CHOY LAY FUT DOES NOT OWN THE “HUNG SING” NAME
by Sifu Frankie McCarthy
Hung Sing is a name completely synonymous with that of the Choy Lee Fut gung fu system. Internally, Choy Lee Fut of today is primarily comprised of three main branches. Two of the branches share the name “Hung Sing” although this single name has four different definitions. The third branch is the Buk Sing branch that eventually broke off from the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon founded by Jeung Hung Sing. For the sake of this article I want to focus on the Hung Sing name, especially since Choy Lee Fut isn’t where this name originated.
First let’s talk about Chan Heung’s “Hung Sing” school name. According to the history of the Chan Family lineages when Chan Heung completed his training under monk Choy Fook, in 1836 he returned to King Mui to set up a school in his ancestral village. He chose to call it “Hung Sing” (洪聖) which translates into “Great Sage” or “Holy” and is also in reference to a southern Chinese Deity Hung Shing (洪聖), also known as Hung Shing Ye (洪聖爺) in addition to Tai Wong (大王). This deity’s real name was Hung Hei (洪熙), a righteous government official.
At the same time, the Chinese Secret Society was notorious for their play on words. Synonyms, Homonyms, and metaphors were common tools used by them to get their messages across right under the noses of the Qing government. In fact, “Hung Sing” (洪聖) was also homonym in reference to the Ming Emperor who was also known as “Hung Wu”. However, I highly doubt Chan Heung chose this name in honor of the Ming Emperor, nor does it have any connection to the Hung Mun because Chan Heung established hi school in 1836 and didn’t get involved with anyone from the secret societies until the Opium Wars (1839-1842) broke out.
The original “Hung Sing” (洪勝) name of Cheung Yim, aka Cheung Hung Sing may share the same pronunciation of Chan Heung’s school, but, in comparison it’s appearance and definition is completely different in every way. His schools name literally translated as “Hung Victory” and originates from the Hung Mun. It was given to Cheung Yim by his 3rd teacher Monk Ching Cho upon completion of his training. This name is the abridged version of its greater meaning of “The Hung (洪) will be Victorious (勝) in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty”. The Monk Ching Cho gave Cheung Yim this name as a constant reminder to fight for righteous cause.
In 1851 Cheung Hung Sing and his Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon participated in the Tai Ping revolution which lasted until 1864. From 1864-1867 the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon was closed down while Cheung Hung Sing hid out in Hong Kong until things cooled off a bit. He returned to Fut San in 1867 but needed to rename his school if he wanted to re-open it. He kept the word “Sing” (勝) meaning “Victory” as it is a word heavily related to the Hung Society. He replaced the old “Hung” (洪) with another “Hung” (鴻) word that meant “Goose” but, also means “Great” or “Glorious” as well.
The two Hung Sing names (洪勝/鴻勝) used by Cheung Yim were derived directly from the Hung Mun and utilized as an abridged version of their Mission Statement as mentioned above. In addition to that, Cheung Yim’s original “Hung Sing” (洪勝) was also used as a name for a Tien Di Hui Tong in Guangxi. And, even today there are certain Triad based groups that use this name as well. To clear up any misconceptions about this name, it was never used as a rally cry neither for the Hung Mun or Choy Lee Fut fighters. It was given to Cheung Yim by Monk Ching Cho, a co-founder of the Hung Mun.
The only time Chan Heung used a name containing the word “Victory” is when he opened a medical clinic. He called it the “Wing Sing Tong” (永勝堂) or the Tong of Eternal Victory. Allegedly, this was not a martial arts school. It was reported to be a medical clinic. However, there are modern day Choy Lee Fut students who currently use this name.
Chan Koon Pak, the second son of Chan Heung, opened his own martial arts school. Instead of using the “Hung Sing” (洪聖) that his father was using, he was using the “Hung Sing” (鴻勝) of Cheung Yim’s lineage. As the latter was constantly in the news Koon Pak decided it was time to disassociate his school with that of the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon (佛山鴻勝舘) and changed his schools’ name to a different “Hung Sing” (雄勝) meaning “Strong” or “Heroic” Victory. This name is an offshoot of Cheung Yim’s name which would give it a semi-relation to the Hung Mun. The only connection to Koon Pak’s father’s school is by pronunciation alone, while its appearance, definition, and essence are not something they shared together.
Currently, there is a push to attach Chan Heung’s Hung Sing (洪聖) to the Hung Mun. They have even introduced a new idea of “天下洪圣是一家” (All Hung Sing is one family). Inferring that “洪勝, 鴻勝, and 雄勝 ” are somehow a by-product of this Hung Sing (洪聖). As if Chan Heung was the person leading the way for all of Choy Lee Fut in the Hung Mun. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, “天下洪圣是一家” (All Hung Sing is one family) is borrowed from Hung Mun’s slogan “天下洪門是一家” (All Hung Mun is one family). Therefore, with intended repetition, Hung Sing (洪聖) is in reference to both a Deity’s Temple and to Emperor Hung Wu. The Temple has nothing to do with the Hung Mun. Hung Wu, is not a member, but, is at the forefront of the Hung Mun society. Hung Wu could be likened to a patron Saint to the society.
However, Cheung Yim’s and Chan Koon Pak’s Hung Sing (鴻勝, 雄勝) names are in reference to a “Victory” of some sort. And in this case, is in fact in direct relation to the Hung Society and their goal to overthrow the government. Unlike Chan Heung’s Hung Sing (洪聖) which is clearly in reference to an individual, whether it be the southern Chinese Deity or Emperor Hung Wu. When taking this into consideration, I fail to see how “Hung Sing (洪聖)” could be the inspiration to these Hung Sing’s (鴻勝, 雄勝). There is absolutely no direct relation with Chan Heung’s Hung Sing name to the purpose and cause of the name given to Cheung Hung Sing by Monk Ching Cho.
“天下洪圣是一家” (All Hung Sing is one family), regardless if it was borrowed from the Hung Mun, is an awesome notion. Although, I believe 天下蔡李佛是一家 (Choy Lee Fut is one family) is a far better choice of words as it encompasses the true Choy Lee Fut of today as we know it. The Choy Lee Fut that is comprised of gung fu created and passed down through the branches of Chan Heung, Cheung Hung Sing, and Tam Sam. But if we followed the idea of all Hung Sing (洪圣) being one family, that would unfortunately exclude Cheung Hung Sing and Tam Sam since neither ever used this Hung Sing (洪圣) name. Not even Chan Koon Pak possessed the same Hung Sing (洪圣) used by his own father.
In conclusion, attempting to infer that all of Choy Lee Fut’s “Hung Sing” (Hung Victory (洪勝), Glorious Victory (鴻勝) and Heroic Victory (雄勝) ) names were derived from Chan Heung’s Hung Sing (洪圣) is extremely misleading and completely untrue. The truth needs to be told for the future generations of students to carry on with pride. It is up to us to research, ask questions, and discover the treasures the great system of Choy Lee Fut has to offer. That includes the Chan Family, Fut San Hung Sing, and Buk Sing Choy Lee Fut branches. For without them, Choy Lee Fut wouldn’t be as famous as it is today.