One of the five famous mountains of China is called Sung Shan. Sung mountain is not one peak, but is a group of several mountains. There are two groups, the Tai Sut and Sut. The distance between these groups is seventeen miles, with the Siu Sut group being the most western group. Among the Siu Sut group there are thirty six miles of smaller peaks. On one side there are five peaks that are known as Ng Yu Fung. The Bak Siu Lum temple is located near the foot of the Ng Yu Fung near Dang Fong city in the province of Huo Lam in northern China. Since the temple was built in a small forest in Siu Sut, it was called the Siu Lam (small forest) temple. Originally erected in 495 a.d. by Emperor Hau Man Dai, its purpose was to spread the teachings of the Buddhist religion. The Indian monk named Bat Tuo was installed as head monk. Thirty two years later, another Indian monk named Dat Mo came across the himalayas in China, finally settling at the Siu Lam temple. He remained there for nine years, in meditation facing a wall. After this initial period, he issued the Yit Gun Ging of muscle change classic with which he used to maintain his health and physical fitness during his years of mediatation. Dat Mo's greatest claim to fame is that he was the first teacher of Sim (Zen) Buddhism in China.
Later, during the Bak Jau dynasty, Emperor Mou Dai (572-575 a.d.) suppressed the open practice of both Buddhism and Taoism. During this three year period, the temple was closed. During the reign of Emperor Jing Dai (579-580 a.d.) the temple was re-opened under the name Ji Gu Ji.
The name was changed back to Siu Lam Ji by Emperor Man Dai (581-600 a.d.) during the Chou dynasty. In addition, the temple was given one hundred Chinese acres of land by the emperor.
The temple was to reach its pinnacle of fame during the Tang dynasty which started in 626 a.d. Before the founding of the dynasty, the future Emperor Lei Sai Man asked the temple to aid him against two rival generals named Wong Sai Chung and Wong Yan Jap. The temple sent the Thirteen Staff Monks. Their names were Pou Wai, Sin Wu, Ming Sung, Ling Hin, Do Gong, Po Sang, Ji Hing, Ji Chou, Jang Mun, Tan Jung, Ji Sau, Wai Yeung, and Jang Fung.
Since these monks were fierce fighters, they not only helped Lai Sai Man win the battle, but captured the rival combateers alive. These brought both fame and fortune to the Siu Lam Temple.
After this, the temple was called "Number one temple under heaven". When Lai Sai Man became emperor in 627 a.d. the temple lands were increased to ten thousand Chinese acres and five thousand dormitories and other buildings were built to house now over two thousand monks. This was in addition to the fourteen main temple buildings.
Three top monks at this time were Wan Jung, Ji Chou and Wai Cheung. Wan Jung the chief was made an honorary general of Lei Sai Man's army. During peacetime he was free to pursue his Buddhist studies, but in a time of war, he was to revert to his military commission. In addition, 500 martial monks were allowed to form what ostensibly was a standing army. They acted as temple guards.
The temple received damage on several occasions. One major time was during the Ching dynasty (1644-1911 a.d.) where loyalists of the former Ming dynasty (1368-1644 a.d.) used the temple as a headquarters. The government found out and ousted the rebels, killing several hundred people and destroying hundreds of temple structures. The worst damage occurred during a civil war in 1928. The two generals Sek Yau Sam and Shin Jung Sau attacked the temple to oust general Fon Jung Sau who was using the temple as a headquarters. On March 15, 1928, Sek Yau Gam won the battle and entered the temple. Feeling that the monks committed an act of war by taking in Fon Jung Sau, Sek Yau Sam set fire to the temple grounds which burned out of control for forty days. Some structures were repaired, but most were lost.
The Fukien or southern Siu Lam temple was built on Gau Lin Shan in Fukien province near the border of Gwan Dung Province. Built in 1399 a.d. during the Ming dynasty, the temple became known as "South Sui Lam" before being utterly destroyed during the Ching (1644-1911 a.d.) dynasty.
During its brief heyday, the Southern temple had a good reputation for the martial arts, but its reputation was eroding because many students escaped before graduating. Thus the level of martial skill of the average person leaving the temple began to diminish. These supposed masters helped to degrade the southern temple's reputation. To counter this trend, the abbot Jee Sim Sim See (Sim See means Zen master) put Hung Yan Sim See in charge of thirty six chambers. Here, Siu Lam's warrior monks and unshaven disciples learned the Siu Lam martial arts in a step by step manner, not advancing until each skill had been mastered. An "unshaven disciple" was a person who stayed at the temple primarily to study the martial arts and did not take Buddhist vows and become a monk. Jee Sim is also credited with devising the "wooden dummy hall."
