Grandmaster Wang, Zi-Ping (1881-1973)
“His deep-set eyes were radiant, always shining. In addition, his long silver beard flowed over his chest like a shimmering waterfall.” —Grace Xiaogao, grandaughter.
Wang, Zi-Ping was born in 1881, during the unsettling time of the last Chinese empire. He started his Wushu training at age six and became an expert in many styles of Wushu. He was well versed in all the major weapons, in qinna, shuaijiao, free fighting, hard qigong, soft qigong, light body techniques and many more. He was acclaimed as a well rounded martial artist. At the same time, he was also a famous expert in traumatology. He combined his adept knowledge of qinna with his bone setting skills. He developed what came to be a well known system of treatment for sport and Wushu related injuries in Northern China. Wang, Zi-Ping was the head of the Shaolin College at the Central Guoshu Institute. He was the vice chairman of the China Wushu Association, the highest Wushu organization in China. He had many other titles and responsibilities, including being the advisor to major hospitals in China. Wang, Zi-Ping lived until he was 93 years old and on in 1973.
Wang, Zi-Ping was born in the Hebei Province, in a town called Cang, also known as Cangzhou. In ancient times, Cangzhou was a very isolated area. During the dryer seasons, Cangzhou would be like a dry desert. During the wet seasons, the water from the uncontrollable Yellow River would flood the entire country even Hough it was almost 200 kilometers away. Eventuallly, a canal was built, that ran right through Cangzhou. This was because Cangzhou was midway between the Beijing and the Yellow River.
In the later part of the 18800’s, because Cangzhou was next to the ancient canal, it became a well known port. What really made Cangzhou famous was the fact that there was someone that practiced Wushu in every family in Cangzhou. In the martial arts community, Cangzhou was nicknamed the “Wushu Nest”. Throughout history, one generation after another, there have been stories about famous martial artists from this area.
Wang, Zi-Ping was born in this town which was composed predominantly of the minority people of the Hui ethnicity. Most of the Hui people were of the Muslim faith. It was only logical that many of the Muslim children would go to the mosque for free schooling. This was especially so for the Muslim families that were unable to send their children to the expensive schools. As a consequence, many of the children were also well versed in Arabic! Wang, Zi-Ping grew up in a strict Muslim home and strict martial environment. There he became an exceptional scholar and martial artist.
Both Wang, Zi-Ping’s grandfather and his father were well known martial arts experts. It is ironic that Wang, Zi-Ping’s father initially did not want him to practice Wushu. His reasons were that he believed his son was not physically developed enough for his age and that studying books and business skills were viewed as being more important and suitable for him. Wang, Zi-Ping’s father felt that his family had always practiced Wushu from generation to generation and they had always just gotten by. He wanted his son to be able to focus on another trade to become prosperous.
The incredible skills Wang, Zi-Ping observed from his father and grandfather, demonstrated time after time, were fascinating to him and became deeply rooted in the young boy’s mind. He wanted to be just like them! Even though his father resisted teaching him, he was not discouraged. With the support of his loving mother, he defied his father’s wishes and trained secretly. It was his strong will and tenacity that drove him to become an incredible artist.
At age six, when his father initially refused to teach him Wushu, young Wang, Zi-Ping went to the outskirts of the village without anyone knowing. He dug a hole in the ground and began imitating the jumping training he observed his father and his father’s students do. He jumped over the hole, then in and out of the hole. He was determined to be a great martial artist.
It took his worried mother several hours before locating him. With tears in her eyes, she held the young Zi-Ping in her arms and with a loving and encouraging voice, she said to him, “Good boy. If you want to train, you just go ahead and train. I will keep some food for you. But, you must have perseverance and not ‘have the head of the tiger and the tail of the snake’. I believe you will become a great martial artist.” With the support of his mother, Wang, Zi-Ping trained day and night. As he grew, he dug the hole deeper and wider. Within a few years, he was able to jump over ten feet forward and eight feet back from a standing position and he could easily jump over high fences.
As Wang, Zi-Ping grew older, he took what he had learned and understood to heart. He realized that the masters of the older generation were successful because they included the training of Beidougong and Luishuigong. Beidougong and Lushuigong were not specific training methods. Rather, they implied training times. Beidou, literally means the Big Dipper, implying the night time when the stars come out, a time to train your Wushu. Lushi, literally means the morning dew, implying the dawn, which is also time to train your Wushu. In addition to personal instruction from his father, Wang, Zi-Ping trained everyday by himself during the early evening and dawn, with only the stars and the dew as his companions.
As Wang, Zi-Ping grew, his determination to reach the peak of Wushu continued to grow as well. He set a very demanding training regimen for himself. He would get down on his hands in a push-up position, half crawling and half hopping, on his hands and feet for nearly 3 kilometers to a quiet place to train. The quiet place was the woods next to the neighboring Ma villagers’ graveyard!
Wang, Z-Ping knew that the training of martial arts included, bravery, strength, attainment, then technique. The graveyard provided the perfect place to train. There was hardly anyone there during the day, not to mention at night. The woods and the graveyard were his perfect training room, complete with all natural training equipment.
On the way to the graveyard, there was a river. He would swim with weights to develop his endurance and strength, as well as , move huge boulders around in the water to develop his rooting. When he arrived at the graveyard, he would greet to the stars. When night noises attempted to interrupt his training, he would welcome the visiting spirits as his training companions. To go back home, he would again get in the push-up position and half crawling and half hopping on his hands and feet go all the way back home.
Earlier in his training, when he arrived back home, his father would have locked the entrance to the courtyard, indicating his disapproval of his disobedience to his wishes. Wang, Zi-Ping would have to climb over the high fence to get back into the house. Over time, he was able to jump right over the high fence with ease. When he got inside the fence, he would glide smoothly in the dark to the special hiding place where his mother had placed a few pieces of food for him. Then he would slip into his room and lie on the beams above his bed. He would sleep on the beam to develop his balance sensitivity while sleeping. A few hours later, it would be dawn, he would get up and start his training routine all over again.
By the time he was sixteen, Wang, Zi-Ping was already known for the incredible strength he had developed from his training. Later on, he would be nicknamed the King of Thousand Pounds with Spiritual Strength Through his hard work he developed an amazing strength that he was able to use at will. He could be hard or soft in his applications: he could jump high and far; and he utilized ti, da, shuai, and na at will. One of the most authoritative Chinese Wushu historians, the late Tang Haowrote in the Grand View of Chinese Matial Arts, “Wang, Zi-Ping is an outstanding person from Cangzhou. He inherited his skills from his family. He is an expert in Baji, Pigau, Xingyi, Taii, Chaquan, Huaquan, Hongquan, and Paoquan… He can lift over one thousand pounds of weights and therefore was better known as a Thousand Pound strong man, more than an expert in Wushu. In the 8th year of the republic (1918), he defeated a foreign strong man who claimed to be the world’s strongest… I had the chance to exchange techniques with him during our duty as judges in national competitions. Just saying Wang, Zi-Ping is a strong man is an understatement…..”
Wang, Z-Ping was born in the later part of the decaying Qing Dynasty. He survived two Chinese civil wars and World War II. He lived during a time when many nations were exploiting China. He stood out in those turbulent times not just as a strong man, not just as a martial arts expert, but he was also a well-known patriot. Time after time, he defeated foreign challengers in many official and unofficial challenges.
Wang, Zi-Ping’s patriotism and Wushu ability quickly spread all over China. In 1928, when the Central Guoshu Institute was formed, Wang, Zi-Ping was invited to become the head of the Shaolin Division.