I expect forms as old as these have been in a constant state of evolution, it could be that xiao hong and lao jia both spring from one common ancestor, much like humans and chimps... Never the less i would attest to xiao hong being the greater form. At the least we can say it hasn't changed since the painting of the mural of shaolin (because wugulun pai's xiao hong is the same in all but shenfa). And is much more widely practiced than lao jia. The only places i have seen lao jia practiced here in dengfeng they refer to it as Da hong quan, because it is simply xiao hong but with larger frame movements. It could be that these were created simultaneously as da xiao hong quan i suppose. I was of the opinion that Li sou created Da hong quan, not xiao hong quan, and that the forms were not so closely related. That xiao hong was the older form.
As to the beginning meihua section...I am a little skeptical as to the Meihua men forms.... Meihua in early shaolin seems to be a completely different skill set,... I have some suspicion as to the origin of the current meihua forms. Need to investigate that further. I know we have some historical info, but it doesn't relate to the actual movements. I would like to see some more meihua forms....
I have several histories from different teachers, but they are by way of oral tradition, i suspect Sal's research may be more accurate.
The reason i really liked the history by my current master is that he made a real narrative story out of it, with different characters and quotes and so forth. It is this that i can't translate.... Still roughly the history paralells that of taizu chang quan. To say that Xiao hong quan is 'mu quan', one refined from many. From a meeting of 18 men pai, refining the technique from 18 styles into one form. THis is in the time of zhao kuang yin.
The whole part of this era, Taizu quan etc is very complicated....and mixed up, and so many styles like to put their origin at the meeting of the 18 styles.....Can't really say for sure. But I can at the least assure you that it is the opinion of a lot of old masters that Xiao hong quan is the most important shaolin skill set. And that it is possible to derive other sets like tongbei and pao quan from xiao hong quan alone.
By the way;
As to Taizu chang quan you will be pleased to know I am in contact with Liu Hui Zhen (liuzhenhai's son). If you remember we had some suspicions about his 'xiao tongbei' and its relationship to shaolin taizu quan and possibly Da Tong bei quan. He's out of town for the next month, but when hes back I should prepare some questions for him.
Also did you know that shaolin Da tong bei has 6 forms?! New info to me.... Have you seen any of the others?