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Wing Chun Kuen has its origin from the Siu Lam temple, Fu Kien of Kwang Tung Province, southern China. Legend has that Yim Wing Chun’s father, Mr. Yim Yee earned his living by selling bean curd in a place near Mountain Kau Lin. Because of the “Overthrow Ching, restore Ming” slogan, the Buddhist Ng Mui had to live her life on the run. Yim Wing Chun was forced to marry a local warlord. On one occasion, Ng Mui traveled by the village and overheard the crying voice from the young girl Yim Wing Chun in the middle of the night. After learning what was happening to Yim’s family, Ng Mui was angry with the fact that such a young girl was being forced against her own will. She then decided to teach Yim Wing Chun the effective fighting techniques that she had developed after escaping the Siu Lam massacre. Afte practicing with Ng Mui for a short period of time, Yim Wing Chun was able to defeat the local warlord and free herself from the forced marriage.
During his life of dedicating to Wing Chun, he had improved, promoted, and made Wing Chun famous not only in China, but everywhere in the world...
Ng Mui continued to travel the road ahead, hoping to recruit more followers to practice martial arts, in order to one day overthrow the Ching government. Before leaving Fu Kien, she taught the young girl Yim all the fighting techniques that she had developed by studying the fighting movements between a snake and crane. With the help of Buddhist abbess Ng Mui, Wing Chun developed her own martial arts technique. When wing Chun requested to give the name of this new martial arts system, Ng Mui suggested using her name. Thereafter, Wing Chun Kuen was formally named.
After her marriage, Yim Wing Chun taught Wing Chun style to her husband, Leung Bok Chau. This was the time when Wing Chun Kuen was formally passed on to others. Since Leung Bok Chau had a close friendship with Leung Lan Kwei, Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai, he exchanged the techniques with them for Luk Dim Bun Kwan. Later, Leung Bok Chau traveled with his friends. During the journey, they studied Wing Chun Kuen by heart and became totally familiarized with this technique in a short period of time. From then onward, Luk Dim Bun Kwan was also included in the Wing Chun system as one of its weapon forms. Therefore, Leung Lan Kwei, Wong Wah Bo, and Leung Yee Tai could be treated as Yim Wing Chun’s grand students.
When Wong Wah Bo retired at age sixty, he lived in the street of Fai Chi town in Fat Shan. A famous herbal doctor, Leung Jan, also lived on that street. Owing to his good reputation, Fat Shan people always referred to him as “Jan Sin Shin” (Jan the god). Wong Wah Bo always visited Jan Sin Shin at his free time and later, Wong taught Jan Sin Shin the Wing Chun fighting system.
Though Jan Sin Shin had practiced martial arts before, he still was not satisfied. When he started practicing Wing Chun, he found the theories he had wanted; bodywork and handwork were so good that he devoted himself wholeheartedly in studying Wing Chun. With his effort, Wing Chun Kuen became famous in the Ling Nam province in the late Ching Dynasty. As Jan Tien Shin was too busy with his herbal clinic, only 3 persons can attain high level of proficiency from Jan Tien Shin. They were Chan Wah Shun and his two sons Leung Chun and Leung Bik.
Chan Wah Shun earned his living by working at a money exchange store in Fat Sahn and went by the name “Jan Chin Wah” or “Wah Money Changer”. Because of his business, he always had a chance to interact with Jan Sin Shin at his shop. Chan Wah was later admitted as one of Jan Sin Shin’s disciples. After the death of Jan Sin Shin, in deep respect and appreciation for his Sifu, Chan opened a school at Lin Fa Tei Main Street, to pass on the art of Wing Chun that was taught to him. Unlike other popular styles in Fat Shan at the time, Wing Chun Kuen demanded that its practitioner undergo long-term training and dedication. Learning Chinese martial arts became a lifestyle, fashion, and popular during this period of time. Most disciples were usually from rich families; therefore, Chan Wah could not teach very many student s at one time. Wing Chun therefore was known as “Sin ye Kuen” at the time, and could not be promoted.
