Hung Kuen (cant.), also known as Hung Gar, Hong Quan, Wuxing Hongquan, Ng Ying Hung Kuen, Hong Men, Hung Mun, etc,. is the most representative boxing method from the Lingnan area. Its variations are far and wide but the legends of the founder Hong Xi Guan (Hung Hei Gun) and the number of well known historical Masters Huang Qiying (Wong Keiying) one of the 10 Tigers from Canton and Huang Feihong (Wong Feihong) celebrated through his good deeds and idolized in films.
Commonly Hong Quan (Hung Kuen) is famous for its iron bridges, the Tiger and Crane (Hard/Soft Balance), the Iron Wire Tension power, the 5 Animals and much more. Around the world there are countless numbers of schools especially of the Wong Feihong, Lam Saiwing lineages. However in its homeland of Guandong there are many variations and Hung Kuen is sometimes a generic term for many different types of boxing systems in the South of China.
Herein you will learn about the Traditional Huadu, Zhanjiang and Foshan brances of Hong Quan, including its history, evolution, contents and variations.
Legends and Folkore
There possibly has never been a legend so popular and so wonderfully adapted for film over and over more than the legend of the Southern Shaolin Temple, the five elders and Hong Xiguan. This legend or story which was based mostly on a folklore/novel called "Wan Nian Qing" 《万年青》and then with some additions by scriptwriters and filmakers in short is as follows:
In brief, the story tells of a Fukien Shaolin Temple, where the Abbott is called Zhi Shan Chan Shi (Zhi Shan meaning perfect), and he is one of the five elders of the Temple. The five elders were then Zhi Shan Chan Shi (Chee Sin Sim See, 至善禅师), Wu Mei Da Shi (Ng Mui, 五枚大师), Bai Mei Dao Ren (Bak Mei, 白眉道人), Feng Daode (Fung To Dak, 冯道德) and Miao Xian (Miu Hin, 苗显). The Qing government orders the Temple to be destroyed and burned to the ground and many of the survivors escape and form rebellions, some pretended to be opera or street performers travelling on boats between performance destinations. Both Bai Mei and Feng Daode are Taoists in the story, which of course makes it much more entertaining, since there comes a whole plot where Bai Mei betrays the temple and kills Zhi Shan. In this story, there is mention of Hong Xiguan (Hung Heigun) as the disciple of Zhi Shan and being a master of the hard Tiger style.
The story becomes even more intriguing as Fang Shiyu (Fong Saiyuk, 方世玉 - supposedly the son of Miao Xin's daughter) is mixed into the story and Hong Xiguan marries a student of Crane style, which somehow was supposed to be invented by the nun Wu Mei, who also had a student called Yongchun (Wing Chun), then they have a son called Hong Wending who studies both his fathers hard style, mother's soft style and finally defeats Bai Mei (who must have been pretty advanced in age by the time all this happened, but of course he has long white eyebrows and long white hair) and then after all the events and 25 years later is killed by a boy whilst he is in hiding in the Emei mountains. For further wonderful stories like these any of the Shaw Brothers movies like Executioners from Shaolin (cover shown) would be good background on this legend.
The difficulty which makes the films succeed in the first place is that real figures are mixed up with made up ones (the whole Jin Yong Wu Xia series succeeded on that fact of mixing history with Wu Xia fantasy), and the Kung Fu fans have loved such heroics for decades. Interestingly enough through time since many Kung Fu schools have adopted the stories, they have amended to make them more plausible for example some replaced Fukien (Fujian) Shaolin with Henan, others have gone even more outlandish and created whole martial arts systems based on the five elders, whilst even more try and link Red boats of the opera with further martial arts systems. On that note though, please realise that have an inaccurate history does not mean that the Kung Fu or martial art is lacking.
History of Hong Quan
Zhangzhou (please refer to Taizuquan history) and neighbouring areas Long Yan and Yong Ding, is home to many of the Hakka including the unique Tu Lou dwellings. There were may migration paths of the Hakka including the early stage during the Tang and Song periods that passed through jiangxi southwards, whilst in the Ming many had migrated to Fujian and thereafter the Eastern parts of Guangdong (Huizhou, Meixian). Zhangzhou also has a long tradition of martial arts practice, almost every village has their own Tang (Hall) of practice so that there are over 30 societies and numerous schools thereof which practice the martial arts of either Tai Zu Quan, Da Zun Quan, Bai He Quan (White Crane), Wu Shou Quan (5 Animals), Hong Quan, Xiang Gong, Luohan, Hou Quan (Monkey) and Gong Bu. To understand this heavy concentration we must begin at the Tian Di Hui (天地会，Heaven and Earth Society), also known as Hong Men (洪门). Zhangzhou is also known for it's many Wu Shi Fa (Lion dances, 舞狮法) which again each of the groups have distinct ways of practicing.
Tian Di Hui (天地会，Heaven and Earth Society)
One of the secret societies commenced (according to "Plans for reonstruction" by Sun Yat Sen) in the early part of the Qing dynasty during Kangxi's reign (1654-1722), which take "heaven as our father, take earth as our mother, the Heaven and Earth Society (Tian Di Hui, 天地会)", that also became known as Hong Men (Hong Group, 洪门) or Hong Bang (Hong Sect).
The founders originating from Zhangpu County in Zhangzhou prefecture, Fujian province were Wan Ti Xi (a monk), whose pre-ordained name was Wu Dechao (吴德超) and was born in Taizhou, Zhejiang province but moved to Zhangzhou in his youth, was also later referred to as Wan Yunlong (万云龙), and some Ming descendants Li Min, Zhu Dingyuan and Tao Yuan. Chen Jinan (陈近南), whose pre-ordained name was Chen Chen Yonghua (陈永华) was also a Daoist who had practiced in the Bai He Dong (White Crane Cave) within Shen Nong Jia Mountains in Hubei Province. Chen Jinan, also known as the White Crane Daoist became also an important divisional leader. Both were associated with Daoism and the White Lotus Society of the past (白莲教).
The key motto of the society was "overthrow the Qing, restore the Ming" and this is since most of its important members were descendants from the previous Ming dynasty (predominantly of Hakka descent), and had moved southwards after being overtaken by the manchurians that formulated the Qing empire. Since the Ming Dynasty Tai Zu, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang was named "Hong Wu, 洪武", the used of "Hong" was applied to represent the Ming Dynasty. The society thus originally was a patriotic effort to educate the next generations of a dynasty that is Chinese rather than foreign (i.e. Manchurian). Zhu Yuanzhang himself was a member of the Red Turbans uprising (红巾起义), which was also related to the White Lotus Society (白莲教).
