Roots in Chinese Taoism

The Taoist Water Tradition: Teachings Passed down from Lao Tzu’s Lineage

TaoismFour thousand years ago, Taoist monasteries were set up in various parts of China to help people develop their mind-body-spirit. For a select few, training would be in-depth enough to understand the root of the universe through the use of the I Ching (Book of Changes).

Five Element practices were also studied as a method of understanding how manifestation occurred in the natural world. The five energies of manifiestation—Water, Wood, Fire, Metal and Earth—provide understanding about the workings of the universe and allowed ancient peoples to attune their daily practice in accordance with natural laws inherent in both the worldly and spiritual planes.

I Ching and Five Element practices were kept alive through generation after generation of masters devoting their lives to this work, efforting to pass down the totality of their body of knowledge through their formal disciples to the present day. Most of this training was done one-to-one, and very little has been written down—even to this day.

The Taoist approach to health and well-being starts with the body, seeking to develop a very strong, healthy and vibrant physical manifestation. Practices do not insist on any specific belief system or set of religious values, and people of all religious backgrounds are welcome to participate. Once the body is made stabile enough to take on greater challenges to do with the emotions and Mind, practices are evolved to expand and refine one’s human potential.

One group of ancients who studied I Ching and Five Element practices in China came to be known for their philosophy of following the path of least resistance, the way of water. The Taoist Water tradition, which was later named by Lao Tzu (author of the Tao Te Ching), was passed down to the present day by lineage masters responsible for keeping the system pure and whole. Learning from a lineage holder or one of their qualified instructors is, therefore, preferable to learning from a teacher who may have information from several different systems that are not necessarily compatible or have not been developed and tested over long periods of time.

All of the practices that comprise the original Taoist Water tradition were designed by the ancient Chinese to study and embody the nei gong system, consisting of 16 components that underpin internal power cultivation for health, healing and vitality. The nei gong system is a science of energy development that serves as a map for understanding all functions of the body, mind and life-force energy (which runs both), and has traditionally been applied to martial arts, healing, well-being and meditation…to manifest a life worth living.

In China, all Taoists trained nei gong, but not all Taoists trained bagua or deeper meditation practices. In similar fashion, all modern students train qi gong, but whether you choose to train bagua and/or meditation is entirely up to you.

My Link to the Taoist Lineage

Taoist Lineage Master Bruce Frantzis, holds lineages in qi gong, bagua zhang, Wu and Yang style tai chi, and Taoist meditation. He trained in Asia for many years and received all of his lineage endowments there before bringing back the teachings to the West.

I begain studying my teacher’s system in 1987 and, in 1995, after living with him for 15 months, he encouraged me to begin teaching in Europe. After 17 years of intense study and nearly 10 years teaching qi gong, tai chi and bagua, I became one of only nine of his senior instructors in 2004.

Taoist Tai Chi Lineage

  • Yang Lu Chan; passed down his lineage to
  • Chuan You; who passed down his lineage to
  • Wu Jien Chuan; who passed down his lineage to
  • Liu Hung Chieh; who passed down his lineage to
  • Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis (my primary teacher)

Taoist Bagua Lineage

  • Tung Hai Chuan (modern progenerator of bagua); passed down his lineage to
  • Cheng Ting Hua; who passed down his lineage to
  • Cheng You Long; who passed down his lineage to
  • Liu Hung Chieh; who passed down his lineage to
  • Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis (my primary teacher)


  • Tung Hai Chuan (modern progenerator of bagua); passed down his lineage to
  • Mai Gui (Ma Shr Ching); who passed down his lineage to
  • Liu Hung Chieh; who passed down his lineage to
  • Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis (my primary teacher)


  • Zhu Wenbao; passed down his lineage to
  • Liu Hung Chieh; who passed down his lineage to
  • Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis (my primary teacher)

Taoist Lineage Master Bruce Frantzis

Tai Chi + Bagua Master Bruce Franztis with Senior Instructor Paul Cavel

Taoist Master Bruce Franztis & Senior Instructor Paul Cavel

In 1981, Bruce Frantzis was accepted as one of only two disciples of Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh. Prior to becoming a Lineage Holder, Liu had been declared enlightened by the Tien Tai School of Chinese Buddhism. For several years, Bruce studied qi gong, bagua, tai chi, hsing-i and Taoist meditation daily with Liu in Beijing.

Bruce has studied with some of the greatest masters of Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China including Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, Kenichi Sawai and Han Hsing Yuan (I Chuan); Wang Shu Jin and Hung I Hsiang (bagua and hsing-i); Yang Cheng Fu’s eldest son Yang Shao Jung, T. T. Liang, Lin Du Ying and Feng Zhi Qiang (Yang and Chen styles of tai chi).

Bruce studied acupuncture and worked as a qi gong therapist and tui na energy healer in medical clinics in China. In 1981, he was the first Westerner to be certified in Beijing by the People’s Republic of China to teach the complete system of Tai Chi Chuan.

Taoist Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh


Taoist Master Liu Hung Chieh with His Formal Disciple Bruce Frantzis, China

Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh began his martial arts training at the age of 11 in Six Combination Northern Shaolin. At 14, Liu was formally initiated into the original Beijing bagua tradition, which housed the largest gathering of bagua practitioners in Beijing. It was originally headed by Cheng Ting Hua. Liu’s initiation into this lineage was performed by Cheng Ting Hua’s son, Cheng You Lung.

Being the last remaining original bagua school in Bejing, bagua practitioners from all lineages came to practise together. This school was a true meeting ground for the top practitioners. It was here that Liu learned Cheng Ting Hua’s Dragon Style as well as Yin Fu’s Willow Leaf Palm Style that form the basis of  the bagua system I teach today.

Liu lived with Ma Gui (Ma Shr Ching) towards the end of Ma’s life, being trained one-on-one daily in the deepest aspects of bagua. Ma Gui was one of Tung Hai Chuan’s top four students, and developed bagua energetic and meditation practices to a very high level. Ma taught few students and demanded a lot from them. Liu’s basic movements (forms and applications) were from Cheng Ting Hua’s Dragon Style, but the higher level energy work and meditation practices came from Ma Gui.

Then, Liu became head instructor of the Hunan Province Central Government Martial Arts Academy in Changsha from 1932-1934. It was during this period that Liu met Wu Jien Chan’s sons, which ultimately led to Liu living in Wu Jien Chan’s house in Hong Kong and becoming his disciple. Here, Liu studied the deepest aspects of Wu style tai chi.

Liu became interested in the spiritual path of Buddhism, which culminated in Liu studying with the Tien Tai Sect Buddhist Master Tan Hsiu Fa Shr. Tan Hsiu led Liu into realisation of the nature of Emptiness, or what in the West is called “Enlightenment”.

Liu then travelled to the mountains of western China, where he spent 10 years studying with several Taoist masters from whom he learned the methods of Taoist internal alchemy. It was here, with Taoist adepts, that Liu completed his studies on qi and realised the root of the I Ching and its manifestations.

Following, Liu shifted his primary work from martial arts to Taoist meditation, including the totality of bagua training. Liu returned to Beijing and spent the rest of his life working for the spiritual benefit of humanity as head of an important northern Taoist lineage. During this time, Liu only taught two people: Bai Hua, to whom he passed down the Fire tradition; and Bruce Frantzis, to whom he passed down the Water tradition of Taoism.