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.
The deadly yin-yang kicks, known in our school as “Single Leg Flying Crane”
The next morning Wang Chen Thong with a few students, who were all abled-body youths, went to Guangdong Association. All those present in the association came forward to greet them respectfully.
Wang Chen Thong waved his hand and said, “Not necessary. Now is the time. Let me go to the lei-tai and kill Looi Hoong. Then I shall return to celebrate.”
He walked down the steps, then turned his head back to say. “Please prepare a few katis of wine for me. When I return, we shall drink heartily.”
When they arrived at Pure Ball Gate where the lei-tai was located, the place was already full of spectators.
On the platform, thunderous drums sounded. Looi Hoong stood in front of the stage and greeted the spectators. He said a few words then sat on a chair to wait for anyone to come up the lei-tai.
Wang Chen Thong turned to say to association members who followed him to the lei-tai, “Please wait awhile. Let me take the dog’s life of Looi Hoong so that you all can laugh.” After this, his feet gently tapped on the ground, and he flew up the stage like a swallow.
Looi Hoong saw that the challenger was strong like a bull, but had such art of lightness, and he knew that his kungfu is not shallow.
Looi Hoong grasped his hands in greeting, and asked, “May I know Warrior’s name?”
Wang Chen Thong smiled and replied, “You want to know my name? I am Wang Chen Thong, well known far and near, and today I come to avenge the dead.”
Looi Hoong also smiled. “Really fast person, fast action. I just stand here. You can do whatever you like. But you said that you came to avenge the dead. The ghosts of the dead will be waiting for you beneath the lei-tai. Humans and ghosts do not go the same way. I better send you there to meet them.”
Wang Chen Thong shouted, “Don’t talk non-sense. Quickly advance with your techniques.”
Immediately, he placed his two tiger-claws in front of his chest, with their back facing each other, and presented a Shaolin greeting.
Seeing this, Looi Hoong knew Wang Chen Thong was a rebel. The Shaolin greeting indicated that Wang Chen Thong was against the Qing Dynasty. Looi Hoong was secretly happy, and he advanced towards his opponent.
Looi Hoong used the tactic of arrow punch, with his punch following his step. Right step left punch, and left step right punch, left and right flowing and fast, attacking techniques are agile like rabbits, surprising and marvelous.
Wang Chen Thong saw the attacks were ferocious. So he moved step and changed stance, using a thread hand to guard himself, retreating accordingly and warding off accordingly. Although Looi Hoong’s techniques were vicious, he did not have any advantage.
Eventually, anger rose from his heart, and evil rose from his gall bladder. Looi Hoong twisted his stance and employed a pattern called “Black Crow Flaps Wings”, diagonally striking Wang Chen Thong with his elbow.
Wang Chen Thong sank down his stance and met the elbow attack head-on, using the pattern “Fierce Tiger Pushes Mountain.” There was a loud noise and Looi Hoong was bounced off many feet away.
Wang Chen Thong changed his hand techniques according to his steps. He moved forward and changed into a Bow-Arrow Stance, changed his palms into fists, and drove a right punch into the opponent’s chest.
Looi Hoong quietly called out “No good”, and jumped back about ten feet. His intention to kill arose, his eyes shone with hatred, he employed leg techniques and looked out for any weakness of his opponent.
At first Wang Chen Thong thought it was easy to take Looi Hoong’s life, but now he knew it was difficult. He became anxious, which affected his mind set. Thus his techniques became floating and confused. On the other hand, Looi Hoong’s techniques of yin-yang kicks concealed fatal attacks.
When Wang Chen Thong pressed near, Looi Hoong jumped up, and while he was still in the air, his right leg kicked at Wang Chen Thong’s “gate of the brain” (which was located at the back of the head). With an “Aha” sound, Wang Chen Thong was like a fish out of water, and fell down the stage.
People from Guangdong Association rushed forward to help. They found Wang Chen Thong amidst some dust, but was breathless.
After Wang Chen Thong’s death, Cantonese people were more angry. A lot of people came forward to the lei-tai to meet Looi Hoong, but were all defeated by him. In many days of the lei-tai match, there were more than 20 deaths, and countless people were injured.
Besides seeking doctors to aid the injured, Guangdong Association employed monks to recite sutras for the dead. Incense were burnt and the sound of sutra recitation was constantly heard.
