Ape Swings Through the Branches
Within the Hao family of Mantis,
Through the Branches in Four Sections (Si Duan Chuan
四段穿枝) are regarded as the
fist that "guards the home" and are not passed on to
applies snatch the treasure a move in the
form Through the Branches to Cunyi.
According to Master Zhang Kaitang
(Hao Hengxin's nickname) greatly treasured Through the
Branches, he only passed them on to
those trusted disciples who had studied for 5 or more
years. Those who were capable of learning all four
sections were even fewer. Zhang Kaitang was the closed
door disciple of Hao Si and the shifu of my shifu Zhou
Some years ago some disciples of the Hao
family came one after another to my Shifu Zhou Zhendong
after learning that he knows the four sections of
Through the Branches.
One famous Mantis master, a certain
master Zhang, had studied Hao family Tang Lang
with Hao Zhongyue
郝忠岳, but never learned
Through the Branches. When
Master Zhang heard that Zhou Zhendong knew this form, he
asked others to plead on his behalf to learn Through the
Branches from Zhou Zhendong. Master Zhou taught Master
Zhang the first section of Through the Branches, never
expecting that this Master Zhang would go back to his
teacher Hao Zhongyue and show off his new kung fu. When
Hao Zhongyue saw Master Zhang do Through the Branches, he
said in great surprise, "This is our family's house
guarding fist, how is it that you can do it?"
Master Zhang proudly proclaimed that it was taught to
him by Zhou Zhendong. When Hao Zhongyue discovered that
Master Zhou was Master Zhang Kaitiang's
張楷堂 disciple, he angrily stomped off to Master
Zhang Kaitang's home to condemn and denounce him for
teaching Through the Branches outside the family, and
complain that Master Zhang should not be teaching this
form to outsiders. Master Zhang said, "Zhou Zhendong is
my relative, he wishes to study , how can I not teach
From this we can see that Through the Branches is
The White Ape of Mantis
The first move of Through the Branches is called White Ape
Exits the Cave. It shows up many times within the form
in different combinations and is one of the
characteristic techniques of this form. But who is the
White Ape and where is his mysterious cave? To quote the
White Ape himself from a popular Ming stage drama.
I live in Misty Cave on Misty Mountain, and named
Misty Great Sage.
China presently promotes tourism to
Misty Mountain and Misty Cave. This is the view from
Misty Cave looking out over the mist covered peaks of
The story of the White Ape begins
sometime during or after the 8th century. By the Ming
dynasty, nearly one thousand years later, the White Ape
was a well known subject of popular stage drama. The
script of these dramas have been preserved in obscure
books of literary history not commonly read by people of
the current era. The writing style is a combination of
vernacular conversation and songs of the classical
Chinese language, making them hard reading. Luckily, the
translations into English vernacular are much easier.
Locking Up White Gibbon
famous play written in the early Ming called Realized
Master Shi the Fourth Sage Locks up White Gibbon
nicknamed Locking Up White Gibbon
starts with White Ape walking onto the stage to describe
himself and his great powers (translated below).
White Ape then goes on to describe
his next victim Shenbi
沈璧. White Ape waits for
Shenbi to leave home on a trip before starting his evil
plot. White Ape transforms himself into an exact
likeness of Shenbi and visits Shenbi's family just
before the real Shenbi returns home. When the real
Shenbi arrives home the White Ape uses his power of
transformation to cow Shenbi into submission. After the
tragic-comic confrontation between Shenbi and "Shenbi",
the White Ape transforms back into his original form.
Shenbi describes White Ape,
He opened up
his pair of imposing tiger-wolf pupils
his pair of fierce wolfish ape arms
Shenbi is given the ultimatum,
"Forfeit your family and household to me or receive death
by dismemberment into 10,000 pieces! You have
The White Ape gives Shenbi three
I must attend
the Party of Immortal Peaches
No wonder there is a
White Ape stealing peaches!