Chan Wah only had a handful of disciples, including Ng Chung So, Ho Ho Lui, Lui Yu Jai, and Chan Yu Kam (Chan Wah’s son). However, the only person who really promoted Wing Chun was Yip Man. Because of his poor health, Yip Man followed Chan Wah Shun at the age of seven. Yip Man was a brilliant and hardworking boy. Not only Chan taught his personally, Ng Chung So practiced Chi Sau with him all the time. Ng also guided Yip in mastering the system after the death of Chan Wah Shun. At the age of fifteen, Yim Man went to Hong Kong to pursue academic studies at St. Stephan’s College in Stanly (Hong Kong was a British colony). On one occasion, he was introduced to Leung Bik, the son of Leung Jan (Sifu of Chan Wah Shun). Yip Man followed Leung Bik to futher advance on his Wing Chun.
Shortly after that, Yip Man went back to Fat Shan and made friends with many martial artists of different styles. His story on sponsoring the competition of Wan Tai Ngau had made him well known in Fat Shan. Afrter the Second World War, Yip Man left Fat Shan and joined the military force. His achievements include the winning battle in Sha Tong and the capture of a serious criminal, Law Cho at San Bun Restaurant on on Kung Ching Road. The later incident was widely mentioned by others. After the Communists took over China, he migrated to Hong Kong in 1949. With the help of his friend Lee Man Hung, Yip Man earned his living by teaching Wing Chun at the Kowloon Restaurant Association on Da Nam Street in Kowloon. Later he moved the school to Hoi Tan Street, Lee Tak Street, Lee Chueng UK, and Tai Wong Temple on Queen’s Road. During his life of dedicating to Wing Chun, he had improved, promoted, and made Wing Chun famous not only in China, but everywhere in the world..
The origin of the Wing Chun Kung Fu can be found in the turbulent, repressive Ching (Manchurian) dynasty of over 300 yrs ago. It was the time when 90% of the Chinese, the Hans, were ruled by the 10% minority, the Manchurians. The Manchurians treated the Hans unjustly. for instance, all the female Han infants were made to bind their feet so that when they grew up, they would be dependent upon their parents or husband. Men were made to shave the front of their heads and were forced to wear a pigtail (queue) to distinguish them as Han males, not Manchurian. The work opportunities of the Hans were also restricted. They were not allowed to hold a position above a certain level of government. Heavy tax burdens were placed on the country, so that the Manchurians could have economic control of the Han people.
Martial Arts training was also banned for the Hans; however, the Manchurian government was adopting the Han culture. The Manchurians respected the Siu Lam Temple as a Buddhist sanctuary, since the Manchurians were Buddhists as well.
When all weapons were outlawed by Manchurians, the Hans began training a revolutionary army in the banned art of Kung Fu. The Siu Lam Temple became a secret sanctuary for preparatory training of classic style which took 15-20 yrs for each person to master. Five of China’s grandmasters met to discuss the merits of each of the various forms of Kung Fu, in order to develop a form with a shorter learning period. By choosing the most efficient techniques from each style, they develop a training program that would develop an efficient martial artist in 5-7 years, one-third the original time. However before this form could be put into practice, the Siu Lam Temple was raided and burned by the Manchurians.
Mg Mui, a nun, was the only survivor of the original 5 grandmasters. She passed her knowledge onto a young orphan girl whom she named Yim Wing Chun. The name means “Praise Spring”, representing “hope for the future”, a future without Manchurian domination and injustices. In turn, Yim Wing Chun passed her knowledge to her husband, Leung Bok Chao. Through the years, the style became known as Wing Chun. Its techniques and teachings were passed onto a few carefully selected students. After Yim Wing Chun passed away, Leung Bok Chao taught his nephew Wong Wah Bo.
