Xiong Yanghe (Hsiung Yang Ho) 1888-1981
Xiong Yanghe was born into a military family. At that time in China there were two types of military officers--those of the pen and those of the fist. Xiong Yanghe‘s father was of the fist, a martial artist who was said to have participated in competitions to find the top martial arts officer. Xiong’s martial arts training is described In Michael DeMarco’s excellent article:
“Xiong Style Taiji In Taiwan: Historical Development & A Photographic Expose Featuring Master Lin Jianhong”, Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Volume 18, Number 3, 2009.
Editor's note - the above article is available for download for a small fee and is a worthy read.
DeMarco describes Xiong as having many teachers and exposure to multiple martial influences; that as a young man Xiong had hands-on fighting experience in competitions and in the real world of helping his father provide local security. As recalled by Peter, “My teacher learned hard martial arts first. In his mind he always remembered it, he was very proud of what he knew. He learned Tai Chi later. So his style of Tai Chi is a mix of hard and internal martial art. You can see the hard style in the low stances that some of his forms take.”
Xiong Yanghe followed his father’s military path, rising to a rank of Major General in the Chinese Nationalist Army. He saw a time of great political upheaval and war in China. The retreat in 1949 of the Nationalists from the mainland brought the influx of 2 million Chinese military and civilians to Taiwan. There was a transfer of Chinese culture both tangible and intangible. Treasures such as paintings, ceramics, and bronzes were taken to the island and were perhaps preserved from the ruinous Communist Cultural Revolution on the mainland. Xiong Yanghe’s escape to Taiwan can be viewed in the same light. As a Nationalist officer he would have been executed by the Communists. His retreat was the planting of a fertile seed of understanding of Tai Chi to a receptive audience in Taiwan. Peter remembers his teacher saying, “Even if you defeat me I will win. I will live longer than you.”
Master Xiong Yanghe remained vigorous into his old age. As an old man he beckoned his students to challenge him. As recalled by Peter, he said “Hit me! He was in his eighties, I was a young man. He was able to neutralize my punch with ‘Five Hands’-- a close range coiling technique of his hands.
During his high school summers. Peter had the opportunity to stay with Xiong Yanghe at his home in the city of Yilan. Peter was one of a handful of his Master’s students that would have the privilege to “enter the Master’s inner-most room”-- to be instructed one on one, in private. It was not just the forms and technique that Peter observed while with Xiong Yanghe. It was also the Master’s demeanor, character and thought.
As recalled by Peter:
My Master loved teaching people. Money was not his main concern. It was a custom to give him an envelope with money. He taught poor children that could not give anything. He really wanted to pass down this art. He had thousands of students.
My teacher could tell by looking at you whether you had been practicing Tai Chi or not. If you hadn’t, he would say, “Shame on you!”
He said, “You need to be like a general standing above the gate of a city, facing an enemy army coming to attack. The enemy soldiers are shouting ‘Kill!’ Face them. Stand upright, be brave, calm, without fear.”
He would say, “I don’t allow you to be sick. It is not allowed.”
He said, “I show you the direction to the treasure cave, you must dig the treasure for yourself.”
My teacher did not say much. He would come to teach a group, we would bow, he would acknowledge us with a wave of his hand. He said nothing. We would practice. We would bow. He would wave his hand good bye and leave. In public class it was difficult to learn anything other than movement. But in private he would talk. I would go to his room, he would sit there and correct my Tai Chi, just a few things each time, such as -“Now straighten your body; your eyes need to be straight...”
My teacher lived into his nineties. I believe he should have lived longer. He had so many students. So many students wanted to have a dinner for him. It was an honor to host a banquet for him and it was not polite for my teacher to refuse to come. He was a vegetarian. The cooking in the restaurants was heavy with oil and animal fat. I believe all this eating out, all this rich food upset his digestion and shortened his life.
In my teacher’s final days, when he went to the hospital, there were no medical records on him. There was no record of him being ill.