Qing Ping Jian (青萍剑) is a set of famous sword forms in Chinese martial arts. Unlike other sword forms that are named after intimidating imagery or Daoist principals, it’s name is simply translated as “Green lemnoideae” sword. Like its name suggests, the characteristics of the form is known to be light on its feet, and the techniques are focused mostly on the manipulation of the sword by the wrist. It’s known to share its origin with Kun Wu Jian (昆吾剑). As far as I understand it, the Qing Ping system seems to specialize in the usage of lighter swords that can be freely used in light jabs, and can be manipulated easily by only the wrist. There are a lot of jumping and body angle changes in the air, something that can’t be done easily with heavier weapons. The Kun Wu system seems to be focused primarily on heavy swords. It focuses primarily on power generation and body alignment with stable movements. It’s name is also a throw back to a more ancient times (Kun Wu was the name of a bronze sword in Xia dynasty).
Both forms are to have taken their names from actual physical swords in history. The earliest recorded reference to the name “Qing Ping” was in The Source of Phrases by Chen Ling in eastern Han dynasty, where it was written “Gentile noble is of towering material, similar to Qing Ping, Gan Jiang (another famous ancient sword) in application.” ( 辞源，陈琳文；君侯体高俗之材。秉青萍干将之器) The forms are said to have been created by Yuan Gui of title Daoist Pan (元圭，潘真人). The original forms contain 360 named movements divided amongst 6 forms. The lineage is rather complicated, and there are now 3 major known branches of Qing Ping Jian. Jia, Yang and Yuan style. (贾，杨，袁)
The sword style gained major fame and publication during the Republican period following advocation by the National Guo Shu Institute (GSI; 中央国术馆) in 1920s. The GSI taught the Jia style, as a result Jia is now the most well known and most practiced style that can be found in China mainland and Taiwan.
There have been a few publications over the years by various groups to document and popularize the sword style. The earliest that can be found was Qing Ping Jian by Mi Lian Ke (青萍剑，米连科，郭锡三). It was a joint effort by Mi Lian Ke and Guo Xi San. It was (as far as we know) the first time that an organization had attempted to document this style. It contained a description of various archaeological findings related to Chinese swords in that period, as well as principals and essays on swordsmanship. Today it’s antiquated in many of its assertions, but a valuable source of knowledge nevertheless. Unfortunately the book only contained details on the first and second Qing Ping forms. It had stated that the remainder forms will be published in later volumes. However due to unfortunate history, this never came to pass.
In 1986 the Qing Ping Jian Shu was written by Lu Jun Hai, Qiu Pi Xiang and Wang Pei Kun (青萍剑术，卢俊海，邱丕相，王培锟). It contained the forms 1-6 of Jia style Qing Ping Jian, but very little was written on principals or applications.
In 1987, Jia Zhao Shan wrote Mi Chuan Jia Shi Qing Ping Jian (秘传贾式青萍剑，贾肇山), or Secret Transmissions of Jia Style Qing Ping Jian. Jia Zhao Shan is a descendant of founder of Jia style Jia He Yun. In the book it also contains forms 1-6, as well as some history and principals specific to the Jia family.
Interestingly all Qing Ping Jian forms, regardless of lineage share the same list of moves. The Jia style is said to contain 5 more moves than others, making the entire style 365 moves. To my surprise, even within the different branches of the Jia family, there are large discrepancies in the movements. I’ve found 4 major groups of Qing Ping Jian variations in terms of movements.
First, the older generations trained by the GSI share similar patterns. If we use the Mi Lian Ke book as the basis, its movements can be found exactly in videos of the form by Fan Zhi Xiao (范之孝), Fan was a student of Guo Xi San, and later relocated to Taiwan. Therefore it’s no surprise that his form would be the closet to the original taught by Mi and Guo. Form 1 of Lu Jun Hai’s book is very similar to Mi’s version. Lu’s father, Lu Zhen Duo (卢振铎), who taught Lu Jun Hai his material, was from the same lineage as Mi as well as time period. So the difference in the forms was probably due to individual differences in interpretation and training. However Lu’s book can be served as a reasonable extension to Mi’s forms.
Although Jia Zhao Shan is from the original Jia lineage. His form is quite different from Mi or Lu’s forms. The beginning salute is very different, and many moves are reduced in range of motions and length of executions. It still shares some characteristics as the Mi an d Lu forms, but it’s difficult to resolve much of the differences between them.
Jia’s form is at least 2 generations removed from the time of Mi Lian Ke and Lu Zhen Xi, so some major modifications to the forms might be unavoidable. However in his book, Jia said “Before the revolution, there has been people who published form 1 and 2, but because it was published by people who are not of the direct lineage, their practices was not exact, and their understanding of the sword was inefficient. The true nature of the technique was 90% inaccurate. My grandfather angrily said: ‘The techniques are untrue, it misleads students!’, therefore he had the wish to publish the real true swordsmanship” . No doubt he meant the book by Mi and Guo. I’m sure Jia was earnest in his intended efforts, but I found it too harsh to criticize Mi and Guo, who had important contribution to the advancement of Chinese martial arts. It’s possible that they have changed the original Qing Ping forms so it can be more readily popularized. The Baji forms from my own lineage had been severely changed in the GSI, and met with harsh criticism in its day. However whatever was special within the Jia family system, I can no longer see it. Instead the swordsmanship of Fan Zhi Xiao was truly inspirational. Perhaps I still lack proper training to have a discerning eye for true martial prowness, and it is something to keep in mind that whatever we can find on published Qing Ping Jian material may not be the final word.
There are two more groups of Qing Ping Jian that do not belong in the Jia system. There are videos of the Yang style Qing Ping Jian that have very different expression than the Jia styles mentioned above. However the opening moves of Opening The Fan and Golden Flower Scatter To the Ground are very recognizable. The Yang style is said to precede the Jia style, so some similarity is reassuring. However there are no published records on these forms that can be found, so there’s nothing solid for me to go on. Curiously these forms are found with the Seven Mantis style.
Finally, there is a group of Qing Ping Jian that have no commonality with the previously mentioned groups at all. All I know about them is that they are from Cang county, and that there are more than one person doing them, rather impressively too. There are videos of forms 1-6 done by more than one person, so the material is very complete, but I can find no historical basis for them. Initially I assumed that they are Yang style, since they seem to be popular in Cang county. However this has proven to be false as there are actual Yang style forms. My best guess is that this perhaps is the ever elusive Yuan style. Characteristically, I find them no different from other sword styles such as Pan Long Jian or Wu Dang Jian.
My conclusion after this much research is that the Lu Jun Hai book is the best to be used as a basis for studying the Qing Ping Jian system. It’s the closest to the GSI version with form 1-6 completely listed. The Mi et Guo book is necessary for a more completely understanding of the GSI approach to the system. I think the movements describes in the Jia book are too vague to be clearly followed. Unless I happen to meet a great Jia family lineage practitioner one day, I will not be able to decipher it with any confidence. But it does give some food for thought. Similarly the Yang system cannot be properly learnt unless there’s actual practitioners, but I wonder if their style now has too much mantis influence. Finally I have not made up my mind about the Yuan(?) style. I was initially impressed by Fan Zhi Xiao, and a practitioner of the Yuan system to start researching into Qing Ping Jian, however unless I have more solid proof of history with their system, I will only enjoy their performances from afar.
Here are the pdf of the books for those interested (They are in Chinese):