She is said to have been a master variously of the Shaolin martial arts, the Wudang martial arts, and Yuejiaquan, the family style of Yue Fei. She is also credited as the founder of the martial arts Wǔ Méi Pài (Ng Mui style), Wing Chun Kuen, Dragon style, White Crane, and Five-Pattern Hung Kuen.
She has been associated with various locations, including the Shaolin Temple in either Henan or Fujian, the Wudang Mountains in Hubei, Mount Emei in Sichuan, a supposed White Crane Temple, the Daliang Mountains on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan, and additional locations in Guangxi and Guangdong. According to one folk story, she was the daughter of a Ming general.
According to the Wing Chun master Yip Man, Ng Mui was Abbess at the Henan Shaolin Monastery and managed to survive its destruction by Qing forces during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1722). She fled to the White Crane Temple. (which this account locates in the Daliang mountains between Yunnan and Sichuan)1 where she met a girl of fifteen named Yim Wing-Chun whom a bandit was trying to force into marriage. Ng Mui taught Wing-Chun how to defend herself by distilling Shaolin martial art knowledge into a system that Wing-Chun could learn quickly, and use without developing great strength.2
It is unlikely that the Henan Shaolin Monastery was destroyed by the Kangxi Emperor, who expressed his favor for the temple with the calligraphic inscription that, to this day, still hangs over its main gate. With regard to the details of the temple's destruction, this account by and large concurs with that of the Yip Man and Jiu Wan branches of Wing Chun.
It is believed that the Five-Pattern System was jointly created by the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, and Miu Hin, an unshaved disciple of the Siu Lam Monastery. Through careful observation, and imagination, these two kung fu experts imitated the movements of the creatures—how they jump, how they paw, and how they use their wings, beaks, jaws, or claws, how they coil up, how they rush forward and retreat, and finally they created this kung fu system consisting of movements modified from those of the named creatures, and adjusted the techniques to suit human limbs.—Leung Ting, Five-Pattern Hung Kuen, Part I. (1980)
Modern Dragon style historians relate that Shaolin nun Ng Mui, who is said to have originated the Dragon style, was one of the last members of the temple before its first destruction, which they date to 1570 (Chow & Spangler, 1982). The Shaolin Gung Fu Institute of the Pacific Northwest agrees with the date of 1570 for a destruction of the temple and states explicitly that Dragon style was created at the Henan Shaolin Temple c. 1565.
In the Wǔ Méi Pài tradition, Ng Mui—the daughter of a general in the Ming imperial court—fully developed her practical style in the Forbidden City. To develop balance and leg strength she trained on upturned logs, in a pattern she invented. She was traveling when her parents were killed in the Manchu capture of the Ming capital. She took refuge in the White Crane Temple (which this legend locates in Kwangsi Province), and became an anti-Qing rebel, teaching her style only within the Temple. The style uses instantaneous counters, and slower movements from Bodhidharma and Qigong.34
According to the genealogy of Tibetan White Crane, "Ng Mui" is the Chinese name of the Tibetan monk Jikboloktoto,5 who was the last generation of transmission before Sing Lung, who brought the art to Guangdong. This account is most different from the others, with a male Ng Mui, the absence of a Manchu menace to flee from and, given the dating of Sing Lung's relocation to Guangdong to 1865, a 19th-century setting.
In Michelle Yeoh's 1994 movie Wing Chun, the main character's teacher was based on the legends of Ng Mui. In "Kung Fu Wing Chun", a 2010 film about the origins of Wing Chun,6 Ng Mui is played by Kara Hui.
|^ Wu Mei Pai||五枚派||Wǔ Méi Pài||Ng5 Mui4 Paai1||Ng Mui style|
|^ Daliang Mountains||大涼山||Dàliángshān|
- Chow, David; & Spangler, Richard (1982). Kung Fu: History, Philosophy and Technique. Burbank: Unique Publications. ISBN 0-86568-011-6.
- Chu, Robert; Ritchie, Rene; & Wu, Y. (1998). Complete Wing Chun: The Definitive Guide to Wing Chun's History and Traditions. Boston: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3141-6.
- Leung Ting (1980). Five-Pattern Hung Kuen, Part I. Hong Kong: Leung's Publications. ISBN 962-7284-09-2.
- "Riding the Wind: Dragon Style Kung Fu". Retrieved August 26, 2005.
- "Origin". www.vingtsun.org.hk. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
Buddhist Abbess Ng Mui, Abbot Chi Shin, Abbot Pak Mei, Master Fung To Tak and Master Miu Hin escaped and fled their separate ways. Ng Mui took refuge in White Crane Temple on Mt. Tai LeungAnd a more complete translation at: "The Origin of Wing Chun - by Grandmaster Yip Man". Heritage Martial Arts.
Tai Leung Mountain near the border between Yunan and Szechuan provinces
- "Lineage > Ng Mui". International Wing Chun Academy. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "Interviewees". www.wumei.com. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- Sifu Ken Lo, Seventh Generation World Wide Head of Wu Mei Pai. "ABOUT WU MEI PAI". Wu Mei Kung Fu Association. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- "Our Direct Lineage From Dharma Master". www.sillumgungfu.com. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
- Wu Mei Kung Fu Association, which traces its lineage back to Wu Mei/Ng Mui
- Wingchun Archives: Preserving the History & Methods of Wing Chun Kung Fu
- "WingChunPedia - Ng Mui". Retrieved 2010-06-06.
The true identity of Ng Mui, has been under debate, within Chinese Martial Art circles, for over two hundred years.