Like its predecessors, the Heaven and Earth society was also said to have close affiliations to the Daoist (Taoist) belief system, thus inheriting many of the codes and symbolism applied in some forms of Daoist practice. This was highlighted by He Zhenqing in "Essay on the origin of the Tian Di Hui", that the formation of the Brotherhood which applied in the Tian Di Hui or Hong Men was forbidden by the Qing government which led to further secrecy required by the sect. Another aspect of this secrecy was actually the change of names, in the early days the use of surname "Wan" (万) and later the surname "Hong"(洪) would be commonly adopted by its members, in addition to Zhu as in Zhu Yuanzhang. Famed examples include Wan Yunlong, Wan Suihong, Hong Dasui, Monk Hong, Wan Dahong, Zhu Honghao, Zhu Hongying, etc. Some of these figures were real, others were aliases whilst some were simply invented or codes for some alterior meaning. In fact many of its members were supposedly monks or had been in the past which also lead to alot of such practices like Daoist amulets and secret scripts became adopted into the society's practices.
A brother of this society is like a blood family brother in a household. If the brother suffers any issues or problems of welfare, safety or financial, everyone must help them. Tian Di Hui have the Ba Bai Ge (8 Bows/respects Song) which suggests that members should bow/respect the eight aspects: Tian (Heaven, 天), Di (Earth, 地), Yang (Sun, 日), Yin (Moon，月), Zhu (Ancestors, 祖), Wan (Wang Yunlong, 万云龙), Chen (Chen Jinnan, 陈近南) and He (Harmony of the Brotherhood， 合). Although an organizational heirarchy existed in the society, there was an oath of brotherhood. So when members would join they take a vow to treat fellow members as real brothers for eternity, any issues or problems of the past would be left behind. The brotherhood was often referred as "Hong Jia Xiong Di" (Hung Family Brothers, 洪家兄弟）. It commenced fairly simplistic but by the 1800's the pledge or vow became more prescriptive and contained the "36 pledges of the Hongmen". Some of these in brief include the following:
- Hatred and infighting between brothers shall not exist, the Qing government is the common enemy.
- Secrets of the society shall never be revealed to anyone, this includes a members own family including spouse, children and relatives.
- Betrayal is strictly forbidden, even if arrested or tortured. To fight against the Qing government, one should be willing to sacrifice themselves and their own lives.
- It is essential that brothers are loyal and reliable to one another
Members of the society would have a series of codes both conversational and gestures. This included using certain names and words with alternate meanings, dressing in particular ways, hand signals and gestures, arrangements of items (like copsticks, bowls), or ways of doing things like pouring tea and more. Much of these would follow certain Daoist patterns and routines. There were many ceremonial practices as well. The Society evolved sub groups such as San Dian Hui, San He Hui (He-Harmony), San He Hui (He-river), Ge Lao Hui, Quan Zi Hui and others up to 50 or so. During the uprising of Hung Xiuquan, the Tiandi Hui/Hong Men societies also supported the Taiping Rebellion as well. After more than 300 years of secret activities, the end of the society (in its original form) did not come until the time of Sun Yat Sen, as the members decided that to joining the 1911 Xinhai revolution of "constructing the republic of China" was much in line with the initial intention of the movement. In fact Sun Yat Sen was a member of the Hong Men society and in 1893 had re-organized members into a new association to reunite the Hong Men members and use their unity to support the national revolution movement.
However, many strands of the society had continued except with the Qing government overthrown the original intention of the groups had been in disarray, and then formulated some of the parent organisations that were to become the Triads (San He Hui, Hei Si Hui) and in Taiwan often part of the government parties up until today.
Hong Men and Shaolin
The members of the Hong Men Society would practice martial arts and to hide this from the Qing government often the words "Shaolin" would be used. The connection is based on a number of stories that were adopted by the Tiandi Hui/Hong Men societies which
This after many years became even greater in practice and members would then have places and training locations named the Shaolin Yuan or Shaolin Temple even. It is these foundations that have led not only to confusion as to the origins of the style or boxing, but actually helped the Shaolin fame to be beyond that which it originally may have had in regards to martial arts. There were many members of the Tian Di Hui/Hong Men but not all were excellent martial artists. This has also resulted in a number of basic boxing derivations and some more complex or evolved, and the actual development of each martial art became based on conditions and experiences of descendants. To complicate matters word many of the original Tian Di Hui were actual Monks.
There was a training ground that boxing and weapons were undertaken, temples such as the Jiu Zuo Temple (also known as Tai Ping Yuan, 太平院 - Supreme Peace Courtyard) in Xian You county, which was burnt down during the early Qing period, have the reputation as being a place for the Tian Di Hui and often called Southern Shaolin Temple. The Zhangzhou Dong Shan Temple and Putian's Guang Hua Temple were affiliated with this Jiu Zuo Temple. Some of the temple's second generation disciples including Xiang Hua were affiliated with the early days of the Tian Di Hui which was later formulated in the Zhangzhou area. Thus the boxing methods taught would be of the greater Fujian areas which are usually based on Fujian boxing methods like Wu Shou Quan (5 animals Boxing, 五售拳), Luohan Quan and Tai Zu Quan (noting that there are two types one said to have derived from ex soldiers of Song Tai zu Zhao Kuangyin, and another from ex military staff of Ming Tai Zu Zhu Yuanzhang) and other indigenous practices that are said to originate in the Tang and Ming dynasties prior to the formation of the Tian Di Hui.
Hong Xiguan - Founder of Hong Jia Quan (洪熙官-洪家拳始祖）
Hong Xi Guan (洪熙官, est.1724-1814 or 1743-1806) from the Qing dynasty - Qianlong period is said to be a tea merchant from Zhangzhou prefecture, Fujian province. He was into the tea trading business as support to his father who had the same trade but latter found it difficult to survive admist the Qing's government control of business and given that his father was a dedicated Ming loyalist, he was also to become a member of the Tian Di Hui. With the tea trading between Zhangzhou and Guangdong, Hong Xiguan was positioned to be able to send communications and materials between the societies. Before joining he was sent away by his father to one of the society's temples or training grounds, this was an attempt keep him safe from the troubles in his home town. During his training (likely in Taizuquan, Jishanquan and Luohanquan) initially he was not keen but had a natural ability and stature that allowed him to learn the methods easily. In addition to studying religous ethics and education on the principles of the Tian Di Hui including remember ones ancestors and the restoration of the Ming, Hong Xiguan was exposed to many stories from other participants and had really felt the patriotic element. Some of the other famous martial arts masters include Ding Miantang, Li Xianguang and Wu Xizhang.
