View Full Version : Origins of Wing Chun

05-09-2001, 04:40 PM
I don't know a whole lot about wing chun, but I was always under the belief that the style was developed by a woman (whose name was wing chun)whom was trained by a budhist nun. I know that there's more to the story than that, but that's the brunt of it.

Now I'm hearing (and reading) that the entire story is a myth, and that in reality wing chun was a style developed as a fighting method by the Tong. Is this really true? Does anyone have any insight into this issue?

05-09-2001, 05:49 PM
The truth is... no one really knows. You'll get a lot of armchair historians trying to connect the dots, but beyond going back 2 or 3 generations of practitioners, nothing is historically verifiable.

05-09-2001, 06:11 PM
A few lineages (Hung Fa Yi, Pan Nam) point to Jeung Ngh (Cheung Ng) as first generation successor of the style. Jeung Ngh is recorded in Cantonese Opera history books as the founder of Cantonese Opera. There are historical artifacts in China of the Kihng Fa Gun, an organization established by Jeung Ngh. He was recored as being in Fatsan (Foshan, Faatshan,etc.) sometime in the early 1700's.

If Wing Chun comes from a Buddhist Nun, how much Buddhism is taught in the various lineages? I know from personal experience that Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi both talk extensively about Chan philosophy while the Yip Man lineage (for the most part) does not (Moy Yat did talk about Zen (aka Chan)).

Hung Fa Yi oral legends trace to Yat Cham Dai Si while Chi Sim traces its origins to Chi Sim as the Shaolin monks. These lineages have different approaches to history, training, and combat yet share a similarity in regards to Chan.

More information is out there. Take a look at this month's issue of Wushu-Kungfu. There is an article about Jeung Ngh aka "Taan Sau" Ngh.

Jeremy R.

... opportunityisnowhere...
... was that no where...
...............or now here...

05-10-2001, 02:04 PM
the story of wing chun and the nun is truth.. that other storie is a load of ****

-The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war-

05-10-2001, 07:51 PM

were you there? how could you say that you know the truth? just curious! base on what to give you the right to call someone full of s***?


05-10-2001, 09:55 PM
Although the "fighting nun" theory makes for popular legend, check out the latest fairly scholarly study:

China is often under oppressive gov's who attempt to keep the people defenseless and thus easier to control. Hence, martial arts was often suppressed underground. Fables are created and other measures are taken as self-protective measures. Which is good for their survival at the time, but very confusing for the general public and historians later on!

05-10-2001, 10:48 PM
I like to think that the art was originally developed by two small women. It makes understanding a lot of the principles much easier - the low center of gravity, the power in punches not being fully dependent on upper body strength, etc etc.

In the final analysis, it doesn't matter what the "true" origins of Wing Chun are. The art stands on its own :)


Sai Lo Jai
05-11-2001, 01:30 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[/quote]

The above opening from the famed poem cemented Paul Revere's place in American folklore. It was written in 1860, 85 years after the event. Just because someone wrote it down doesn't make it correct. The real history also speaks of William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott. Since Dr. Prescott was the only one to evade British capture, who really knows what happened on that fateful night? Besides, what rhymes with "Dawes" and "Prescott?" :)

Since I became interested in Ving Tsun (1979), I have read and heard all sorts of stories regarding its style -- It comes from the hall of the same name at Shaolin; Ng Moi was a woman; Yim Ving Tsun was a drag queen; All those names were stage names; ... etc. The craziest stories I've heard had to do with Ving Tsun evolving from western fisticuffs brought over to China with Marco Polo at the end of the 13th century.

There is something, however, I cannot reconcile with the "new revelations" regarding the style's origins. If Ng Moi was a fictitious figure made up to cover the tracks of the counter-revolutionary activities of the Red Boat Opera Company, how do more than a few styles of Kungfu much older than Ving Tsun also speak of a Buddhist nun from Shaolin named Ng Moi?

Another thing, I believe the "new" stories actually have been written about for decades, though rarely, if ever, in english. I recall a conversation between two of my sihings - your sibaks, I think - shortly after Rene Richie's "Complete" book was published but before the magazine articles started appearing. They both trained in Hong Kong and remembered a Hung Seung school not far from where they trained. When I asked them what "Hung Sueng" meant in english they said "Red Flower" - note that "sueng" translates as "boat" as I later learned. They even could recall a name or two of people they knew who trained there. Even in the ultracompetitive subculture of Kungfu in Hong Kong, they all knew each other and what each other was about.

