Leung Jan

Leung Jan (梁贊) (aka Leung Tsan) (1826—1901) was a Wing Chun practitioner. Leung was a Chinese herbal doctor in Foshan. His name became well-known due to his wins in competitive bouts. He was called Mr. Jan from Foshan (佛山贊先生).

Leung Jan (Liang Zan), originally named Leung Dak Wing (Liang Derong), was born between 1816–1826 (End of the Chia Ching period of the Ching Dynasty 1796–1820), though accounts vary on the exact date. Leung Jan’s father was a herbal Doctor and ran a pharmacy on Fai Jee Street. Leung Jan was the youngest of two sons, born to Dr.Leung. The eldest son, Leung Dak Nam became a businessman. While the younger Leung Dak Wing followed in his fathers footsteps, with his love of medical knowledge. Leung Dak Wing took over the family pharmacy (known as either Jan Sang Tong, Wing Sang Tong, Hang Lam Tong, Yan Sang Tong or Hang Chai Tong in different accounts) on Fai Jee Street, after his father died, in the mid 1850′s. Because of his occupation (in some accounts because of the name of his Pharmacy) he came to be called Jan Sin Sang (Zan Xiansheng, Mr. Jan) or more simply rendered, Jan Sang (Zan Sheng) by the locals.

Leung Jan began learning Wing Chun Kuen during the 1840s (or 1850's depending on which account, but probably during his early 20's, about 24, due to him already having enough medical training before starting starting wing chun in order to take over his father's clinic after the father died) from members of the King Fa Wui Goon Opera Troupe. It is commonly believed that Leung Jan started learning under Mo Deng performer(Male Dressed as Female)/Poler Leung Yee-Tai and apprentised on the Red Boats from the period of the 1840′s- 1850′s, until Leung Jan’s father died, where Jan returned to run his fathers Pharmacy. It is than believed that during the Opera ban post 1855, that Leung Yee Tai and Wong Wah Bo lived in the surrounding area of Foshan. At this time Leung Jan continued his studies, and in some oral traditions at this time Jan along side his second teacher Wong Wah Bo, created the three hand forms which are the main vehicle for transmission of the Wing Chun Kuen system.

Some oral traditions suggest after Leung Yee Tai visited Leung Jan's Pharmacy seeking medical treatment, due to a relative of Leung Yee Tai's named Leung Kais introduction. Due to Leung Jan's good nature in helping the sick and poor for free, he was accepted as a student. Later Leung Yee Tai introduced Leung Jan to Mo Sing Wong Wah Bo, to further his studies. In a variation of the Oral tradition by Pan Nam, Leung Jan started learning from Wong Wah Bo first and than continued training with Leung Yee Tai when Wong went back to Opera performance when the Ban was Lifted around 1869.

There is an account passed down in the Yip Man Family by Yip Ching, that suggest Leung Jan exchanged Look Dim Boon Gwun Methods with Fung Siu Ching at a local smoke-house, in Foshan.

Leung Jan won the title “Wing Chun Kuen Wong” or The Fighting King of Wing Chun Fist. This was earned over the course of 300 challenges, in which he went undefeated. He was also the first to beat a wide range of styles using the Wing Chun Fist methods. As is the case for all of the mid 1800′s - early 1900′s Wing Chun Kuen ancestors, many different and contradictory accounts exist. The name of Leung Jan's Pharmacy has been the source of dispute for a long time amongst Wing Chun Masters. It has been said the name was known as either Jan Sang Tong, Wing Sang Tong, Hang Lam Tong, Yan Sang Tong or Hang Chai Tong in different various traditions. Fung Chun, one of the eldest living members of the Wing Chun Clan, as of 2007, and one of the last true 4th generation masters, states very clearly the name of Leung Jan's Pharmacy should properly be Hang Chai Tong. Hang= Apricot; Chai= Tea; Tong= Hall. He states that the meaning is that Leung Jan named his Pharmacy after Wu Tung Feng in the 3 periods kingdom (220–265 A.D), who healed hundreds of thousands of poor and sick, for free, in an apricot forest that he lived in.

The most varied information, though, isn't the name of Leung Jan's Pharmacy but how many children he had. Most versions state that Leung Jan had two sons named, Leung Bik and Leung Chun. Some variations state Leung Chun was Infirm and died at a young age. Other accounts suggested he had a third son named Leung Suen. The current research by the AWCKRI suggests that Leung Jan actually only had one son, named Leung Chun. He was infirm and died at a very young age. This is substantiated by the fact that when Leung Jan retired back to Kulo Village, he sold the family business, which in traditional Chinese culture would have naturally been passed down to his son(s). Even the information from Leung Jan's last living Grandstudent, Fung Chun, varies from account to account. Sometimes going as far as suggesting that Leung Jan had five sons, Leung Bik, Leung Jee, Leung Chun, Leung Yuen and Leung Ko. This particular account passed on to Leung Ting states (in abbreviated format):

