ongbei Quan is a traditional Northern Chinese martial art.  Its precise origin and lineage are shrouded in mystery. The founder or exact time it was created is really not known. The earliest written reference to Tongbei is found in texts dating back a thousand years to the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). The text mentions that the first emperor, Zhao Kuangyin, fought three battles ending with the surrender of General Han Tong, who had used Tongbei Quan. Another reference from 1669 is found on the Tombstone Inscription of Mr. Wang Zhengnan by Huang Zongyi (also known as Huang Lizhou). In this article one sentence states that "You Jun's Tongbei skill was the best." These two references suggest that a fighting method referred to as Tongbei was in existence from much earlier than ever imagined.
There are several styles of Tongbei Ouan.  Over the years of development, some of these styles adapted or fused elements from other Chinese martial arts, but the original and most famous style is Baiyuan Tongbei Quan.  In this website, the term Tongbei indicates the Baiyuan style, unless indicated otherwise. Today in China there are several well-known branches within Baiyuan Tongbei, which all follow similar principles.
Tongbei Quan Styles:
    Baiyuan Tongbei Quan
    Pigua Tongbei Quan
    Liangyi Tongbei Quan
    Shaolin Tongbei Quan
    Huoye Tongbei Quan
    Liuhe Tongbei Quan
    Hongdong Tongbei Quan

Baiyuan Tongbei Quan Branches:
Shi Pai Tongbei Quan
Qi Pai Tongbei Quan
Lao Qi Pai Tongbei Quan
Shao Qi Pai Tongbei Quan
Wuxing Tongbei Quan
Taiji Tongbei Quan
Taiji Wuxing Tongbei Quan
Wuyuan Tongbei Quan
Ruyi Tongbei Quan

The history of Baiyuan Tongbei is not well-documented. The most popular belief among Tongbei practitioners in China today is that the art was conceptualized and developed around 2,500 years ago by a man named Bai Shikou.  (Also known as Yisan, and having the Taoist name of Dong Lingzi.)  According to legend, he passed his skill on to Wang Dao, Li Yi, and Han Cheng.  The story is based on the folktale of Yuan Gong, a famous martial artist of the Spring and Autumn Era (500 BC).  This martial artist was described as old, with white hair and a beard and always wearing white clothes. The story has it that he challenged another martial arts master but lost the fight.  As a result, he was transformed into a white ape that took up residence in the forest and was thereafter referred to as Baiyuan (white ape) Laoren (old man).  Folklore maintained that he was an immortal ape who taught his skills in secret and was highly respected in the Chinese martial arts society.  Most groups in China today that practice traditional Tongbei include Baiyuan Laoren (Bai Shikou) in their lineage as the founder of Tongbei.

Another version of Tongbei history, popular among a few groups of practitioners, traces the art through a lineage of famous masters starting with a different presumed founder of the style, Chen Tuan (? - 989). Chen was a Taoist master and renowned scholar and teacher of the Song Dynasty. He was credited and highly respected for his contributions to Taoist theory. This included the creation of the well-known Taiji diagram. During the course of his Taoist practices in Hua Shan Mountain, Chen is said to have invented Tongbei and a qigong method known as Shui Gong Fa. While there is no direct proof that Chen actually invented these skills, many practitioners ascribe to this traditional idea and consider Master Chen as the first generation master of Tongbei Quan. 
Statue of Chen Tuan in the Temple of Hua Shan
In our group's lineage list in the traditional family manual (i.e., the group record or the Pu), after Chen Tuan, the art of Tongbei skill was passed on through several famous masters, and finally separated to two styles  Shi style and Qi style.
Our group belongs to Shi style. Shi style Tongbei Quan started from great master Shi Hongsheng who was the first person teaching Tongbei in Beijing.  But he did not teach many students because of his conservatism.  This trend was to continue amongst his students.  Only Zhang Wencheng and Ma Xiaohe passed on their skills to a few disciples.  Amongst Zhang Wencheng's disciples, only Li Zhendong (1882 - 1977), Liu Baoming, and Ma Deshan were famous.  Li Zhendong's nickname is Kuishou Hei Li, quick hand black Li.  He taught Tongbei in the army for several years.  His best disciple is Li Shusen (1902 - 1975), whose nickname was Tie Gebo Li, iron arm Li.  Under Li Shusen, today Zhao Zeren, Gu Yun, Lu Shengli, Li Gengjiang, Zhang Yun, and few others have inherited the skill. Besides this lineage, in our group we also get knowledge from great master Wang Peisheng. Master Wang learned Ruyi Tongbei Quan with Master Liang Junbo. Today we are not sure who Master Liang's teacher was. But from carefully examining the research, it is obvious Ruyi Tongbei is a branch of Shi style Tongbei. So in all probability Master Liang was the third generation disciple of Shi. From training with Master Wang, we get a much  clearer in deeper understanding of the principles and their details.

Our Lineage
Quick Hand  Black Li
      Li Zhendong
Iron Arm Li
Li Shusen
The most outstanding Master Wang Peisheng
In 1989, Zhang Yun brought this style to United States and taught it to a few students. Strider Clark is the first student and indoor disciple of Zhang's in United States. He is also the first westerner to have joined this group in the traditional sense. His enrollment ceremony was held in Beijing in 1993.
International Baiyuan Tongbei Quan Association
Copyright (c)2003, Zhang Yun     All rights Reserved.
Zhang Yun and Strider Clark