There were two Shaolin Monasteries under heaven. One was in the Central Range of Song Mountain in Henan Province. It had a long history, and at the end of the Sui Dynasty and the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, it was famous in the four four seas because of “thirteen monks with staffs saved the King of Qin” (who later became the first Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty). The Shaolin Monastery was conferred by imperial degree as the “First Monastery Under Heaven”.
Another Shaolin Monastery was built during the middle of the Ming Dynasty in Quanzhou of Fujian Province on Nine-Lotus Mountain. At that time, the areas around the south-eastern sea were frequently attacked by Japanese pirates who plundered ships, killed citizens and robbed wealth, causing great disasters to the people and instability to the country.
About the time of Emperor Jiajing (who ruled from 1521 to 1567), the Governor of Guangdong and Guangxi submitted a report to the Ming emperor, requesting monks from the Shaolin Monastery to subdue the pirates. The Venerable Yuekong led Shaolin monks, together with General Yu Da You and General Qi Ji Guang, defeated the pirates. To honour them, Emperor Jiajing built the southern Shaolin Monastery.
(There were actually three Shaolin Monasteries, a northern monastery at Henan, and a southern monastery at the City of Quanzhou in Fujian. These two monasteries were known to the public. The third monastery, which was secretive, was built by the Venerable Chee Seen on Nine-Lotus Mountain. Both Quanzhou and Nine-Lotus Mountain were in Fujian Province.)
The Venerable Chee Seen and Li Chooi Peng arrived at the southern Shaolin Monastery on the Nine-Lotus Mountain. At the main gate was a poetic couplet with a head line and a end line. The two lines of the poetic couplet were as follows:
Going out of the gate, at dawn see the face of the emperor
Entering the monastery understand the heart of ancient Buddha
Behind the main gate was the main hall, known as Great Majestic Precious Hall. There were two poetic couplets in the main fall. The two lines of the first poetic couplet were as follows:
Heroes are the first
Champions know no parallels
The two lines of the other poetic couplet were as follows:
There is no need for literature to meet the lord
All depend on martial art to repay the king
Li Chooi Peng was enchanted by the monastery. She could read what was written in the poetic couplets, but could not understand the meaning. So she asked, “Sifu, what do the lines of the poetic couplets mean?”
The Venerable Chee Seen was taken aback. The poetic couplets were written in earlier generations, and although there was no explanation for all the individual words, each person could interpret the poetic couplets differently.
The first line of the first couplet, “Going out of the gate, at dawn see the face of the emperor” did not refer to the face of the Qing emperors, but to those of the Ming. In the end line, “Entering the monastery understand the heart of ancient Buddha”, “the heart of ancient Buddha” did not refer to government aims and aspirations, but to the task of “overthrowing the Qing and restoring the Ming”.
The poetic couplets inside the main hall were strange. In a Buddhist monastery, they should be such phrases like “Clear Heart See Nature” or “Cultivate and Understand Zen Secrets”, but why were they singing praises of heroes and champions, and martial art? Actually there were secrets hidden in the open. The line “All depend on martial art to repay the king” did not mean to protect the the Qing empire, but to restore the Ming.
But how would Chee Seen explain the secrets to a small girl? After some thought, he gently stroke the two goat-like plaits of hair behind Li Chooi Peng’s head and kindly said, “After a few years, when you have grown up, sifu will then tell you.”
Li Chooi Peng nodded her head. Chee Seen was very please and led her forward.
After the main hall, there was another hall. On top was written “Red-Flower Pavilion”. There was much history behind the words.
When the Qing defeated the Ming, a Ming general Zheng Cheng Gong retreated to Taiwan and organized Heaven-Earth Society with the purpose of overthrowing the Qing and restoring the Ming. They met at Red-Flower Pavilion.
The first patriarch of Hoong Moon, which meant Dynamic Gate, and was a gigantic secret society dedicated to overthrowing the Qing, the Venerable Tat Chong who gathered a lot of heroes and kungfu experts, named one of the halls in his temple “Red-Flower Pavilion”.
Behind Red-Flower Pavilion was a back hall. On top was hung a plaque with four words, “Restore Right Remove Evil”. Ordinary people might think the plaque glorified the tremendous power of the Buddhist faith, but its hidden meaning was to restore the Ming Dynasty and remove the Qing Dynasty.
In the City of Wei Yang, there was a sundry shop. The shop wasn’t big, but on this street there was only one sundry shop, which sold oil, salt, sauce, vinegar, joss sticks, candles to the people. Hence the business was prosperous.
But the owner soon died, and his wife, Madame Lau, though young at 30, had to manage the shop besides looking after her 2-year old daughter. All the neighbours were sympathetic to the mother and daughter, especially when Madame Lau was honest.
