Five Elders

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Five Elders
History of China
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In Southern Chinese folklore, the Five Elders of Shaolin (Chinese: 少林五祖; pinyin: Shàolín wǔ zǔ; Jyutping: Siu3 lam4 ng5 zou2), also known as the Five Generals are the survivors of one of the destructions of the Shaolin temple by the Qing Dynasty, variously said to have taken place in 1647, in 1674 or in 1732.

The original Shaolin Monastery was built on the north side of Shaoshi Mountain, the central peak of Mount Song, one of the sacred mountains of China, located in the Henan Province, by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei[clarification needed] Dynasty in 477. At various times throughout history, the monastery has been destroyed (burned down) for political reasons, and rebuilt many times.[1]

A number of traditions also make reference to a Southern Shaolin Monastery located in Fujian province.[2][3] Associated with stories of the supposed burning of Shaolin by the Qing government and with the tales of the Five Elders, this temple, sometimes known by the name Changlin, is often claimed to have been either the target of Qing forces or a place of refuge for monks displaced by attacks on the original Shaolin Monastery. Besides the debate over the historicity of the Qing-era destruction, it is unknown whether there was a true southern temple, with several locations in Fujian given as the site for the monastery. Fujian does have a historic monastery called Changlin, and a monastery referred to as a "Shaolin cloister" has existed in Fuqing, Fujian, since the Song Dynasty. Whether these have any actual connection to the Henan monastery or a martial tradition is still unknown.[4]

Daniel E. Stafford (great grandson of Francis E. Stafford) in 2004 published an article in the local university paper of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, disregarding the Shaolin Monastery and Temple and offered a different version. He is quoted to saying it was the Hakka people who brought family systems from the North to the South[citation needed]. Daniel has obtained instructor status in four of the five major family styles including: Choy Ga, Hung Ga, Lau Ga and Mok Ga.

The Five Elders of Shaolin[edit]

Within many martial arts circles, the original Five Elders of Shaolin are said to be:

Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Mandarin pinyin Cantonese Yale
Ji Sin (Gee Sin) 至善禪師 至善禅师 Zhì Shàn Chán Shī Ji Sin Sim Si Also transliterated as Ji Sin Sim Si, literally, Chan (Zen) teacher" Speculated to be also known as Chi Thien Su.
Ng Mui 五梅大師 五梅大师 Wǔ Méi Dà Shī Ng Mui Daai Si Noted for Ng Mui Kuen, Wing Chun Kuen, Dragon style, White Crane, and Five-Pattern Hung Kuen
Bak Mei (Pei Mei) 白眉道人 白眉道人 Bái Méi Dào Rén Bak Mei Dou Yan Literally "Taoist with White Eyebrows" Speculated to be also known as Chu Long Tuyen.
Fung Dou Dak 馮道德 冯道德 Féng Dàodé Fung Dou Dak Taoist Founder of Bak Fu Pai.
Miu Hin 苗顯 苗显 Miáo Xiǎn Miu Hin an "unshaved" (lay) Shaolin disciple

The Five Family Elders[edit]

The founders of the five major family styles of Southern Chinese martial arts were all students of Gee Sin (see above), and are sometimes referred to as the Five Elders. This has caused some confusion.

Common English Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Mandarin pinyin Cantonese Yale
Hung Hei (Goon) 洪熙官 洪熙官 Hóng Xīguān Hung Hei (Goon) founder of Hung Ga
Lau Saam Ngan 劉三眼 刘三眼 Liú Sānyǎn Lau Saam Ngan literally "Three-Eyes" Lau; founder of Lau Gar
Choi Gau Yi 蔡九儀 蔡九仪 Cài Jiǔyí Choi Gau Yi founder of Choi Gar
Lei Yau Saan 李友山 李友山 Lǐ Yǒushān Lei Yau Saan founder of Lei Gar; teacher of Choy Li Fut founder Chan Heung
Mok Ching Giu 莫清矯 莫清矫 Mò Qīngjiǎo Mok Ching Giu founder of Mok Gar

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shahar, Meir (December 2001). "Ming-Period Evidence of Shaolin Martial Practice". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 61 (2): 359–413. doi:10.2307/3558572. ISSN 0073-0548. JSTOR 3558572.
  2. ^ Title: Martial Arts of the World [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, Thomas A. Green (Editor), Joseph R. Svinth (Editor) Page. 94, Hardcover: 663 pages,Publisher: ABC-CLIO (June 11, 2010), Language: English, ISBN 1598842439, ISBN 978-1598842432
  3. ^ "Destruction of shaolin temple". Archived from the original on 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
  4. ^ Author: Meir Shahar, Publisher: University of Hawaii Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2008), Language: English, ISBN 082483349X, ISBN 978-0824833497

Further reading[edit]

  • Chu, Robert; Ritchie, Rene; Wu, Y. (1998). Complete Wing Chun: The Definitive Guide to Wing Chun's History and Traditions. Boston: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3141-6.