Wing Chun History

Shaolin Era

General Shaolin history burn of the Shaolin temples circa 1768
(This is 58 years before Leung Jan was born)

The Wing Chun hand techniques are probably originally from White Crane kung fu.
Many techniques from White Crane looks like Wing Chun techniques.
Almost impossible if there is no relationship between White Crane and Wing Chun.
They both where created in the same shaolin temples in Fushan.
You also need to know that the white Crane Kung Fu is much older then wing Chun.

In the time of the Shaolin, weapons were important, more important than hand techniques.


Code name Yim Wing Chun

Secret code story by: Benny Meng

The actual code is "to keep secret and discrete, but keep talking about the return of the Ming Dynasty."
Yes, it's only a legend based on oral traditions. But it served its purpose during the time of struggles.
First of all there is no trace of any records on the nun, the father, the husband or YWC the girl.
Second, there is no nun in the Shaolin Temples. That was never a part of Shaolin tradition. This is true in the North and South Temple.
Third, the story is not logical. Why would the nun want to come out of hiding for some girl's romantic problems. It will get both of them kill. During this time the Ching dynasty were very harsh with death penalties. The Ching authorities will kill nine generations out if you are caught as a rebel.
Fourth, YWC is a secret code. Yim means to be discreet or to be secretive. Wing means to talk or praise. Chun is the word Spring which symbolize rebirth.Together the word means to be secretive and keep talking and praising about the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty. The nun symbolize the roots of Wing Chun which is Shaolin.
Fifth, this whole story about the nun teaching a girl was actually borrowed or stolen oral tradition from the system of White Crane.
Six, if this story were true that means the nun has to be at least 200 years old. The Temple was destroyed in the mid to late 1600s. Based on the story of the nun teaching to YWC and then she passed on to her husband, and finally the husband passed it on to the Red Boat Opera people, this happen in the middle of the 1800s. So there is a 200 years gap. Someone in this fairy tale has a secret to long life and lived two hundred years.
Seven. for hundreds of thousands of years the fighting are mostly done by the men, not the ladies. So if there is something more efficient for fighting, we men are the one that needs it, not only the ladies.
Also, number eight. Effective human combat system is base on human nature and physiology, not base on some girl watching two animals fighting.
Full text by: Benny Meng: Mirror website full story / Original website full story


Yim Wing Chun

Yim = Strictly or Strictness Wing = Eternal Chun = Spring

The flower symbolizes the spring and is still in many logo's today.

The use of the term: Eternity, symbolizes Ming Dynasty forever.
The term Spring, symbolizes the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty.


White Lotus Rebels (1796 - 1804)

Like Yim Wing Chun, there were other rebel organizations, such as the White Lotus. The White Lotus, rebellion exist between 1796 and 1804.
Also here the color white, symbolizes the purity of the Ming Dynasty.
And the lotus flower, symbolizes the spring, and the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty.


Red Boat Rebels (? - 1850)

Era of Wong Wah Bo & Leung Yee Tai, somewhere between 1768 and 1850 there was a rebel organization. A Shaolin monk named "Chi Sim"worked as a cook at the traveling theater fellowship.

Traveling Opera troepe on red boats still exists today in China.

Location of the Red Boat Opera: mirror website / Orginele website not anymore available! 2018


Leung Jan (1826 - 1901)

Foto's from Samuel Kwok, photo given by Leung Man Lok the grandson of Leung Big.

Dr. Leung Jan lived from 1826 - 1901

In this time weapons where strictly forbidden in China, this changes the way of combat training.
Shaolin Martial Art, has many weapon techniques and less hand techniques.
But at this time, hand techniques getting more important.
According to some sources "Leung Jan" redesigned the 3 hand forms as we know today.
Developed with combat concepts and principles from Shaolin.

The house of Leung Jan in Foshan China still exists, the house is now a museum,

Similar to the house of Rembrandt van Rijn (Museum)
The house of Rembrandt van Rijn a dutch painter who live there between 1639 and 1658 still exists.
You can also visit this house in the Jodenbreestraat 4, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Chan Wah Shun (1836 - 1906)

Sifu of Ip Man and student of Leung Jan.

The character, Wing Chun, what means Beautiful Spring.
On the crave of Chan Wah Shun is written "Siu Lam Eternal Spring" Liu Lam = Shaolin.

Ancestral Hall in Shunde also here is written "Siu Lam Eternal Spring"
The Chan Wah Shun's ancestors temple still exists today.


Leung Big ( ? - 1912)

Son of Leung Jan and teacher of Ip Man.

Ip Man was in Hong-Kong between 1908 and 1917 studied at the St. Stephen's College.

It is quite possible that the young "Ip Man "is somewhere on one of those pictures.
St. Stephen's College unfortunately can not answer this from an e-mail exchange I had in 2012.

Click here for fotos of students of the Stephen's College

Source: St. Stephen's College Hong-Kong website


Chan Yiu Min (1884 - 1932)

Son of Chan Wah Shun and also trainings partner of Ip Man in Foshan.

Probably Ip Man trained with Chan Yiu Ming until his death in 1932.
He died at the age of 48. probably due to illness.


Ip Kai Man (1893 - 1972)

Ip Man studied in Hong Kong between 1908 and 1917 on the St. Stephen's College.

"Ip Man's" first teacher was, "Chan Wah Shun", his second teacher, "Ng Chung Sou", and his third teacher: "Leung Big."
In his life he improved the kung fu system and tested on the streets. "Ip Man" was 56 years old, when he went back to Hong Kong through Macao.

Lee Man and Ip Man changed the name of Eternal Spring, to Beautiful Spring in 1950.

Ip Man changed the name of Wing Chun to Wing Chun.
The Wing Chun Athletic Association in Hong Kong was established in 1967.

Ip Man was regulated in Dai Dak Lan, where he maintained contacts with Chu Shung Man and Tang Yick, who are masters of A other style of Wing Chun.

Source Book: Grandmaster Yip Man Centenary Birth /


Wong Shun Leung (1935 - 1997)

Foto: Fotograaf: Rene Dohmen - van Rob Vogel sr. Wing Chun Associatie.

One of the best students of "Ip Man" was Wong Shun Leung. Wong had many organized fights where he tested the system in real.
He has put the finishing touches, in the Wing Chun system. He was considered by many to be "the most famous fighter of the Wing Chun clan in the early 1950's.

A documentary about his life comes out in 2015, by John Little


Wing Chun is much newer than we previously thought

You can only develop a combat system, if you test it in real life. This is what"Leung Jan", 'Chan Wah Shun", "Ip Man" and "Wong Shun Leung" have done in their lives.
We live in the final phase of the wing Chun evolution.
We see the end product of a complete system. Changes or additions or not understand it well,
may be the end of the system, because we do not test it on the streets anymore.

A comprehensive system like Wing Chun is not developed in a single generation.
Although initial principles and combat concepts probably comes from the Shaolin and from the White Crane Kung Fu.
The biggest change took place between "Leung Jan" and "Ip Man."
Complex systems need development time, therefore you cannot ask the question,
who have created Wing Chun or where Wing Chun come from?
Therefore my conclusion is that Wing Chun what we know today, is much newer than we previously thought.

The most important thing is not the history itself or the name.
Important is the legacy which we have now today.

History is a story based on information and research.
Therefore sometimes the history change as new information is available.
When things are impossible those things should be removed.
Like the snake and crane story, this story is by the way not from Ip Man.
Even if you miss pieces of the puzzle, it is still possible to see the whole picture.

By Silvano Bonafe
November 2014