Wong Wah Bo joined the Red Junk Opera Company and taught Leung Yee Tai who waa an actor in the company. Leung Yee Tai and Wong Wah Bo both taught Leung Jan who in turn became famous for his skill in Wing Chun Kung Fu. Leung Jan opened an herbal shop at Fat Shan, where he practiced medicine. At night, he trained his sons and Chan Wah Shun. After Lueng Jan passed away, Chan Wah Shun took over the instruction of Wing Chun and Leung Bik left the province. In time, Chan Wah Shun accepted Yip Man as his last disciple.
This history of Wing Chun begins in the Siu Lam Temple, the cradle of the martial arts around the world, with the culmination of hundreds of yrs. of experience. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw the blossoming of Siu Lam martial arts as never before. Almost all the residence of Siu Lam practiced; a powerful detachment of several hundred warrior-monks was organized. The Ming government treasured the export of secret knowledge of Siu Lam fighting arts to rebal troops to defend the Han nation and try to restore the Ming regime with the slogan: “Overthrow Ching, restore Ming.” This time period was known as the Ching dynasty.
The conquest of China by the Manchu in the 17th century and harsh actions created distrust among the people towards the Ching government. The Manchu, excellent warriors in their own right, kept the Ming dissidents under control, imposing on all the badge of subservience, the “queue” which for them symbolized a horse’s tail. Animosity and discontentment toward the Manchurian became more visible. In the spirit of “Overthrow Ching, restore Ming”, many boxers joined various secret societies hoping to return Ming to power. Formations of underground movements were the precursory events that brought Wing Chun and many other Chinese martial art styles into existence. Thousands from the north retreated southward to southern China, disseminating their martial arts skills as they went. Although unsuccessful in their aims, the boxers seeking a return of the Ming did achieve a result. They spread the Siu Lam boxing doctrines to all corners of China. Many of them were later killed by the British gun during the eight nations allied military forces era.
Many fairy tales, movies and stories about Hung Kuen and Wing Chun were based on this novel.
Early in the 1700s, during the reign of Emperor K’ang Hsi (1662-1723), the Manchurians became concerned about the Siu Lam Temple’s rebellious activities as well as their advanced fighting abilities and continued development of their martial arts system. Deciding to eliminate the treat of these rebels and their rebel leaders, the Manchurians sought to exterminate the Siu Lam monks to prevent them from spreading their martial arts skills and rebellious activities. The Emperor even sent his own officials to live like monks in the Siu Lam Temple to spy on rebel’s activities but many failed. Eventually, the Southern Siu Lam Temple was burned and destroyed by K’ang Hsi’s order.
The Siu Lam temple was not only a respiratory of martial arts knowledge and rigorous training academy, but just as important, a stimuli for other martial arts styles. Many of the systems today were born out of Siu Lam roots. Prior to the destruction of the Siu Lam Temple, a comprehensive and high-level martial art system was developed which was formulated through multiple generations of Siu Lam knowledge and experience. During that time, it was strictly forbidden to teach or reveal the art to anyone that didn’t belong to secret societies or were non-Han. Because of this reason, Wing Chun took on a mysterious characteristic. Many years later, a famous novelist wrote a martial art fiction titled 10000 Year Ching. The novel talks about Ng Mui, Chee Sim, Hung Hei Goon, and Fung Sai Yuk. Many fairy tales, movies and stories about Hung Kuen and Wing Chun were based on this novel. With each telling of the story from the novel, embellishments and exaggerations were added until the story reached the level of a fairytale. Due to the nature of secret societies, these fictional stories and legends came to be the accepted truth as the creation of Wing Chun.
After the destruction of the Southern Siu Lam Temple, Chueng Ng fled to Guangdong province. In order to keep his identity and Siu Lam background away from the Manchurian government, Chueng Ng founded the Red Boat Opera Troupe in Fat Shan. Known for its discipline and rules of conduct, the Red Boat Opera Troupe was an organization of talented stage performers who traveled up and down the rivers of Southern China in red boats. This period around the mid-to-late-1700s was known as the Red Boat Period.