The Origin of Five Ancestors Fist started after the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 after being conquered by the Manchu that would become the Qing dynasty. Resistance against the Qing will continue and will be intense especially in Southern China headed by secret societies such as the Tien De Hui 天地会. The dominant martial art system practice especially in Fujian province was the Tai Cho Kun 太祖拳 “Grand Ancestors Fist”. The Tai Cho Kun was first created by the first Song emperor Zhao Kuangyin (趙匡胤 960 -1279 AD) and later expanded by the first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (Chu Yuan-chang 朱元璋 1369 – 1644 AD).
The Song Tai Cho will be referred as Tai Cho Chang Quan 太祖长拳 or Long Fist, while the Ming Tai Cho will be referred as Hong Ming Tai Cho 洪拳太祖拳 this system is mostly short-range techniques emphasis in heavy striking conditioning and explosive techniques.
Tai Cho Kun is consider the dynasty’s martial art it represents the empire’s glory and prowess it is an amalgamation of all the known kung fu system that may include northern white crane, northern monkey fist, eagle, dragon, leopard, mantis, tiger, snake, and other kung fu systems that existed during that time of the Song and Ming dynasty, in todays’ standard it can be consider as the national martial art. During the Republic era in China 1915 to 1949 the nationalist government will introduce the term Kok Sut or Guo Su as the national uniform term referring to all kung fu systems that is why traditional old kung fu schools always refer to their schools and martial arts as “Kok Sut” 國術.
During the Ming dynasty a northern master name Bai Yu Feng 白玉峰 collaborated with some northern Shaolin martial art experts in the formulation of the Five Animal Fist or Five Forms 五形 it is also believe that an early version of Five Ancestors Fist was being develop that consisted of (1) Song Tai Cho kung fu (2) Northern White Crane (3) Northern Monkey Fist (4) Northern Lo Han Shaolin boxing and Da Mo qi gong breathing exercise and (5) Xuan Nu from a mystery female martial art master of the pressure point technique. It is believed that due to the civil turmoil, wars and eventually the fall of the Ming dynasty the Bai Yu Feng Five Ancestors development was interrupted with many followers migrated to Fujian province fleeing from the Manchu invasion. Eventually, descendants of Bai Yu Feng Five Ancestors Fist will integrate, adsorb, and morphed with the southern Tai Cho martial art that include absorbing the Fujian Yong Chun White Crane develop in the 1700’s, the southern monkey fist and southern Shaolin boxing system. The Bai Yu Feng system will be kept underground for centuries until in the 1960’s through the efforts of the late Grandmaster Chee Kim Thong from Malaysia their history will be revealed to the kung fu world.
Before the Bai Yu Feng, the original use of the Five Ancestors 五祖 was started by the secret societies in the 1700’s after the fall of the Ming dynasty it was about the veneration and worshiping of ancient China’s traditional religion that include the following:
Tai Cho for emperor worshiping the Mandate from Heaven 天命 it is believed that emperors received blessings from the Heavenly gods to rule over earth.
Taoism that include Guan Nim 觀音 the goddess of mercy that is also worship by Buddhism.
Buddhism in China introduced by Da Mo 達尊
Ancestor and mythological gods and saints worshipping that include Guan Gong, Lo Han 羅漢 immortal deities that safeguard earth and later embodies the warrior monks of Shaolin. Xuan Nu also known as Nine Heaven Mystery Lady 九天玄女 a female deity that possess the blessings of vitality, nourishment, and longevity or long life.
Confucianism the philosophy of the way of life.
An altar of the Five Ancestors is usually found inside the traditional kung fu training halls.
Later in the 1800’s two prominent Tai Cho masters will redefine the Five Ancestors from religious tradition to become about martial arts they will add the word “Fist” to make it become Five Ancestors Fist 五祖拳 they are Chua Giok Beng 蔡玉鳴 and Li Jun Ren 李俊仁.
Chua Giok Beng (蔡玉鳴1853 -1910) will introduce the Ngo Cho Kun Ho Yang Pai 五祖拳何阳派. He named it Ho Yang in honor of his Tai Cho teacher Master Ho Yang.
His version of Ngo Cho will be these five:
Northern Tai Cho Kun for power and intensity.
White Crane for its flawless technique
Monkey Fist for its dexterity, mobility and agility.
Lo Han for fist combinations
Da Mo for its breathing exercise the internal power of qi gong.
Li Jun Ren ( 李俊仁 1849 -1933) his Ngo Cho Kun will be refer to as Yong Chun Ngo Cho Kun永春五祖拳. It is called Yong Chun because it is where Li was from and it is also the birth place of Yong Chun White Crane kung fu. Li’s Five Ancestors will be the same as Chua’s except that he combines both Lo Han and Da Mo as number 4 because both are considered Shaolin martial arts. Li’s number 5 ancestors will be Xuan Nu for its pressure point technique.
Many former Tai Cho masters will join either Chua’s Ho Yang Pai or Li’s Yong Chun Ngo Cho Kun while others such as Gong Po Chiem 公婆詹, Lo Yan Chui 盧言秋 and others will continue to promote and expand Tai Cho Kun separately incorporating the Fujian Yong Chun White Crane. There martial art system will be referred as Tai Cho Ngo Cho Kun which are:
1. Ming Tai Cho Kun for its explosive and powerful techniques.
2. Lo Han Shaolin for its dexterity and flexibility skill and its staff weapon technique.
3. Fujian White Crane fist for its flawless and pressure point technique.
4. Da Mo for its qi breathing technique and iron body conditioning.
5. Monkey Fist for its short range, agility, strong gripping technique.
Because of the nature of Tai Cho Kun which is the umbrella system of Fujian martial arts all the newly created Ngo Cho Kun including that of Bai Yu Feng’s will be interconnected, interrelated and inseparable with each other all barrowing syllabus, technique, concept, and principle from each other that included the empty hand form Sam Chien and the tradition of the Green Lion.
The Green Lion 青狮 is a ritual representing the Qing dynasty the color green represents the Manchu green banner constabulary that are very repressive in enforcing the Qing rule it consist also of mostly former Ming soldiers. The ferocious fangs symbolizes the brutality of the Qing, the shaven forehead symbolizes the hair style of the Qing, at the center of the forehead is the Chinese character 王“WANG” meaning King for the Qing emperor. The white eyebrow symbolizes seniority. The kung fu warrior fighting the lion symbolizes the resistance against the Qing.
Today the green lion no longer represent that past political agenda the green symbolizes neutrality and equality, white hair and eyebrow for wisdom and justice, the beard for long life and good fortune, the ferocious face to ward off evil spirts and for security.
Thanks to better access to information, records and communications, today it is accepted that there exist four Ngo Cho Kun lineages they are:
Tai Cho Ngo Cho Kun 太祖五祖拳
Ho Yang Pai Ngo Cho Kun 鹤阳派五祖拳
Yong Chun Ngo Cho Kun永春五祖拳
Bai Yu Feng Ngo Cho Kun白玉峰五祖拳