The wooden dummy hall was erected in the Lohan Tung or Buddha hall. The eighteen wooden dummies purpose was to test the kung fu skill of potential graduates. The dummies names and movements were as follows:
One man who is reputed as having passed this test was Hung Hei Guen, who later went on to be considered the founder of the Hung Ga system.
Many great teachers were trained at this temple. After the end of the Ming dynasty, the Ming loyalists used this temple as the headquarters in Southern China. Eventually, the Ching Emperor Hong Hei (1662-1723 a.d.) found this out and ordered two generals Chan Man Yiu and Jeung Gim chao to take three thousand soldiers and rout the temple. General Chan Man Yiu knew well the reputation of the Siu Lam people had earned for their martial arts.
Instead of attacking right away, he went to the area at the base of Gao Lin Shan to collect intelligence reports. As it happened, the owner of the hotel Chan Man Yiu stayed at was a former Siu Lam student. His name was Ma Ling Yee, also known as Ma Chut (Ma number seven). When Ma Chut was a student at Siu Lam, his martial arts skill was not bad. However, his morality was poor and he was punished after destroying a valuable item known as the Man Nin Deng or ten thousand year lamp. Instead of taking his punishment in stride, he resented the monks and escaped. He tenuously used his skill to accumulate enough to run the hotel at the base of the mountain. When Chan Man Yiu found out about Ma's past, he paid Ma handsomely for information which Ma was very happy to provide. Armed with this new knowledge, Chan Man Yiu believed he could defeat the monks of the Siu Lam temple.
At some distance from the temple, there was a secret tunnel which could be used to get off the mountain unobserved. The monks would use this in case of dire emergency. Knowing of the tunnel's existence, Chan Man Yiu advanced troops to the foot of the mountain. He sent word to the monks that they were to leave the temple within three days or they would all be killed.
Since Master Jee Sim had already passed away, the head monk Ng Ging Wo Seung, also known as Ching Cho, was in charge. He had one hundred eight martial monks in the temple who were enraged by Chan Man Yiu's ultimatum. It was decided that the monks would fight back. One night, the monks separated into five groups. They attacked by the main road, but using arrows and even stones. The monks killed more than one hundred soldiers.
After this skirmish, the monks pulled back into the temple to rethink their options. It was decided that they would stay in the temple and booby trap all the entrances. General Chan Man Yiu ordered his men to set fire to the temple. While the general's men were doing this, Chin Cho ordered the monks to go to the tunnel to escape. They didn't realize that Chan had filled the far end of the tunnel with gunpowder devices. Many monks were trapped and killed in the tunnel. Chin Cho ordered the remaining men back to the temple. by then, it was almost morning and the temple had burned to the ground. Upon counting, Ching Cho decided that the survivors would later meet at the Wu Lung river. Ching Cho descended the mountain in a rage, seeking out the only person who could have given away the secret of the tunnel escape route. He later found Ma Chut andkilled him on the spot. At the river, there were only five men. They were Wu Dak Dai, Choy Dak Jung, Lei Sik Hoi, Fong Dai Hung, and Ma Chiu Hing.
These men were later honored and became to be known as the Ng Jo or Five Ancestors. They agreed to split up so that they would never be caught together. They would then form pro-Ming associations. There is still a system called the Ng Jo Kuen which reminds us of these men. These men spread the Siu Lam martial arts all over China among the common people.
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The Hung Ga system began in the Ching dynasty during the reign of Yung Jing (1723-1736 a.d.). Hung Ga was the number one style among five family styles of the south. These were:
Each of these systems is unique and possesses distinctive and special techniques. Originally, Hung Hei Guen's surname was Jyu. His grandfather was an official of the Ming government and the family was well off. Hung was originally a tea merchant before becoming a student of master Jee Sim and graduating from the south Siu Lam temple. As a staunch supporter of the deposed Ming regime, he changed his surname from Jyu to Hung in honor of the first Ming emperor Jyu Hung Mo (1271-1368 a.d.). Hung would have referred to his martial arts as Siu Lam kung fu, but out of fear that the Siu Lam connection would get him and his followers in trouble, he called the art Hung Ga of Hung family kung fu to hid its true source.
Later, his followers would continue his practice, in honor of their venerated master. After the burning of the Siu Lam temple in Fukien, he met and married fong Wing Chun, a former student of the buddhist nun Ng Mui. Fong was knowledgable in the Crane style of kung fu. He later moved to Fa city in Gwang Dung Province and later died there at the advanced age of ninety years. His tomb is still located there. Historical records at Fukien Chan Jau Fu Ji indicate that Hung Hei Guen killed someone there with a single punch. In addition to this as evidence of Hung's existence. It also attests to the devastating power of Hung's fist.
