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Dr Xie Peiqi
Remembering Dr Xie Peiqi, 1920-2003

Doctor Xie Peiqi of Beijing China, passed away on October 10, 2003, attended by his family, students and friends.

I first met Dr Xie in 1996 in Boulder, the summer of his first tour of the US and Europe. A small unremarkable looking Chinese man sat quietly in a chair across the room as a dozen or so people filtered in and sat down. There were a couple twentysomethings on the floor hauling themselves into half lotus'. A minute later the 76 year old doctor moved from his chair to the floor, looked around, slipped into an easy full lotus, and with his knees still touching the floor lay down on his back. Just to make the point a little clearer, he bridged up onto his knees and shoulders for a while. Sitting back up and looking around again at a few dropped jaws he said something in Chinese, and his friend Andrew translated– "oh, he apologizes for not being able to bridge up to the top of his head anymore". Hmmm...

Dr Xie Dragon PostureThe weekend just got better from there. We saw a  few pieces of the martial and qi development sides of Dr Xie's art, Yin-style bagua. We practiced eight standing animal postures, four development drills, three qigong postures that combined movement, breath and sound, and body shaking exercises. The doctor talked, laughed, and demonstrated very politely, throwing us around, but not putting much force into his locks and strikes which were still devastating due to their speed and efficiency. We then walked the circle in a way I had never seen. We also found out Xie Peiqi was indeed a skilled Chinese doctor with a unique bodywork style based on incredibly strong qi combined with many highly accurate techniques and applied through skillful, sensitive hands- the results of many years of training and great strength of mind; and a fearless acupuncturist, known for his point threading technique; and an herbalist with a reputation for difficult cases. He was a character too- serious and sometimes quite pithy (to put it mildly), then cracking jokes and laughing, followed by a keen observation about something that just happened in the room that none of us had even noticed. I didn't know what to make of him, but I knew I wanted to learn more.

Dr Xie (left) with Men BaozhenBorn in 1920 to a family of Beijing watersellers, Xie Peiqi began studying martial arts with his father when he was six years old and soon lost interest in everything else. At thirteen he started training with a grandfatherly neighbor, Men Baozhen, a wealthy cultivated man also known to be a skilled martial artist. Men actually was a lineage holder in the Dong Haichuan> Yin Fu line of the art known as Baguazhang, or eight diagrams palm. Dong was a very famous fighter who originated this art and was proficient enough  to be in the service of the Imperial court. While there he exchanged skills with the high level court doctors, adding their knowledge to the medicine,  qi cultivation and martial skills that comprised Baguazhang. He had a number of students, chief among them was a man named Yin Fu, who also went on to become famous and was employed in the court as a tax collector and then personal bodyguard to the last empress of China. This branch of Bagua eventually took Yin's name.

Men Baozhen spent nearly 20 years with Yin Fu, and Xie Peiqi close to 30 with Men, living in his house much of that time and caring for Men in his old age. Dr Xie was also friendly with a number of senior practitioners outside the bagua circle from the previous generation, and as he was so enthusiastic, they often taught him parts of their arts in the hope the knowledge might be preserved. Thus Xie's system grew even more. Dr Xie went on to train one student the full system as was the custom in Yin-style Bagua(YSB). Tragically, that student died in 1985,  leaving  Xie without a successor and no students far enough along to complete their training within the doctors lifetime (he was in his mid- sixties at the time). A few years later Dr Xie began to meet some westerners who sought him out for lessons. In particular one British man, only about ten years junior to the doctor, impressed him with his diligence and perseverance and gave Dr Xie a very favorable impression of westerners.

Dr Xie listens to qiEnter in 1993 Andrew Nugent-Head seeking out  Xie Peiqi for his own training, and representing the Association for Traditional Studies (ATS), a non-profit organization "Dedicated to the preservation, documentation and dissemination of China's traditional arts and knowledge". Andrew and the doctor became good friends, Xie learned more about the west, and in 1996, accompanied by Andrew and sponsored by ATS, embarked on his first tour of the US and UK to teach YSB. Heartened by the people who came and worked hard, the doctor made an amazing announcement- he would break with tradition and start teaching all he knew, openly, to anyone who would come and not waste his time. In this way rather than one person carrying the entire art, much of it would have a chance to survive in the hands of many practitioners. Dr Xie had a very talented martial student, He Jinbao, who he trained fully and turned the martial side of YSB over to, and Xie concentrated on teaching his qi cultivation (called Dao Yin traditionally, today known as Qigong) and medicine.

Stories abound about Dr Xie- his personal strength of mind, his feats and accomplishments in the martial arts and medicine– the sheer quantity of his knowledge and experience. It could seem unlikely, even impossible when taken as a whole that one person could possibly do all this. Dr Xie, of course, was far from a normal person, and when you met the man and felt him in person, all doubts disappeared. He was an example too, of the product of an intact lineage of traditional knowledge, embodying the combined experience and learning of his predecessors and adding what he discovered in his life. The environment and circumstances that created this will probably never exist again. When the doctor's peer generation is gone many of their varied arts will be lost or severely diminished.

Dr Xie liked westerners. He felt the west was better organized and more scientific than China, and that westerners generally had a common sense approach and  healthy skepticism for things they didn't understand, until they were proven out. The only criticism he made was that as soon as someone like him showed up–from another culture, with unusual ideas– we suspended our good instincts and believed them outright. He said, "there are charlatans in every culture, why do you warn me to watch out for them in your country, but believe anything I say because it is on an eastern plate"?

Dx Xie with He  liked that many of the people he met in the martial workshops were big and strong– "I like teaching Westerners because I can hit them hard, demonstrate over and over, give them stern words when needed, and they are appreciative. They understand that this is part of learning a difficult art and are willing to work hard to learn it". He was likewise impressed that many of his students in the medical and qi cultivation classes were already professional health care practitioners.

In October of 2000, seventy some of Dr Xie's students converged on Beijing for a three week intensive study session, culminating with a celebration of his eightieth birthday. At that time he was recognized by the North American and European YSB Associations as a national living treasure. He was grinning ear to ear and leading everyone in loud singing– very happy to see that Yin style Bagua had such a following and that it would indeed live on into the future.

If you would like to learn more about Dr Xie Peiqi and Yin-style Bagua, please visit the Association For Traditional Studies website at www.traditionalstudies.org

 

 

Dr Xie seated in aligned knee posture

 

 

ATS Website– Dr Xie's Stele pages

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