Bak Mei

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For information on the fictional Pai Mei from Kill Bill, see Pai Mei (Kill Bill).
Bak Mei
Also known as Bai Mei, Pai Mei, Pak Mei
Focus Striking and Grappling
Country of origin China China
Creator Bak Mei
Parenthood Tiger Kung Fu, Dim Mak, Shaolin Quan, Wudang Quan, Chin Na
Olympic sport No

Bak Mei (Chinese: 白眉; pinyin: Bái Méi; literally: "White Eyebrows"; "Bak Mei" comes from the Cantonese pronunciation, Baahk Mèih) is said to have been one of the legendary Five Elders — survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing Dynasty imperial regime (1644–1912) — who, according to some accounts, betrayed Shaolin to the imperial government. He shares his name with the Southern Chinese martial art attributed to him. Some Shaolin masters today teach that Bak Mei was the inventor of Eagle Claw style Kung Fu, which is often commented as being the most vicious form. He is also credited with the invention of the Iron Shirt defensive form.

Bak Mei has been fictionalized in Hong Kong films such as Executioners from Shaolin (1977), Abbot of Shaolin (1979), and Clan of the White Lotus (1980). Recently, Bak Mei is better known in the West as "Pai Mei" (the Wade-Giles romanization of his name in Mandarin), played by Gordon Liu in the Hollywood film Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004).

Historical Bai Mei[edit]

In 2012 an academic research was done on the historical origins of the style of Baimei Quan (Pak Mei Kuen or White Eyebrow Fist) and the validity of the monk Bai Mei, using the resources of US University Professors of Chinese and Buddhist Studies as well as Mr. Xiong Feng of the Emei Shan museum, Sichuan Province China.

The earliest reference to the monk Bai Mei as an actual person comes in the Wuxia novel called Wunnian Qing (A Thousand Years Green or Evergreen) as being one of the five ancestors who survived the sacking of the Shaolin Temple (circa 1727) by the Qing army. Yet there are many problems with this source, as follows;

  • It is a work of fiction (anonymous) and has no historical basis whatsoever.
  • There is no historical evidence to suggest that the Shaolin Temple of Henan Province was ever attacked and destroyed by the Qing armies.
  • There are conflicting versions as to who the supposed five survivors were.

It is easy to see how a past work of fiction, originally written as a piece of propaganda, became interwoven in the fullness of time into the collective mind as historical fact. The Bai Mei caricature, a mysterious monk originating from the Shaolin Temple with white eyebrows and awesome power, was in all probability employed to create a lineage with the said Temple, giving the style a veritable heritage as well as alluding to wisdom and venerability. The oral tradition is that Chan master Bai Mei had a disciple, Guanghui, to whom he passed on the arts.

Guanghui means Vast Benevolence and is a typical Buddhist nomination for either a monk or a temple; indeed there are several temples throughout China that bear this name. Yet on searching through the surviving gazetteers for Mount Emei there is no mention of a monk named Guanghui. There is no material evidence to suggest that Guanghui came from Emei Shan; all we have is the oral tradition from Zhang Liquan (Cheung Lai Chuen) that his Shifu, Zhu Fayun, came from a temple in Sichuan Province.

Zhu Fayun. Fa, in the context of a monk's name, means Buddhist Teachings and Yun means Cloud. The Chinese character Zhu formed part of the ancient word Tianzhu, meaning India. Zhu Fayun is said to have been a Buddhist monk from Emei Shan in Sichuan Province on a pilgrimage to the Guangxiao (Bright Filial Monastery), in Guangzhou. This is entirely plausible as the Guangxiao monastery is one of the oldest temples in south China as well as being one of the most influential Buddhist shrines. During his stay in Guangxiao, Zhu Fayun committed to teach Zhang Liquan (Cheung Lai Chuen) the Baimei arts.

