October 2, 2023.
I’m revising this post today, something I should have done a long time ago. Not speaking Cantonese, I made the mistake of writing that 詠春 and 永春 had the same pronunciation. I was wrong.
After further research, I’d like to point out that the terms 詠/永, although very similar, are not homophones. The tone used is not the same. And they can also be differentiated orally.
I’d like to thank Jesper Lundquist for this clarification, as well as for the quality of his commentary.
I am very proud to publish this first post on Kung Fu Coffee Break – Martial Arts Culture and History. I could not start with anything other than this one. The 詠春 holds a very important place in my life and I deeply love this martial art. The 詠春 built me as an individual and as a martial artist. He has responded to my need to learn to defend myself and I have been teaching him for many years with great dedication.
In this post I will deal with terminology only. I will not discuss the technical specificities of the different lineages. For this aspect, I particularly recommend reading Complete Wing Chun, Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun and The 6 Core Elements (references are at the end of this post). These books are very good resources about the system, the authors address both the historical and cultural sides as the technical side.
The question about the different writings of the system is often asked by my students. Answer is not easy, I hope to be quite exhaustive in the following lines. At the end of this post, I will clarify my position to remove any ambiguity in my next posts.
The Chinese characters 詠 春 and 永春
To describe the martial art 詠 春 and / or 永春, there are several terms in our phonetic transcriptions using the Latin alphabet: Wing Chun, Wing Tsun, Ving Tsun … It is sometimes difficult to understand, especially for a non-practitioner of this martial art. But before approaching the various writtings with our Latin alphabet, firstly, I would like to focus in Chinese characters.
Concerning the terms 詠 春 and 永春, as Robert Chu specifies, they were adopted at the beginning of the 19th century as the name of the system. The Cantonese pronunciation of the characters 永 and 詠 is very similar, with only the tone used differentiating them. According to the International Phonetic Alphabet, 永 and 詠 are pronounced in Cantonese [wiŋ]. However, the meanings of the two characters are different: 永 means “always / eternal” and 詠 means “to sing / praise”.
The character 詠 consists of the character 永 with the addition of the character 言, commonly known in Chinese linguistics as “the key to speech”. As far as 永春 is concerned, one of the hypotheses concerning the origins of the system is that it comes from the town of Yong Chun 永春 in Fujian, famous for the creation of Yong Chun Bai He 永春 白鶴, White Crane style of Yong Chun town . I will discuss the different assumptions about the origins of the system in my next articles.
However Ip Man did not share this point of view. In an interview with Mok Pui On, a journalist and practitioner from 永春, Ip Man said very clearly that 詠 春 is not the same martial art as 永春 .
” 詠 春 is not the same martial art as 永春 ” Ip Man
What seems very surprising is that the Sifu of Ip Man, Chan Wah Shun 陳華順 used rather the term 永春 to designate the system. It is this term that is engraved on the grave of Chan Wah Shun in Shunde. His son, Chan Yu Min 陳汝 棉, continued to use the term 永春 and established a lineage in Shunde.
Regarding Chan Wah Shun’s grave, I invite you to read Jesper Lundquist’s comment below.
On the grave of Chan Wah Shun, one can see written (upper right) 少林永春 which means Siu Lam (Shaolin) Weng Chun. A legitimate question arises therefore: Did Ip Man voluntarily choose the term 詠 春 to differentiate his system from other lineages ? Nothing is less certain because the term 詠春 already existed before the installation of Ip Man to Hong Kong in 1949. It is found for instance to Fatshan and Malaysia in the first half of the 20th century. The term also appears in the lineage of the Pin Sun Wing Chun 偏身詠春, a lineage established in the village of Gu Lao at the end of the 19th century by Leung Jan 梁贊, the Sifu of Chan Wah Shun.
It should be kept in mind, however, that until the 20th century, the transmission of the system was exclusively oral. As much for technical and martial as cultural aspects. In the old days, nothing or very little has been written about 詠/永春. Until the 1950s, the system was mostly taught on the Chinese mainland, to Fatshan area (at the same time, there were also branches in another Southeast Asian country such as Vietnam and Malaysia). It was reserved for a small community that had the privilege of learning 詠/永春. After the Second World War, the system began to be exported abroad and to be spoken in English. The question of phonetic transcription with the Latin alphabet thus arose for the first time in Hong Kong, a British colony, and in the United States.