Soon six years passed. Madame Lau was full and warmth (meaning she had no worries about her livelihood) and had a small saving. But “every family had a sutra that was difficult to recite” (which meant that there was difficulty for everybody). What made Madame Lau worried was her daughter, Li Chooi Peng.
Li Chooi Peng was a young girl of eight, clever and bright. Her two big eyes were like sparkling water. Neighbours used to tease her saying that she would one day become the owner of a shop. Of course Madame Lau treated her daughter as “on top of the head, afraid it would be broken, in the mouth, afraid it would melt” (i.e. treasured her dearly).
This little girl, who was lovable by anyone who saw her, was often sick. Every year she would be sick a few times. Once she was sick, her whole body would be burning, and she would be fainting and semi-unconscious. Madame Lau had her seen countless doctors, but whatever medicine she took like water flowing over pebbles, without any use.
A year ago, Madame Lau had taken vegetarian food for three days, and requested spiritual help from temples for help and protection, even shortening her own life span to overcome the disaster of her child.
In front of Guan Yin Bodh Satt (i.e. the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion, the most popular deity of the Chinese), she knocked her head on the ground until her head bled. She sought the advice of Bodh Satt in the form of “chim” (which was holding a container of numerous sticks and shook until one stick fell off from which an explanation could be obtained).
The explanation contained the following words.
It’s not in ordinary world
The wrong lies in creation
Whoever aim for peace
Seek one dedicated to cultivation
Madame Lau did not understand the explanation. So she asked someone from the temple to explain the divination, who told her that if she wanted her daughter to be healthy and happy, she must get a Buddhist monk or a Taoist priest as a god-father.
Madame Lau remember the advice, but for a year she could not find someone whom she could trust her daughter with.
On Cheng Meng day (“Cheng meng” means clear and bright, but it is a certain day of the year when the Chinese go to their parents’ tomb to pray) Madame Lau went with her daughter to pray at the tomb of her husband. On their return, Li Chooi Peng fell down.
Madame Lau sought the help of doctors, but every doctor shook his head and said that Li Chooi Peng would be crippled. Madame Lau was very sad.
One day there was a monk at her door. He face was glowing with white beard under his chin. He radiated kindness that people found welcoming.
Madame Lau was a pious person, so she took some money for the monk. The monk declined her money and said.
“Generous donor (which was a Chinese term usually used by monks and priests for the public), I can see some problem written between your eye-brows. If you don’t mind, can you tell me your problem?”
Madame Lau was surprised, but she told the monk about the problem of her daughter.
“May I see your ‘thousand gold’ (meaning your daughter)?”
Madame Lau then led the monk to an inner room where her daughter was.
The monk asked Madame Lau to warm some rice wine. He then poured some medicated powder to the warm wine. He applied the medicated wine to Li Chooi Peng’s injured leg, and circulated the leg. Then, in an instant, he pushed the girl’s foot into the socket of her bones. The girl gave a cry.
Madame Lau was worried. She beg the monk not to continue with his treatment.
The monk said, “Your thousand-gold is cured. There is no need for further treatment.”
He then asked Li Chooi Peng to stand up and slowly walked about. At first she hesitated, but the monk encouraged her. After she could walk freely, both the mother and the daughter cried. Li Chooi Peng was supposed to be a cripple, yet the monk cured her in just a few minutes.
The mother knelt down to thank the monk. She asked him what his name was.
“I am Chee Seen, and I come from the Shaolin Monastery.”
(“Chee Seen” is in Cantonese pronunciation. In Mandarin, it is pronounced as “Zhi Shan”. The written Chinese words are the same, and they mean “Extreme Kindness”)
Madame Lau was shocked. Right in front of her was the great Venerable Chee Seen from the well known Shaolin Monastery. She remember the divination from Guan Yin Bodh Satt, and begged the Venerable Chee Seen to accept Li Chooi Peng as his god-daughter.
Chee Seen said, “I have long dedicated myself to the Buddhist order. How can I become a god-father of your ‘thousand gold’. But I can accept her as a disciple, and we return to the Shaolin Monastery. What is the opinion of generous donor?”
Madame Lau was keen to have the Venerable Chee Seen accept Li Chooi Peng, so she only answered, “Very good, very good indeed.”
Chee Seen was silent for a while, then said, “Before accepting your ‘thousand gold’ as a disciple, I must tell generous donor this. As my disciple, I shall transmit to her what I have learned, but she must be at the monastery for a few years. When she is successful, she can then return home.”
Madame Lau asked her daughter to kneel before Chee Seen and knock her head on the ground to perform the ceremony of being a student. Then Chee Seen and Li Chooi Peng returned to the Shaolin Monastery.
In Guangzhou, or Canton, there was a large merchant shop dealing with silk clothing. It had a history of over a hundred years, but its expansion was only the recent few decades. It was not merely dealing with retailing, but wholesaling to many shops all over the country.