When he returned to Zhangzhou he participated in many struggles and secret plans with the Tian Di Hui and became well known for his boxing methods. His boxing teacher Guang Zhi (later to be referred to as Zhi San Chan Shi, in some folklore), was also held in high regard being an old Master hand from Shaolin (or whichever location/temple this was in code. Some Zhangzhou records suggest Zhang Mu (1673-1779), disciple of Monk Zheng Kai (1613-1701) of the Tian Di Hui as the boxing teacher of Hong Xiguan, as at an early stage the boxing was already called Hong Quan in Honour of Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (Hong Wu).
Hong Xiguan like most of his fellow brothers, passed on much of his boxing skills to his small followers as part of the Tian Di Hui activities and used his tea trading to hide some activities as well. The boxing methods at the time were simple and if one observes the Shuang Zhi Quan or Hong Quan from Zhangzhou many of the features are maternal to the Hong Jia system. There over 30 different Tang (Halls - a term used in Zhangzhou to depict school/group/sect), of which 5 of them are practitioners of Hong Quan (Shuang Zhi Quan) with lineage to Hong Xiguan.
As his success gained the leaders of the Tian Di Hui felt that he was gaining good leadership ground and should help expand the societies activities. At this stage he was sent to neigbouring Guangdong province. It is believed that he moved to Guandong and was said to reside in Cang Shuyuan village, Tan Bu Town, Hua Du County/Area, Guangzhou prefecture in Guandong province. To this day there are descendants that reside in this and neighbouring areas that practice boxing derived from the teachings of Hong Xiguan. This is commonly understood not just by practioners in Guangdong but also in Zhangzhou. Additionally, Zhangzhou is the only place in Fujian that has a tradition of practicing Hong Quan (also known as Shuang Zhi Quan, 双枝拳).
In the martial arts often as a part of a society the boxing that is taught is to meet the demands of the requirements on hand therefore although many had studied boxing with Hong Xiguan there is the likelihood that not all students obtained the same knowledge or standard. The cross exploration with experience and other art led to further diversifications. According to Guangdong records some of those that obtained his full transmission were Masters Lu Ya Cai (some records proclaim him as a brother of Hong Xiguan, that later studied further with Hong to inherit a deeper level of martial arts proficiency), although this is shall be looked at further when branches are discussed.
Dissemination of Hong Quan
Due to the various secrecy and coding used in the Hong Men movement, the actual lines of martial arts that come from Hong Xiguan as opposed to other Hong Men martial arts practitioners can sometimes be very difficult to ascertain. Additionally, the further cross pollination of the various Hong Quan practices with either individual experiences or other styles of martial arts, again has meant various evolutions that make it a very complex puzzle that may not be solved. The likelihood of other Guangdong styles (like the Cai, Mo, Liu and Li) also have some associations with the same roots could also be considered plausible. Therefore to complete the historical origins, there is only one constant which is that many of the martial arts of Guangdong have their origins in Fujian, but have evolved based on experiences and conditions into styles on to themselves. As an example, originally Hong Quan would have had higher stances (Er Zhi Ma) and short movements predominantly, whilst later it adopted the trademark Si Ping Ma and some of the longer range techniques. In the next section we will look at the various branches of Hong Quan that are practiced in Guangdong and abroad a little further.
Hung Kuen, （洪拳） also known as Hung Gar, Hong Jia Quan （洪家拳）is the most representative boxing method from the Lingnan area. Nowadays, Hong Quan has become famous for its deeply rooted stances, iron bridges, the Tiger and Crane (Hard/Soft Balance), the Iron Wire Tension power, the 5 Animals and much more. Around the world there are countless numbers of schools especially of the Wong Feihong, Lam Saiwing lineages. However in its homeland of Guandong there are many variations and Hung Kuen is sometimes a generic term for many different types of boxing systems in the South of China. In Guangdong, Hong Quan is popular in the Zhanjiang, Huaduxian, Guangzhou, FoShan, Nanhai and Shunde counties/areas. Each of the areas have developed certain unique qualities and aspects in their Hong Quan, there are more than 20 sub branches (different lineages within towns or villages of the main areas). The main Guangdong branches nowadays are thus :
- Huadu Hong Quan (花都洪拳)
- Yuexi Hong Quan (粤西洪拳)
- Foshan Hong Quan (佛山洪拳)
- Lin Jia Hong Quan (林家洪拳)
- Zhongsan Hong Quan (中山洪拳)
Hong Xiguan (洪熙官, est. 1743-1806) came to Hua Du county around 1782, most of his efforts in the early stages were in association with the Hong Men effort and many of his earlier students would be from other parts of Guangdong, whilst in Hua Du many locals practiced the boxing which currently their methods remained simple and to the initial principles passed down by Hong Xiquan. Other practitioners that came from afar had often practiced martial arts prior or had latter acquired other skills from experience and other teachers alike.
The Ten Tigers of Guangdong (广东十虎)
During the early 1800's there were many famous martial arts masters and some of these became known as the 10 Tigers of Guangdong as follows:
- Liang Kun (梁坤) from Panyu in Guangdong
- Huang Qiying (黄麒英) from Foshan, Guangdong
- Su Can (苏乞儿), from Nanhai, Guangdong
- Liang Renchao (黎仁超), from Shantou, Guangdong
- Chen Tiezhi (陈铁志), from Taishan in Guangdong
- Wang Yinlin (王隐林), from Zhaoqing, Guangdong
- Huang Chengke (黄澄可), from Sanshui, Guangdong
- Su Heihu (苏黑虎), from Shunde, Guandong
- Tan Jiyun (潭济筠), from Suixi, Guangdong
- Zhou Tai ( 周泰), from Zhanjiang, Guangdong
Of the 10 tigers, 8 of them - Liang Kun, Tan Jiyun, Huang Qiying, Huang Chengke, Zhou Tai, Chen Tiezhi, Su Can and Su Heihu were all practitioners of Hong/Hong Men Quan. However each had different specialties and emphasises (like Liang Kun and his iron bridges, Huang Qiying and his no shadow kicks, Su Qier with his drunken boxing and Iron Palm Su Heihu and Chen Tianzhi with his locking techniques. Others such as Liang Renchao practiced boxing from Shantou , Wang Yinlin was a Xiajia Quan practitioner. In general during the 1800's most of the schools of martial arts with a heritage from the Hong Men, also became part of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom rebellion led by Hakka Hong Xiuquan (1814-1864) who was from Fuyuanshui Village, Hua County (now part of Huadu District Guangzhou) which is the same district that Hong Xiguan resided (but different village), Hong Men were active and that practice Hung Kuen.
