by Dan Docherty
Character 1 Lan
Character 2 Luan
Character 3 Cai
Character 4 Hua
Character 5 Cai
Character 6 Hua
Character 7 Lang
Some years ago at Tai Chi Caledonia I was translating for Chen style teacher and All China Taijiquan Champion Wang Haijun at a forum discussing pushing hands. However, I deliberately did not translate all he said. He referred to a concept called Lan Cai Hua and I knew that the only other person present who knew what he was talking about was Faye Yip. Trying to translate and to explain what was meant was not appropriate given time constraints and the level of the participants. It is also another of Tai Chi’s poisoned chalices.
To the best of my knowledge very little has been written about this in either Chinese or English even by such prolific scribes as Dr. Yang Jwing-ming and Mr. Robert W. Smith. It is time to remedy that.
Let us first examine some Chinese sources. My Zhong Guo Wushu Da Zidian (Chinese Martial Arts Big Dictionary) mentions Lan/Luan Cai Hua – See characters 1 (Lan), 2 (Luan), 3 (Cai) 4 (Hua). This can be roughly translated as ‘Randomly Trampling/Stamping on Flowers’.
The dictionary goes on to say that the method is done with lively stepping and is not limited to one direction, nor is the number of steps restricted. There is no fixed training method; both partners are mutually intertwined in contact so each can sense the other’s changes in movement and technique. Each responds with Cai (here the character for uprooting) and trickery. Either divert/neutralize or discharge; stick, connect, adhere, follow, don’t break contact or resist. The footwork follows the advancing and retreating of the opponent and changes of position. Cai Lan Hua is Tui Shou’s highest level of training. This method helps to improve Ting (listening), Hua (diverting/neutralizing) and the ability to Fa (discharge). All a bit nebulous you might think. You are not wrong.
Comrade Ma You-ching, long term disciple of the venerable Wu Tu-nan, edited a manual of Chinese martial arts terms with the English title of ‘Terms of Kung Fu’ (although none of it is in English) which also deals with the subject of Lan Cai Hua. His Lan/Luan Cai Hua uses a different character for Cai than that found in the Wushu
dictionary; it is the character we use in TCC to mean uproot. – see character 5.
Ma writes that Tuishou has, in its shapes and appearances, certain kinds of level such as the Jin (force/ tactic) of holding and pointing (Qinna and Dian Xue), or nimble movement like a bee or a butterfly on a flower gathering (Cai at character 5 which was used for uprooting earlier now means ‘gathering’). Ma says the name Cai Lan Hua was given by later generations. All again a bit nebulous you might think. You are not wrong.
Ma does, however, mention Cai Lang Hua (literally Uprooting/Gathering Wave Transforms) as another name for Lan Cai Hua. This he does not explain. The characters for Cai Lang Hua are shown are characters 5-7 (5 (Cai), 6 (Hua) & 7 (Lang) 6 Hua). This is the precise name of an advanced pushing hands and fighting concept trained in the Wu lineage, but almost lost to the present generation.
The differences in angle and transformations in Cai Lang Hua include:-
- TA LANG – Stepping/Trampling Wave, rising and falling from above to below; sometimes this is also called ‘COVERING WAVE’ from high to low.
- YONG LANG – Surging Wave from below to above.
- HUI XUAN LANG – Circling Round Wave – separate circular turns to left and right.
- ZHE DIE LANG – Folding OverWave – gathering and repeatedly pushing.
- FAN TENG LANG -Churning/Turbulent Wave – centripetal force followed by centrifugal force.
- JIAO YI LANG – Delivering Righteousness Wave -in a figure 8.
Cai Lang Hua therefore is an advanced concept which can be trained in pushing hands – mainly in moving step. The concept can be used in spear, sword, Die Pu, Shuai Jiao, Qinna, and striking applications. The essence of the concept is ‘Use the Tao (Way) of the opponent and return it to the opponent’s body.’
Cai Lang Hua is not secret but it is not something for beginners. I don’t apologise for not translating Lan Cai Hua and trying to explain all this at Tai Chi Caledonia years ago. If I had, the participants would not have been waving, but drowning.
The excellent calligraphy is the work of my good friend Moira Ni, for which many thanks – DD