My Impressions of Yip Man Tong in Fatshan
(translator’s note: aka Foshan)
Tsui Sheung Tin
(tn: aka Chu Shong Tin. This article was originally published in Chinese in http://www.vingtsun.org.hk/ipmantongfeel.htm)
On November 9, 2002, the opening ceremony of Yip Man Tong in Fatshan was held. The Ving Tsun Athletic Association organized a tour with over a hundred Chinese and foreign Wing Chun followers, all dressed up in the official VTAA uniforms, to participate in the ceremonies. In this ceremony are gathered the descendants of grandmaster Yip Man from around the world, and approximately 2000 Wing Chun followers and citizens from Fatshan. This exciting event is reportedly the best-attended public event ever in Fatshan’s long history.
After the speeches by museum director Mr. Leung and others, and the presentation of the flags and mirrors, everyone entered into Yip Man Tong. Once inside, I have the feeling the museum is a structure of traditional architecture, yet retaining modern touches, a perfect complement to a great wushu grandmaster that had the outward appearance of a Confucian scholar, inspiring great respect, yet remaining approachable. This is obviously the result of much thought on the part of the management and the designers.
The exhibits in the hall can be classified into three categories:
1) On display are grandmaster Yip Man’s personal dummy, photographs of the grandmaster demonstrating the 100+ movements of the wooden dummy set, and videotape showing the grandmaster demonstrating on the dummy.
2) A bronze bust of the grandmaster, his personal belongings, and photographs of the grandmaster.
3) The contributions to Wing Chun by his descendants, both Chinese and foreign, all over the world.
Early batch of students: Middle row second from the right is Leung Sheng, back row third one from the left is Lok Yiu.
When the author saw the photograph of the grandmaster and his first group of students in Hong Kong, it immediately brought back memories of those olden days. The photograph was taken in August, 1950. That first group of students began to learn from the grandmaster around June, 1950. A few months after that, Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu were the only ones left in the class. Because Leung Sheung was already very knowledgeable and experienced in the martial arts, he firmly believed that Wing Chun is a superior style, and could persevere in practicing.
In those days, both Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu were very poor, yet they still tried their best to provide support for the simple lifestyle of the grandmaster. When I started studying with the grandmaster in 1951, the three of us took on the task of supporting the grandmaster’s everyday needs. Even though all three of us were very poor, we still managed to buy new clothes for the grandmaster every Chinese New Year. When our finances were better, we would get him a set of traditional Chinese long robes, otherwise, it’s a set of Chinese jacket/pants, new shoes and socks, etc. Though our financial support was meager compared to the rich who could afford to throw out thousands of dollars in an instant, our offerings under those economic conditions were worth no less.
In my opinion, if it were not for the persistence of Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu to continue studying during those difficult early days, thus enabling the grandmaster to continue to teach Wing Chun at the Restaurant Workers Union, hence allowing the world to know about Wing Chun, culminating in Wing Chun followers from all over the world coming to today’s ceremony, and having the Fatshan City Dept. of Culture and Museums setting up the Yip Man Tong museum, adding tremendous luster to the Wing Chun name.
If it were not for the faith and insistence of Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu to persist in learning, even though grandmaster Yip Man’s kung fu was peerless, probably he would never have the opportunity to show it to the world, and history would be rewritten, and there would not be a Yip Man Tong opening today. That is why the author believes that when we as Wing Chun followers reminisce about grandmaster Yip Man, and give thanks for the opportunity he presented us of learning Wing Chun Kuen and being able to enjoy the fruits of Wing Chun’s development today, we should not forget Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu, the two senior-most students in Hong Kong and their contributions in making Wing Chun’s present day success possible.
Lok Yiu and Ken Chung (student of Leung Sheng) at the Yip Man Tong opening.
Also worth mentioning is the contribution of Lee Tin Pui (tn: aka Lee Man), friend and student of the grandmaster, who was the one who introduced the grandmaster to the teaching post at the Restaurant Workers Union. His gravesite lies close to that of the grandmaster. Every year when the author visits the grandmaster’s grave to pay his respects, he always visits Lee’s grave. When one traces the original development of Wing Chun Kuen in Hong Kong, one cannot overlook the contributions of the memorable Mr. Lee.
In my opinion, Yip Man Tong contains a vast amount of information about Wing Chun Kuen, and the history of the grandmaster and his students. I believe visitors to the museum would not be disappointed. Therefore, I would recommend all Wing Chun followers and lovers of wushu to pay a visit to Yip Man Tong. They will find their time and money well spent.Lastly, I would like to thank the Fatshan City Dept. of Culture and Museums for supporting and putting up the museum, and the efforts of the committee members of the Yip Man Tong development committee, and the support of Wing Chun followers all over the world, facilitating the successful opening of the museum, thus elevating Wing Chun to among the elite few wushu styles with a museum, so all Wing Chun followers can share in its glory.
Author’s note: Even though grandmaster Yip Man possessed kung fu skill of the highest order, his appearance and actions are those of a humble classical Confucian scholar. It is only after his death that his friends began to call him “grandmaster”.
Translated by Dan Lam (http://www.mywingchun.com)
(tn: actually the author used the Chinese term jong si, which I have loosely translated as “grandmaster”.)