Su Heihu founded the Hei Hu Men (c. Hak Fu Mun, 黑虎门) style. Wang Yinlin, master of Xia Jia Quan (c. Hap Gar Kuen，侠家拳) had taught Deng Long and Deng Jintao and they taught Deng Zhenjiang, Zhou Peihong, Wang Shaoyi, Pan Fu, Zu Xiaowang and Liang Yigang. Huang Qiying is said to have studied with his father Huang Tai (in some versions it is with Lu Yacai (ca. Luk Ah Choy - a member of Hong Men)) and with Li Huzi (From Sichuan said to be of the Xia Jia Quan style from Wang Yinlin).
Huadu Hong Quan (花都洪拳, Fadou Hung Kuen)
The traditions of Hong Quan remain in the villages of Huadu until today, especially in Hong Xiguan's old hometown. Here the young an old practice Hong Quan, to them it is a common pass time, so much so that often they refer to practice as 'playing'. There is less formality amongst the locals and like many small villages in China, students often learn from many teachers, and teachers usually knowing parts or having specialties teach what they know. The methods here are simple and straightforward. The forms include Fu Hu Quan (Tiger Taming), San Zhan Quan (3 Extensions) and others to about only 6 or 7 varieties. The emphasis is on training the basics, and mastering the few techniques.
According to the Tan Family records within Huadu, Hong Xiguan had taught Tan Rang, whom later taught his son Tan Min (譚敏) whom placed much efforts to obtain the essence of the style (Tan Min was also said to have obtained some direct teachings from Hong Xiguan). Tan Min taught his sons Tan Zeng, whom taught his son Tan You, who taught his son Tan Hai and so on. In this way, Old Hung Kuen (Huadu Hongquan) remained in the Tan family within the village for generations. Tan You was a renowned expert who taught many throughout the village, in the late Qing dynasty there were five
Tan Min (譚敏), had inherited some boxing methods from his father and later under the guidance of Hong Xiguan developed the system further. At the time the practice consisted of San Zhan (3 Extensions), Wuxing (5 Shapes) and one Gun (Staff) set of practice. For this reason a derivative of the Huadu style became known as Tan Family 3 Extensions 5 Shapes.
Throughout the 1800-1900's many Hong Quan practitioners were involved in rebellions and civil war movements including the Sanyuanli struggle, Taiping heavenly kingdom peasant rebellion, Hong Bing (Hong Soldiers) uprising and the Qionghua association uprising. Many practitioners lost their lives in such struggles, but the continued development from experiences gained kept the Hong Quan practices alive until today. As examples, Hong Xiuquan in recognition of their achievements in battle appointed prominent Hong Quan practitioners Zhu Zirui (朱子儒) as marshal for some batallions, Yang Xinglang (杨星郎) as leader of another. Unfortunately Zhu Zirui was wounded in battled and remained disabled passing away at a young age. However, Yang Xinglang returned home to hua county and taught there until he was 93 years of age.
In fact Fu Hu Quan practices were thought to be the essence of Hong Xiguan's martial arts and its influence is found in all Hong Quan styles and associated systems such as Zhou Jia Quan. In Huadu one of the more notable students of Hong Xiguan included Tan Rang and Tan Jianxing, whom taught their sons Tan An and Tan Min, who had a disciple Tan Jiyun that became famous as he was one of the 10 Tigers of Guangdong. In Hua county (today known as Huadu), the descendants of the Tan family (in Cangshuyuan Village of Huadu) taught the Old Hung Kuen generation by generation as it was forbidden to teach outsiders (the village had to protect their lands from many invaders). The Tan family is now its eight generation, led by our M Tam Chow Wing (Tan Qiurong).
Baiyun are Huadu Hong Quan was started from one of Tan An's students, Feng Risheng who developed the style further by creating new sets/forms and taught it to his son Feng Yuxin. Currently this is taught in the Bai Yun district of Guangdong by Feng Yihui. Nowadays this style is sometimes referred to as Tan Jia Hong Quan (c. Tam Gar Hung Kuen, 譚家洪拳 or Tam Family Hung Kuen). In Hong Kong this style was taught by Master Xian Jun (冼均) who left guangzhou during the second world war period. He taught this unique style of Hung Kuen to many students including He Qiang (何强), Gao Hua (高华), Mo Kun (莫坤) and Tan Guohua (谭国华) who are responsible for spreading Fadou Hung Kuen of the Tan family variant outside of Guangzhou and mainland China.
Yuexi Hong Quan (粤西洪拳, Jyut Sai Hung Kuen)
Often known as Village Hung Kuen, Zhanjiang (Tsamgong) Hung Kuen, Maoming Hung Kuen, 5 and 10 Pattern Hung Kuen. In ancient times Guandong was departmentalised into Xia Si Fu (下四府, c. Ha Say Fu, Lower Four Districts/Prefectures) and Shang Liu Fu (上六 府 c. Lok Seong Fu, Upper Six districts/Prefectures). The upper districts consisted of Guangzhou (广州府), Huizhou (惠州府), Chaozhou (潮州府), Jiaying (嘉应州), Shaozhou (韶州府) and Zhaoqing (肇庆府). The lower districts or Xia Si Fu refer to Gaozhou (高州府), Leizhou (雷州府), Qinzhou (钦州府) and Qiongzhou (琼州府) . Those two (Gaozhou and Leizhou) refer to the modern areas of Zhanjiang (湛江) and Maoming (茂名). Today, Yuexi refers to the jurisdictions of Zhanjiang, Yangjiang, Maoming and Yunfu. Chinese Dialects spoken include variations of Cantonese, Leizhou dialect and Hakka dialect.