Zhang Liquan (1882-1964). It would seem that Zhang Liquan was essentially an honest man with respect to his martial arts. He learnt three different styles from three different masters prior to having met Zhu Fayun. He formally acknowledges each of his former Shifu by name and honors them by keeping at least one of their forms in the Pak Mei syllabus. At a later stage in his career, Zhang Liquan formulated several of his own forms, including Tuotiao Quan (Cantonese: Tit Til Kuen) and Simen Bagua (Cantonese: Say Mun Ba Gua) which he openly professed were his own works. It would appear contradictory to suggest that such a man, who has been totally honest about the origins of all that he has learnt, would deny the existence of one teacher, or indeed invent a fictional character to disguise his own works when he has already affirmed creating several of his own.

All the supplementary forms in the Pak Mei syllabus, whatever the original style, fall under the collective classification of Nan Quan (Southern Fist) or more precisely DongJiang Quan (East River Fist). A common denominator to all these forms is that they are divided into two parts; the second being a repetition of the first, performed in the opposite direction. They also have numerous stances and techniques in common and share similar terminology and methodology. Accordinly there have been attempts to suggest that Baimei quan forms part of these southern or Hakka styles or indeed is a concoction of these various styles. Yet none of the four Baimei original forms are performed in two halves, nor do they share any stances or techniques with the supplementary forms. Similary the Baimei opening salutation, Wuhu Sihai (Cantonese: Ng Wu Say Hoi) is not found in any other style apart from Baimei derivatives.[1]

Bak Mei
Chinese: 白眉上人
Pinyin: Bái Méi Shàng Rén
Wade-Giles: Pai Mei Shàng
Literally "White Eyebrow, Buddhist"

Bak Mei according to the lineage of Nam Anh[edit]

Ming China, which had been weakened by corruption and internal rebellion, was overtaken by the Manchu in 1644. Hong Mei ("Red Eyebrows"), abbot of the southern Shaolin Temple, died during this time and his position was passed onto Chi Thien Su, also known as Jee Sin. Another such master named Chu Long Tuyen did not accept this. He believed the Ming had become corrupt and would rather serve the Qing rulers. In 1647 the Manchu attacked the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou, Fujian province. Only five masters managed to escape, and since then became known as the Five Elders.

Chi Thien Su, one of the Five Elders, founded another temple at Nine Lotus Mountain in Fujian where the survivors sought shelter. Chu Long Tuyen refused to provide his real name for fear of retribution against his family and students, in case they survived. The abbot then christened him Bak Mei—White Eyebrow. According to some stories, Bak Mei betrayed the Ming by taking information about their plot against the invaders to the Manchu Shunzhi Emperor, then returned with information about the Manchu attack plan to the Shaolin. After the temple was destroyed, Bak Mei and Fong Toh Tak (creator of the Bak Fu Pai) left the temple on separate paths in order to study Taoism.

Bak Mei trained an anti-imperial attack force but, following capture of the force by the imperials, was forced to teach and lead 50,000 imperial troops in the second destruction of the Shaolin Temple to prevent those captured with him from being tortured and killed. There, Bak Mei slew the "invincible" Shaolin leader Chi Thien Su in single combat by breaking his neck. He claimed he did this to prevent the massacre of the monks in the temple by the troops who followed him.

While he is often portrayed as a traitor, Bak Mei's actions were undertaken, including the destruction of the temple, with the intention of preventing harm to those who had chosen to follow him. It is possible that if Bak Mei had not aided the imperial forces, his followers would have been tortured to death.

Bak Mei according to the lineage of Jie Kon Siew[edit]

During the reign of the Qing emperor Kangxi (1662–1722), the warriors of the Xilufan rebellion were so feared that the two ministers whom Kangxi ordered to quell the revolt fled China rather than face either the mercilessness of the Xilu warriors, which often involved beheading. In 1673, over a period of three months, the 128 monks of the southern Shaolin Temple defeated the Xilu army without suffering a single casualty. However, by doing so they had made enemies of some Qing officers who were embarrassed by how easily the Shaolin monks had succeeded where they had failed.

