Athena is very fond of a flight of Kung Fu fantasy, but today she believes it may be in order for some light-hearted, de-mystification to clarify the sometimes blurred lines between real and fantasy in the Kung Fu Kingdom. Indeed there are so many things to cover in this aspect, but I hope to run through some of the most common ones and perhaps trigger someone to research more on their own, if there is a particular topic that may linger in the mind. Let us enter this battle of clarification head on, as befits a follower of the Shaolin Clan.
But I feel a note may be in order, and may be even helpful to emphasize some translation misconceptions too. The writing of Chinese words in a western alphabet can always be very confusing, and I will just briefly explain the simplified version. The Chinese language has many dialects, but the most familiar ones (to us) are Mandarin and Cantonese. These are often westernized, either in the older Wade-Giles system or the newer more correct Pinyin. So you will frequently see up to 4 versions of a word (as seen below). Anyone confused yet ?? Yes ? No ? Anyway, let’s get started as we have much to cover..
(Bak Mei)(Bai Mei)(Pak Mei)
Meaning –>”White Eyebrows” is one of the legendary survivors after the destruction of the magnificent Shaolin Temple by the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) Army. He is best known for betraying Shaolin to the imperial government. There is a famous southern martial art style contributed to him also. Most facts point that he did indeed exist, and was a survivor of Shaolin. Most likely there were many more survivors from Shaolin, many more than just 5 (as told in the movies), all very exceptional but their skills and accomplishments have been streamlined into just 5 for the sake of storytelling simplicity. The majority of research indicates that there were several informants to the government (at least 3) and Pai Mei may indeed have been one of them. I believe the martial art style contributed to him was used by him, but in actuality much more likely were one of the secret internal Shaolin styles already existed for hundreds of years before that time. The most fascinating of all Pai Mei research done to this day is the reports emerging that Pai Mei was in fact a female Shaolin Nun! Remember she would have been a contemporary of Wing Chun’s sifu Ng Mui. If this is correct, it can easily explain the so called “hidden invulnerable” point or the ability to withdraw certain body parts (as she would not have them off course) illustrated in many kung fu films. In any case Pai Mei, We love to hate you!
(Wu Tang Shan) (Wu dang)
A stunningly beautiful and breathtaking mountain range in the northwestern part of Hubei Province of People’s Republic of China. It is just south of the city of Shiyan. It is very real and in my opinion one of the most worthy places to visit not only in China, but all of Asia. Even if it is commercialized, it is still preserved way better than the famous Shaolin Temple. I am very privileged to have a close friend of my family as an actual monk in the Shaolin Temple, so my judgment in this regard in based on experience. Wudang have a long and deep tradition of Martial Arts. The alleged founder Zhang Sanfeng (There is indications there is 2 of him actually.. 2 generations apart), is generally accepted as the originator of Wudangquan and Taijiquan, specifically the later. He was inspired by a fight he witnessed between a pied magpie, or white crane and a viper. From the beginning of the 20Th century; Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang is strictly labeled Wudang styles, following Sun Lutang. Using this classification the national martial arts tournament of the Central Guoshu Institute held in 1928 separated the participants into Shaolin (External) or Wudang (Internal). The 3RD biannual Traditional Wushu Festival occurred in Wudang Mountains October 28 -November 2, 2008.
Zhang is prominently featured in wuxia novel and TV series, but to a lesser extent in films. And this brings me to the fictionalized Wudang we all know, as THE BAD GUYS.
This is were I must draw the line of fiction. Wudang have a exceptional peaceful history and life style, despite being somewhat at time portrayed negative in wuxia novels and particularly in films. This I firmly believe is mainly done for the need of having a antagonist with a famous name and clan as opposed to the good Shaolin Temple . The only documented animosity between the two is the allegations that as a boy Zhang Sanfeng worked in the kitchen at Shaolin (as a lay person) and therefore could not officially visit Shaolin as Master of Wudang later. If the opportunity ever arose for you to go to Wudang for a visit, it will be a treasured memory, truly unforgettable.
White Lotus Clan
(White Lotus Sect)
A type of Buddhist sectarianism that appealed to many Han Chinese, most predominantly to women and to the poor, who found strength in worship of the “Unborn or Eternal Venerable Mother”, who was to gather all her children at the millennium into one family. The first signs of the White Lotus Society came during the later thirteenth century. During the early Mongol reign of Yuan Dynasty, small but crucial popular demonstrations spread against its rule. The White Lotus Society took part in some of these protests as they grew into widespread attempt at revolution. The Yuan Dynasty government considered the White Lotus Society a heterodox religious sect and banned it, forcing its members underground. This off course only triggered the rise of the secret society’s legacy and power. The White Lotus became an instrument of quasi-national resistance and religious organization. There are heavy indications that the White Lotus sect were one of the main ancestors of the Triads. They are more officially identified by the 14K Triad branch as opposed to the other triad branches. It is rumored that the symbols and name of the White Lotus is featured in their secret inaugural rituals. “…If I betray my brothers I will be pierced by the blade of a thousand White Lotus … And even my death will not calm the rage of The White Lotus, it will justifiably drain the last drop of my descendants blood ……” No, betrayal is not recommended, and don’t say you read it here either, come to think of it.