In most cases, the origins of Hung Kuen are thought to be with the Tiandi Hui & Hung Mun associations. In the early times, two of Hong Xiguan's disciples Yang Fang (杨方) and Wu Yunpu (伍允普) brought Hong Quan to this area. Zhanjiang (湛江) which is situated on the south of Guangdong province, is one of the main branches of Hong Quan practice. Another Zhangjiang Hongquan practitioner was Zhou Tai, one of the 10 tigers of Guangdong was from in this area studying with Yang Fang (杨方) and his descendants of Hong Quan developed the style further. Here Hong Quan is famous for the 10 animals, each having its own form, the style of Zhanjiang is also known for its mirrored approach, that is movements are conducted usually on both sides ensuring that the techniques mastered on all limbs and directions. Zhanjiang Hong Quan also influenced the martial arts of Hainan and of Northern Vietnam. Zhou Tai had only few students during his time but these were to be highly influential. His most notable descendant was Chen Guiting. Chen Guiting who was from Guibai county taught many students from Zhanjiang including Liang Yuchu, Liang Dequ, Chen Guoxiang and He Hengye.
In Maoming Wu Yunpu's disciple Lin Weilong (1870-1940) taught many the style across Maoming and was known as one of the three dragons ("Hay Sei Fu, Sam Tiu Long") from the Hay Say Fu (lower four prefectures) being Lin Weilong, Huang Qinglong and Wang Jinlong.
In 1898, there were foreign commissions attempted to acquire land in China, one such event was that of the Guangzhou Bay (nowadays known as Zhanjiang). A Hong Quan practioner, Master Wu Bangze (吴帮泽) led a resistance movement and defended the territory from the better armed foreign forces, in that same month many Hong Quan (known as the brave Hong Boxers) practitioners defended coastal villages. The corrupt Qing government unsupportive of the local movements could come to a compromise and the local villagers could only rely on their people inevitably leading to concessions with foreign forces, but the heroic tribulations of the Zhangjiang Hong Boxers remained in the hearts of the people.
During the Min Guo period (1912-1949), martial arts schools started across the region, as ex-Hongmen affiliates and members sought either a career in politics, crime or as martial arts teachers. Such schools included the Yingwu Tang (英武堂), Juwu Tang (聚武堂), Shangwu Tang (尚武堂), Qingwu Tang (庆武堂) and Zhenwu Tang (镇武堂). Many of the followers of these schools were active in the revolutionary movements (ironically these were both in support of KMT in some instances, the people's liberation on the other and sometimes there own initiatives). Many masters had been killed during such times, and for those that survived the boxing legacy continued.
In 1922, a collective of boxers was established by Wang Jinlong called the Qingwu Hall (庆武堂) which fought for the rights of the people caring for housing across villages and at its peak reached over 3,000 members. This was the first and largest formal martial arts association in the Zhanjiang (Guangzhou Bay) area. Some of the earlier masters of this school included Xiao Liu, Mai Jingbiao, Hong Bo, Zhao An, Zhao Zhuxiong. Here they also practice Hongquan which is decended from Hong Xiguan and Zhou Tai.
Liang Yuchu (梁郁初)
After the success of the people's republic martial arts schools continued their practices and community support amongst the people up until 1966, when training became hidden during the cultural revolution. In the area, masters once again started there activities in 1978, and during the 1980's efforts by the government saw a large resurrection in the martial arts.
Li Taide (李泰德, 1895-1986), was a talented fighter since his youth having studied with Master Chen Shilin ( 陈仕林), a renowned Hung Kuen master from neighbouring Jiangxi province. He came to the Huazhou area of Maoming where he taught many students. The key skills taught included the 5 upper shapes (animals) Hung Kuen, the five lower shapes (animals) Hung Kuen, the famous double ended staff, rake and tiger fork. During that period in Maoming, other masters contributed many methods as well and the influence of styles such as Choy Ga, Fut Ga and Li Ga is also evident in some of the material.
Later masters from Qingwu Hall in the 1980's included Ye Qing (叶青), Zhu Tutang (朱土塘), Liang Zhikun (梁志坤), Wang Huasheng (王华生), Huang Huaying (黄华英), Huang Zhicai (黄志才), Chen Wenjiu (陈文九), Lu Zhenhong (卢振红) and Lu Huasen (卢华森). In 1983, the third generation Qingwu Hall Master Liang Zhikun establised the Zhanjiang City martial arts and Physical Trainining Institute.
Liang Yuchu (梁郁初) a young masterwho was a disciple of Chen Guiting opened a school in Zhanjiang during 1937 known as "Zhen Wu Tang" (Town Martial Hall) and appointed his younger brother Liang Dewu as instructor
whilst his martial brothers Chen Guoxiang (陈国祥) and He Henye. From here they expanded and had many branches or associated clubs including Qunying Society, Zhongyi Hall, Hua Wu School and the Haiping Village Martial arts association. These schools developed Hong Quan tremendously and many outstanding martial artists were produced by them including Li Zhouyun and Hong Risheng.
The Zhen Wu Tang became the most representative of Zhanjiang Hong Quan and many of the masters of the area would be either directly from the school or were members of its various associations. Chen Guoxiang's son Chen Funan was one of the masters of Long Kangdi was the standard bearer for Hong Quan in China in the 1980's after his performance in a Shanxi competition at the time of Hu Xing Quan (Tiger Boxing) and Shuang Tou Gun (Double Ended Staff) from the Zhan Jiang Hong Quan. Huang Guolong who was a disciple of Chen Guoxiang taught Long Kangdi and Wu Jianhua. In Maoming, Wang Jinlong taught Huang Guoju passed on his skills to Wu Songjian.
YangJiang (阳江) which is north of Zhanjiang is another area that is influenced by the teachings of Chen Guiting. His descendants include Yang Shufu and Chen Yangsheng. In Hong Kong and Macau this was taught by Master Ruan Yixi (阮奕溪, 1900-1985 c.Yuen Yik Kai), who sometimes referred to it as the style as 5 Pattern Hung Kuen （五形洪拳).
