DONG HAI CHUAN (1813-1882) legendary creator, founder and Grandmaster of the Art of Baguazhang, was an imperial bodyguard to Prince Su (a Ching dynasty royal family member) who quickly rose to fame through-out all of China by the late 1860's, because he never lost a challenge match. Dong Hai Chuan also managed to become the head martial arts instructor within the "Forbidden City" (the private palaces and grounds, located in Beijing China, reserved only for the Chinese emperor's royal family and personal court).
Baguazhang was originally named Zhuan Zhang (turning palms) because of its characteristic practice method of rotating in circles, but today it is simply referred to as "bagua" (related to, but not to be confused with the mirror/compass geomancy tools used in the ancient practices of Feng Shui). This relatively new internal martial art was first exposed to the public approximately 150 years ago during the mid 1860’s in Beijing, China. And, most Chinese scholars credit Grandmaster Dong Hai Chuan as it's legendary founder because he was the first recorded person to teach it publicly.
Ironically, the source of baguazhang's dynamic fighting methods and power are derived from an esoteric Taoist ("mystic scientist" who follow the Natural Way and Truth of the Universe) practice primarily used as a tool for spiritual enlightenment, called circle-walking meditation. Records have been found in some monasteries of the Northern Tibetan Plateaus, called the Kunlun Mountains but are now part of western China, that over 4,000 years ago these Taoist monks would hold various mudras (specific hand shapes) and recite mantras (prayers and incantations) while walking in circular patterns.
Circle walking meditation became a sacred practice for the Taoist monks, whom preferred to live alone and away from worldly affairs and desires. They lived high up in the mountains, not because they feared people or society, but because they genuinely had no interest in worldly achievements and would rather focus on achieving themselves spiritually.
The combination of living in these remote areas and choosing a simpler lifestyle, together with the circle walking and other practices, greatly helped these Taoist monks increase the quality of their internal Chi (energy). This allowed them to reach deeper states of consciousness/awareness, thus helping them to progress more rapidly in they're more advanced seated meditation practices, with the ultimate purpose of spiritual immortality.
Dong Hai Chuan belonged to one such group of circle walking meditators, called the “Complete Reality School of Taoism." Grandmaster Dong ingeniously fused their spiritual practices into his own type of Chan Chuan (Shaolin Long Fist) martial arts, thus creating a new and unique system of martial arts.
The art of Baguazhang simultaneously serves as a complete system of self-defense/martial arts and physical improvement, a method for spiritual transformation and self-empowerment, and as a method of health maintenance and self-healing.