During the Qing Dynasty (Chin.: Qíngdài 清代 1644-1911) there lived the famous monk Shi Zhanju (Chin.: Shì Zhànjǔ 释湛举). Venerable Zhanju entered the Shaolin Monastery in the year 1790 and became a 26th generation master under Ven. Shi Haican (Chin.: Shì Hǎicān 释海参). In the monastery he became both a notable medical monk (Chin.: yīsēng 医僧) as well as a Wugong master. Having studied Wugong under the 24th generation monks Shi Rujing and Shi Ruliang (Chin.: Shì Rújìng 释如净 | Shì Rúliàng 释如亮), Ven. Zhanju quickly became proficient in Shaolin boxing methods, Qinna, and Qigong, specializing in Shaolin Six-Round Boxing (Chin.: Liùhéquán 六合拳). The depth of his knowledge, experience and skill level allowed him to later become the drill master of the monastery's regiment of monk soldiers (Chin.: sēngbīng 僧兵). Today he can be seen depicted in the Shaolin murals along with Ven. Shi Zhanluo (Chin.: Shì Zhànluò 释湛洛 1777-1864) instructing the monks in weapon and empty-hand combat skills.
Ven. Zhanju went on to make great contributions to the development of Shaolin Wugong during his generation. His remaining works include: Shaolin Six-Round Boxing Manual (Chin.: Shàolín Liùhé Quánpǔ 少林六合拳谱), Shaolin Seventy-two Arts (Chin.: Shàolín Qīshíèr Yì 少林七十二艺), and Shaolin Flood Boxing Sparring Methods (Chin.: Shàolín Hóngquán Duìzhāofǎ 少林洪拳对招法).
He modified and expanded upon a number of preexisting Shaolin boxing sets (Chin.: tàolù 套路) including Shaolin Cannon Boxing (Chin.: Pàoquán 炮拳) and the ancient internal form of Soft Boxing (Chin.: Róuquán 柔拳).
He was also the creator of several new boxing sets including Shaolin Wind-Chasing Palm (Chin.: Zhuīfēngzhǎng 追风掌) and the more well-known sets of Facing the Sun Boxing (Chin.: Cháoyángquán 朝阳拳) and its later expansion Bright Sun Boxing (Chin.: Zhāoyángquán 昭阳拳).
In addition, Ven. Zhanju was also the creator of the boxing set very well-known and widespread today which is the focus of this article, Shaolin Lianhuanquan. He created the set based on the Shaolin subsystems of Arhat Boxing (Chin.: Luóhànquán 罗汉拳), Full-arm Boxing (Chin.: Tōngbìquán 通臂拳), and Small Plum-blossom Boxing (Chin.: Xiǎoméihuāquán 小梅花拳). Taking the essence of these three subsystems and combining it with his own combat experience, the eighteen posture set of Shaolin Lianhuanquan was developed.
In Chinese, Lian-huan literally means 'link-rings', and is combined to form the noun 'chain' or adjective or adverb 'continuous/continually'. Quan is the noun for 'fist', but in style names refers to a type of 'boxing'. Hence, Lianhuanquan means Chain Boxing which also refers to a relentless pursuit of the opponent with a continuous chain of attacks. There is this saying associated with the set:
Shénzhāo jué bǎ liánhuán dǎ, yīqìhēchéng shénguǐ pà.
“The miraculous movements stun with a flurry of strikes,
All in one breath it scares the devils away.”
Although brief, the 18 postures of Lianhuanquan contain a variety of striking, kicking, joint-locking, and grappling/throwing applications (Chin.: dǎ, tī, ná, shuāi 打踢拿摔). The entire body from head-to-toe is incorporated in attack and defense with many flexible transformations. Hand shapes (Chin.: shǒuxíng 手形) alone include two fist forms, five palm forms, rooster claw, and crane techniques.
Shaolin Lianhuanquan is often practiced in only 17 postures, leaving out the final posture Five Flowers Sitting on the Mountain (Chin.: wǔ huā zuò shān 五花坐山). This posture may have been added to the set to bring it to 18 movements, a number of significance in Shaolin Chan with reference to the 18th vow of Amituofo. This posture also has great significance in Shaolin Culture (Chin.: Shàolín Wénhuà 少林文化) and is often tacked onto the end of boxing sets as a signature pose. Ven. Zhanju even uniquely used it as an opening to his set Zhaoyangquan (Bright Sun Boxing) previously mentioned.
The numerous applications of the single posture 'wu hua zuo shan' and the posture's significance in Shaolin Wugong culture is an entire topic of its own deserving of a separate article.
Mnemonic (Chin.: gējué 歌诀):
Shǒu zú bìngyòng liánhuán dǎ, Qióngzhuī bàokè rú jiàn fā,
Yīqìhēchéng shíbā shì, Shǒu zú tóu zhǒu quán shēn bǎ.
"Hands and feet combine to erupt with continuous strikes,
Relentlessly pursuing the brutal invaders like an arrow shot.
The eighteen postures are completed all in one breath,
Masterfully incorporating the hands, feet, head, elbow, and entire body."
Shaolin Chain Boxing
(4 Sections - 18 postures - 24 movements)
第一段 dìyī duàn - first section
1. Fist charging the heart (Chin.: chōngxīnquán 沖心拳)
2. Fist aiming at the heart (Chin.: dīngxīnquán 盯心拳)
3. Path-opening Cannon (Chin.: kāilùpào 开路炮)
4. Cannon on horseback (Chin.: mǎshàngpào 马上炮)
5. Hidden cannon (Chin.: wòdǐpào 卧底炮)
6. Beat the tiger and lean on the mountain (Chin.: dǎ hǔ kào shān 打虎靠山)
第二段 dìèr duàn - second section
7. Direct palm (Chin.: yíngmiànzhǎng 迎面掌)
8. Wild Goose lands on the river bank (Chin.: yàn luò hétān 雁落河滩)
9. Attack the monsters at front and back (Chin.: qiánhòu dǎo yāo 前後搗妖)
10. Diagonal flying kick (Chin.: xiéfēijiǎo 斜飞脚)
11. Mt. Song cannon (Chin.: Sōngshānpào 嵩山炮)
第三段 dìsān duàn - third section
12. (3 movements) - Gate-flashing cannon fist (Chin.: shǎn mén pào quán 闪门炮拳)
13. (3 movements) - Double cannons blast the mountain over (Chin.: shuāng pào hōng shān dǎo 双炮轰山倒)
第四段 dìsì duàn - fourth section
14. Sound the gong and open the path (Chin.: míng luó kāi lù 鸣锣开路)
15. Elbow charging the heart (Chin.: chōngxīnzhǒu 沖心肘)
16. Insert the incense and split Mt. Hua (Chin.: chén xiāng pī Huàshān 沉香劈华山)
17. Iron fist supporting Mt. Tai (Chin.: tiěquán jià Tàishān 铁拳架泰山)
18. Five flowers sitting on the mountain (Chin.: wǔ huā zuò shān 五花坐山)
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