Foshan Hong Quan (佛山洪拳, Futsan Hung Kuen)
Huang Feihong [黄飞鸿] (1847 - 1925) Huang Feihong (黄飞鸿, cant. Wong Fei Hong), not only for his legends with the people but also because those legends and stories were placed on the big cinema screen way back in
the beginning of films with first being in 1949 and then throughout every decade since. Mr. Kwan Tak Hing starred in 99 films as the legendary Master and in fact used to be nicknamed Wong Sifu for his natural association witht the character. In real life Huang Feihung (1847-1925), originally known as Huang Tixian, was a very capable Hong Quan Master, although his father Huang Qiying was indeed more famous in reality, being one of the 10 Tigers of Canton at the time but the stories of Huang Feihong have remained in the hearts of the people in the Guangzhou and Foshan areas to bring into legendary status.
Huang Feihong was born in Foshan on July 1847. In 1853 he followed his father studying martial arts and chinese medicine. in 1859, he travelled with his father around Foshan, Guangzhou and Shunde and during that time had a duel with a person named Zheng Xiongzuo and won, thereafter gained a little fame as the "Young hero". In 1860 after a exchange of hands, he took tutelage from a Master Lin Fucheng (林福成, 1836-1898) (who was a top disciple of Master Liang Kun, better known as Tie Qiao San) for about two years and he learnt "Tie Xian Quan" (Iron Wire Fist). In 1863 he moved to Guangzhou and some local miner workers helped raise funds to open a school but this did not go so well. In 1865 in Guangzhou and was employed by the San Lan Xing (Fruit, Vegetable and Fish) traders as a martial arts coach.
In 1866, there was an incident in the markets when Huang Feihong apprehended a thief of a local Pawn store, after this incident he was invited by the Shi Long village to take students there. Many such episodes were to continue and Huang Feihong increased his fame across the towns and villages. In 1886, his father Huang Qiying passed away and then Huang Feihong took care of the Bao Zhi Lin (宝芝林, c. Po Chi Lam) TCM Clinic. His first wife, Ms.Luo passed away after only 3 months of marriage. In 1895 Bao Zhi Lin commenced teaching martial arts (prior focus was on the Chinese Medicine and only a select few disciples). In 1896, he married Ms. Ma his first wife which bore four children, 2 girls and 2 boys called Huang Han Lin and Huang Han Sen. Not long after she passed away. In 1902, he married Ms.Cen which also bore two boys, Huang Hanqu and Huang Hanzhao. Unfortunatley she also passed away not long after. After this incident Huang Feihong thought he had bad luck with women and was not interested in another spouse. In August of 1911, Liu Yong Fu invited him to be a coach of the Guangdong Youth League. In 1915, he married a very young Ms. Mo Gualin (c. Mok Gwai Lum) whom he met in 1903, a master of Mo Jia Quan (c. Mok Gar Kuen) was to accompany him until his remaining days and beyond. Unfortunately, in 1919, Wong's son Huang Han Sen was killed by gangsters with pistols after an altercation. This caused Wong to withhold his martial arts knowledge from the other children, in order to protect them.
In October 1924, during the surpression of riots and rebellious activities destroyed many homes and the Bao Zhi Lin (c. Po Chi Lum) was also affected losing much goods and valuables that were burnt or looted. Huang Feihong's eldest son, Huang Hanlin lost his employment and became ill with depression and discontent. Huang Feihong passed away on the 25th March, 1925 at a hospital in Guangzhou. Students of Huang Feihong include Liang Kuan (Famous for his Horse Stance) , Deng Xiuqiong, Lin Shirong (1861-1943) (林世荣, c. Lam Sai Wing - Former butcher, had many students and wrote 3 books), Liu Yongfu, Liu Cheng, Wu Quanmei, Lin Jindeng, Han Ruikai, Guozhongxin, Kang Jinlin, Lin Jiakun and Tang Fong (1874-1955) (said to have also studied with Lam Sai Wing ). Mo Guilin with the help of Deng Xiuqiong and Lin Shirong, opened a martial arts school in HK together with two of her sons. In 1983 she passed away.
The early students of Huang Feihong in Foshan had practiced the techniques as passed down by their master. At that time much of the boxing methods had not yet evolved and therefore the sets that were practiced are often predecessors of what would be "New Foshan Hong Quan" which was mainly taught by his later students and further developed by his most influential student Lin Shirong. Some of the key differences between Foshan Hong Quan of the Huang Feihong lineages is the inclusion of the longer arm techniques that are said to have been influenced by Li Huzi and Wang Yinlin of the Xia Jia Quan (Hap Gar Kuen) system and the Tie Xian Quan (Iron Wire Fist) which came from Lin Fucheng. These characterstics of more longer arm techniques and the deeper level of the stances are more distinguishing featured from other lines. It should also be noted that the Jing Wu (Chin Woo) Association of Foshan when they had Hong Quan, also added some sets into the curriculum which distinguished it yet again. Also, In later years though the Foshan schools also assimilated some of Lin Shirong's pillars into their curriculum (like the Shi Xing Quan (10 Shapes)). In fact there are some schools that have named their style "Hu He Shuang Xing" and have based their whole system predominantly on the features of that form.
Liang Xisu (1872-1966) was born in Foshan, yet his ancestral home was Shunde. Since Liang lost his father at young age, the family were taken care by his widowed mother and they stayed with their uncle who owned
a Pawn shop. In 1879 during a celebration at the local temple, Xisu (7 yrs old) and his elder brother (12) were wrestling, when they encountered a monk. The monk noticing Xisu was younger gave some hints on how to defeat his elder brother, Xisu at such a young age could understand and applied the tactics to overcome his stronger brother. The monk was impressed with Xisu's abilities and requested the family to allow Xisu to reside on Baiyun mountain to study martial arts and medicine. Xisu followed and trained daily with the monk for 8 years. He then acquired great skills and was allowed to leave for home. The background of the monk Mi De was unknown however since there are many traits aligned to Hung Kuen and Fut Gar, the style is considered a Hung Mun derivative. In 1887, after leaving his teacher, Liang Xisu worked for the Wu family, becoming their personal bodyguard. As they were worthy merchants many troubles and challenges had to be rectified, after which Liang becaome known as "Iron Fist Liang Xisu".
