The following text is a translation of the inscription on the stele erected to commemorate the life and times of Taiji Mantis master Li Dan Bai, made available for the first time in English:
It has been 24 years since the passing of Li Dan Bai. This stele has been erected to commemorate him. It has been inscribed by Xu Han Zhang.
The gentleman’s true name was Ming Ge, and Dan Bai was his alias. He was a native of You Ge Zhuang village. He was incredibly brave. In his childhood he learnt Shaolin Boxing, and there was no weapon he was not proficient in, while he had particular mastery of spear methods, which reminded people of Zhao Chang Shan’s spear (3 kingdoms era hero). He tasted travel throughout Shanxi, and passed through An Yi county, where he heard about a certain Mr Zheng’s secret skills. Zheng was especially polite and did not look down on him and so, believing that martial arts could make friends, wished to challenge him. After challenging him for three rounds, and losing all of them, Zheng came to admire this gentleman, and agreed to pass onto him his secrets. Later on, he said privately that “my feet have stepped foot in seven provinces, and defeated thousands of men in challenges, and only Mr Zheng could become my teacher, the two of us became extremely close.”
The county military academy’s Mr Liu Xi Sheng knew of many individuals of marvelous ability. One day, when he discovered a gentleman who’s fingers were hard as steel, he couldn’t help but enquire, to which the gentleman responded “You must go and visit Jiang Hua Long.” He then made inquiries into finding this person. Mr Jiang was proficient in the arts of Shaolin and was once a guest at the home of Xi Sheng. The three of them then discovered they were all of equal level, and took a pledge of brotherhood. Xi Sheng preferred teaching the methods of horseback archery. After a short time, he entered the military school. The three of them were all of exceptional talent. However, after a few years, military examinations in China were ceased.
Mr Wang Wen Qin knew of him for many years. He was posted to Guilin in Guangxi province to deal with a proliferation of bandits there, and thus invited Mr Li to accompany him. He took up the post with great enthusiasm, however, Mr Wang contracted malaria and had to return home. After less than a month, Mr Wang unfortunately passed away. Mr Li then accepted the fate of heaven, and spent the rest of his days living in seclusion and only focusing on teaching his hundreds of students.
During the latter years of the reign of Emperor Guang Xu (around start of 20th century), China’s neighbouring nations organised a martial arts competition in Shanghai, with Hangzhou’s governor He Lian Qing as the host. On his way to Yantai he visited Feng Tian city’s (Feng Tian is now Shenyang city) Mr Li, who told him “I am nobody, Laiyang county’s Jiang Hua Long is the highest level here!” Lian Qing then went to visit Hua Long, who rolled up his sleeves and tested his skills. Lian Qing was so impressed he then faced north and asked him to be his master. Hua Long laughed loudly and replied “You haven’t been everywhere yet! You haven’t met Li Dan Bai. He is ten times my skill!” Taking Hua Long’s letter of invitation, he went to visit him for several days, and then stated, “if one does not meet the two masters Li and Jiang, they surely have lived an incomplete life!” and then bowed his head and left.
The gentleman passed away from illness during the third year of the reign of Xuan Tong (the last emperor Pu Yi, 1911), on the ninth day of the tenth lunar month, he lived through 54 springs and autumn. His wife, Miss Yu, accompanies him here, who passed away on the 30th day of the fourth month in the 23rd year of the Republic (1934) at the age of 80.
Sigh! Our Lai county’s martial arts never had a clear record before the reigns of Kang Xi and Qian Long. From what I heard from my father, Shui Kou’s Mr Song Yun Tong, Bao Jia Shan’s Mr Sun Ke Rang, Wan Di’s Mr Wang Ke Gong, Gao Ge Zhuang’s Mr Liang Guo Xuan, Wang Ge Zhuang’s Mr Liu Ying, Song Ge Zhuang’s Mr Wang Hong Ge, these were all renowned for their boxing.
At the end of the Qing Dynasty, firearms became prevalent and people then disregarded martial arts. Our gentleman, along with Jiang Hua Long, were like a ray of light during this time and received support from the new nation. During the Central Martial Arts examinations, they both were awarded first place. They gained recognition far and wide, with students all around.
The last month of spring, 23rd year of the Republic of China (1934).
Written by: Yi scholar of literature, Wang Shi Jin
Presented by: Great uncle Sun Yan Chang