Southern Shaolin Kungfu

Grandmaster Wong demonstrating a pattern from Southern Shaolin Kungfu

Li Chooi Peng wrote a letter of recommendation for Luk Ah Choy. Then she told him, “Since the burning of the Shaolin Monastery, my sifu wanders like clouds. I don’t know where he is, but he is often in Guangzhou.“

Luk Ah Choy knew that the Venerable Chee Seen was a top master of kungfu. Many people wanted to learn from him, but were unsuccessful.

Luk Ah Choy went about in search of Chee Seen. He saw a temple with the sign showing “Six-Birth Monastery”. He went forward and was met by a monk on duty.

“Generous donor has come to this humble monastery. Can you please tell me how I may help?”

(Monasteries were supported by donations from the public. “Generous donors” was the usual address for people.)

“I just want to know whether the Venerable Chee Seen is staying here.”

“The Venerable Chee Seen is a high-level monk. He wanders everywhere. But he is not in our monastery. Perhaps generous donor can find out from another monastery.”

Luk Ah Choy had been to many monasteries, like “Glorious Filial Monastery”, “Beautiful Forst Monastery”, and “Big Buddha Monastery”, but could not find the Venerable Chee Seen. Some said that he was at the Elixir-Mist Mountain, and some said he had returned to Fujian Province to rebuild the Shaolin Monastery. But Luk Ah Choy did not give up.

He continued to search, and had walked all over the two provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. One day Luk Ah Choy came to a deserted mountain. All around there was no individuals and no smoke (i.e. no families whose houses gave out smoke from their chimneys). There was only a clump of black forest. He wanted to climb higher to release the hindrance in his heart.

So he used his art of lightness and ran up the summit. He saw a temple wall, and at the entrance were written “Shaolin Monastery”. He was shock. He knew that there were two monasteries called “Shaolin Monastery”, one in the north on Song Mountain in Henan and the other in the south in Potian in Fujian Province. He never knew that on this wild mountain there was another Shaolin Monastery.

(Historical accounts mentioned that the southern Shaolin Monastery was at the City of Quanzhou in Fujian Province. The northern Shaolin Monastery was at the Song Mountain in Henan Province. Not many people know that the third Shaolin Monastery was located on Nine-Lotus Mountain, also in Fujian Province.)

Luk Ah Choy entered the monastery. A monk came forward to meet him. “Generous donor,” the monk said, “Is there any matter?”

“I came in search of the Venerable Chee Seen. I passed this way and found your monastery pure and beautiful. Hence, I enter to pray.”

The monk laughed. “If generous donor wants to find the Venerable Chee Seen, where would generous donor go? The Venerable Chee Seen is the abbot of this monastery.”

Luk Ah Choy was both surprised and happy. “Please, great teacher, lead the way.”

The monk led him through the main hall, and went to the east meditation hall, where they found an elderly monk writing on a table. This monk was tall, glowing in the face, his eye brows were elegant like a mountain stream, his chest contained the mechanism of heaven and earth, his eyes like comets, and his radiance shot at others. Luk Ah Choy knew this must be the Venerable Chee Seen. So he knelt down and presented the jade pendant.

The monk put away his brush and smilingly said, “Where does this wild person come from, and prostrated here?”

Luk Ah Choy answered, “Student Luk Ah Choy prostrate to the great Venerable Spiritual Teacher.” He took out the recommendation letter from Li Chooi Peng.

After reading the letter, the monk laughed, “The little woman is too busy. She specially gives this monk difficult problems.”

Facing Luk Ah Choy, he said, “I am Chee Seen. You are keen to learn kungfu. This intention is worthy of congratulations. But life in the monastery is pure and simple, and its rules very strike. I don’t know whether you can tolerate it.”

Luk Ah Choy replied, “Student can tolerate.”

Chee Seen continued, “Whoever comes to practice kungfu in the monastery, must wait till his skills are rounded and his practice full (i.e. till his graduation), then he is allowed to return. Otherwise, irrespective of birth, age, sickness or death, no one is permitted to leave the mountain gate half a step. This is not purposely make life difficult for those who want to practice kungfu, but to ensure that whoever graduates from the gate of this old monk is an expert, so as not to insult the reputation of Shaolin.”

Luk Ah Chou replied, “Student is willing to forever follow teacher’s advice.”

The Venerable Chee Seen nodded his head, and said, “Then, you can remain in the monastery.” He continued his writing. Luk Ah Choy did not dare to say further. He withdrew himself.

Hence, Luk Ah Choy remained in the monastery. He helped in the kitchen to cook, he fetched water or chopped firewood, or he swept the monastery to keep it clean. He was diligent. But Chee Seen seemed to have forgotten such a person existed. Not only he did not teach Luk Ah Choy any kungfu, he did not ask about him at all. A month soon passed.

Luk Ah Choy did not mind at all. Although Chee Seen did not teach him anything new, every night he would secretly practice what he had learned before.

One night he passed Chee Seen’s sleeping room. He noticed that a light shone through a narrow gap in the door, and from inside was heard striking with hands and kicking with legs.

Luk Ah Choy was curious. Secretly he went to the narrow gap to have a peep. He was shock at what he saw. Chee Seen was practicing kungfu in his room. It was different from what Luk Ah Choy had seen before all his life. He did not want to leave.

So every night he stole to have a peep at the narrow gap of Chee Seen’s door. Chee Seen’s movements and techniques were impressed in his mind. He diligently practiced the movements and techniques, and his kungfu progressed tremendously.

Actually Chee Seen knew that Luk Ah Choy peeped at the door every night, but Chee Seen did not reveal it. He wanted to test Luk Ah Choy’s appreciation of Zen. For many months, he observed Luk Ah Choy, and found him full of energy and rich in spirit, his body was healthy and strong, and knew that Luk Ah Choy was wise, capable attaining what most people could not attain.

One day, Chee Seen asked Luk Ah Choy to see him, and asked Luk Ah Choy to demonstrate a kungfu set. Luk Ah Choy was very happy. He showed what he had been secretly viewing.

Chee Seen nodded and smiled, and silently said to himself, “He has not forsaken my bitter heart (i.e. he has not missed what I have secretly and ardently shown him).“ But outwardly, he acted as if he was very surprised, “What you showed just now are secrets not taught to other people. Besides me and a few inner-chamber disciples, no one knows them. From where did you learn them?”

“Sifu pardons me, then only dare I speak.”

“I won’t punish you. Don’t hide anything.”

Luk Ah Choy then told the Venerable Chee Seen that for many months, he “stole” the art by observing his sifu practicing in his room.”

(In kungfu culture, stealing an art means not learning directly from ones teacher, but by observing his teacher or other students practicing it.)

The Venerable Chee Seen laughed out loudly. Lifting Luk Ah Choy up by his hand, he said, “You have used your bitter heart (i.e. you were determined in your effort, and are honest about it), how can I punish you? But what you have seen is actually ‘little skill to carve some worms’ (i.e. little art that did not go deeply). I have ‘not-two spiritual gate’ (i.e. an unparallel, deep art) to transmit to you.”

Luk Ah Choy was happy like being mad. He prostrated before his sifu. Under the guidance of Chee Seen, he ‘manifested courage and forgot his food’ (i.e. he showed courage in his learning , and was so diligent that he sometimes forgot about his meals), and often discussed and practiced with other monks in the monastery, that ‘benefited in essence and aimed at essence’ (i.e. he was already excellent as he knew the essence, but he aimed to be even better to know more essence). In about half a year, his martial art progressed tremendously.

Wong Kiew Kit
13th January 2018, Sungai Petani



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