During the Chinese New Year holiday I visited and interviewed Master Wang Mingzhong [font=]王明中[/font]
(of Jiayi County, Taiwan), the headmaster of the Hanliu
School. The Hanliu
)was originally a secret society devoted to fighting the Manchu (=Qing) invaders and restoring Chinese (=Ming) rule. When they were finally driven out of China they settled on Taiwan, but retained their secret ties with other secret societies, and continued with plans to oust the Manchus. Since China was under foreign rule the Chinese rebels in Taiwan feared that Chinese culture and knowledge would be forever lost. They considered themselves to be the sole guardians of Chinese knowledge and culture and saw it as their duty to preserve and to transmit Ming (=Chinese) era knowledge for future generations. Thus, they called themselves “Hanliu
”, whichliterally means “that which the Han (=Chinese) have left [to posterity].”
then is not only a martial arts school, but a secret society which transmits various traditional disciplines or fields of knowledge. They are part of the (more global) Heaven and Earth Society, they have some relationship with White Lotus sects, teach secret handshakes, and secret, nighttime rituals. Maybe it’s hard to believe, but the Heaven and Earth Society still exists, not only in Taiwan, but throughout the Chinese world and members of different branches still recognize one another and maintain ties.
| Minxiong Township[font=]民雄鄉[/font], where Wang Mingzhong lives and teaches, is a serene little place, situated between the sea (the Taiwan Strait) to its west and the mighty Jade Mountain to its East. In it there are located General Zheng Chenggong’s (1624-1662) temple and the ruins of the Hanliu training hall (the hall was destroyed several years ago in an earthquake). Zheng Chenggong was the leader of last Ming armies and is considred by the Hanliu as founding patriarch. Due to Zheng’s status he is worshiped by Hanliu members throughout the year, on each and every important festival.|
martial arts include the lion dance (which is the basic level of training, but which, as Wang Mingzhong showed me, is very martial and through which many secret martial teachings are transmitted. That their lion dance is so rich is not without a reason; in former times, because of the fear of Manchu reprisals—Manchu soldiers were constantly on the alert—martial training had to be done in secret. Camouflaging martial training as a lion dance was one way to do so), Mother Fist forms, basic hard forms, midlevel half-hard and half-soft forms, and then White Crane Fist. They also practice many weapons, some are obviously battlefield weapons (spears, halberds and long-swords, which seem to have been really transmitted by Ming soldiers; in some forms, one gets very close to the enemy, and then kneels, “plants” the weapon in the ground and points the blade in the direction of the charging enemy, so that the enemy actually cuts himself) and some are weapons for “civil” use like knives and sai etc. In addition, they also transmit battlefield strategy; they teach different battle formations and how to transform from one formation to another. Wang has even been teaching it at a local university.
system is very much alive. Everything works. Wang is small in stature but very strong. He understands body structure, applications and the generation of power very well. His weapons skill and knowledge are impressive too. We did some fencing sparring, for example, Wang with the long sword (which is like a very long samurai sword) and I with the regular katana. He deflected my attacks and cut me multiple times very easily. We also did staff fighting, and he was very good with the weapon too. He is highly skilled in spearmanship too.
In The General Tian Wubeizhi
we explain how important ancestor worship was for traditional martial artists. In the Hanliu
School, not surprisingly, ancestor worship is still very important. Interestingly, however, their worship ritual is in fact a gongfu-qi gong set, which also includes some of the schools secrets. So if you worship your ancestors twice a day you perform this set twice a day. That is, even worship is training, and this integration of the martial with the political-religious is a smart way to encourage and maintain the daily practice of all members.
This is real gongfu
, at home, with simple clothes—with real ability there is no need for anything fancy:
The long sword (filmed by Wang’s daughter):
The lion dance:
On the Hanliu
as a secret society (with an explanation of their secret handshakes):