Fong Shil Ching, fact and misconception

by Rien Bul

Fong Shil Ching (also often spelled ‘Fung Siu Ching’) plays an important role in early Wudang Weng Shun Kuen history because he is one of the few verifiable historical persons in it.

The person who was said to have taught Fong the Weng Shun Kuen system is known in our lineage by the name Leung Shum Dit. About this particular person few facts are certain. He was probably the same person some other Weng Shun Kuen and Wing Chun Kuen lineages refer to as Sun Kam or Lok Kam or under his alias alias ‘Dai Fa Min Kam’. The latter translates as ‘Painted face Kam’ because his role in the plays the opera troups of which Leung Shum Dit was a member performed required of him that he wore heavy make-up. It is said that Leung in his turn was a direct student of Cheung Ng. But this is far from certain. Personally, I think that the true source from which the Red Junk opera-rebels drew the knowledge on which they eventually build the system that was to be called Weng Shun Kuen who was a Daoist monk who we now only know of as ‘The white crane Daoïst’. The well known legends about Chang Shan Feng, Ng Mui, Fong Weng Shun and Chi Sim Sim Si were probably made up by the rebels to cover up his true identity. He was probably also the source from where Chu Gar* (better known as ‘Phoenix Eye Fist Gung Fu’) and related systems sprang. It is said he lived in a cave known as the ‘White Crane cave’. No doubt that is where he got his nickname from. But what about the ‘Daoïst’-part? Any ideas? It is also hardly unthinkable that this ‘White Crane’ (also) had something to do with the style the man probably practiced.

Back to Fong. He was, according to the stories my Sifu told me, a pretty successfull and famous army-General. Apart from my Sifu’s stories on Fong I was unable to find more info about him until the book ‘Complete Wing Chun’ was published. I was astonished to find that other lineages also referred to his actual existence. I was very much intrigued, especially when someone off-handidly remarked it was "Fong who was responsible for putting in the obvious Tai Ji Quan elements in Weng Shun Kuen". Indeed, when one compares Wudang Weng Shun Kuen, Pan Nam Weng Chun Kuen or even Chi Sim Weng Chun Kuen with Tai Ji Quan, one is bound to find many strong similarities with Tai Ji Quan in them. The biggest differences are mostly found in the footwork. But the handtechniques, the theories, principles and saying are often literally, the same. But I am quite convinced that this has nothing to do with General Fong adding these Wudang influences from an outside source. If one has a true and thorough understanding of Weng Shun Kuen, no matter which of the above lineages they choose, it is an absolute and undisputed certainty that it has been an internal style from its conception! Every movent is based on principles that are common only in the styles we know as ‘internal’ or ‘soft’ (neija). The reason is that both Weng Shun Kuen and Tai Ji Quan are from the same source; a style we now call Wudang Quan for lack of a better name because the original name of the system got lost. The name Tai Ji Quan was probably first used at the beginning of the twentiesth century. At least not much earlier.

* Note: Legends surrounding the creation of Chu Gar speak of a nun who lived in a cave known as the ‘White Crane-cave’ who taught a simplified version of White Crane Gung Fu to two young sisters who based their own style on it. The story doesn’t just sound familiar, the system itself bears great resemblance to Weng Shun Kuen/Wing Chun Kuen.

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