The owner was called Fong Tuck. He was already elderly, but his face was robust, his eyes shinning and his forehead glowing. Now he did not bother himself with the business of his shop but enjoyed his later life at home.
Fong Tuck was married and had two sons, called Fong How Yuk and Fong Mei Yuk. Since his wife’s death, and as his two sons loved training with sabres and staffs, he sent them to the Shaolin Monastery to learn from the Venerable Chee Seen.
But about 15 years ago, Fong Tuck remarried! Although he was about 50, his wife, Miu Chooi Fa, was only 20. A young lady marrying an old man: if this was not some rare news from ancient time till now, it must be something very odd.
And here was how it happened. About 15 years ago an elderly man selling cooking salt was caught in the rain. All his goods would be dissolved in the rain water.
Fong Tuck was very kind. He invited the elderly salt trader into his shop. But his shop was full of silk clothing, and the dripping salt would damage the silk clothing. At first the salt trader declined, but on the insistence of Fong Tuck, the salt trader finally agreed. Fong Tuck also gave some money to the salt trader to replenish his salt.
The rain continued non-stop. Fong Tuck invited the salt trader to dinner. When asked, the salt trader just mentioned that his surname was Miu, and he lived with his only daughter not far from the shop.
Fong Tuck and Miu became good friends. They often spent time together. Fong Tuck wanted to help Miu financially, but Miu always declined saying that as he was old he would never repay Fong Tuck.
One day Fong Tuck wandered into Miu’s little hut. To his surprise he found Miu and his daughter practicing kungfu in front of their hut. Fong Tuck, though not knowing any martial art, was enthralled by their kungfu performance. They stopped their kungfu practice, and Miu asked his daughter to serve tea to the guest
Fong Tuck asked about their kungfu.
Miu said, “Actually this is Shaolin Kungfu, and not many people have a chance to see it. My name is Miu Hein, one of the Five Elders of Shaolin. Many people call me Plucking-Star Lohan.”
Fong Tuck was shocked. He quickly knelt down and said.
“I have eyes but see not. I never realize that right in front of me is the world famous Plucking-Star Lohan, Miu Hein, one of the Five Elders of Shaolin.”
Miu Hein quickly helped Fong Tuck to stand up.
“You are a wealthy man,” Miu Hein said, “but you never mind me poor, and you treat me as a friend. I am very proud.”
“But I have one worry,” Miu Hein continued. “My daughter, Miu Chooi Fa, is young and untalented. I hope you can allow her to serve you. This is my only request.”
Fong Tuck was flabbergasted but he understood what Miu Hein meant. He continued, “Your daughter is my daughter. How can you ask a 20-year old girl to serve a 50-year old man!”
Miu Hein explained, “I have talked to my daughter, Chooi Fa. Indeed, we often talk about you and your kindness. My daughter has no objections. She’s said that she will leave everything to me, her father.”
Fong Tuck resisted, but Mui Hein insisted. Soon Fong Tuck and Miu Chooi Fa were married. The next year they had a son called Fong Sai Yuk.
We in Shaolin Wahnam are very proud of our lineage which can be traced back directly to the two southern Shaolin Temples, as illustrated in the chart above.
Not many people realize that there were two southern Shaolin Temples, one in the City of Quanzhou, and the other on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, both located in Fujian Province of South China.
During the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th century) a Ming emperor built a southern Shaolin Temple in the City of Quanzhou in Fujian Province as an imperial temple to replace the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. This temple was burnt by the Qing Army around 1850s led by the crown prince Yong Cheng with the help of Lama kungfu experts from Tibet.
The Venerable Chee Seen escaped and built a secret southern Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, also in Fujian Province. This temple was also soon burnt by the Qing Army, this time led by Pak Mei who was a classmate of Chee Seen in the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou.
The northern Shaolin Temple on Song Shan or Song Mountain in Henan Province remained throughout the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the Chinese characters, “Shao Lin Si” which means “Shaolin Temple” at the Main Gate of the Temple were written by the Qing Emperor, Qian Long. This temple was burnt only in 1928, 17 years after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, by rival Chinese warlords. Its burning was by cannon fire and had nothing to do with kungfu.
Our Grandmaster, Sifu Wong Kiew Kit, learned from four sifus, or teachers. Grandmaster Wong’s first sifu was Sifu Lai Chin Wah, more widely known by his honorable nick-name as Uncle Righteousness. His second sifu was Sifu Chee Kim Thong, regarded as the living treasure of the People’s Republic of China during his time. Grandmaster Wong’s third sifu was Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou. His fourth sifu was Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, the patriarch of Choe Family Wing Choon.
It was no co-incidence that all Grandmaster Wong’s sifus were patriarchs of their respective styles because Grandmaster Wong sought for the best available teachers. Our school, Wahnam, is named after Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam as much of our instructional material came from them.