I once asked a wise old man - you may remember him ;) - what his take was on the origins of Ving Tsun. Though he quoted someone else, this is what he said:

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it; those who fail to learn from history correctly, they are simply doomed. The important word is 'from,' not 'correct.' In other words, history is about today, not yesterday."

He then smiled and said: "When I talk about Ving Tsun, if you don't hear the voice of a little girl, then either I'm a bad sifu or you're talking too much."

Take care, Jeremy.

05-11-2001, 04:57 AM
what is the real lineage?

[This message was edited by freestyle on 05-11-01 at 08:04 PM.]

05-11-2001, 02:27 PM
let me rephrase it.. i belive that the story of the nun and wing chun is true, and i believe the other is full of ****..

thats just my opinin thats all it is

-The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war-

05-11-2001, 02:50 PM
Actually the recent theory is the more likely, however a woman may have influenced the art at some point but not during the shaolin period, nuns and monks were not quartered in the same dwellings and the nun theory is not true to the history of those times, however I don't completely discount it nor do I belive it is an accurate representation of fact.

just my 2 cents worth


05-11-2001, 04:46 PM
I heard somewhere that Ng Mei wasn't described in the history of WC before yip man. Maybe she was maybe she wasn't! I was thinking about WC and came up with the following conclusion: I believe that throughout history great knowledge is attained...and as time passes it is lost. Look at the egyptians...i saw they moved enoumous blocks of solid rock that even today, they cannot be moved with strongest cranes in the world. ...back to WC however, There were probably systems of kung-fu that have been lost over time that were possibly more superior to the ones that exist today, but we will never really know. I think wing chun was developed as a synthesis of the best systems of MA of that time.

My point is this, i believe yip man saw the WC system for what it was and knew that over time it would dilute from generation to generation...and in 200 years onwards it would probably be totally different to what it was intended to be or how it origionally worked. This is why he introduced the character of Ng Mei. What will the people of the future generations really have to go on as a point of reference to what WC really is? This 'myth' is going to stay with WC forever and if when you're practicing your say to yourself "These techniques couln't stop someone stronger that me", then you there is somthing else that existed at one time that could. :eek:

Sure it can be video taped...but the essence of WC cannot be captured in film. It is a feeling and naming the concepts cannot maintain this putity that it derived from. What better than saying a woman invented the system? For if a woman can use it then we know it's about structure rather than muscle, and control without brute strength.

What do you think?


05-11-2001, 05:14 PM
Yim Wing Chun must have been some huge lady. I'm thinkin of polish weightlifting chicks. Okay, there are alot of theories,Robert Chu and Rene Ritchie wrote a book outlining many other wing chun systems and their origins. Yang Jwin-Ming in his book Fukien White crane shows another theory. That Fong Qinyiang, a woman who inherited Fukien White Crane lived in Young Chun (wing Chun) village, and her Gung-Fu was called Wing Chun White Crane.She might also have been called Fong Wing Chun. who knows? Then there are the wing chun guys, who claim that wing chun was invented as a new super style to teach fighting in a shorter amount of time, and to combat the fighting that was already being taught at siu-lum. I don't buy this for one minute

05-11-2001, 08:31 PM
hey guys,

tom already said the *red flower wing chun clan* has been known in hong kong for over decades. but its only known for a handfull of people. its origin might be even longer than yip man's ng moi/yim wing chun story. then, how could anyone say this is * new * about wing chun? it might be new to us as outsiders but its been for a long time both in hong kong and china.

another thought about ng moi, there were many kung fu styles all claimed their arts came from ng moi the nun, could anyone please tell me how could that be possibe for one single person spreading out all these arts? was she just a myth for most kung fu families easy to relate ?

before yip man, there was nothing said about ng moi and wing chun were related in history. just for one single source , how could we 100% sure about yip man's story was the only true history?
on another note, yip man's second teacher leung bik was also in question? someone had mentioned that there was no such person leung bik in other forum.

for the red flower or red boat wing chun, that name wasnt new to my chinese friends from china. imo, no one can be 100% sure about true origin of wing chun history.


kungfu cowboy
05-11-2001, 10:38 PM
Then maybe wing chun doesn't really exist? ;)

Has anyone else heard that it's supposedly a combination of Tai chi, Bagua, and Hsing-I? :confused:

05-12-2001, 03:11 AM
but someone did once tell me that it came from Vikings! True story.

kungfu cowboy
05-12-2001, 10:41 AM
Vikings! Are you serious:?!! Could you tell the story?

