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Yong Chun Quan in Foshan

By Yeung Yun Choi


Foshan is where Yong Chun Quan or Ving Chun Kuen, Wing Tsun Kuen or Wing Chun Chuan flourished prior to the liberation of Mainland China in 1949. Yong Chun Quan continues to prosper in other parts of China, Hong Kong, Macao, and now it is known internationally. The Yong Chun Quan Research Activity Centre was inaugurated on 29 June 1997. It is an attempt to revive the Yong Chun Quan tradition in Foshan by the Foshan Chin Woo Athletic Association which is non-governmental, non-political, non-profit making, non-discriminatory of any school of martial art, and genuinely promoting martial art as a sport for all. The aim of this article is to give a short introduction of Yong Chun Quan and a short review of the current situation in Foshan.

The mysterious origin of Yong Chun Quan is due to its association with South Shaolin Temple in Fujian Province that was destroyed totally in the 1700s by the Manchurian Government because it is a base of the Hong Men, a revolutionary organisation seeking to overturn the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The legendary Wu Mui (five plum-blossom) was associated with the revolutionary movement. Wu Mui is also known as the master of Bai He Quan (White Crane Boxing) or He Quan (Crane Boxing). The school of Bai He Quan in Taiwan claimed that Wu Mui is the founder of Bai He Quan, and she is also the legendary figure Lu Si Niang (the fourth lady of the Lu's family) who supposedly had assassinated the Manchurian Emperor Yong Zheng.

He Quan is originated from Yong Chun County in Fujian Province, which might cause some confusion to Yong Chun Quan. Yong (Wing5) in Yong Chun County is different to Yong (Wing6) in Yong Chun Quan. In Putonghua (the common dialect), the Chinese characters are different but there is no difference in the phonetic transcription. In Cantonese (the common dialect in Guangzhou and nearby regions), the sound is also the same but the tong is different which are denoted by "Wing5" and "Wing6". Wing5 means perpetually; forever; always. Wing6 means chant; intone; recite; express or narrate in poetic form. Wing5 is commonly used in the names of males while Wing6 is commonly used in the names of female.

He Quan is said to be developed by Fang Qi Niang (the seventh lady of the Fang's family) from Shaolin Martial Arts taught to her by her father during the period of Kang Xi (1662 - 1723). After she developed  He Quan, she married her student Zeng Si and settled in Yong Chun County. Yong Chun Quan resembled some of He Quan's techniques and basic theories. Thus it is possible that Yong Chun Quan developed from He Quan. One story said that it was developed from watching fights between crane and snake, as Yong Chun Quan's hand techniques do resemble the movements of snakes. Whoever developed it that must have known very well the fighting techniques of the crane or simply He Quan.

One story said that Yan Yong (Wing6) Chun also known as Yan San Niang (the third lady of the Yan's family) learnt martial arts from her father Yan Er. Yan Er leant form Miao Shun, and Miao Shun learnt from Wu Mui. In any case they were from Fujian Province if not Yong Chun County. Therefore, it is possible that it is a kind of boxing from the Yong Chun County and called Yong Chun Quan. There is another story about the Yong (Wing5) Chun Hall in South Shaolin Temple where this type of martial art was developed, and also directly linked with Zhi Shan the Buddhist Priest. There was also a story about the husband of Yan Yong Chun who named this particular martial art after her.

Due to a period of instability in Fujian Province or simply the pursuit of the Manchurian Government, Yong Chun Quan was spread to Shao Xing the North Western region of Guangdong Province. Maybe this is how Yong Chun Quan is associated with the Red Boat Opera Troupe and the popular weaponry of that region namely the butterfly double knives and the extra long seven feet two (7.2 tradition Chinese feet or Chi is approximately 2.4  metre or 7.8 feet) rat tail pole.

Yong Chun Quan was then spread to Guangzhou and Foshan. There were two major reasons for Yong Chun Quan to flourish in Foshan. The first one is that after the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Men dispersed into a number of  underground societies and their activities concentrated in Foshan, a major city very close to Guangzhou. They could not carry on with their activities in Guangzhou mainly because Guangzhou was a very important military base of the Nationalist Government and the Nationalist Army would interfere with their disputes over businesses and territories. The second reason is that there was a group of wealthy people who became interested in Yong Chun Quan and it became a popular pastime amongst the rich in Foshan.  The dominant figures of Yong Chun Quan in Foshan are from wealthy families. Maybe these are also the reason for the refinement and practical fighting skills embedded in Yong Chun Quan.

After the liberation of China in 1949, the underground societies disappeared; the riches ran away, others looked for better job opportunities elsewhere. These had more or less ended a great Yong Chun Quan era in Foshan. Probably most of the well-known Yong Chun Quan artists outside of Foshan can trace their linkages back to Foshan.

Yip Man went to Hong Kong from Foshan and his earliest students are still teaching in Foshan. He was the first teacher in Hong Kong who taught Yong Chun Quan openly in the 1950s. He had many well-known students both in Hong Kong and internationally. Two of his students, Guo Fu and Lun Jia are still very actively teaching in Foshan.

