Nam Siu Lam Ji (South Small Forrest Temple)

The Fukien or southern Siu Lam temple was built on Gau Lin Shan in Fukien province near the border of Gwan Dung Province. Built in 1399 a.d. during the Ming dynasty, the temple became known as “South Sui Lam” before being utterly destroyed during the Ching (1644-1911 a.d.) dynasty. The Ching government destroyed the temple because the temple gave refuge to many rebels who wanted to restore the Ming Dynasty.  During its brief heyday, the Southern temple had a good reputation for the martial arts, but its reputation was eroding because many students escaped before graduating. Thus the level of martial skill of the average person leaving the temple began to diminish. These supposed masters helped to degrade the southern temple’s reputation. To counter this trend, the abbot Jee Sim Sim See (Sim See means Zen master) put Hung Yan Sim See in charge of thirty six chambers. Here, Siu Lam’s warrior monks and unshaven disciples learned the Siu Lam martial arts in a step by step manner, not advancing until each skill had been mastered. An “unshaven disciple” was a person who stayed at the temple primarily to study the martial arts and did not take Buddhist vows and become a monk. Jee Sim is also credited with devising the “wooden dummy hall.”

The wooden dummy hall was erected in the Lohan Tung or Buddha hall. The eighteen wooden dummies purpose was to test the kung fu skill of potential graduates. You can continue exploring the wood dummies names and movements here.

One man who is reputed as having passed this test was Hung Hei Guen, who later went on to be considered the founder of the Hung Ga system.

Many great teachers were trained at this temple. After the end of the Ming dynasty, the Ming loyalists used this temple as the headquarters in Southern China. Eventually, the Ching Emperor Hong Hei (1662-1723 a.d.) found this out and ordered two generals Chan Man Yiu and Jeung Gim chao to take three thousand soldiers and rout the temple. General Chan Man Yiu knew well the reputation of the Siu Lam people had earned for their martial arts.

Instead of attacking right away, he went to the area at the base of Gao Lin Shan to collect intelligence reports. As it happened, the owner of the hotel Chan Man Yiu stayed at was a former Siu Lam student. His name was Ma Ling Yee, also known as Ma Chut (Ma number seven). When Ma Chut was a student at Siu Lam, his martial arts skill was not bad. However, his morality was poor and he was punished after destroying a valuable item known as the Man Nin Deng or ten thousand year lamp. Instead of taking his punishment in stride, he resented the monks and escaped. He tenuously used his skill to accumulate enough to run the hotel at the base of the mountain. When Chan Man Yiu found out about Ma’s past, he paid Ma handsomely for information which Ma was very happy to provide. Armed with this new knowledge, Chan Man Yiu believed he could defeat the monks of the Siu Lam temple.

At some distance from the temple, there was a secret tunnel which could be used to get off the mountain unobserved. The monks would use this in case of dire emergency. Knowing of the tunnel’s existence, Chan Man Yiu advanced troops to the foot of the mountain. He sent word to the monks that they were to leave the temple within three days or they would all be killed.

Since Master Jee Sim had already passed away, the head monk Ng Ging Wo Seung, also known as Ching Cho, was in charge. He had one hundred eight martial monks in the temple who were enraged by Chan Man Yiu’s ultimatum. It was decided that the monks would fight back. One night, the monks separated into five groups. They attacked by the main road, but using arrows and even stones. The monks killed more than one hundred soldiers.

After this skirmish, the monks pulled back into the temple to rethink their options. It was decided that they would stay in the temple and booby trap all the entrances. General Chan Man Yiu ordered his men to set fire to the temple. While the general’s men were doing this, Chin Cho ordered the monks to go to the tunnel to escape. They didn’t realize that Chan had filled the far end of the tunnel with gunpowder devices. Many monks were trapped and killed in the tunnel. Chin Cho ordered the remaining men back to the temple. by then, it was almost morning and the temple had burned to the ground. Upon counting, Ching Cho decided that the survivors would later meet at the Wu Lung river. Ching Cho descended the mountain in a rage, seeking out the only person who could have given away the secret of the tunnel escape route. He later found Ma Chut andkilled him on the spot. At the river, there were only five men. They were Wu Dak Dai, Choy Dak Jung, Lei Sik Hoi, Fong Dai Hung, and Ma Chiu Hing.

These men were later honored and became to be known as the Ng Jo or Five Ancestors. They agreed to split up so that they would never be caught together. They would then form pro-Ming associations. There is still a system called the Ng Jo Kuen which reminds us of these men. These men spread the Siu Lam martial arts all over China among the common people.