Romanization of Chinese characters
The official language of the People’s Republic of China is Mandarin. This dialect is native to northern China. There are, however, several dialects commonly spoken throughout the country. For instance, the wu spoken in the Shanghai area and the Cantonese spoken in the south of the country. Chinese writing, transcription by Chinese characters (sinograms), is the same throughout China. However, the pronunciation is different according to the dialects used in different regions of China. In the world, when one speaks Chinese, it is mostly Mandarin, “the Chinese of Beijing”. However, some cities, like Hong Kong, or some Chinatowns use Cantonese more.
The phonetic transcription of Mandarin in our Latin script, in other words the romanization of Mandarin, is done mainly by the hanyu pinyin system. While Cantonese romanization most commonly uses the yale system or jyutping system. 詠春 Yong Chun is written in Mandarin Pinyin and Wing Ceon is written in Cantonese jyutping.
The pronunciation of the terms 詠春 and 永春 are always the same, whatever the romanization used. The system is a Southerne Kung Fu style, so it is usually Cantonese that is used to pronounce 詠/永春. According to the International Phonetic Alphabet 詠/永春 is pronounced [wiŋtʃœn].
Bruce Lee was certainly one of the first to transcribe 詠 春 by the term Wing Chun.
In the 1960’s, Bruce Lee was certainly one of the first to transcribe 詠 春 by the term Wing Chun. However, the people of Hong Kong and Europe did not like this terminology because the initials “WC” are used to designate the toilet! Instead, they opted for the term Ving Tsun, officially in 1967, when the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association was formed. But the sound [v] does not really exist in the Cantonese dialect. Leung Ting therefore preferred to use the term Wing Tsun to transcribe 詠 春 as early as 1970. In addition, other transcriptions are also used for various and varied reasons. In summary, the most used scripts of 詠 春 and 永春 are:
- Wing Chun > a term used by Bruce Lee in the United States in the early 1960s, very popular nowadays, the most commonly used to designate the system to the general public. Used by the lineage of Lo Man Kam 盧文錦, William Cheung 張卓興, Lok Yiu 駱耀, Chu Shong Tin 徐尚田…
- Ving Tsun > first term used in Hong Kong during Ip Man’s lifetime in 1967 for the creation of the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association. This association still exists today as VTAA, Ving Tsun Athletic Association. Used by the lineage of Wong Shun Leung 黃淳樑, Ip Chun 葉準 and Ip Ching 葉正.
- Wing Tsun > term used by Leung Ting 梁挺 since the early 1970’s. Note bene; WingTsun is a registered trademark.
- Yong Chun> romanization of the Mandarin pronunciation of 詠 春, used mainly by schools located in Mainland China, except Guangdong Province where Cantonese is spoken.
- Vinh Xuan > romanization of the Vietnamese pronunciation of 詠 春.
- Weng Chun > romanization used most often to transcribe the term 永春. Used by the lineage of Tang Yik 鄧奕.
- Wing Tjun, Ving Tjun, Wing Chun …> other terms created by Westerners, most often, to designate their system and thus establish a new lineage.
- Wing Fight, Wing Tai, Wing Flow …> other terms also created by Westerners, with an “evolutionary” dimension of the system. For these terms, of course, the pronunciation is different.
All these different writings therefore refer to the same martial art. I consider in this post that 詠 春 and 永春 refer to the same system. In my case, I use the characters 詠 春 and Wing Tsun writing within my school because I am part of the AIWTKF and my lineage is from Leung Ting. Nevertheless, I will use in this blog and in my next posts the writing Wing Chun for its connotation more universal and common public … and very sincerely, I also hope that the use of Wing Chun will considerably improve the referencing of this blog !
 Complete Wing Chun : The Definitive Guide to Wing Chun’s History and Traditions, p106-107, CHU Robert, RITCHIE Rene, ed. Tuttle Publishing, 1998.
 Wing Tsun Kung Fu – Théories, formes et méthodes – les clés du système, p32, FLICKINGER Klaus, 2015
 Kung Fu Quest 2 : White Crane Boxing, publié par RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong), 2012 + Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun, p52, LEUNG Ting, ed. Leung Ting Co, 2000 + The 6 Core Elements, , p190-191, IADAROLA Sergio Pascal, ed. Elephant White Cultural Entreprise Co., 2015
 Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun, p110, LEUNG Ting, ed. Leung Ting Co, 2000
 Ibid, p5