I assume there is some aspect and explanation of Wang Xiangzhai’s teachings and answers that must hark back to the nature of his lessons with the legendary Guo Yunshen and the age of Wang at the time. From a karate site, http://www.shimakarate.com/sensei_kim.shtml:
“One story says that once, when Guo got cold, and despite of this went out without putting his jacket on, after some time little Wang, who was worried about his master’s health, took jacket and went out to look after Guo. At last found him in some quiet place, doing very strange exercises, quite different from those, which he usually taught. Astounded Wang silently watched master, who stood without motion in a position which Wang saw for the first time. At some moment Guo heard rustle and turned around – he saw that it was his little pupil who brought him his jacket. Since that time Guo treated the boy quite differently than other students, teaching him stuff which was not passed to others. Only Wang Xiangzhai learned all the secrets of Guo Yunshen’s zhan zhuang exercises, which exercises became later the most characteristic element of Yi Quan.”
If it’s true that only WXZ learned all the secrets of Guo’s zhan zhuang and xyq, that seems to be an important clue as to why Wang would take this position and why he’d be so much better at xyq than his peers. How old was Wang at this time? 8? One might conclude Wang as a preferred special student *was* practicing the most “authentic” and “secret” and “best” xingyiquan, and others are/were not because Guo apparently held something back from the other students. Perhaps he rebranded the art because he saw it as diluted, much as taijiquan is usually something else and totally not martial today, and many teachers try to “rebrand” their school as “original” or “more martial”, “more authentic”, “not diluted” and so on without going so far as to giving the art a modified name.
The legend of Guo itself is fascinating for many reasons. They say he focused on beng quan in prison but also (and perhaps more importantly) on zhan zhuang while manacled. To me, having someone be really exceptional at a particular technique is interesting but not surprising (e.g., young Tyson’s left hook is a great modern example). What’s more fascinating to me is the nature of his zhan zhuang practice in prison and afterwards. I don’t think much is really published about it, at least in English. Could he hold the santishi posture while handcuffed? If not, what did he do? What was the most likely shape and weight of those manacles at that time?
I edited the above from a comment I posted here: http://formosaneijia.com/2008/04/10/wang-xiang-zhai-on-taijiquan/#comment-29795, an interesting thread at FN.