That night a lot of people gathered at Guangdong Association. Everyone agreed that there would be no end if Looi Hoong was not killed on the lei-tai.
After a while, the director of the association, Chan Yuk Shi, said, “It is reasonable what everyone has said. But Looi Hoong’s kungfu is extraordinary. He is not known as Tiger Looi for no reasons. Seeing today’s matches, one can tell his valour. If we go to the lei-tai tomorrow without a high level challenger, it won’t be helpful. Hence, from what you have heard of capable persons, please inform me.”
Everyone was silent and started thinking. Then someone stood forward and said, “I propose a person. With his kungfu, killing Looi Hoong is more than sufficient.”
Chan Yuk Shi immediately asked who this capable person was.
The person replied, “He is Wang Chen Thong. His livelihood is fist and staff. His kungfu is excellent. Once, he hit a wall, and caused a big hole. I propose him. I am sure he won’t disappoint us.”
Chen Yuk Shi was very happy. Immediately he dispatched some persons with gifts to invite Wang Chen Thong.
After about two hours, Wang Chen Thong arrived. Everyone had a good look at him. He was like a Vajra King. His eyes shone like comets. The white and black of his eyes were well differentiated. Everyone venerated him respectfully, and went forward to greet him.
After the preliminaries, Chan Yuk Shi announced.
“Tonight, we specially invite Sifu Wang Chen Thong here, and our invitation shows that we admire and respect you extremely. Nevertheless, we have an intention. Without me saying, I believe sifu knows it. Looi Hoong, based on raw courage, insults all Cantonese people to this time. As long as anyone is a Cantonese person, he suffers great hurt, and view it as a great insult.
(Although Chan Yuk Shi did not learn kungfu, he addressed Wang Chen Thong as “Sifu Wang” out of courtesy.)
“Sifu Wang is also Cantonese. What you feel is like what we feel. But we are all traders. We don’t have the strength ‘to lift up an iron cockerel’ (which means ‘to have any noticeable strength’). Hence, after thorough discussion, we intend to invite glorious masters to avenge the dead, and remove the big insult on Guangdong.
“Everyone admires the miraculous valiance of Sifu Wang, and regards Sifu Wang as unparallel in the world. Hence, without intruding, we hope Sifu Wang can help us, to erase the insult of over thousands and millions of Cantonese people. We wonder what is Sifu Wang’s view?”
Wang Chen Thong laughingly replied in a clear, loud voice.
“This is a small matter. You need not be so full of courtesy. I don’t mean to be boastful, but even if my students come out, it is more than sufficient. Tomorrow, I shall represent all of you to kill this disgrace of martial circles.”
Everyone was jumping with joy. Chan Yuk Shi ordered a sumptuous dinner in honour of Wang Chen Thong. He personally toasted for Wang Chen Thong’s success.
After a few rounds of toasts, Wang Chen Thong loudly proclaimed, “Tomorrow I shall certainly kill Looi Hoong on the lei-tai to thank the feeling of our clansmen.”
While the crowd was quiet, another person flow up the stage like a big bird. The crowd noticed that he was a kungfu master from Canton named Li Foong San. The spectators cheered.
After registering his name in the register of the lei-tai, Li Foong San said to Looi Hoong.
“Today I come up the stage to take up your challenge is not because of the rewards, and also not because I want to avenge the dead. But I saw your cruelty and could not tolerate. I am sure you know that setting up the lei-tai is to meet capable persons of the world, and not use this excuse to kill people. Even when your art is better than other people’s, and really you are no-double in the world, you should appreciate heaven’s love for life. Against those weaker than you, just defeating them will do.
“Why must you kill him? Now he is dead, do you add any flesh to your body? Thinking of your intention, you are like an animal in human’s clothing. Today I come on stage is to employ my skills to consulate the ghost of the dead.”
After listening to this elucidation, not only was Looi Hoong not angry but he laughed out loudly.
“You know that lei-tai is the place for fighting, under fists and kicks, why is there mercy? Further, you also know that if I don’t hurt opponents, the opponents will hurt me. If I die under his fist, what would you say? Isn’t it that you will say I don’t know my limit, and openly give my life? Or you may say that my life is like that, and it is not his wrong?”
Li Foong San was surprised and did not know how to reply. Looi Hoong changed his facial feature, and continued.