Rumors soon began to spread about the threat posed by a power so great that it defeated the entire Xilu army with a force of only 128 monks. This campaign of innuendo was wasted on Kangxi, who remained grateful to the monks, but the rumors had their intended effect on his successor, the emperor Yongzheng (1722–1735). He began his reign by plotting the temple's destruction and was said to have secretly recruited a band of renegade warrior monks from Tibet to carry out his plan.

In 1723, on the 6th day of the first new moon of the lunar calendar, a former Shaolin disciple named Ma Ning-Yee aided Qing forces to launch a sneak attack on the southern Shaolin Temple. They began the assault by bombarding the largely wooden monastery with a relentless deluge of burning arrows. Between the surprise attack, the fire, and the overwhelming number of Qing soldiers, 110 out of the 128 monks were killed that day. The Great Shaolin Purge took 70 days as Qing forces hunted down the 18 survivors. The surviving monks of Shaolin inflicted massive casualties on their Qing pursuers but, in the end, their numbers were too great.

Soon only five remained. Their identities vary but they are generally accepted as the following:

  • The Chan Monk Jee Sin
  • The Shaolin Abbess Ng Mui Si Tai
  • The Chan Monk Bak Mei
  • The Daoist Fung Do-Duk who later created the white tiger style
  • The "unshaved" (lay) disciple Miu Hin

After two years of running and hiding from the Qing army, these fugitives of the cloth regrouped at Mount Emei in Sichuan Province. As one of the sacred mountains of China, Mount Emei was home to about 70 monasteries and temples where the five clerics could blend in easily.

It was decided that Bak Mei would infiltrate the Qing court as a spy while the others travelled throughout China to establish an alliance of anti-Qing rebels. The more Bak Mei learned, the more he realized that his allies' efforts would never be enough to overthrow the Qing. He decided to give up on the rebellion, which was seen as a betrayal.

Death[edit]

Bak Mei was eventually killed but accounts disagree on whether he was poisoned or slain. Over the years, the rebels sought to punish Bak Mei for his defection. Almost all who made an attempt on his life ended up dead at Bak Mei's hands. This included Jee Sin and Miu Hin's son[1] Fong Sai Yuk (Miu Hin's grandson according to other sources) whom Bak Mei had known since Sai Yuk was a small boy. Some say he was finally killed by the combined effort of Hoong Man Ting and Wu Ah Phiew who employed the Crane Style and the Tiger Style to avenge the burning of the Shaolin Temple and the death of their sigung (teacher's teacher), the Venerable Jee Sin, the Abbott whom Pak Mei is said to have killed in a duel during the burning of the temple.

Bak Mei Pai[edit]

The Bak Mei Pai traces its origins to Mount Emei, where Bak Mei is said to have transmitted the art to the Chan (Zen) master Gwong Wai,[1] who then passed it on to Juk Faat Wan[2].

Bak Mei's fighting style makes use of the four principles of "floating" (fou), "sinking" (chum), "swallowing" (tun) and "spitting" (tou) common in the southern Chinese martial arts. It is characterized by its emphasis on powerful close range hand strikes, specifically with the extended knuckle attack known as the "phoenix-eye fist". Bak Mei strikes are usually executed in conjunction with intercepting and jamming the opponent's strike. Unique to Bak Mei is its classification of the following 6 neijin (powers): biu (thrusting), chum (sinking), tan (springing), fa (neutralizing), tung, and chuk. Bak Mei emphasizes the movements of the tiger and its strikes are executed with explosive power via Fa jin. Additionally, it contains numerous kum la (joint manipulation) techniques as well as ground-fighting methods in the Dei Saat Kun form.