In 1894, when he was just 22 years old, he had gained the invitation to demonstrate at the celebrations at the Taibao Temple in Xiguan. In that year five Masters were invited considered some of the best, each demonstrating their own specialties. Huang Feihong demonstrated the Iron Wire Fist, Lin Shirong demonstrated Tiger & Crane Fist, Cheng Hua demonstrated Tiger Taming Fist, Huang Manrong showed his Spring Autumn Blade (Kwan's Blade) and Liang Xisu demonstrated his famous 10 Animal Fist. Today this style of Hung Kuen is called Foshan Nanjia Quan. Liang later in life taught near today's Zhongshan Park, working as a TCM Physician and teaching a few disciples such as Liang Xin, Tan Xi, Liang Er, Huang Anzhi, Cui Nanshan, Tai Mei and many others. Many local Hung Kuen practitioners have asbsorbed some methods from M Liang Xisu.
Lin Jia Hong Quan (林家洪拳, Lum Family Hung Kuen)
Lin Shirong (1861-1943) (林世荣, c. Lam Sai Wing) was the most famous of Huang Feihong's disciples having understood the boxing methods of Hong Quan in detail and for propagating the skills through teaching and publishing.
The early students of Huang Feihong in Foshan had practiced the techniques as passed down by their master. At that time much of the boxing methods had not yet evolved and therefore the sets that were practiced are often predecessors of what would be "New Foshan Hong Quan" which was mainly taught by his later students and further developed by his most influential student Lin Shirong.
Some of the key differences between Foshan Hong Quan of the Huang Feihong lineages is the inclusion of the longer arm techniques that are said to have been influenced by Li Huzi and Wang Yinlin of the Xia Jia Quan (Hap Gar Kuen) system and the Tie Xian Quan (Iron Wire Fist) which came from Lin Fucheng. These characterstics of more longer arm techniques and the deeper level of the stances are more distinguishing featured from other lines. It should also be noted that the Jing Wu (Chin Woo) Association of Foshan when they had Hong Quan, also added some sets into the curriculum which distinguished it yet again.
Also, In later years though the Foshan schools also assimilated some of Lin Shirong's pillars into their curriculum (like the Shi Xing Quan (10 Shapes)). In fact there are some schools that have named their style "Hu He Shuang Xing" and have based their whole system predominantly on the features of that form. Although Huang Feihong and his ancestors had made Hong Quan famous, it was Lin Shirong that really popularized and spread the art, in addition to structuring and further developing its contents.
Lin Shirong's classic books on three of the nowadays "Pillar Forms" being Gong Zi Fu Hu Quan, Hu He Shuang Xing (Tiger and Crane Double Shape Boxing) and Tie Xian Quan (Iron Wire) really helped to standardize the curriculum and laid the foundation for his reputation and significant following. Although Lin Shirong out of respect for his teacher attributed much of the content to his teacher, he had in fact expanded much of the older Foshan Hong Quan and synthesized into the core forms. As an example the Shi Xing Quan (c. Sup Ying Kuen), the five elements section were added later. This is mainly evident by the comparison of the practices of the Foshan group.
During 1917-1923 Lin Shirong served as the head coach in unarmed combat to the National Revolutionary Army. When Lin Shirong moved to Hong Kong in the mid 1920's, he put substantial effort into teaching and had by then developed Hong Quan into a very systematic and complete martial arts system. Lin Shirong adopted many sets from other studies including Jin Cheung (戰掌), Mui Fa Cheung (梅花槍) and Yu Gar Dai Pa (傜家大扒) as examples.
Some of Lin Shirong's students include Lin Zhu (c. Lam Cho), Lin Zhan (Lam Cham), Song Shaopu, Tang Fong (supposedly direct disciple of Huang Feihong, but due to circumstances acquired knowledge from Lin Shirong), Chen Hanzhong (1909-1991), Wu Shaoquan (1909 - 1967), Chen Changmian, Ceng Qinghuang, Wang Li, Liu Zhan, Wu Bingquan (also studied with Han Ruikai), He Hua and many others. Wu Shaoquan and Chen Changmian taught Hong Quan around the Guangzhou areas. Ceng Qinghuang is responsible for spreading the art in the Guangning region.
Singapore and Malaysia Hong Jia Quan originates from Song Shaobo (宋少波, c. Song Siu Bo), who had studied under Master Lin Shirong. In Singapore, his son Song Chaoyuan (c. Song Chiu Yuen) carried on the tradition and in Malaysia his disciple Zhang Rongkun (c. Cheung Wing Kwang) spread Hong Quan there. As an example of the older curriculum, Singapore Hong Quan includes the sets Dan Gong Fu Hu, Shi Zi Quan, Hu He Shuang Xing, Shi xing Quan, Shuang Gong Fu Hu, Gong Zi Fu Hu, Meng Hu Chu Lin, Tie Xian Quan and weapons.
Taiping Hung Kuen
The Solid Horse Stance of Hung Kuen
In Hong Quan the foundation training is essential and commences with the most basic yet important of elements - Stance Training. Most Chinese martial arts styles emphasize stance training but in Hong Quan this is a quintessential part of the system. Hong Quan is renowned for its amazingly strong, deeply rooted and powerful stance. It was common for masters to stand whilst having many people standing on top as a show of proficiency in Hong Quan, and it was said that master would hold one foot on land another on a boat holding the boats for passengers, even in strong currents.
Zhan Mabu (Sit in Horse Stance) is a method of Zhuan Gong (Standing Pole Skills) is an essential practice for Hong Quan practitioners can be thought of a way of standing meditation. The longer the practitioner can withstand and overcome the stress of the training the longer they can stand, the more rooted they become, the more focused and the more powerful. Such simple training develops strength, structural alignment, the right spirit, focus and concentration. In the past students would learn nothing in the first 6 months also other than stances.
The process of stance training often not understood by beginners is a wonderful one, it commences with issues of not being able to stand for more than a few minutes, the truth is the mind gave up first. Then the student can stand for maybe up to 5-7 minutes relying on their muscular strength and the persistent mind, excepting that the muscles start to burn and pain sets in resulting in the body telling the mind to give up. Later the mind and body are strong the student learns to relax in their stance, the calmer they become the longer they can go, this is then followed by uncontrollable shaking like waves through the legs, and again the body and mind cannot go on. By now the student can reach 15 maybe even 20 minutes and this is the beginning. The next stages the student is more experienced and in more control so that they last longer but also know how to sink into their stance, focus the mind, relax but control the body and achieve the Horse stance foundation which 30-60 minutes is an acceptable target.