There is Zhao Yun (Jiu Wan) whose teacher was Chen Ru Mian the son of Yip Man's teacher. In a way, that puts him amongst the generation of Yip Man's students in Hong Kong. The grand students of his brother Zhao Jiu who also learn from Chen Ru Mian, are very active in Foshan.

Cen Neng (Sum Nung) went to Guangzhou from Foshan and has taught there since the 1950s. His students in Hong Kong teach Guangzhou Yong Chun Quan to distinguish from Yip Man's teaching. His grand student in Canada teaches Ruan Qi Shan (Yuen Kay Shan) Yong Chun Quan. Ruan Qi Shan is Shum Ngan's second teacher of Yong Chun Quan in Foshan who died in 1956. His first teacher is Zhang Bao whose son Zhang Qi is teaching Yong Chun Quan in Foshan.

The lesser-known Yong Chun Quan in Hong Kong is Chu Chung's Pao Hua Lian Yong Chun Quan. He learn his Yong Chun form Liu Da Sheng (Pao Hua Lian) in Foshan. He went to Hong Kong 60 years ago and did not teach very openly and died at the age of 104. His grand student Leo Man is now teaching in the Chin Woo Athletic Association of Hong Kong and other places in Hong Kong. There are still two surviving students of Liu Da Sheng in Foshan, Guo Jia and his brother Guo Jiang.

The Pain Shen (side body) Yong Chun Quan of Feng Zhen (Fung Chun) in Hong Kong is also known as Gu Lao Yong Chun Quan. He is too busy with his business and not teaching very openly but his son Feng Yan Liang is teaching in Gu Lao and very interested in developing the Yong Chun Quan's sticking hand competition. Gu Lao is very close to Foshan, about an hour's drive by car.

Chu Chong Man was from a very wealthy family in Foshan, who was already very well known in Macau in the 1940s. He was very selective in his choice of students and he taught Shaolin Yong (Wing5) Chun Quan. One of his teachers, Yang Jie Cheung was known to be a third generation student of Zhi Shan the Buddhist Priest. May be this is why some of his students called it Zhi Shan Yong (Wing5) Chun Quan (Jee Shim Wing Chun Kuen).

Since the "open-door" policy was implemented in China since 1978, Foshan's Yong Chun Quan is slowly gaining attention internationally. The better known are Lun Jia and Pan Nam because their students have published articles concerning them in the West. Lun Jia learned from Yip Man when he was in Foshan, and Pan Nam learned from Zhao Jiu, the brother of Zhao Yun in Hong Kong.

Foshan has a long history of martial arts and it is very well known since 1821, Foshan is also the home of Hong Quan (Hung Gar) and Hong Sheng Cai Li Fo (Choy Li Fut) the Foshan Chin Woo Athletic Association was established in 1921, and its training hall was erected in 1936. Chin Woo was not active due to the period of political instability in China prior to the open-door policy, but it was re-activated in 1986. With the aid of the Foshan Government's Wushu Committee in 1993. Liang Guang Man has established more or less his own personal Foshan City Yong Chun Quan Research Association although he did not gain any kind of support from the Yong Chun community in Foshan.

The Yong Chun Quan Research Activity Centre has gained the support of the Yong Chun community in Foshan as well as other part of China and overseas since its establishment. The composition of the committee is the following:

Luo Run Zuo, director and vice president of the Foshan Chin Woo Athletic Association, who has been very active in the martial art community in Foshan for a long time. He is not a Yong Chun Quan practitioner and this has enabled him to be impartial in carrying out his duty as the director of the Centre

Peng Shu Song, deputy director, he is the son of Peng Nan who learned his Yong Chun from Zhao Wan amongst other arts that he mastered

Qiu Long Hing, deputy director, he is a student of Peng Nan

Tang Huo Xian, deputy director and treasurer, she is the student of Yan Wen who learned from Li Ye Chi a student of Chen Hua Shun

Wen Jin Hua, deputy director, he is the student of Lun Jia

Huo Jing An, deputy director, he is the student of Zhang Qi the son of Zhang Bao who also learn from Cen Neng

Lin Xue Mei, deputy director, she is the student of Yao Qi the son of Yao Cai who learn from Wu Zhong Su as well as from Ruan Yi Yun the brother of Ruan Qi Shan

Liu Ci Guang, deputy director, he is a student of Lin Rui Bo who is a student of Yao Cai

Gua Zhan, secretary, the son of Gua Fu who is a student of Yip Man

Han Gung Jiu, liaison officer, a student of Peng Nan

The advisers to the Yong Chun Quan Research Activity Centre are the following:

Lao Hua, a student of Li Ye Chi.

Guo Fu, a student of Yip Man

Lun Jia, a student of  Yip Man

Cen Neng, a student of Zhang Bao and Ruan Qi Shan

Guo Jia, a student of Liu Da Sheng

Guo Jiang, a student of Liu Da Sheng

The Centre is represented by every branch of Yong Chun Quan in Foshan which is more or less attached to every other branch in China as well as overseas. The impartial, non-political and non-profit making natures of the Centre enable the Yong Chun community in Foshan to put aside their differences and concentrate on the development of a unique sport of Yong Chun Sticking Hands for all.