Like nearly all Southern
Chinese martial arts, Pak Mei Kung Fu traces its beginnings back to the
The oral tradition places the origins of Pak Mei Kung Fu within the period of the Qing Dynasty (清朝; Ching Chiu: 1644-1911 CE). Referring to the individuals and events found in the work Maan Nin Ching (萬年青) - Everlasting Green or 10,000 Years Green, rebels and revolutionaries found inspiration in the form of The Shaolin Five Elders (五祖; Ng Jou): Ng Mui (五梅) - a Buddhist nun, Pak Mei (白眉) - a Taoist, Fung Dou Dak (馮道德) - a Taoist, Ji Sin (至善) - a Buddhist monk, and Miu Hin (苗顯) - a Buddhist layman. These five figures provided the martial mythos upon which the peasantry and marginalized members of society could relate, granting them a sense of ancestral empowerment and the pride to carry out a particular purpose. As a result, many streams of martial arts have traced their lineages to the legends of these respective Five Elders.
Within the genealogy of Pak Mei mou seut (白眉武術) - White Eyebrow martial arts, three predecessors purportedly preserved the style prior to modern-day founder Cheung Lai Chuen:
Pak Mei (白眉上人)
Gwong Wai (廣慧禪師)
Juk Faat Wan (竹法雲禪師)
Before Cheung Lai Chuen, the martial material from which Pak Mei mou seut was derived was known as Ngo Mei Siu Lam (峨眉少林; Emei Shaolin in Mandarin), or Mount Emei Shaolin methods. The fusion of these two famous martial lineages joined together the internal emphasis of Ngo Mei and external expression of Shaolin. During this foundational phase of the style, the individual's intrinsic structures were trained to acquire the essence of an impervious armor called gam jung hei gung (金鐘氣功), or golden bell breath skill, and to support the integrated execution of force, or ging (勁). As a result, a comprehensive combative creation that simultaneously supported defensive postures and facilitated offensive maneuvers was devised.
This particular fighting
formula was preserved within the tight-knit communities of the Hakka
population (客家) - ethnic Chinese who had
Pak Mei Paai (白眉派) is a system of Chinese martial arts that was officially formulated by Master Cheung Lai Chuen (宗師張禮泉).
While estimated dates of his birth have ranged between the years 1880 - 1884, according to the official account from his son Cheung Bing Lam (張炳霖), Cheung Lai Chuen was born in 1889. Within the district of Waiyeung (惠陽), Cheung Lai Chuen began learning the martial methods of the Wanderer's Sect, or Lau Man Ga (流民家), in his youth under the tutelage of the local bonesetter and martial teacher Lam Sek (林石). Cheung's second instructor was Lei Mung (李曚) of Lei Yi's lineage (李義) from whom he learned an array of mid-ranged and close quarter unarmed methods and weapons native to Lei Ga (李; more commonly known as the Li, or Lee, Family System). The young prodigy was then trained in Lung Ying Kyun (龍形拳) by master Lam Yun (林元) - who was the father of famed Dragon Style founder Lam Yiu Gwai (林耀桂), and Lam Ah Hap (林亞俠).
These combative arts that were taught to Cheung Lai Chuen during this stage in his life can be collectively described as Hakka Kyun (東江客家拳) of the Donggung region as opposed to the Hung Mun (洪門) family methods of Guangdong Province which typically refer to the Hung (洪), Choy (蔡), Lau (劉), Lei (李), and Mok (莫) styles of martial arts. The distinct physical principles and fighting theories of each group's methods distinguished the two classifications from each other.
Following his move to
After subduing a formidable
smuggler within the government agency that oversaw salt distribution within
In 1949, following the Communist
control of mainland China under Mao Zedong (毛澤東),
Cheung Lai Chuen relocated to Hong Kong with his
three sons: Bing Sam (張炳森), Bing
Lam (張炳霖), and Bing Faat
(張炳發). His fourth son, Bing Yeung (炳樣) remained on the mainland with his wife. As the master
settled into semi-retirement, his three sons and a few of his dedicated
disciples were primarily responsible for the instruction of Pak Mei Kung Fu
During this period, newcomers to the system were typically taught by the master's sons or disciples until the student showed promise and progress enough to receive an invitation from Master Cheung to become refined in the martial system under his personal supervision. In 1964, Master Cheung Lai Chuen passed away from a deteriorated state of health.
As a testament to the quality of Cheung Lai Chuen's martial ingenuity, Pak Mei Paai has continued to flourish into the 21st Century.