The History and Development of Ving TSun Kung Fu


The origins of kung fu are generally accepted to have come from the Shaolin temple in China around the 6th or 7th century A.D. after a visit to the temple by Bodhidharma who introduced Buddhism from India at that time. The monks at the temple eventually gained a widespread reputation as fearsome warriors and that made them a threat when the Manchu emperor seized control of China and thus ended the Ming dynasty.

 The new Qing government made life more and more difficult for the monks with a series of purges against the temple, which culminated in the burning, and looting of the Shaolin temple and the killing of many of its inhabitants. It is said that five elders escaped the carnage and vowed to adapt their kung fu to overcome the existing styles (because there were traitors in the temple and the elders could no longer trust the monks) and to overthrow the Qing government.

It is said that one of the elders, a Buddhist nun by the name of Ng Moi developed a new art after witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane the direct attacks of the snake and the deflections of the crane. In a village where Ng Moi was staying there was a local girl who was the subject of the unwanted attentions of a local warlord who demanded that the girl marry him. After hearing of this Ng Moi took the girl in as her first pupil and it was arranged that if she beat the warlord in a fight then he would leave her alone. The girl returned and easily defeated her bullying admirer and therefore Ng Moi named the new art after her first pupil Yim Ving Tsun. Ving Tsun means beautiful or eternal springtime.

As there are so few surviving written documents the above account is open to some question, it is likely to be a mixture of fact and fiction as the five elders are embedded in Chinese folklore. What is more certain is that Wing Chun was passed onto some members of a travelling opera group who were also anti-Qing agents/assassins known as The Red Junk Opera. Over a period of time the group dispersed and took with them their Ving Tsun skills passing them on wherever they went. This has led over a period of time to at least twelve distinct styles of Ving Tsun (all with a common theme but slight differences in application), some of these styles have hardly left their local area in China, some went to Malaysia, some to Vietnam etc. Our interest lies in the lineage that leads through to Grandmaster Ip Man,  To simplify the story of Ving Tsun development there follows a family tree of the Ip Man lineage that illustrates the main links in the chain.