Master Cheng (1848-1900) was from Cheng village of Sun district, Hebei Province. He opened a spectacle shop in Beijing and was widely known as ‘Spectacle Cheng’. Cheng was very fond of the martial arts. At first, he studied under various schools of Chinese Boxing for a couple of years, and was particularly proficient at Chinese Shuai Jiao or wrestling.
He was eventually recommended to Master Dong Haichuan under whom he studied a few years. By persistent practice, he became an expert himself. It is said that many famous fighters challenged Cheng but no one could defeat him.
Cheng had an impulsive nature. He was short but strong. In all his fights, he was known to use the ‘Single Pounding Palm’ (Dan Zhuang Zhang) and was always successful in throwing his opponents in a single movement. In contrast to Yin Fu, who popularized the Tornado Palm and Ox Tongue Palm, Cheng was know for his fluid ‘Dragon Claw’ which inspired many styles of Ba Gua such as Dragon Style, You Shen (Swimming Body Ba Gua), Gao style, Jiu Gong Zhang (Nine Palaces), and Jiang Rongqiao’s style. Though both of these men studied under Dong Haichuan for years, the difference in style can be attributed to the fact that Dong tailored his teachings to suit the nature and martial arts background of each student.
In July 1900, foreign troops entered Beijing. Looting, raping, and other acts of barbarism were perpetrated everywhere by the foreign devils. Master Cheng was so angered by these atrocities that he resolved to take vengeance on the foreign troops. At the sight of a dozen or so soldiers, he set forth to meet them with only two daggers. His pupils tried to stop him, but to no avail. It was later found that Cheng single-handedly killed ten or more soldiers, but died of multiple bullet wounds during the struggle.
His most famous pupil was Sun Lu Tang (1859-1933) who went on to found Sun Lu Tang style, still practiced today. Cheng had two sons. The elder, Cheng Yulung (1875-1928) was also a master of Baguazhang. He was responsible for spreading the art in Beijing and Tianjin.