Shared Totemic Origins of Hung Gar and Wing Chun

Hung Gar was founded by Hong Xi Guan, a “tiger” practitioner. He met a woman named Fang Yong Chun, who had practiced white crane, and he couldn’t beat her, and thus he married her, and this is the explanation for the tiger-crane system within Hung Gar.

Fang Yong Chun’s name is “Wing Chun” in Cantonese, and the above story is almost the same as that of the female founder of Wing Chun.

Hong’s marriage to Fang might have been a political marriage uniting two totem clans, the tigers and cranes. Clans with animal totems exist in all ancient societies like in North and South America, India, Africa, and Australia. Not only is it common for animal totems to marry into other animal totem clans for political reasons, it’s often REQUIRED, particularly under matrilineal systems where inheritance is passed through the mother.

Daoist myths seem to have no issue with reporting on animal totem systems, much as is the case within Shintoism. Both espoused the values of a local, clan-based system with matrilineal descent and intermarriage to spread tribal associations quickly. But Buddhism tends to come in and rewrite these totemic histories and scrub the record of the animal clans. Japanese myth is littered with stories of dogs meeting foxes or whatever and forming new social orders via totemic marriage alliances, but Buddhism will put a shoddy gloss over them by resolving crises with a random prayer to Buddha. I recommend reading The Mythology of All Races (1928) volume 8 for more info.

I believe Buddhism might do this totemic “scrubbing” both in China and Japan in order to shift clan systems to patrilineal descent so that inheritance passes from father to son. This keeps resources and property in one place, which Buddhism requires in order to build lavish temples.

(We can see a similar inheritance shift in the Genesis account when Abraham breaks from Terah’s matrilineal descent by claiming his wife Sarah is also his sister (both are true and legal from a 2-class totemic standpoint) and thereby defrauding the Pharaoh who probably thought they were exchanging sisters under a matrilineal system. Since Abraham was secretly functioning under patrilineal, both his and Pharaoh’s inheritance goes to Isaac. This is some of the best writing you can hope for. Such a shift to patrilineal descent is nothing short of catastrophic to matrilineal systems, and it often forces them to comply.)

So at the origin of Hung Gar might have been a totemic marriage between two animal clans, tiger and crane, and this origin story might have been co-opted by Wing Chun practitioners, but scrubbed of its totemism, as an attempt to legitimize their lineage. The tiger and crane movements might then have been added as a “gloss” to what was probably an otherwise lethal militia armed with choppers, spears, and whatever else it took to defend one’s property in medieval China.

Analysis is mine, but citation is from “Chinese Martial Arts: A Historical Outline” by David Ross.