Classical Hangzhou, picture taken from “Things to Do in Hangzhou” in the internet
Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province of China just south of Yangtze Jiang, the longest river of China, was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. West Lake situated in the west of the city is now a world heritage site.
But the Qing general stationed at Hangzhou was in a depressive mood. He received intelligence that most of the rebels who wanted to overthrow the Qing Dynasty were in south China.
Just then someone jumped in from a window. The general was alert, but the next moment he noticed that the intruder was Looi Hoong, the chief kungfu instructor of his army. Looi Hoong was so good in kungfu that people called him Tiger Looi.
Looi Hoong knelt before the general, and said.
“Sir, you have long looked after me very well, and I didn’t know how to repay you. I’ve noticed that you were depressed the last few days. I guess it is because of the rebels. There is much evidence that most of them are located in south China. I have an idea but I don’t know whether you will like it.”
“Please tell me your idea,” the general said.
“I’ll set up a ‘lei-tai’ in Hangzhou. On the lei-tai I’ll hang two huge banners, which read ‘A punch will strike the whole of Guangzhou’ and ‘a leg will kick Suzhou and Hangzhou’. This will make many people angry. Rebels, who practice kungfu, will challenge me. In this way we can find out more about the rebels.”
“This is an excellent idea.”
Suzhou is another beautiful city of China. There is a saying in Chinese that “there is heaven above, and Su and Hang below”.
So soon at the Gate of Pure Ball in busy Hangzhou, a lei-tai or a platform for kungfu combat was erected with the two huge banners easily seen. In a lei-tai match there were no rules and no referee. The combatants fought until one was killed or conceded defeat. Any injuries were due to the inferiority of the combatants’ combat skill, and no legal action would be taken.
Many people of course were angry with the banners. In Cantonese, they read
Kuen ta Kongtoong yi shang
Khuik tek Su Hoong leong chow
In English they mean
A punch strikes the whole province of Guangdong
A leg kicks the two districts of Suzhou and Hangzhou
Accompanying the banner there was a notice which read as follows.
This is an announcement from the General who is stationed in Hangzhou. The chief instructor of our army, Looi Hoong, is excellent in combat and wishes to meet heroes of the world. Hence this lei-tai is erected so as to meet warriors of four directions. Combat on the lei-tai is sure to cause injuries.
Please note the following rules.
Those in our army are not permitted to take part.
Those who are monks or nuns are not permitted to take part.
Women and girls are not permitted to take part.
Those who take part must not conceal secret weapons.
Spectators cannot employ secret weapons to help any combatant.
Combatants must register their names and addresses.
Any injuries or deaths from the combat are due to heaven’s will, and no action will be taken.
There will be rewards. Any combatant who strikes the owner of the lei-tai with a punch will be rewarded with a hundred pieces of gold. Any combatant who kicks the owner of the lei-tai will be rewarded with two hundred pieces of gold. Any combatant who fells the owner of the lei-tai on the floor of the lei-tai will be rewarded with five hundred pieces of gold.
Do not be greedy of the rewards and loose your life. The lei-tai will be on for one hundred days.
Soon the news spread throughout Hangzhou. At Guangdong Association many people gathered to discuss the lei-tai match. Young men were rowdy and angry, and wanted to take up the challenge to restore the reputation of Guangdong.
The director of the association, Chan Yuk Shi, said.
“It is commendable that so many people want to restore the reputation of Guangdong. But Looi Hoong’s kungfu is very good. He is the chief instructor of the army. Hence, he is supported by the government. Even if we win at the lei-tai, the army will go after us. We are all businessmen. We cannot match the government. If unfortunately some of our challengers are defeated, fists and kicks have no mercy, they just submit their lives. You are all wise people. Please think carefully before taking any action.”
However, a young man spoke loudly.
“I am afraid of his cockerel. Looi Hoong has said that his one fist punches the whole of Guangdong. How many people are there in Guangdong? More than thousands and millions. He insults our ancestors. We still have to think carefully? Director Chan, you are a man from Guangdong. Why do you look at our own people like women and children? Now in this case, if we cannot restore the reputation of Guangdong, we may as well burn the association. We do not want other people to laugh at Guangdong Association.”
The crowd then became rowdy and noisy. Seeing this, Chan Yuk Shi could just shake his head and said nothing.