Cheung Ng

Tan Sao Ng, Cheung Hin)

Cheung Ng (Zhang Wu), also called Cheung Hin (Zhang Xin), is the only historically verifiable figure (found in histories of the Cantonese Opera and of Foshan) associated with the creation myths of Wing Chun Kuen.

Cheung was said to have come from the north, in some accounts from Beijing, in others from Hubei and, in stories of the Pan Nam system, from Hunan.

In his youth, he was said to have been involved with the Beijing opera as either a singer or martial lead actor (or, in the Pan Nam accounts, a master of props in the Kwan Si Opera Company.) Most accounts limit his martial skills to undefined Shaolin arts, or, in the Pan Nam version, to a mixture of Kam Gan Jeung (Buddhist Palm), Tong Long Kuen (Mantis Boxing), Tai Gik Kuen (Taijiquan, Great Extremes Boxing), and Ying Jow Pai (Eagle Claw System) from 22nd generation Shaolin Disciple Yat Chum atop Mt. Heng in Hunan. In one account, he nickname of Tan Sao referred to Polio Arm, referring to a partial paralysis of his left arm, and he possessed no real martial skill.

Sometime between 1723 and 1736, Cheung moved to Foshan, Guangdong province. This is believed to have been due to his rebellious activities, with some maintaining he included anti-Qing comments in his songs or helped produce plays that expressed dissatisfaction with the administration of the Qing Government.

In Foshan, Cheung became known as Tan Sao Ng. Some accounts maintain this was due to his peerless skill with the Shaolin Tan Sao technique while others state that, when he first arrived in Foshan, he survived by begging for money around the Daqiwei docks (in effect, singing songs and spreading his hand out for money).

Cheung went on to organize the Red Junk opera performers (also known as the Disciples of the Pear Garden) into an association known as the Hung Fa Wui Goon (Hong Hua Hui Guan, Red Flower Union) and/or King Fa Wui Goon (Qiang Hua Hui Guan, Precious Jade Flower Union) To the opera performers he was said to have taught the traditional 'Eighteen plays of Cantonese Opera'.

Cheung remains revered in the opera even until present times where it's said he is revered as the Founding Master and that his contributions earned him a place in Taoist opera heaven, where he along with the God of Chinese Opera, Wai Gong.

While it seems more likely that Cheung taught the northern, opera-oriented martial arts to the Red Junk performers rather than anything substantively similar to Wing Chun Kuen, his influence on the Red Junk is undeniable and it is not impossible to imagine that his legacy may have played some part in what eventually became known as Wing Chun Kuen in later generations.