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Yim Wing-chun

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Yim Wing-chun
Died1795 (aged 59-60)
StyleWing Chun
Teacher(s)Ng Mui
Years activefl. c. 1750-1795[1]
SpouseLeung Bok-chau

Yim Wing-chun (simplified Chinese: 严咏春; traditional Chinese: 嚴詠春; Cantonese Yale: Yim4 Wing6-cheun1; pinyin: Yán Yǒngchūn) is a Chinese legendary character, often cited in Wing Chun legends as the first master of the martial art bearing her name. Wing-chun, though a person's name in Chinese language, translates literally to "spring chant", or may be substituted with the character for "eternal spring".[2]


Different accounts of Yim's legend exist, but the central sequence of events remains largely the same, beginning with the origin of her teacher. During the Qing dynasty, a Shaolin Buddhist nun and abbess, Ng Mui (五枚師太), reportedly fled the destruction of the Shaolin temple at the hands of the government; the temple was believed to be harbouring revolutionaries.[3] According to one legend, after being inspired by witnessing a crane and a snake fighting, Ng Mui incorporated their movements into her style of Chinese kung fu to form a new, yet-unnamed martial art system.[3]

Ng Mui later took on a disciple, Yim Wing-chun, and passed the art on to her.[3] Yim Wing-chun was well known for her beauty and sold tofu for a living.[4] A local bully tried to force her to marry him, but she used the art to defeat him.[3] Some accounts claim that Ng Mui taught Yim the art specifically for the purpose of defending herself against the man's unwanted advances.[5]

Yim later married Leung Bok-chau, a salt merchant, who named the art "Wing Chun Kuen" (Wing Chun Fist) after her.[3][5] James Yimm Lee (1972) attributes significant development of the art to Yim Wing-chun, crediting her with the invention of the Chi Sao (sticking hands) exercise.[6] From there, the art passed through several men's hands before coming to Ip Man.[4]


Lineage in Wing Chun
Sifu Ng Mui; creator of Wing Chun
Yim Wing-chun (嚴詠春)
Only student Leung Bok-chau (梁博儔); her husband

In popular culture[edit]

Stranger from Shaolin (1977) uses the character of Yim Wing-chun in an action film genre starring Cecilia Wong Hang-Sau.

The movie Wing Chun (1994) loosely portrays Yim Wing-chun's life within the action film genre, with Michelle Yeoh portraying the central character and Donnie Yen (now famous as Ip Man in four films) playing Leung Pok-to, Yim Wing-chun's childhood friend and fiancé.

Erica Choi portrays Yim Wing-chun in the 1994 Hong Kong martial arts television series The Kung Fu Master.

In the 2010 film Kung Fu Wing Chun, Yim Wing-chun was portrayed by Bai Jing and Leung Bok-chau was portrayed by Yu Shaoqun.

Meng and Rudnicki (2006) have written a critical analysis of the legend surrounding Yim Wing-chun.[7]


  1. ^ "Lineage > Ng Mui". International Wing Chun Academy. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  2. ^ Ritchie, R. (c. 2007): What's in a name? Retrieved on 9 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e Chu, R., Ritchie, R., & Wu, Y. (1998): Complete Wing Chun: The definitive guide to Wing Chun's history and traditions. Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing. (ISBN 978-0-8048-3141-3)
  4. ^ a b Ing, K. (2008): Wing Chun warrior: The true tales of Wing Chun Kung Fu Master Duncan Leung, Bruce Lee's fighting companion. Hong Kong: Blacksmith Books. (ISBN 978-9-8817-7422-4)
  5. ^ a b Stanford Wing Chun: History and principles of Wing Chun Kung Fu (c. 2001). Retrieved on 9 May 2010.
  6. ^ Lee, J. Y. (1972): Wing Chun Kung-Fu: Chinese art of self-defense (p. 13). Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications. (ISBN 0-89750-037-7)
  7. ^ Meng, B., & Rudnicki, S. (2006): Misconceptions of Wing Chun (13 October 2006). Retrieved on 28 December 2013 (Internet Archive Wayback Machine).