Sai Lo Jai
05-12-2001, 04:07 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> ... yip man's second teacher leung bik was also in question? someone had mentioned that there was no such person leung bik in other forum [/quote]

Leung Bik is, at least, a real person. My sifu met him. He and Yip Ching helped Yip Man bury him.

How much Yip Man may have learned from him, no one really knows. He was not Yip Man's teacher, though, but merely his Sibak.

You give credit to your sifu, because without him, the environment to learn would never have existed. In reality, you learn from your sihings, sidai, sibaks, sisuks, your simo, etc. and, mostly, on your own from within.

The best someone trying to help you can hope is for you to be gently guided towards a truth that comes close to pure Ving Tsun. However, most, at times, allow their own voice to drown out the voice of their ancestors.

05-12-2001, 06:47 PM
tom kagan,

as you mentioned your sifu(?) and yip ching helped yip man to bury leung bik. that's a very interesting to know where's the place they bury the leung bik, the son of leung jan, i'm sure there're many wing chun practioners would like go to visit his grave and pay respect to him. can you follow up this ? also i'm wondering if the VTM care about this? personally i think this is very important to perserve this part of history for the wing chun community.

yip man> leung sheung> kenneth chung> patrick au> me

Sai Lo Jai
05-13-2001, 05:25 PM
I believe the only surviving person who knows this would be my sibak: Yip Ching.

I am still working on paying the proper respect to my sifu, sigung, sitaigung, and gunggung. When I finally am paying the proper respect to all my ancestors, then, maybe, I'll have suceeded in paying respects to my gunggung's son. For now, I am happy to know there won't be pictures of people practicing chisao on his grave.

05-13-2001, 06:25 PM
>>>>>For now, I am happy to know there won't be pictures of people practicing chisao on his grave.<<<<<

No kidding. Ip Man's grave is enough of a tourist attraction.

05-13-2001, 06:57 PM

Nice to read from you! How are you doing? Things are great here - busy as always. :D

I understand your quote "He then smiled and said: "When I talk about Ving Tsun, if you don't hear the voice of a little girl, then either I'm a bad sifu or you're talking too much."". However, I think that statements in this vien have been misconstrude many times in the past and keep bringing to light many politics in Wing Chun. For my Sigung, Moy Yat, his statement is correct. However, for a Sifu from another lineage, this could be an insult. If their lineage does not hold with Yim Wing Chun, stories about a girl have nothing to do with them or their gung fu. Therefore, to relate Yim Wing Chun to good gung fu or being a good Sifu is a very dangerous statement to be made publicly. Critical listening skills are sorely lacking at times... :(

In the Cantonese Opera history, they refer to Jeung Ngh as "Taan Sau" Ngh. The histories also state that he was known for his martial prowess and his one taan sau was peerless under heaven.

Up until very recently, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun was known as Hung Syun Wing Chun (Red Boat Wing Chun). This was the public name for the art and was used when talking in front of outsiders. Only recently has Sifu Gee begun using the name Hung Fa Yi. In Complete Wing Chun the name used for the lineage was Hung Suen (Red Boat).

Your comment "Even in the ultracompetitive subculture of Kungfu in Hong Kong, they all knew each other and what each other was about." is perhaps a little too general. Different lineages kept different inforation private. I have heard from members of the Chi Sim family that when Yip Man came to visit they would change what they were practicing to keep certain information hidden.

There was a famous book written in the late 1800s or early 1900s called 10,000 Years Green that talked about the famous 5 elders of Shaolin and how they fought against the Qing and created many styles. Much of the popular history that is taught for several southern styles (such as Wing Chun, Huo Fa Quan, Hung Gar, Bak Mei) have more in common with this book than with current Chinese archeology and historical research. Towards the end of the book, the 5 elders end up fighting each other...

Most martial artists are not historians and do not do historical research. They tend to do martial arts research ;) So it is very easy to see why myths and legends get passed from generation to generation. The problem starts to arise when people blindly cling to a story for no reason other than "The Grand Master said so! Who are you to contradict the Grand Master!?" Blind obedience to a leader is dangerous in any situation.

The Southern Shaolin was destroyed sometime in the late 1600's - I have two differnt sources that name two different dates. The Hung Syun Hei Ban (Red Boat Opera Troupe), from which Wing Chun spread, was in existance from the early 1820's to 1855. If Wing Chun comes from Shaolin and you try to follow the common oral histories, you end up with 2 or 3 generations covering about 150 to 180 years. That seems highly unlikely given the average lifespan in China at that time, the living condidtions, rebellious activities, etc.

