one extra for good measure. A four-character verse of historical or cultural significance is used to describe each move. For example, “Angel Threads the Spindle,” or “Sun Moon Exchange Rays,” serve as a poetic guide to help remember and pass on the routines to successive generations.
The routines were passed down in a traditional manner over the centuries from one Daoist monk to another and eventually to lay disciples. Historical records indicate that Pan Zhen taught a monk Meng Jiaohua from Shandong Province. Meng in turn taught Shandong monk Feng Xiyang who transmitted it to Monk Yang Elin, also from Shandong. Yang trained Monk Jia Yunhe and lay disciple Liu Wenshi, both from Hebei’s Cangzhou County. Cangzhou is historically significant from a martial arts perspective because it lays claim to having a century’s old tradition for producing renowned martial arts masters, many of whom excelled in Qingping Jian.
In 1983, China’s National Commission for Physical Culture recognized the need to resurrect these and other old martial arts routines that were in danger of becoming extinct. The Commission sent researchers throughout the country to interview old masters, and discovered that the foremost 20th Century authority on Qingping Jian was Lu Zhen Duo, renowned 5th generation master of the Mizong system and the 8th generation heir to Qingping Jian. They had heard from his peers that Lu was a true martial arts master whose “insightful interpretation, innovative ideas, and technical skills combined to form a memorable style uniquely his own.” According to them, Lu’s demonstrations of Qingping Jian had made such an indelible impression in martial arts circles during the 1960’s that they were still being discussed decades later.
Born in 1903, Lu Zhen Duo had devoted a lifetime to the martial arts. During his professional career, he had been the chief of a convoy guard company, a martial arts instructor, and traditional Chinese medicine physician. He also held many notable positions in several martial arts organizations, including Vice-Chairman of the Cangzhou Martial Arts Association, and head coach for the Shanghai Physical Culture Institute. Although Lu had trained thousands of students over the course of his lifetime, he did not leave any written documentation to explain or illustrate his unique moves. Fortunately he had passed on his martial arts legacy to his children and had taught the complete set of Qingping routines exclusively to his fourth son, Lu Jun Hai.
Lu Jun Hai initially was reluctant to share his knowledge with outsiders since Qingping Jian was considered a family heirloom. However, after the researchers convinced him of their sincere desire to preserve the art for future generations, Lu Jun Hai spent over ten months with the researchers and helped them compile a 140,000-word manuscript with 1,500 illustrations containing, for the first time on paper, the entire set of six Qingping Jian routines. A limited edition of the manual published in 1989 and dedicated to the memory of Lu Jun Hai’s father has already become a collector’s item. In gratitude and recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Chinese martial arts, China’s State Commission on Sports and Physical Culture presented Lu Jun Hai with its most prestigious meritorious achievement award.