So something so simple is an adventure in itself, this is the beauty of Hong Quan. In the past the Horse stance was used to test students, if they could last or pass the requirement it proved that they either did not have the required fundamentals or that they were not dedicated and serious enough. Nowadays the practice may not be so stringently enforced by stance training remains an extremely important component of Hong Quan. Stances are practiced in stationary (Zhan Ma) and then moving stepping (Zou Ma) as the training of transitions is also very important.
Hong Quan is not a highly complex system requiring high jumping aerial like motions. However it does require much more precision than such large motions. In Hong Quan something as simple as punch or palm must be mastered, a block has exact angles and motions to excessive and the motion does not have ample time to return, insufficient and the block may be unsuccessful, unangled and the block maybe ineffective etc. These basic concepts end up coming again in the advanced stages when learning the bridges of Hong Quan but the principles are built progressively from every single technique that is mastered.
Gong - Strength and Power Training
Hong Quan is originally characterized as " Ying Kiu, Ying Ma" (硬橋硬馬, Hard Bridges and Hard Horse), the importance of strong stance and bridges is substantial. There are many exercises that include both stretching and strength development as focus points. In addition to the stance training, techniques, physical exercises and Dynamic Tension, Hong Quan uses a lot of apparatus to support the development of the power required to effectively execute its techniques. These include the use of brass rings for forearms, Heavy rolling polls, boulders, sand bags and weight locks. The use of common striking bags and focus mits is of course part of the general drills training as well. Hong Quan emphasises the training of the bridges so there are many partnered drills to both train the techniques but also strenthen the arms and other parts of the body. The San Xing (three stars) conditioning, the chun Qiao (Sinking bridges) exercises and more are used for such purposes.
Drills and Techniques Practice
As students progress they study the various techniques learnt, so often the individual techniques are mastered, applications understood and drilled and then the progression to the practice of forms. The importance of progressive basic applications practice cannot be understated as it forms the basis for the learning of Hong Quan techniques, theories and combat strategies
There are some disparity amongst the three main branches, usually the older Huadu Hong Quan has higher more upright positions, then followed by the Zhanjiang Hong Quan which has slightly lower centre of gravity, then this is practiced even lower by the Foshan Hong Quan branches which usually follow the widest and lowest stances. This is possibly a historical evolution. Irrespectively of the branch, the principles of Ling Nan Hong Quan are all the same.
The emphasis is on a strong Stance, Bridges (Qiao Shou), well rooted and grounded movements, powerful strikes and the inspirtations of the 5 animals including their respective striking and defensive actions. One of the key set of principles are the 12 Bridges:
- 12 Bridge Principles: Gang (Hard), Rou (Soft), Bi (Press Force), Zhi(Straight), Fen(Divide), Ding (Set), Cun (Inch), Ti(Lift), Liu (Flow), Yun (Send), Zhi (control) and Ding (set)
- 12 Bridge Hands: Chuan (Pierce), Chen (Sink), Fen (Split), Jia (Support), Mo (Feel), Tui (Push), Xun (search), Mo (rub), Gua (Hang), Zhuang (Smash), Suo (Lock) and Pi (Hack)
- 12 Bridge Stances: Si Ping Ma, Zi Wu Ma, Fu Hu Ma (Tiger Taming Step), Qi Lin Ma (Unicorn Stance), Diao Ma, Du He Ma (Single Leg Stance), Zhong Zi Ma (Central Character Stance), San Jiao Ma ( 3 Angles Stance), Bai Ma (Loss Stance), (Er Zi Qian Yang Ma (Character two grab Sheep stance), Tiao Ma (Jump step), Ding Zi Ma (Character Ding Stance)
There are a lot of sets in Hong Quan as a result of different masters adding and developing during its evolution. Most lines/branches and sub-branches even have their own characteristics. Our curriculum is very unique as it includes Foshan, Yangjiang, Zhanjiang and recently added Huadu Hong Quan. Each method contains new techniques and combinations. Although it is ideal to achieve mastery of all sets, the fact is that more than likely like masters before, practitioners after learning them end up specializing in a few that suits their own style or taste (for us it is usually one of the animals boxing sets. This also applies for weapons, which the Staff is the ultimate weapon in Hong Quan.
Whilst there is no specific order to the learning of sets, the following are recommended to be studied initially as they are strong at developing the fundamentals. These are also of relatively shorter length (averaging 36 techniques/methods or more repetitions) in comparison to the latter practices. Majority of these are derived from the Old Hung Kuen (Huadu) as these hold the essence of the style.
Those below are more combined sets aimed at further enhancing skills. These had consolidated many later influences or styles of Lingnan combat arts which was prevalent in the Foshan Hung Kuen styles, such as those of Li Huzi (Xiajia, Haap Ga), Lin Fucheng, aspects brought in from Lin Shirong and others along its course of development.
- Ye Hu Chu Lin (夜虎出林, Night Tiger Emerges from Cave)
- Hei Hu Quan (黑虎拳, Black Tiger Fist)
- Er Long Zheng Zhu (二龙争珠, Twin Dragons Take Pearls)
- Long Hu Hui (龙虎会 Dragon & Tiger meet)
- Hu He Shuang Xing (虎鹤双形, Tiger and Crane Double Shapes)
- Tie Xian Quan (铁线拳, Iron Wire Fist)
The core of Zhanjiang Hong Quan is its trademark "Wu Xing Tou" (5 Shapes Supreme). Sometimes also referred to Upper Five Pattern and Lower Five Patterns. There are 10 animals in Hong Quan, these being: Tiger, Snake, Leopard, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Elephant, Horse, Monkey and Wild Cat. These are considered the core of the system and unique to Zhanjiang Hong Quan.
Once adequate mastery of the core sets are achieved, new combinations are often practiced (such as the Dragon & Tiger Set, Snake & Crane, and so on). Also, Many of the forms have matching partner sets that allow the practice of the application, defense and counter combinations at an elementary level. At the same time new matching combat sets are often developed to practice key skills (both empty hand and with weapons).
There are many weapons of practice and each generation has added and changed so there is quite some disparity. The Staff is the most important long weapon in Hung Kuen, whilst various knives/broadswords are emphasized as the short weapon. The Old Bagua Staff was exchanged into the Tam family with the Zhou family for teaching of Sanzhan to them. There are five distinct sets within the Old Bagua Staff. Some of the more common weapons include: