Legend of Hongsheng(Hungsing) and “Cai-Li-Fo(Choy-Lee-Fut)”
There are many wushu genres in China. Shaolin Wushu is one of them and has several sub-genres. Here is a legend about Hongsheng and Cai-Li-Fo,one sub-genre of Shaolin Wushu.
Jiulianshan Shaolin Temple,located in Putian County, Quanzhou, Fujian Province,is a branch of Songshan Shaolin Temple situated in Henan Province. Because there were many monks with master-handed wugong in Jiulianshan Shaolin Temple, it enjoyed high prestige as Songshan Shaolin Temple did and was named South Shaolin. Cai,Li and Fo were three genres of South Shaolin.
After Ming Dynasty’s ruin, many royal clans of Ming, former lieges and patriots fled to South China. They came to Jiulianshan Shaolin Temple and stayed there, exercising wushu with attempt to revolt the Qing Dynasty and recover the Ming Dynasty, Wan Yunlong was one of patriots. He settled down in the temple. cut his hair and became a monk renamed Dazong. Later he was elected chief of the temple. And then, the position was abdicated and handed over to Xingyin, a Buddhist monk. In order to strengthen the power of the temple, Xingyin went and roamed throughout the country to recruit disciples and talents. He taught his all skills in wushu to Zhishan, his preferred disciple. Like his master, Zhishan widely recruited monks and common people as disciples among which the eldest disciple, Cai Dezong (with the Buddhist name Qingcao monk, shortened as “Qingcao”), another disciple of Xingyin, LiShikai (with the Buddhist name of Qingsheng Hu Dedi, also named Qingru), Fang Dahong (with a monasterial name Qingfang) and Ma Chaoxing(with the Buddhist name Qingse) were very well-known for their superior wushu and were honoured as the Five Fathers of Southern Boxing. Zhishan’s other disciples included Sande, a monk, and Ma Ninger, a common disciple. In the Qianlong Age of the Qing dynasty, Ma Ninger betrayed Shaolin and guided Qing troops to burn down the temple. It was the five founders of Southern Boxing who led Shaolin disciples to break out. Afterwards they were forced to leave the Temple and went on fighting against the Qing Dynasty.
After the Jiulianshan Shaolin Temple’s ransack, a lot of wushu originators gathered in Guangdong and brought Guangdong wushu into a thriving and prosperous period. The most famous genres included Cai and Li boxing. And Cai Yafu and Li Youshan are the respective representatives. Born in Gaoyao, Guangdong, Cai Liyi created the Cai Family Boxing, He learned to exercise gongfu under the direction of Yi Guan, a Buddhist monk of Shaolin. CaiYafu and Cai Zhanguang put the boxing into a new stage. The Li Family Boxing was created by Li Sikai, Li Yangkai and Li Shikai, who were all monks derived from Shaolin. Li Youshan, born in Qibao Village, Daze Town, Xinghui, fully developed the Li Family Boxing.
Chen Xiang(1805-1875)enjoyed the prestige of the originator of Cai-Li-Fo. He was brought up in Mei Village, Xinhui County, Guangdong. He was a genius in wushu. When he was very young, Chen Xiang exercised wushu with the help of his uncle Chen Yuanhu, a common disciple of Shaolin. He profoundly admired and worshiped Li Youshan and Cai Yufu and asked them to be his coach and exercised hard under their intensive direction. Through hard work and with his talent, he completely understood the genuine essence and soul and digested the gist. No one could contest and defeat him.
At that time, pirates often haunted on shore without scruple in some parts of coastal areas in Guangdong and this compelled people to invite drillmasters to exercise young and strong men in the village for protection of their lives and properties, which resulted in the general custom of exercising wushu. Chen Xiang worked as a drillmaster in Chen Village, Shunde. Since he was very young he was envied and hated by other drillmasters nearby. Slandered to be something more in name than in reality, he got into much trouble, Chen Xiang taught a good lesson to those who came to look for trouble and gained more fame.
Zhang Kun and Chen Xiang were old friends, so Zhang Yan was introduced to Chen Xiang, who was honored as Chen Xiang Gong by later generations. But because in Chen Village there was a rule that a drillmaster should not recruit a non-family-name disciple to exercise wushu, Chen Xiang could only take Zhang Yan as choreman in his exercising hall, conducting boiling and cleaning. Zhang Yan was then only twelve but had an inborn talent for wushu. He devoted himself to wushu. He pretended to work nearby and peeped, remembered every step while the disciples were disciples were exercising. Day after day, he learned a lot. Later Chen Xiang knew this and was moved by his sincerity and ambition. He directed and trained him in the late hours of the night. Five years later, Zhang Yan mastered all that Chen Xiang had taught him but no one knew about it.
Some day, Chen Xiang went out to deal with something and the disciples were exercising in the hall for improvement and exchange. They saw Zhang Yan working nearby and wanted to put him to the shame. They forced him to compete but were refused by Zhang Yan. They treated him as a coward and insulted him. Zhang Yan finally flared up and fought bravely with them. Some of them were wounded, others were frightened, and ran away. Chen Xiang was then accused to teach a non-family-name disciple real gongfu. He was scolded after he returned. In order to calm the wave, he arranged Zhang Yan, with his letter, to go to Qingcao monk in Zhajian Temple in Bapaishan for a shelter.
It was in 1831 that Zhang Yan, only 17 years old, carrying the letter, headed for Zhajian Temple, where Qingcao monk accepted him after he presented the letter and explained all the detail and his plight. Qingcao monk asked him to perform what he had learned and Zhang Yan did so. Qingcao monk was sure that Zhang Yan, with healthy physique, had talent for wushu and was promising to be something in wushu field, so he adopted Zhang Yan as a formal disciple. He completely imparted Buddhist Palm and Boxing to Zhang Yan. Zhang Yan was also taught medical knowledge and to accept the idea of revolting the Qing dynasty and recovering the Ming.
Time passed quickly. In 1839, Zhang Yan was already 25 years old mastered what “Qingcao” tought. “Qingcao” renamed him Hongsheng and told him to leave the temple contact other patriots and to fight for Ming’s recovery.
Departing from Qingcao monk, Zhang Hongsheng arrived in Foshan where he established an exercising hall, named as Hongsheng Hall, near Yabang Street. Based in the hall, he devoted himself to the recovery of Ming Dynasty and there was a poem describing this in detail.
When Chen Xiang Gong heard of Zhang Yan’s achievement, he regarded him as friend. Zhang Hongsheng attributed his triumph to Chen’s instruction. He showed great respect to Chen Xiang Gong during their daily association. In return for Chen Xiang’s previous help and training, he taught Chen Xiang what he had learned from “Qingcao”. Afterwards, they studied those skills and techniques and created many more new actions. They were inspired in their training for wushu and exercised systematically, focusing on different plus their respective innovation.
Because their kungfu was all derived from Shaolin, integrating the three styles advantages, in memory of Cai Yafu, Li Youshan and Qingcao monk, they named it “Cai-Li-Fo”. And Zhang Hongsheng was worshipped as the father of “Cai-Li-Fo”. “Cai-Li-Fo” was such formally founded and became a vital genre of Southern China, spreading throughout the region.