(1) Leung Bik- Nicknamed Dai Siu Bik, was said to have been the most skilled. Some oral accounts suggest he learned at the same time period that Chan Wah Shun was at the school. Oral tradition passed down, in the USA, by students of Henry Mui, suggest that Leung Bik didn't learn Wing Chun from his father and instead took after his Uncle, becoming a businessman. Learning only enough Wing Chun to defend himself, but certainly not enough to pass the system on in any capacity.While Yip Man oral tradition suggests that Yip Man learned from Leung Bik after Chan Wah Shun died. Some stories borderlining on the absurd, suggest that Leung Jan taught Chan Wah Shun incorrectly and only his Son Leung Bik learned the “Real” Wing Chun System. The current research by the AWCKRI suggests that Leung Jan actually only had one son, named Leung Chun. He was infirm and died at a very young age. This is substantiated by the fact, that when Leung Jan retired back to Kulo Village, he sold the family business, which in traditional Chinese culture would have naturally been passed down to his son(s). However, it is commonly known that there have been manuscripts that Yip Man obtained discussing medicine and Wing Chun concepts from Leung Bik which suggest the validity of Leung Bik.

(2) Leung Jee- Nicknamed Dou Pay Gee (small poxed Jee) taught some students in Vietnam at the Kwangtung Wui Goon or Association of the Cantonese. Modern research suggests this is a mixing of oral accounts, as Yuen Kay Shan's elder brother, Yuen Chai Wan, was pocked-faced and traveled to Vietnam in 1936, to teach Wing Chun Kuen to immigrants from Canton. He doesn't show up in any other accounts as a son of Leung Jan's other than Fung Chun's account to Leung Ting.

(3) Leung Chun- Was said to have had the highest achievement in medicine. By modern research, as of 2007, is considered the only real child Leung Jan had. He was said to have died at a very young age.

(4) Leung Yuen- Didn't learn Wing Chun Kuen, and almost nothing is known of him. He only shows up in the oral account Fung Chun relates to Leung Ting, during his 1999 visit to Kulo village.

(5) Leung Ko- Was supposed to be very naughty, and the best fighter of the five brothers. Again Ko doesn't show up in any other tradition other than what Fung Chun related to Leung Ting.

It has been said by recent visits to Kulo Village by members of the AWCKRI, that Fung Chun admittedly thought Leung Ting was going to try to make money off of what he learned during his visit to Kulo Village. So Old Fung Chun had some fun with him.

In 1885 (or 1898, depending on the account), at the age of 73, Leung Jan retired to his native village of Kulo, Heshan county, where he taught the Wing Chun System to a few local students, such as Wong Sum Wah, Leung Bak Cheung, and Yik Ying. Again in some accounts it is said that Yim Sei also learned. It is important to note that Fung Keung, son of Fung Chun, supports the fact that there were only three students that learned from Leung Jan during this period of teaching in Kulo village, before dying at the age of 76.

The system he passed on at his time, differed from what he taught in Foshan. In Kulo Village he taught a very compact San Sik method. Some suggest this was his final synthesis of the Wing Chun system. But modern research by the AWCKRI suggest that the San Sik method was part of the original teachings of the Wing Chun Kuen system, and was what Leung Jan learned on the Red Boats from Leung Yee Tai.

Leung Jan's popularity never really faded as he was still a hero to the people well up into the 20th century, with many pulp novels relating his adventures. In modern times, the film screen as been graced by various incarnations of Leung Jan, including the movies Prodigal Son, Descendant of Wing Chun and Warriors 2.

Side Note: There are differing explanations for the change in Leung Jan's name. In one, he chose the name Jan, thinking it sounded more professional for an osteopath. In another, the hand-written sign for ‘Wing’ on his shop was so often misread as ‘Jan’ that he eventually began to answer to that name.

Leung Jan, as an already somewhat skilled martial artist, is featured in a student role in Sammo Hung's The Prodigal Son. In this fictional tale of his life, Yuen Biao as Leung Jan, is a young man determined to learn real martial arts after a humiliating defeat by undercover Wing Chun master Leung Yee-tai who is a seemingly harmless man, despite Leung Jan being known as Foshan's "Kung-Fu King".

He is later featured in, another Sammo Hung produced film, "Warriors Two" (1978), this time taking on the master role as a more disciplined and older man, and now being played by Bryan Leung. Much more skilled and respectful than his younger movie counterpart played by Yuen Biao, he takes up the student Chan Wah-shun, alongside a few other ones he is already training, but is caught up in an elaborate scheme by Foshan's new Mayor. The Mayor plans to remove all top practitioners of Martial Arts from the town, so he may rule with an Iron Fist. Putting both Cashier Wah, his new student and Leung Jan himself on the Mayor's hitlist.

See Chan Wah-shun's article for more.

Read more about Leung Jan:  Lineage

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