Una de las primeras entradas de este Blog fue sobre la vida de Yang Zhenji, la cual publiqué después de conocer de la muerte del gran maestro. Louis Swaim, quien es la persona que hizo la traducción al inglés de la biografía que aparece en el libro de Yang Zhenji, ha continuado con la traducción. Publico aquí los estractos que ha puesto recientemente en el foro de discusión de la familia Yang.
Yang Zhenji biographical material, Part 2
During the several months that Yang Zhenji remained in Guangzhou (Canton), his older brother (Shouzhong) would go out to teach during the day, and he would practice at home. In the evenings, the two brothers would train together. His older brother saw that his comprehension in learning quan was keen, and that he had already attained a standard in his boxing skills. At that time, there were some people in Zhongshan county inviting Yang Shouzhong to teach, but Shouzhong had teaching commitments at various places in Guangzhou, and could not take on any more. So he said to Zhenji, “Why don’t you go teach on my behalf; each month I’ll come see you once or twice.” Yang Shouzhong tutored him on a few Cantonese customs, and some points for attention in teaching quan. So Zhenji set out on his own to Shiqi City. The First Middle School of Zhongshan County issued him a contract that he still has. It reads “This cordially contracts Mr. Yang Zhenji as a full-time lead instructor in martial arts (guoshu) at this school for the period from August 1, 1949 [Min Guo year 38] to January 31, 1950. [signed] Principle Lin Weiyan, issued August 1, 1949. Later, he concurrently taught martial arts at Shiguang Elementary School in an after-school program for students of that school. Each afternoon, he taught at First Zhongshan Middle School for an hour or more, and afterwards at Shiguang Elementary for an hour or more. When teaching he would first lecture and perform, and later practice together with his students. His salary was calculated using rice in place of cash.
He resided at the Shiqi City Library. Mornings and evenings he taught private lessons. The people of this area were experienced and knowledgeable; many of them were active in business in Hong Kong, Kowloon, and Macao. Some of them were familiar with the benefits of taijiquan, so they came to study from him. A few among his students were well-known local gentry. In this locale there were some boxing teachers, gangsters, and local ruffians who observed his stalwart posture and saw that his quan was light and lively and well-composed, his push hands rounded and smooth, so he earned their respect and admiration. They did not dare to rashly cross hands or compete with him.
At first his older brother often came to check in on him, but later came less often when he realized that he was equal to the task and able to take full charge himself. In this manner, Zhenji trained himself as he taught others, occasionally discussing quan and push hands with his older brother. Before he knew it, more than a year had passed.
Just before liberation occurred in Guangzhou [the Peoples’ Republic of China was established in October of 1949], Yang Shouzhong’s entire family had moved to Hong Kong, and Zhenji had continued to teach quan in Zhongshan county. After liberation, when the railroad had once again gone into service, he returned to the old family home in Yongnian.
The time in Guangzhou and Zhongshan county was a turning point for Zhenji in his study and teaching of quan. Later he would say, “When my father was alive, I was still young; so much of what I learned of taijiquan was from this time with my older brother.”
—Yan Hanxiu, in Yang Zhenji’s book, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan, 1993, pages 229-230
Yang Zhenji biographical material, Part 3
In September of 1950, Yang Zhenji began work as a clerk at the Handan division of the China Cotton Company. Because of the changes that had come about in society, he did not dare to practice quan openly. During the days when his father had taught in Hangzhou, the Superintendent of Guoshu (martial arts), Zhang Jingjiang, made a gift to him of four Long Quan double-edged swords—one for each of his four sons. After the Japanese had occupied Yongnian, Zhenji’s maternal grandmother mistakenly took them to be contraband weapons, and threw them into a well, so this left Zhenji with no practice sword. At the break of dawn each morning, he would secretly practice quan, and use a stick for a sword or saber. Occasionally he could not avoid being seen by neighbors, who misunderstood what he was doing, saying, “Has this Mr. Yang got a mental problem?” How could they know the sincere intention of this martial master? He merely wanted to do honor to his father’s and older brothers’ teachings, so each day he ceaselessly practiced his art in the belief that he could one day resume his true profession, and help spread his family’s taijiquan tradition. At that time, even the people in his work unit had no idea that he was proficient in quan.
At last, opportunity came to him in an extraordinary way. Near the end of the 1950s, First Secretary of the North China Party Bureau, Li Xuefeng, was studying quan from Fu Zhongwen in Shanghai. As a young man Fu Zhongwen had received Yang Chengfu’s teachings, and had been looked after as well by Mrs. Yang, so he constantly bore in mind the Yang family descendants. Once, after a training session, Fu said to Secretary Li, “Taijiquan was developed by the Yang family ancestor, Yang Luchan. We have already lost the third generation. Among the forth generation, we have Yang Chengfu’s four sons. The eldest son is teaching quan in Hong Kong. The second and fourth sons [Zhenji & Zhenguo] are in Handan, the third son [Zhenduo] is in Shanxi—all of them received the true transmission, but none of them is currently engaged in teaching quan. Would it not be possible to arrange for transfers in their employment so as to allow them to carry on and develop their ancestral trade? They could make a great contribution in the dissemination of taijiquan.”