Fushan branch[edit]

According to the Fatsan family tree, Pak Mei passed the art to Kwong Wai, Chuk Yun, Fung Fo Dao Yan, Lau Siu-Leung (刘少良) who established the Fatsan lineage of Bak Mei. (source: Barbary Jonathan)

Jeung Lai Chuen branch[edit]

Cheung Lai-Chuen
Chinese: 張禮泉
Pinyin: Zhāng Lǐquán
Wade-Giles: Chang Li Ch'üan
Cantonese Yale: Jeung1 Lai5 Chyun4
Hakka pinjim Zhong1 Li1 Can2

Jeung Lai Chuen began his study of the martial arts at the age of 7 with the Classical Chinese Medicine practitioner Sek Lam[3], who taught him the vagrant style.[4] Jeung would later learn Li Style from Li Mung,[5] (founded by Li Yi李義) who taught Jeung his family style. While he was studying martial arts with the Lam family, he became close friends with their son Lam Yiu Gwai, with whom he had much in common, and eventually studied under Yiu Gwai's uncle. Lam would later become known for disseminating Dragon Kung Fu much as Jeung would later become known for disseminating Bak Mei. Both were born in Huìyáng County (惠陽) in the Huizhou prefecture of Guangdong and a marriage between their families would eventually make them cousins. They both left Huizhou to build their futures in Guangzhou and did so by opening several schools together.

After moving to Guangzhou, Jeung was defeated by the monk Lin Sang[6] after which the monk referred Jeung to his own teacher Juk Faat Wan, who taught Jeung the art of Bak Mei over the next two or three years. Jeung had a background in Hakka Kuen, the martial arts of the Hakka people, from his study of Li Mung's family style and the vagrant style. Because of this, Jeung's style of Bak Mei is associated with Hakka kuen, but more strongly still with the dragon style of Lam Yiu Gwai who is also said to have had a background in Hakka Kuen—due to the many years Jeung and Lam spent training together.

Bak Mei Forms:

  • 直步標指 - Jik Bou Biu Ji
  • 十字拳 - Sup Ji Kuen (also called Sek Si)
  • 石獅拳 - Sek Si Kuen (also called Sup Ji)
  • 三門八卦 - Saam Mun Baat Gwa Kuen
  • 四門八卦 - Sei Mun Baat Gwa Kuen
  • 九步推 - Gau Bou Tui
  • 鷹爪黏橋 - Ying Jow Lim Kiu
  • 金剛拳 - Gam Gong Kuen (created by 5th gen Chan Gwok Wah)
  • 地煞拳 - Dei Saat Kuen
  • 十八摩橋 - Sap Baat Moh Kiu
  • 猛虎出林 - Maang Fu Chut Lam
  • 五行摩 - Ng Hang Moh

Notes[edit]

Chinese Pinyin Cantonese Yale Hakka pinjim
^ Ma Ling-Yee 馬寧兒 Mǎ Níngér Ma5 Ning4 Yi4
^ Fung Do-Dak 馮道德 Féng Dàodé Fung4 Dou6 Dak1
^ Gwong Wai 廣慧禪師 Guǎng Huì Chán Shī Gwong2 Wai6 Sim3 Si1
^ Juk Faat Wan 竺法雲禪師 Zhú Fǎ Yún Chán Shī Juk1 Faat3 Wan4 Sim3 Si1
^ Fung Foh Do Yan 風火道人 Fēng Huǒ Dào Rén Fung1 Fo2 Dou6 Yan4
^ Lau Siu-Leung 刘少良 Liú Shǎoliáng Lau4 Siu2 Leung4
^ Shek Lam 石林 Shí Lín Sek6 Lam4 Shak8 Lam2
^ Wanderer Style 流民派 Liúmín Pài Lau4 man4 Paai1 Liu2 min2 Pai5
^ Lei Mung 李朦 Lǐ Méng Lei5 Mung4 Li3 Mung2
^ Lin Sang 蓮生 Lián Shēng Lin4 Sang1 Len2 Sang1

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robert Yandle (2012). Baimei Wuyi (White Eyebrow Martial Arts). Beckett Pubns. ISBN 1-8925-1537-7. 

External links[edit]