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Biography of Niu Sheng Xian (牛胜先) [born 1938]
Translator’s Note: This is the composite English translation of three different (but related) Chinese language, biographical source texts all entitled ‘牛胜先’ – or ‘Niu Sheng Xian’. This process has created (for the first time in the English language), an easily accessible general biography of this extraordinary personality, who has excelled in the fields of the practice of Daoist self-cultivation, and martial endeavour in modern China. Niu Sheng Xian’s esteemed father – Niu Jin Bao – has been the subject of a previous translation, and was the direct disciple (and lineage inheritor of the great Daoist grand master - Zhao Bichen (1860-1942) – who transmitted the 1st Qianfeng Daoist lineage to him. Niu Jin Bao then taught his son – Niu Sheng Xian – who in turn became the 2nd generation descendant of the Qianfeng lineage. Currently in his mid-70’s, Niu Sheng Xian is still very active in his teaching of Daoist self-cultivation, and advanced martial arts technique.
Master Niu Sheng Xian is the recognised thirteenth generation descendant of the Daoist Family Dragon Gate School (道家龙门派 – Dao Jia Long Men Pai), and the acknowledged second generation successor of the Thousand Peaks Earlier Divine Sky School (千峰先天派第 – Qian Feng Xian Tian Pai), the latter of which he inherited from his famous father Niu Jin Bao (牛金宝) [1915-1988], who was the disciple of the founder of the Qianfeng lineage – Grand Master Zhao Bichen (趙避塵) [1860-1942]. From his father he learned various life-extending, and life enhancing Daoist exercises and martial arts routines.
Niu Sheng Xian was born in 1938 in Qinghe County, Hebei province, and is acknowledged in Beijing as an accomplished martial artist. He was formerly the head-coach of the Beijing Taiji Push-hands (太极推手 – Tai Ji Tui Shou) team, and is a renowned expert in the ‘Eight Sections’ (八段 – Ba Duan) method of training. As he wore a white gown over white trousers when he entered competitions, everyone referred to him as ‘White Old Way’ (白老道 – Bai Lao Dao). At an early age (around 1951), he trained under Yang Feng Xiang (杨凤翔), also known as ‘Iron Arm’ (铁胳膊 – Tie Ge Bo) Yang Si (杨四).
In 1978 there was a mission from Japan to the Three Wheel Cultivation Temple (三轮修祠 – San Lun Xiu Ci), which included a very arrogant member named Nagai Hisayoshi (永井久义 – Yong Jing Jiu Yi), who declared that Chinese martial culture was inferior to Japanese martial arts. Niu Sheng Xian was challenged by this delegation to prove the effectiveness of his ‘Chinese’ martial skill. Niu Sheng Xian, when standing centralised and balanced, stood 1.75 meters tall. He utilised the technique of ‘standing like a stake stance’ (桩功 – Zhuan Gong) as practiced in the martial art known as Xingyi (形意), or ‘Form Intention’ boxing. A number of Japanese men, (all around 2 meters tall), desperately tried to push Niu Sheng Xian back, but despite their best combined effort, he remained completely still, calm, and composed. After this, a dozen Japanese masters queued-up to take on Niu Sheng Xian, and using the same Xingyi method coupled with Taiji (太极) technique, he defeated each one in turn with ease and control, ‘emitting’ (挤 – Ji) a highly condensed form of powerful energy known as ‘jin’ (劲). This event was published in the newspapers and eventually reached Japan, where it became known that the martial artist known as Niu Sheng Xian had defeated Japan’s best martial artists using ‘Chinese’ martial culture. The reports stated that Niu Sheng Xian was an old master of Taiji, and that he had taught the Japanese delegation a lesson they would not forget.
From around 1951, Niu Sheng Xian was the disciple of Li Tian Ji (李天骥) who taught him Xingyi, Bagua (八卦), and newly reorganised Taijiquan (太极拳), and ‘Wudang Straight Sword’ (武当剑 – Jian) technique, for around 30 years. After some time, he became the head student of Li Tian Ji’s school of Taijiquan and Straight Sword technique, and an acknowledged expert in the art of Chinese Boxing (拳法 – Quan Fa). He mastered the standing like a stake of Xingyi, the moving of the waist associated with Bagua, and the hand movements of Taijiquan. At the 1983 National Wushu Sanshou Taijiquan and Pushing Hands Tournament, Niu Sheng Xian attained the highest score to become the lightweight champion at push-hands. Then he became the head-coach for the Beijing Taiji Push-hands team (a post he held from 1984-1992), which saw the team win the national push-hands title (when competing against eighty nations), seven consecutive gold medals, and finish in the top group three years running. He remained active leading his students in both preparation for, and participation in, Beijing push-hands competitions until 2004. In 1996, Niu Sheng Xian founded the Guangzhou City Xingyiquan Martial Arts Council (广州市武协形意拳 – Guangzhou Shi Wu Xie Xing Yi Quan), and the Guangdong Universal Kindness Qianfeng Golden Elixir Specialist Practice Committee (广东省千峰普恩金丹功专业委员会 – Guangdong Sheng Qian Feng Pu En Jin Dan Gong Zhuan Ye Wei Yuan Hui). Following on from these successes, Niu Sheng Xian trained such notable martial artists as Wang Yan Ji (王燕基), and Gao Xiao Guang (高小光) amongst many others, and he has been repeatedly interviewed for Guangzhou Television. When he worked for the Central People’s Radio Sports Station – lecturing on the subject of Taiji Push-hands – during this time he popularised Taijiquan and its practice was deeply loved by the people. His achievements have been published in the ‘Encyclopaedia of Chinese Martial Arts’ (中国武术大词典 – Zhong Guo Wu Shu Da Ci Dian), the ‘Chinese Dictionary of Famous Martial artists’ (中国武术人名词典 – Zhong Guo Wu Shu Ren Ming Ci Dian), the ‘Yan Du Record of World Martial Arts’ (燕都武林录 – Yan Du Wu Lin Lu), and so on. Niu Sheng Xian’s fame is such, that he has many students over five continents.
Today, Niu Sheng Xian is a member of the advisory committee of the ‘Learned Martial Network’ (博武网 – Bo Wu Wang).
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.