Shenbi enlists the help of an
ineffectual exorcist who fails miserably at helping
Shenbi escape the present calamity. Finally Immortal
時真人, the hero of
the story, captures
The custom of Chinese drama is to
introduce oneself when entering the stage. White Ape's
description of himself is written in elegant 7 meter non
rhyming verse and has a hypnotizing rhythm to the
cadence in the original Chinese which I was sadly not
able to reproduce here.
Great Sage of Misty Mountain
Conquering the misty peaks of
lofty mountains coming and going as I please.
Climbing mountains and crossing the peaks I display
Overturning rivers and stirring the seas I flourish
my magic powers.
Mounting the clouds and riding the mist I ascend the
violent rain, throwing rocks and hacking sands with
my demonic wind.
When idle I climb harsh mountain ridges of the
thousand year old tree.
In boredom I play at the summits of the 10,000 foot
In the evening I'm holding fruits while the apes cry
at the moon.
During the day I'm at the foot of the forest as
tigers roar with the wind.
I am a mist that reaches the heavens and penetrates
I'm nothing less than Yuling's aged Bai Shen Gong (a
famous master of Yuling).
I am the divinity Misty Great Sage.
I live in Misty Cave on Misty Mountain, and named
Misty Great Sage.
Born with heaven and earth and growing up with the
sun and moon my vast magic powers can perform
transformations of many kinds.
As I Leave Misty Mountain I stand high as the
占斷煙霞萬里峰. 任吾來往自縱橫. 爬山過嶺施英勇. 翻江攪海顯神通.騰雲駕霧昇狂雨. 走石砍沙起怪風.
我是箇通天徹地煙霞. 不弱如庾嶺多年白申公. 吾神乃煙霞大聖是也. 在於煙霞山煙霞洞居止.
號曰是煙霞大聖. 某與天地同生. 日月並長. 神通廣大. 變化多般. 某離了煙霞山. 立於雲端.
White Ape Offers the Blade
Besides the magic powers of White
Ape's transformations, he also carried a sword attached
to his waist. This was not lost on the White Ape's
theatre audience. Military manuals containing techniques
named after White Ape are a further demonstration of the
popularity of White Ape during the Ming Dynasty.
The spear technique White Ape
Applies the Saber comes from a late Ming era manual
called Wu Bei Zhi. This manual was a complete
listing of all the martial arts and military methods
popular just before the fall of the Ming Dynasty. This
is also the collection where Thirty-six Mantis Warriors
are mentioned. This copy comes from a Japanese
From the same book Wu Bei Zhi this version comes
from a Chinese collection. Two White Apes training saber
against each other. The manual describes names and
applications of techniques with the saber.
The History of Through the
In April 2013 I returned to China
to train with Shifu Zhou Zhendong. I asked him about the
details of Hao Lianru's Mantis Monkey form Through the
This is the story told to him by his Shifu Zhang
close of the Qing Dynasty Hao Lianru ran a martial arts
school in Beijing where he taught Shaolin Fist and Monkey
Boxing. Liang Xuexiang's son Liang Jinchuan was in
Beijing selling textiles. Two masters met and swore to
brotherhood. Their friendship resulted in the creation of Hao
Lianru's Monkey and Mantis style of boxing. You see
similarities between this form and Liang Jinchuan's form
Praying Mantis Hands.
Hao Lianru learned
Luanjie from Liang Jinchuan as well as empty hand
fighting techniques. No doubt they were those that Liang had learned from his
father Liang Xuexiang. From this exchange Hao Lianru
created Through the Branches. It combines the
applications of mantis in a series of four forms of
about 50 moves each.
The move called White Exits the Cave is shown here.
These photos taken
from a video grab as Shifu Zhou Zhendong is
Two moves that go to
left and right happen to be similar to the
method used in Zhou Zhendong's Bengbu form
Bengbu form shows a direct relationship to the
move White Ape Exits the Cave. In both forms you
move side to side with the mantis hand using a
forearm strike to the bottom.
White Ape takes treasures by force. Within Through the
Branches we often see techniques with this name. Names
such as Snatch the Treasure from the Bottom of the Sea
and Take the Pearl.
No wonder Through the Branches has the technique of stealing
pearls and snatching treasures, it comes from the White