According to Grandmaster Ip Man, it all began when the Shaolin monastery in Hunan Province offered refuge to anti-government revolutionaries during the rule of the hated Qing dynasty. This aroused the fears of the Manchu government, which sent troops to attack the monastery. Eventually the monastery was burned down. A few monks and their disciples escaped, including four monks and a nun – all of whom would go on to become iconic figures in various Chinese martial arts.
In particular, the abbess named Ng Mui has become an important figure in Wing Chun mythology. She is said to have taken refuge in the White Crane Temple on mount Tai Leung. There she met Yim Wing Chun, the beautiful daughter of a local tofu vender described as ‘an intelligent and athletic young girl, upstanding and forthright’.
Ng Mui learned that Yim Wing Chun’s beauty had attracted the unfavorable attentions of a local bully intent on forcibly marrying her. Taking pity on Yim Wing Chun, Ng Mui taught her a selection of her own fighting techniques, which Yim Wing Chun practiced hard and mastered. Then – it is said – she challenged the bully to a fight and defeated him.
After her marriage Yim Wing Chun taught her style of Kung Fu to her husband Leung Bok Chau, who went on to teach others and named this new style of Kung Fu after his wife – Wing Chun Kung Fu.