Hung Kuen became known for two things:
For example, when Hung Hei Guen sank into a horse stance, more than ten people with staffs were unable to move him. This is a difficult achievement, requiring three to seven years practice. Some others occasionally say that Hung Kuen is slow. This is untrue. Like many systems, Hung Kuen emphasizes fast strikes. However, it believes that a firm root is the most indispendable feature of training. It is when people are mobile and flexible but do not have a solid foundation, it becomes easy for people to lose. Thus, Hung Kuen emphasizes being solid first, and then being mobile and flexible second.
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In recent times in southern China, there were many famous masters of martial arts. On the Hung Shuen or red boats, which carried the Chinese opera companies, Leung yee Tai and Wong Wah Bo, both of Siu Lam descenent were well known. On land, the strongest masters were known as the "ten tigers of Gwan Dung". Their names were Wong Yan Lum, Tit Kiu Sam, Jao Tai, Wong Kay Ying, Sou Hak Fu, Tit Ji Chan, Wong Ching Haw, Sou Hut Yee, Tam Jai Kwan, and Wong Fei Hung.
These were the ten best martial artists as seen by their peers in south China. After Wong Fei Hung's induction, it was known that his martial skills had to be good. His life story has been immortalized in books and movies for fourty years. During a party at the Ying Ging restaurant in Hong Kong for the opening of Wong Fei Hung's school there, the plans for the movie starring Kwen Tak Hing were made. The first movie played to a packed house and this continued until over one hundred Wong Fei Hung Pictures were filmed. These movies made his name famous and his legend grew steadily to the status of a folk hero. Today, Master Wong's life is still often the subject of cinema films.
When he was a young man, Wong Fei Hung taught martial arts to the army. Wong Fei Hung was married four times. His first wife, surnamed Law died three months after they were married from an illness. His second wife, surnamed Ma, bore him two sons. Hawn Sum and Hawn Lum. She died soon after. Wong's third wife also bore him two sons, Hawn Hei and Hawn Hsu, but she also did not live long. By this time, the word was out that Wong Fei Hung was bad luck for women and no women wanted anything to do with him.
Even Wong resigned himself to this, and stopped trying to remarry. Unfortunately, Wong's son Hawn Sum was killed by gangsters with pistols after an altercation. This caused Wong to withhold his knowledge from the other sons, in order to protect them. In addition, he had several good students including Lueng Foon (who was famous for his horse stance) and Ling Wan Gai (who was famous for his kicking skills). These two good students died at a young age and did not go on to have their own schools and disciples. Other famous students of Wong Fei Hung include popular Lam Sai Wing, a former pork butcher who had many students and wrote three volumes on Hung Kuen. There was another student as well by the name of Tang Fong. More of him will be spoken later.
Many years later, in Fatsan Gao Heung, Wong's school was performing a lion dance in honor of the anniversary of the Lam Hoi Association. Wong Fer Hung's good students Leung Foon and Ling Wan Gai performed the head and tail respectively. After the lion dance, a martial arts demonstration was held outside on the stage. After all the students had shown their kung fu, Wong stepped up to the platform to perform the Yu family trident, a type of weapon now considered the king of southern Chinese weapons. During his performance, he accidentally kicked off his shoe into the crowd. The shoe struck a young woman and she was incensed.
Despite attempted apologies by Wong, she slapped him in the face, yelling he had no excuse since he was a famous master of martial arts. "What if that had been your weapon?!" she retorted "I could have been killed!". After this, a rather chastened Wong returned to the stage to perform his set.
Later on, though the woman was plain in appearance, he could not get her out of his mind. She was young and strong and, he though, maybe she would live longer than his previous wives. He found out later that her name was Mok Gwai Lan and was in town with her number two aunt looking for a husband. As it turned out, the aunt, fearing Wong would want revenge for his humiliation sought him out to apologize and he told her of his feelings. She agreed to act as a go between and eventually Mok Gwai Lan and Wong Fei Hung were married. Mok Gwai Lan had a strong foundation in her Mok Ga kung fu, so Wong Fei Hung taught her Hung Kuen. She eventually became the instructor for all women's classes in Hung Kuen. This provided with an opportunity to learn that martial art, an opportunity they had not had before.
Mok Gwai Lan did indeed live long. She survived her husband by many years and later became an assistant teacher along side Tang Fong.
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