THE HISTORY OF WHITE CRANE
The history of White Crane Kung Fu has been passed down from master to student (father to son) for five generations. There have been a number of versions, but all tell a similar tale. The Lee family history of White Crane Kung Fu is presented below.
Fung Chi Niang was born in Lei Chow Fu about 300 years ago. Her father was Fung Fei-Sze and her mother was Lee Pik-Liung. Fung Fei-Sze studied Kung Fu in a Shaolin Temple at Nine Lotus Mountain, Ching Chuang district, Fukien Province. His wife and daughter lived at Lei Chow Fu. Victims of local landlords, they decided to move away from the village. Eventually, they settled down in Ching Chu Temple, on Ching Chean Mountain.
One day, as Fung Chi-Niang was drying grain in front of the temple, a huge crane came down from the roof and began to eat. Fung Chi-Niang took a bamboo stick to chase away the intruder. At first, she tried to strike its head but the bird was evasive. She then attempted to hit the crane’s wings, but it stepped to the side and used its claws to both block and attack. When Fung Chi-Niang tried to poke the crane’s body with her bamboo stick, it moved back and used its beak to peck the stick. The surprised Fung Chi-Niang continued to use the kung fu techniques taught by her father, but her efforts were completely unsuccessful. Astonished by the crane’s skill, Fung Chi-Niang decided to practice with it on a daily basis and eventually mastered the movements of the crane.
During Emperor Chieng Lung’s rule over China, he ordered the destruction of the Shaolin Temple after being informed of supposed revolutionary activities on its grounds. Fung Fei-Sze and his family were the few fortunate ones to escape the attack and settled at Pik Chui Liang.
Eventually, he moved to Sah Liang Temple near Foochow. He spent his spare time further refining his daughter’s Shaolin Kung Fu. In time, Fung Chi-Niang mastered everything her father could teach her and chose to combine the crane’s spirit and movements with her Shaolin Kung Fu. Later, she divided the system into four styles: Flying Crane, Resting Crane, Crying Crane, and Eating Crane. Fung Chi-Niang taught kung fu to many disciples at Sah Liang Temple, one being Lee, from Chow Ann district. Lee passed his kung fu to his son Lee Mah-Saw. Lee Mah-Saw set up schools and taught his kung fu in Chow Ann district. The Flying Crane style was passed down through the Lee’s family. Fourth generation Grandmaster Lee Kiang Ker started to learn kung fu from his father at the age of seven. In time, he became the chief instructor and medical practitioner in his community. At the age of 28, Lee Kiang-Ker moved to Singapore where he practiced there for six years. He then moved to Kuching, east Malaysia. A year later, he opened the “Wu Ing Tong” (Martial Heroes Association) kung fu school. Several years later, he moved to Sibu. Eventually he set up schools in several communities in east Malaysia including: Kuching, Sibu, Sarikei, and Bintulu.
In 1967, the first South East Asian Kung Fu Tournament was held in Singapore. Lee Kiang-Ker’s kung fu brother, Lee Wen-Huang, came from China and competed. Lee Wen-Huang had studied with Lee Kiang-Ker under Lee Mah-Saw. He won first place in combat. He then settled in Singapore. In 1973, a White Crane student representing Sarawak (east Malaysia) went to compete in the third South East Asian Tournament where he won second place in combat.
Grandmaster Lee King-Ker retired in 1987 leaving his son, Sifu Lee Joo Chian, the leadership of the head school in Sibu, east Malaysia.
Some of Lee Kiang-Ker’s students have opened clubs outside of the orient; for instance, Grandmaster Augustin Ngu. Grandmaster Ngu moved to Canada in 1976. At the behest of fellow martial artists, he began to teach White Crane classes in Montreal’s Concordia University in 1982. The same year, the first Canadian Shaolin White Crane Academy was established. Nine years later, Grandmaster Ngu opened a second academy in Mississauga, Ontario. Sifu Ngu kept close links with White Crane’s leader Sifu Loo Joo Chian until his recent passing in July 2020. This relationship helped actively promote the White Crane style by accepting several Canadian students into his home, and by accepting an offer to visit Canada in 1990.
Although the four styles of Fukien White Crane are rarely seen outside the Orient, they can now be found in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia as well as in select locations in the United States, England, Australia, and Canada.