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Secrecy Today?  The Kwongsai Ancestral Shrine

The couplet (two scrolls placed on the left and right sides) of the Ancestral Shrine passed down from Chung Yel Chong illustrates the kind of secrecy that accompanies Southern Praying Mantis training. Was that secrecy ever necessary? Is it today?

Although, there is no real "secret" to this couplet or Shrine, in terms of something necessary to hide, hidden messages are often seen in a variety of Chinese culture, not only martial art. It should be remembered that Chung Yel Chong was a guerilla fighter in the second world war who was allegedly killed by a Japanese bomb. Secrecy, cryptic written messages, secret words, secret handshakes and the like would have likely served his purpose.

Examples of secrecy in ancient Chinese culture still abound. For instance, every year, on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month, local bakeries and business’ make fortunes as small cakes resembling the mid-Autumn moon are shared among friends and families, as well as, passed out freely in restaurants. Secret messages were once passed inside the egg yoke of these "moon cakes" among various fuedal factions. (Personally, I’m not fond of these cakes. They are too oily for my palate. Like fruit cakes in the USA - there is always one left on the table to pass around)!

Was that secrecy necessary? Probably then, yes. Is martial art secrecy beneficial today? The world is way beyond passing messages in cakes today. Martial art sects don’t survive by their tactics and strategies any longer. But, some argue today that secrets for the posterity of a distinctive martial art should be kept from "outsiders", if for no other reason than to keep outsiders from stating," I knew that already and going on to create a "chop suey - martial arts mix".  However, that raises the question of purity in transmission. In mantis, we can see variations over several generations in what has been passed down.

Look at more popular styles like Wing Chun or Hung Gar and even obscure styles like dog boxing which is popular in Fujian. They (most) all suffer from "martial arts syndrome" -

1. I knew that already.

2. I could have hit you there.

3. My teacher is the best and the real one.

This only breeds a spirit of contention, jealousy, sarcasm, and back biting. Where does the middle ground lie? Obviously, in a spirit of sharing, cooperation - in short, who can work the best for all?

As said, there is no "secret" to this Kwongsai mantis couplet, in terms of something necessary to hide. Its just that many who have the interest in a fuller understanding are often not shared the information.

This couplet is found mostly in Hong Kong and China schools and is less prevalent among the Kwongsai Mantis schools in the USA.  Although, what is written below is considered "correct", I have seen a dozen schools or more and in very few of them is the Shrine the same.  *I have never encountered this couplet in Chu Gar Tanglang or Iron Ox Tanglang Shrines in China.

The left scroll of the Shrine speaks of WUSHU in the Jook Lum Temple - martial art.  (not shown)   The below two versions of the right scroll speak of YISHU -The art of healing.  The version on the left
with the fifth character "chuan" is most commonly found.

San Da Men Zhong Chuan Miao Shou --- Translation:  Most commonly found and exactly the same as shown right except that Character 5 is "chuan" - "to pass on, teach,  or impart skill or knowledge

San Da Men Zhong Zhen Miao Shou --- Translation: SAN DA MEN ZHONG ZHEN (The Gate of Monk Som Dot is central to genuine, real and true) MIAO SHOU (superb medical skill which can effect miraculous cures and bring the dying back to life)

*The most prevalent Kwongsai Shrine among the numerous I have placed incense upon in China, Hong Kong, Macau and the USA, has only the fifth character written differently.  Instead of 'Zhen' (genuine, real, true) it has 'Chuan' (pass on, teach, impart skill or knowledge, as in, the old master passed on all his herbal prescriptions to his apprentices for posterity).
*Foreign Language Research and Teaching Press, Beijing


Properly, MIAO SHOU HUI CHUN (to bring back life) is usually said of a doctor who is wonderful, gifted and excellent.  Whereas, MIAO SHOU KONG KONG is said of one who is an empty handed, petty pilferer.  A literal translation of MIAO SHOU is simply excellent or wonderful hand.

The real secret behind all of this is hidden in the medical recipes.  And here in China, those who have the recipes of Som Dot are tight lipped. One formula for Dit Da Jow requires some 42 grasses and herbs to be picked and brewed over night using special procedures during the full moon.  The ingredients are not readily found in shops. Chung Yel Chong is quoted as saying, "there is no Kwongsai Mantis" without Lee Siem's Dit Da Jow.

(Anecdote: The late Harry Sun, One of Lam Sigong's first generation disciples, had a large hand written book, perhaps a couple of hundred pages of herbal recipes and diagrams that was given to him by Lam Sang.  The basement of his home was replete with gallon jars of all kinds of prescriptions, including those with bear claws and other exotic animal parts that had steeped for decades.  He also had studied medicine in the early 1950's with an elder Mt. Kunlun Pai master in NYC.  It was, in fact, this Kunlun Pai master who told Harry Sibok that if he was to finish his study of herbal medical arts, he would have to seek the teachings of Lam Sang, who was much better than he was {Miao Shou Hui Chun}).

I severely broke my hand about three months ago.  I not only used Som Dot's medicine, I sought a local Pingshan Hakka Doctor who lives in the Mountains.  He prepared some formulas as bone plasters.  And adamantly proclaimed that he had a secret forumla that could bring the dead back to life!  And he was serious.  I hope to never need that one!  And also, I visited a Dit Da Doctor in Hong Kong. Honestly, I do not know which formula worked best,  but I have recovered.  Perhaps they all were MIAO SHOU!


The Medical Clinic of Sifu Wong Yu Hua, son of the late Kwongsai Mantis Grandmaster, Wong Yook Gong, treats patients regularly in Pingshan Town today using Som Dot's prescriptions.  I have accompanied him to treat the elderly (which he often does free of charge).  The Clinic's outer sign shown below states - Kwongsai Jook Lum Temple Teaching True Praying Mantis Boxing.   (Note the two number 5 characters"Zhen Chuan" of the above couplet used here).  Dit Da Zhong Yi - Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Wong Yu Hua.


Anecdote:  Couplets usually are written with 4, 5, 7, 9 or even more Chinese characters on each of the two scrolls.  Every Lunar (Chinese) New Year all houses tear down (whats left of last year's) red paper couplet to replace it with a new one on both sides of the center door.  Notice the Clinic's red scrolls above.

Stay tuned for an update on this topic.  At a later date, I may post photographs of some dozen or so Kwongsai Mantis Ancestral Shrines with their translations.  And perhaps a few Chu Gar and Iron Ox Mantis Shrines and some of Som Dot's recipes too!

Copyright 2006, Roger D. Hagood

Note:  The above photos of Wong Yu Hua's Clinic were taken circa 2003.  Since, he has removed his apothecary chest, although he continues to treat patients.

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Copyright © 2010, Roger D. Hagood.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.