Comrade Li Xuefeng had formerly been in poor health, but had experienced the health benefits of studying quan, and was intimately aware that taijiquan was a national treasure. Upon hearing that there were Yang family descendants still living, he gave a deep sigh and said, “This is something that can be arranged.” Before long, Li Xuefeng was doing inspection work in Handan city in Hebei, and asked the prefect secretary to invite Yang Zhenji to the military bureau. [Li was a very powerful party official at the time. Among other roles, he headed the “Industrial Work Department,” according to Klein & Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism 1921-1965, Vol I, pp 504-506. –LS] Comrade Li Xuefeng asked Yang, “What are you doing currently?” Yang Zhenji said, “I’m a manager at the cotton supply and marketing co-op.” “Would you be willing to come out and teach quan?” Once Yang Zhenji heard that it would be to teach taijiquan, he was extremely elated, and blurted out, “Of course I would be willing!” Comrade Li Xuefeng said, “Wait awhile until further notice.”
Two months later, Yang Zhenji was transferred to Hebei provincial system work brigade, where he was appointed as the taijiquan coach, but in fact he did not teach for the work brigade, but was specially appointed to teach a number of leader cadres and functionaries for the Hebei province section of the North China Bureau.
After reporting for that post, he received notice to go to Shanghai to meet with Fu Zhongwen and assist teaching taijiquan to comrade Li Xuefeng.
From 1962 to 1966, he continuously taught quan in Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, Beidaihe, and other places. On some occasions, government leaders would come out and observe or follow along. In his spare time, he would instruct them in quan training.
In Beijing, he lived in the Eastern Military Academy. Every morning, carrying his sword, he would go to several government leaders’ homes to teach quan. Afterwards he would proceed to the White Pagoda Temple to teach functionaries and cadres during their work breaks. In the afternoons, he went to Xiyi Military Academy to teach more functionaries and cadres during breaks. His personal time at home, while on call, was taken up by personal practice. At that time, teaching the leaders and cadres always had to follow secret protocols. He had little opportunity for going to movies or plays, or visiting with friends; his daily schedules were very tight, with little leisure time.
Later, Yang Zhenji would recollect: “Those leaders and cadres were quite amiable in their dealings with people. They did not treat people on the basis of status or position, but as equals.” He often talked with the leader comrades about taijiquan theory, explaining important training principles. They would all listen conscientiously, and were very respectful towards him personally. His personal feeling about the situation was that, were it not for the regard these leader comrades showed for taijiquan as an endeavor, and for the Yang family descendants, where would he be today? Therefore, he was willing to bear the burden conscientiously, cooperate rather than calculate his personal loss or gain, and exert himself in teaching taijiquan to the best of his abilities.
—Yan Hanxiu, in Yang Zhenji’s book, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan, 1993, pages 230-231
Image taken from • The Yang Family History Fine Art Book • www.martialgraphics.com Image by Marco Gagnon
Yang Zhenji biographical material, Part 4
Good times do not last long. By 1966, the turmoil had begun, and the leaders and cadres had to step aside as some groups carried out “revolution.” [i.e., the Cultural Revolution —LS] Now, no one studied quan, so Yang no longer had a way to engage his talents. He was again returned to Handan city, where he was grouped with a number of other people in the physical education facility.
Because of the fact that he had an older brother in Hong Kong and the implied “connections abroad,” he was investigated and had to account for his connections with his brother. He replied with complete assurance to his interrogators, saying: “My family has taught quan as a profession for generations. My older brother is no exception. We do not participate in any factional organizations. I have clearly explained my dealings with my older brother as having to do with the work that we do. I have explained it that way in the past, and I am doing so now. There is nothing that I have to account for.” The interrogators were unable to turn anything up, yet they still seemed to lack an understanding of the situation.
The factional struggles in Handan city became more and more intense, and society was very unstable. The physical education facility was located in the center of the city. Because of the frequent factional demonstrations, the local leaders appointed Yang Zhenji and a member of the kitchen crew to guard the large gate in order to assure the safety of the government functionaries. He did not carry a weapon, but day and night he stood or sat at the gate opening. Somehow a rumor circulated saying that the man keeping guard at the gate was a Yang family taijiquan descendant with formidable martial skills. Among some of the more serious factionalists [most likely this refers to Red Guards —LS] were some trained in martial arts, shuai jiao, etc. They did not dare to approach the gate; they would even go out of their way to avoid it because he was standing guard. The government functionaries within the gate were never attacked.
—Yan Hanxiu, in Yang Zhenji’s book, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan, 1993, page 232