They were instrumental in many uprisings also described in the Kung Fu films, but it must here suffice to name a few: Red Turban Rebellion (1352-1387) and the legendary White Lotus Rebellion in the late eighteenth century led by a fantastic female warrior named Wang Cong’er. I am very surprised her story is not told more often in Martial Art movies. Wang Cong’er almost single handily led the uprising of the White Lotus sect against the corrupt Qing regime. Using Martial Arts or Kung Fu, acrobatics and a sword in each hand, she instilled fear in her enemies. Intent on avenging the death of her husband, Wang led an army of men into battle against the Qing army. Despite the obvious disadvantages, they overcame and surprised the mighty Qing army again and again, with the use of guerrilla war tactics. The contemporary records of the Qing Court stated that “the deadliest of all the rebels are those led by Madam Wang, wife of Qi” and “it is said that all the rebel factions from Hubei and Shanxi were stirred up by Wang”. After thousands of her men were massacred, Wang was forced to retreat. With no escape left to her, she jumped to her death. And this is a true story. The records are today displayed in the Forbidden City and the communist even now up hold her as an example of purity against corruption. Seems perhaps a bit paradoxical but let us not get political. Before we move on, Athena deeply pledges her alliance to Madam Wang, you are truly a heroine after her heart. May I get stabbed by the 2011 White Lotus if my loyalty ever waiver Madam Wang.
(Hóng Xīguān)(Hung4 Hei1 Gun1)
Is another fantastic real life legendary fighter portrayed numerous times in Kung Fu Films and TV Series..There is a substantial amount of facts covering his life so in this case I believe the it is more taking the liberty of romanticizing and dramatizing that making it all up. The only thing i have never seen portrait in his movies is the very unusual circumstances of his death! But I am getting ahead of my self here..
Hung, born in Guangdong, China, was the founder of Hung Gar Kung Fu (Men of the Hung Fist) without a doubt. Hung’s original name was Jyu, and was a tea merchant following a long family tradition. He escaped to the Southern Fujian Shaolin Temple after he had an physical and violent argument with a few upper class Manchurians during the Qing Dynasty. The famous Abbott Jee Sin accepted him into the temple, the two soon ormed a deep friendship. Abbott Jee was amazed at Hungs talent and willingness for hard work. And therefore accepted him as a personal lay student in Southern Shaolin Kung Fu. Jee Sin was highly impressed by these rare qualities in a upper class Han Chinese and soon began to teach Hung the Tiger style that he specialized in. Six years later Hung became number one of the top ten of the laymen followers. This was shortly before the destruction of the Temple by the Qing government. The fall of Southern Shaolin were unavoidable because the temple gave refuge to many rebels who wanted to restore the Ming Dynasty. So remember now, we have both Hung and perhaps secretly the female Pai Mei on the loose. Who needs a movie when this is the excitement of real life?
Hung escaped as splendidly portrayed many times. During this time he met Fong Wing-chun (not Yim Wing-chun of the Wing Chun Style! Got it ??) and found out that her father or uncle (there are so called conclusive evidence to support both facts (!).Let us hope they were not both correct as WE don’t have time to neither deal with that or the communist hypocrisy here), Fong Sai-yuk (kung fu brother of Hung) was killed by the same person who killed his mentor Abott Jee Sin. So Fong Wing-chun taught him her crane style to mix and complement his hard tiger techniques with the evasiveness of her crane techniques. Oh the foresight of a woman’s brain. Hung then avenged Jee Sin and Fong Sai-yuk by finally destroying the murderer. But was this male/female Pai Mei ?? Unfortunately we can not be certain. Hung and Fong Wing-chun soon fell in love and they were soon married. Who would have thought? Hung then opened a martial arts school when the banning of martial arts was lifted in China. He called it Hung Gar Kuen in honor of the First emperor of the last true Chinese (Ming) Dynasty and to protect his disciples from harm from the Manchus, because the Shaolin arts were still banned. His style soon was ranked the best of the five major family styles in the Province of Kwangtung. Reportedly he only had one descendant, famous future rebel Hung Hei-Ting. A few years after his first wife died he married his second wife, also an expert martial Artist of the Crane style. There is no supporting evidence of Hung being a womanizer or often frequenting brothels as so magnificently portrayed by Chen Kwan Tai. More to the contrary, he only had 2 wives. One at a time I may add. And never exercised the right to several wives or 4 concubines. As opposed to his style descendant Wong Fei Hung.
My favorite part of this legend is in fact his remarkable death scene. He lived to the ripe old age of 93 were his life ended brilliantly. He signed his last death waiver (waive right to legal prosecution if injury or death in an honorable fight) and lasted the whole of 7 minutes before receiving the fatal blow at the hand of the 17 year old female Mistress of the White Crane Style. At 93, what a way to go. I am convinced I have at long last discovered the weak point of the ultimate Hung Man, it is a young and beautiful Crane Lady. Just Like Lily Li and Chen Kwan Tai told us.
More To Come Soon …
So my Kung fu Clan allies, I hope we all meet again for Part II of Real Life Kung Fu vs. The Movies. There is so much more to discuss: the real Dragon vein, the hidden Fong Sai Yuk, the womanizing Wong Fei Hung, how to kill flawlessly from a distance using DIM MAK (death touch), the secret martial Arts of the Tibetan Lamas, secret Kung fu manuals, the heaven and earth sects descendant is the most powerful Triads in the world, the mysterious Ming sect..and more..
But should Athena fail to show up, you may suddenly remember at that point hearing on the World News just prior that the most unlikely accident ever has happened! Perhaps in the Forbidden City, the ancient gigantic Snow White Blades of the worlds most famous marble LOTUS, all of a sudden fell and sliced a bewildered western female tourist in a thousand parts!! Then you will remember not to betray the WHITE LOTUS, and if you happen to be male my dear brothers, I would not recommend to betray a WHITE CRANE either ..
- Real Life Kung Fu vs The Movies [Part 2]
- Could Female Fans Help Save The Kung Fu Movie Genre?
- Let’s Enter Jianghu!
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