“Like you without knowledge, don’t try to argue here. As you have come today, I shall act like your ancestors to teach you so that in future you will not blind your heart and blind your eyes.”
Immediately, Looi Hoong shouted, “See my technique!” He moved his right leg forward and used “Two Dragons Fight for Pearl” to attack the opponent’s eyes.
Li Foong San avoided the attack and immediately used “Throw Balls in Waves” to counter attack.
Looi Hoong saw the attack was aimed at his top and middle levels. So he used a bottom level to respond. When the attack was near, he squat down and tried to sweep Li Foong San’s front stance so that the opponent would fall down the lei-tai. This technique was “surprised by gods and feared by ghosts”, and was known as “Reverse Planting of Willows”. (In our school, this pattern is called “Firece Tiger Crouches on Ground”.)
As soon as Looi Hoong squat down, Li Foong San retreated his front stance, and used his hand to sweep at the opponent. If Looi Hoong failed to avoid, his arm would be fractured. In this precarious moment, however, Looi Hoong was not alarmed. He bent his body and changed step, and simultaneously struck out his palm.
Li Foong San was ready. Before the palm strike arrived, he had changed technique. The two combatants, one like wild wind swept leaves, and the other like a fierce tiger jumped across stream, fought on the lei-tai like dusts blown by breeze. It was difficult to explain and difficult to separate them, and they fought for life and death.
The spectators below moaned and sighed. They concluded that unless there was death, it would be difficult to differentiate the higher skills from the lower. The Cantonese groups of people cheered for Li Foong San.
On the lei-tai, the combatants exchanged many tens of encounters. Looi Hoong did not gain any advantage. His nature arose, his intention to kill was born, and he knew that Li Foong San’s kungfu was not ordinary, so he employed his “own door” ultimate technique – yin-yang kick.
This yin-yang kick was dangerous and extra-ordinary, and Looi Hoong “had accumulated essence and arose spirit” to train the ultimate technique for all his life, and had attained success after much “bitter training”. Whenever he met formidable opponents, there was not a single occasion he did not win with this ultimate technique.
Having decided on his intention, Looi Hoong used the tactic of “Majestic Hall Explain Many Things” to confuse Li Foong San’s eyesight. Then he used his ultimate technique of yin-yang kick, raising his leg to kick at his opponent with tremendous internal force.
Li Foong San could not avoid the attack. With a loud noise, like a kite that had snapped its thread, Li Foong San fell from the lei-tai. The Cantonese spectators rushed to save Li Foong San, who vomited blood. But he was dead.
Seeing the horrible death of Li Foong San, every Cantonese wanted to rush up the stage to fight Looi Hoong.
At that time a bell sounded, and Looi Hoong walked to the front of the lei-tai and thanked the spectators with a greeting. His students accompanied him to walk away.
After defeating Cheng Loon, Looi Hoong or Tiger Looi walked to the front of the lei-tai, or stage for kungfu combat, and said.
“Spectators below the lei-tai, if there are capable persons, please come up for a test.”
From nowhere in the crowd came a loud answer.
“Don’t boast. Today I’ll take your life.” Immediately a figure flew up the stage.
Looi Hoong replied angrily, “Who are you? Why don’t you have some manners? Even when coming up a lei-tai for combat, there should be courtesy first, then martial art. Now you open your mouth to want my life, as if my life is so easy for you to take. Quickly tell us your name. I don’t strike the nameless.”
The man laughed loudly. “Open your eyes to see carefully. Your lord is a well known kungfu master in all areas of Suzhow and Hangzhou named Cheong Xin Harng. My two fists once struck dead two tigers. Look at your body. Is your body comparable to two tigers?”
Looi Hoong smirked coldly. “Who saw you killed two tigers with your two fists. With your two fists you can only tear two paper tigers.”
Cheong Xin Harng was angry. His fists hit Looi Hoong wildly. Looi Hoong was secretly laughing. Purposely he feigned some weakness to tempt the opponent to hit futilely.
Cheong Xin Harng was not deep in his kungfu, coupled with wanting to win easily. He did not know that Looi Hoong’s movements were meant to trick him, but instead wrongly thought that the opponent’s defence was weak.
So he advanced and came close. Looi Hoong suddenly changed his tactics and used the pattern, “Singly Chop the Hua Mountain” to chop at Cheong Xin Harng’s head.
