The origins of Hung Gar by Lam Sai Wing

Below is a text from Lam Sai Wing 林世榮 on the origins of the Hung Gar 洪家. This text is the preface to the book Gong Gee Fook Fu Kuen 工字伏虎拳, Taming the Tiger Fist, in the Pattern of the Character Gong 工, published in 1936 by Lam Sai Wing, and his disciple Jyu Yu Jai 朱愚齋.

Gong Gee Fook Fu Kuen 工字伏虎拳 is a form which is considered to be one of the four pillars of the Hung Gar of the lineage of Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻. Lam Sai Wing (1861-1943) was certainly the most famous student of Wong Fei Hung (1847-1925) and greatly contributed to the dissemination of Hung Gar.


I present here the text of Lam Sai Wing in Chinese, followed by its translation in English [1]. I will not do any analysis on this manuscript as I will come back to it regularly in future post.


The origins of Hung Gar by Lam Sai Wing

An edition of the Lam Sai Wing manual, Gong Gee Fook Fu Kuen 工字伏虎拳.


清雍年間 ,台灣被日軍佔據。清政府聞報大驚,傾子傾國大小文武將官不能取回台灣。屢敗回朝,偶遇福建省少林寺一班和尚,奮勇上前將日軍打退,奪回台灣。


惟至善禪師逃落粵東,廣州河南海幢寺棲身。遂於寺內教授國技,有陸亞彩者,至善之首走傳其秘,而傳與黃泰, 南海西樵陸洲鄉人。黃泰傳其子麒英,再傳其子黃飛鴻,是三代之祖傳。


黃飛鴻隨唐逃往廣州市,謀事不成,遂在仁安街保芝林設立黃飛鴻醫館一所,隱居不傳。門前大書武藝功夫難以傳授,千金不傳, 求師莫問等語,故有志者無從問津焉。


A Brief History of Gong Gee Fook Fu Kuen [2]

During the reign of Emperor Yongzheng 雍正 (1722-1735), of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the Japanese army occupied the island of Taiwan. When the news about the Japanese seizure of some towns reached the Qing Government, it was terrified and sent the Chinese troops there to take back the island, but the Chinese army suffered defeat one after another. Military commanders of different ranks were not able to drive the Japanese away. After that a detachment of monks from the Shaolin Monastery 少林寺 in Fujian province 福建 came to Taiwan. They, full of audacity and courage, delivered a decisive blow to the Japanese army. The Japanese suffered a defeat and retreated. Taiwan was liberated.

The Qing government was delighted with the victory and wanted to award various titles and positions to the bravest monks. However, the monks without all material conveniences and prestigious title did not accept the positions granted, and so they were given farmland, grain and rice as payment. However, the Qing government suddenly realized that if such capable men living inside the monastery had any ideas for revolution, then the harm would certainly not be inconsequential. So, consumed with suspicion, while sending the grain to the monastery as a reward, the government also secretly sent men to pile hay and grass along the walls of the monastery to use as kindling, and under the cover of night, they set it on fire and burned the monastery to the ground. The monks who were able to escape after the fire scattered in different directions all over China like “stars in the sky”.

One of them, Chan (Buddhist) master Gee Sin 至善禪師 escaped to Guangdong 粵東 [3], and settled down in Haichuang Temple 幢寺 [4] in Nanhai District 南海 near the city of Guangzhou 廣州. Thereafter, he began teaching martial arts [5] in the temple. He passed his secrets on to his best student Luk Ah Choy 陸亞彩, who handed down those skills to Wong Tai 黃泰, a man from Luzhou 陸洲 village in Xiqiao township 西樵 in Nanhai district 南海. Wong Tai handed down his skills to his son Wong Kay Ying 黃麒英, Wong Kay Ying to his son Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻 who became the successor for the third generation.

Wong Fei Hung was once the martial arts instructor in the armies of the generals Wu Quanmei 吳全美 and Liu Yongfu 劉永福. During the reign of the Emperor Guangxu 光緒 (1875 -1908) he was promoted to the position of Jingxun Daqishou 靖汛大旗手 (Great Bannerman for flood control). Later, in Fujian province, he was in the troops of general, Tang Jinsong 唐竟崧. At this time, riots broke out in Fujian. The people of the province demanded that Tang Jinsong take over the province with Wong Fei Hung as commander-in-chief. This news led Li Hongzhang 李鴻章, the commander of the government army of several thousand men, to quell the riots. Tang Jinsong couldn’t resist such a force and decided to go into hiding after shaving his mustache and beard.

Tang Jinsong and Wong Fei Hung took refuge in Guangzhou, then went their separate ways. Wong Fei Hung then opened a medical center named Bo Chi Lam 保芝林, on Renan Street 仁 安街. He lived there alone without passing on his skills. In front of the gate there was a sign written with large characters saying : ” Martial arts are difficult to transmit, even for 1000 gold, I will not teach you. Do not come here looking for a teacher.”


[1] The English translation was made from that of the book proposed by, as well as the Chinese version.

[2] Despite the title A Brief History of Gong Gee Fook Fu Kuen, Lam Sai Wing gives the chronological account of the various protagonists who transmitted the Hung Gar (note that the name of the style, Hung Gar 洪家, is not mentioned along the text) from Gee Sin to Wong Fei Hung. A large part of his text is also devoted to the life of his teacher Wong Fei Hung.

[3] Lam Sai Wing uses the characters 粵東 as an abbreviation to denote East Guangdong 廣東.

[4] Lam Sai Wing uses the characters 幢寺 to denote the monastery. This same monastery is known today as Haichuang 海幢寺 (Hoitong in Cantonese).

[5] To talk about martial arts, Lam Sai Wing here uses the characters guoji 國技, literally the national skills. This echoes the term guoshu 國術 literally the national arts, used in this period (see my article on the subject).



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