Any theory is potentially valid because you can't prove a theory. A theory exists to explain an observed or known fact. You can only disprove one with new facts. I can think of several facts that call into question the existance of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun. I can not find any facts to call into question the existance of Jeung Ngh. Does this mean I dismiss Ng Mui/Yim Wing Chun as meaningless fairy stories? No because it is part of the history. Also, if I close my eyes to it, I might miss something to support it. I have read Sifu Leung Ting's book on the history of Wing Chun and he has some interesting ideas. Do I agree with everything he concluded - no. Do I ignore his findings - no. He has given us a different way to view things. Perhaps this will lead to further research. By taking the time to reseach and publish his findings he is helping all of us to find our roots.

Suppose research was done to prove one style was the origins of the art. Does that negate all other lineages? No. The history of Wing Chun, the Wing Chun style itself, is comprised of all lineages of Wing Chun - from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Canada, the US, Brazil, Europe, Australia... everywhere. Wing Chun is today because of the many paths it traveled in the past. Searching for where we came from is just a part of the study of this art. I think the bigger question is where are we going - personally and as a style/art/system.

Jeremy R.

There are several articles to read at the Ving Tsun Museum's website (http://home.vtmuseum.org/articles/index.php)

I would suggest:

From Shaolin to Wing Chun (http://home.vtmuseum.org/articles/vtm/hungfayi.php)
Putting Myths to Rest (http://home.vtmuseum.org/articles/vtm/myths.php)
Do Secret Soceties give Kung Fu a Bad Rep? (http://home.vtmuseum.org/articles/vtm/secret_societies.php)
Wing Chun History - an alternative viewpoint (http://home.vtmuseum.org/articles/peterson/altwc.php) by Sifu David Peterson

... opportunityisnowhere...
... was that no where...
...............or now here...

[This message was edited by passing_through on 05-14-01 at 10:03 AM.]

05-13-2001, 07:02 PM
Your question that started this whole thread mentioned the Tong. I would suggest you read last two articles listed in the post about for answers to that.

To say the "Tong" created Wing Chun is a very general statement. Which Tong? The Saam Hap Wui, the Dai Dou Wui, the Siu Dou Wui, the Hung Fa Wui, the Hung Muhn (Hong Moon), etc... were all "Tong" that were active in China's past and are still active today.

That's like saying business sucks. Which business? All businesses? Too genearal a statement to answer to any significant degree.

"THE Tong" didn't create Wing Chun. Perhaps "a Tong" did. You know what I mean?

Jeremy R.

... opportunityisnowhere...
... was that no where...
...............or now here...

Sai Lo Jai
05-13-2001, 09:12 PM
Yip Man was not stupid. He knew exactly what went on when he visited others. Why? Because he played the same game when people visited him. Brilliant teachers have a way of seeing through the posturing and observing the nature of movement regardless of attempts at hiding it. This was one of the reasons why Yip Man would say "yes, it's correct" to two seemingly at-odds ideas. Others would look at it and think he had lost it because it's not what they saw.

Are you an historian or a martial artist? You may think the two can coexist and you can excell at both, but I cannot control that thought. However I give you a question to ponder: If you mix every color together, what color do you get?

05-14-2001, 08:12 AM
about the teachers knew what other lineages do that isnt always true. in hong kong now if you learn ving tsun in some school you wouldnt know anyone or any other systems.
true story
at the ving tsun conference at yip mans tomb everyone was standing around and william cheung was standing next to someone from hong kong and they introduced themselves>

hi my name is @#$%^
hi my name is grandmaster william cheung
grandmaster william cheung you havent heard of me??????

i see this as really funny but in their society that is not uncommon it wasnt that he was being smart he just had not heard of him. ;)

kungfu cowboy
05-14-2001, 08:15 AM

05-14-2001, 03:45 PM
Hey Benny,
I was there too, and I remember that particular conversation. It was very funny. :)

Man, was that hill steep or what? It was great to get those drinks.

05-14-2001, 03:48 PM
.. but thinking about it, I was pretty sure the guy who introduced himself to WC was australian or a new zealander...Im sure he had an accent, or is my memory playing up?


05-15-2001, 11:21 PM
lol,...hahahaha. That's hilarious. Thanks,... I needed that laugh! :D :D :D :D

But wait a minute,..are we saying that Yip Man was a member of one of the Tongs?