Cheong Xin Harng could not defend. His head was broken, and his brain splashed out. He fell down dead.
Looi Hoong kicked his carcass down the stage. Full of pride he announced to the spectators, “If there are capable persons, come up on stage. Evening is approaching; we may have to wait for tomorrow.”
On the first day of the lei-tai combat, or combat without any rules on a raised platform, Pure Ball Gate where the lei tai was held, was full of people. Cantonese people came in groups, all of them were very angry.
The atmosphere was serious. Hundreds of Looi Hoong’s students, all in black kungfu uniform, were in front of the lei-tai. On the left side was erected a colorful tent. Seated in it were a martial official with tens of soldiers observing the crowd.
Suddenly thunderous drums sounded on the lei-tai. Looi Hoong, the Chief Instructor of the army, in black kungfu dress, eyes shinning and radiating an invincible force, walked to the front of the lei-tai and announced.
“I act on the order of the general and set up this lei-tai to meet heroes of the world. Anyone with ability please come up the lei-tai to test me. If he can punch me once, he will be rewarded with a hundred pieces of gold. If he can kick me once, he will be rewarded with two hundred pieces of gold. If he fells me to the floor, not only he will be rewarded with five hundred pieces of gold, he will also be invited to become an instructor in the army.”
When Looi Hoong just completed his speech, a figure from the crowd flew up to the stage. Greeting Looi Hoong, he said.
“I am unable, and my name is Cheng Loon. I know a bit of fist and staff (i.e. kungfu). Today I present my limited kungfu, seek teaching from sifu. Regarding the rewards, they are not my intention.”
Looi Hoong returned the greeting and said, “There is no need for warrior to be modest. As you have come up the lei-tai, please do not hide your strong points. Let me also seek teaching from you.”
“Well said,” came the reply. “Let’s cross hands.”
Looi Hoong employed a poise pattern called “Hungry Tiger Embraces Head”, with his left tiger-claw at eye-level and his right tiger-claw in front of his chest.
Seeing the poise pattern, Cheng Loon said silently to himself, “Today’s match is unlike combat matches at ordinary times. In a lei-tai match, it is death or serious injury. I must be very careful. It is not easy to attack such a poise pattern. I’ll use ‘stick’ hand as a feign.” So Cheng Loon moved in with a ‘stick’ hand to meet the opponent’s front hand to confuse the opponent’s defence.
But Looi Hoong knew kungfu philosophy well. Seeing how his opponent moved in, he knew it was ‘stick’ hand as a feign move. To use ‘stick’ hand successfully, an exponent must be near to the opponent. The strong point of ‘stick’ hand is the edge of the sticking palm. As soon as their hands ‘stick’, the exponent will shoot, or thrust the palm forward. The exponent will change according to how the opponent responds.
The song-formula of ‘stick’ hand is as follows.
Stick hand is near the body,
If empty, enter the gate.
Courage is all over the body,
Marvelous techniques will win.
Looi Hoong was a kungfu expert. As the opponent moved in, he changed into a pattern called “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, changing his right tiger-claw into a fist, and striking the solar plexus of his opponent, fast and ferocious.
Cheng Loon retreated his stance sideways, and struck Looi Hoong’s elbow with a hanging fist, using a pattern called “Side Body Hang Fist”. As the opponent retreated his arm, Cheng Loon would move forward immediately with a cup fist to the opponent’s chin, using the pattern “Big Boss Offers Wine”.
But Looi Hoong’s eyes were sharp and his movements fast. He drops his elbow to avoid the hanging fist, changing his punch to a tiger-claw, gripping the opponent’s arm and pulling backward, while his front leg blocked the opponent’s front leg to trip the opponent.
Cheng Loon could not avoid this top-bottom attack. He fell forward onto the floor. He clasped his hands in greeting and said.
“Respect and concede defeat. Sifu Looi’s kungfu is extraordinary. Little brother here is no match.”
(“Sifu” means one’s kungfu teacher, but it is frequently used politely for someone whose kungfu is good. “Little brother” refers to the speaker, in this case Cheng Loon.)
Looi Hoong smile gently, returned the greeting and said.
“Warrior’s techniques are also extraordinary. Unfortunately the floor is slippery. It is not because your kungfu is inadequate.”
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.