05-16-2001, 09:55 AM
i was on my way to post something when i noticed it was gone. Too bad it was **** funny.

anyway I cant find the info i wanted to on the "vicking connection" so here is another origin story.

i say that the people who <invented/compiled/refined/created> Wing Chun Kung Fu, were ......

My first idea was it was made by a chinnese doctor who was convined that the mucles you use for Toe Ma were both vital to health and woefully undertrained by walking. (this is a joke, to all my rearfoot draging brothers :D )

After a few weeks went by and I read a few books I learned the Ng Moi - Yim Wing Chun stories.

Now after about two years I can say with complete confidence:


And I like it.


ps i will keep trying on the vicking thing.

kungfu cowboy
05-16-2001, 09:59 AM
Hey! That's the second post deleted tonight! And rogue's was just funny, no ill will toward anyone at all! What gives, "Mr. Deletin' Guy"?

"Ninja!...NINJA!"-Christopher George, from "Enter the Ninja"

kungfu cowboy
05-16-2001, 10:01 AM
Here is the essense of rogue's post:

I thought wing chun was a watered down version of JKD that Bruce Lee taught to Yip Man.

See? A harmless jest!!

"Ninja!...NINJA!"-Christopher George, from "Enter the Ninja"

05-16-2001, 05:48 PM
I got deleted for poking a little fun at JKD on a WC forum, too funny!!!
:D :D :D

Adventure is just a romantic name for trouble. It sounds swell when you write about it, but it's hell when you meet it face to face in a dark and lonely place.
Louis L'Amour

05-23-2001, 06:30 PM
Wing Chun was created long before I was born, I didn't invent it. Knowing the history of the art nakes me a better martial artist. When I practice, train, and learn - I am learning history.

Going further, being a Sifu and not trying to find the truth - about history or whatever - is irresponsible.

To walk your own path is your business. To bring your students along your path is dangerous to them.

Jeremy R.

... opportunityisnowhere...
... was that no where...
...............or now here...

Sai Lo Jai
05-23-2001, 09:00 PM
Perhaps when my own martial prowess becomes peerless under heaven, I will see my nickname as true history.

For now, I am fortunate that the beautiful springtime spread out by the Red Boat Opera Company has touched me and given me everlasting hope.

I guess that's the major difference between your method and mine. When I practice, I do not learn history. I learn poetry.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.
Plato [/quote]

[This message was edited by Tom Kagan on 05-24-01 at 12:08 PM.]

08-28-2001, 09:47 PM
It may be difficult ever to know the exact or true origins of Wing Chun Kuen. The Ng Mui/Yim Wing-Chun story is certainly the widest seen. This story is almost archetypal, however, and used by several Southern Fist traditions almost verbatim (Wing Chun, White Crane, Hung Ga) and others to varying degrees. Chinese culture is rich with allegory, metaphor, numerology, and symbolism, which also makes it difficult to sort history from amidst the different stories. Personally, however, I don't see it as a literally factual account.

Cheung Ng, increasingly popular, is a verifiable historical figure, tied into Foshan and the Precious Jade Flower Opera Union, which makes the story intriguing. However, there is nothing yet to tie him into Wing Chun (indeed, there is nothing to suggest Wing Chun was even practiced in the 1730s yet). It's quite possible he practice something different to Wing Chun (hailing from Hubei and working in Beijing, perhaps likely even he practiced norther boxing)

What we do know is that by the mid 1800s, on board the Red Junks, there was Fujian Weng Chun, Fujian White Crane, Hakka fist, and perhaps some form of Sichuan boxing, each of which has some similarities and some differences from Wing Chun.

I've sometimes wondered if Wing Chun didn't evolve over several generations from the knowledge available to the performers (with different performers later spreading slightly different versions). This, to me, explains why we can't find Wing Chun anywhere else (whereas the systems that were imported to the junks can still be found in the areas in which they're native), and why it only began to spread following the destruction of the opera by the Qing (if it had come about earlier, performers would have retired in previous generations and taken it back to their home villages as well, thus causing it to spread earlier)

Fortunately, China is becoming more and more open, and records more and more available, and there may soon be more answers (leading, of course, to more questions 8).


Rene Ritchie

lotus kick
09-01-2001, 09:42 PM
Does it matter?

Stories, "real or not", are entertaiment. As long as you have wing chun in your hands, Everything else is B***S***.

09-01-2001, 10:22 PM
Everything may be BS, including the "else". There's the rub.



lotus kick
09-04-2001, 12:59 AM
I didn't say "everything" is BS. The Wing Chun ability of the person counts a lot. The story behind the person is irrilivent.

It's like the end out weight the mean.