KONG CHOW WUI KOON
Singapore Kong Chow Wui Koon (1840 – 2007)
Singapore Kong Chow Wui Koon was established in 1840. It is one of the oldest Chinese Clan associations in Singapore. The association was first located at Chinatown Pearl Street, commonly known as “Tofu” street, which means “Bean Curd” street by the locals. There are many Kong Chow associations in the world and the name Kong Chow is actually referring to a region at the South East of Pearl River Delta Region. The Hanyu pingying name is called Gang Zhou.
The flourishing martial arts in Gang Zhou, China
The ancient name was called Gu Gang Zhou, which means “Old” Gang Zhou. This name could be traced back to the Han Dynasty. The last battle of the South Song dynasty was fought in Gang Zhou before the Mongolian empire conquered the entire China mainland. Hence, many of the ancestors of the Xin Hui people were descendants from the Southern Song’s army who fled and survived. Since then, Martial Arts were taught prevalently but secretly to the locals with the intention to overthrow the Mongolian army. Gu Gang Zhou region encompassed the present Xin Hui, Kai Ping, En Ping, Tai Shan and He Shan municipality. During the Qing Dynasty, Gang Zhou was renamed Xin Hui and later, portion of the north-eastern part of Xin Hui and North-Western part of Kai Ping was taken out and combined to form the present He Shan municipality.
In the olden days Gang Zhou, Kung Fu is highly valued and regarded as a necessity for self defence as there were many pirates and underground gangs. It is also a period where the locals where called to built up their own physical skill so that they could join the people’s army to fight the foreign invaders such as the British Opium traders, the Americans and other Europeans whom the locals regarded them as taking advantage of the corrupted Qing government in Guangdong. It is because of this background, many local Kung Fu sects evolutes in the Pearl River Delta Region especially in Gu Gang Zhou region. Often these pugilists would spar with each other to gain superiority and sects fought each other to gain territories and recognitions.
There is a Pearl River Delta tributary river that flow through Gang Zhou namely the Xi Jiang. This river will explain why Gang Zhou has different type of Canton Kung Fu sects since the early days. From the river mouth of Xi Jiang river adjacent to the South China Sea, there is Tai Shan. The Tai Shan locals practiced mainly the Hung Gar Kung Fu. Following the Xi Jiang upstream, we would arrive at Xin Hui -Ya Nan. Ya Nan was the origin of Choi Lei Futt Sect. As we moved further inwards, we would pass Zhong Shan, the hometown of revolutionist Dr Sun Yat Sen. Further upstream, will arrive at Xin Hui – Tangxia which is the origin of Chow Gar Sect. Opposite bank of the river is Shun De – Qun An, where local opera people use to practice Wing Chun Kung Fu, also the family roots of Kung Fu movie star Bruce Lee, moving further upstream, it is He Shan – Gu Luo, the hometown of legendary Lion dance king Master Fong Kan Cheong and many locals practice Wing Chun and Hung Futt Kung Fu. Moving upstream further north, it is Fu Shan – Xi Qiao, which is the home town of legendary Hung Gar Kung Fu master Wong Fei Hong. In the olden days, the immigrants took junk boats and sailed down Xi Jiang River to arrive at Macau and Hong Kong. Some sailed south towards the South China Sea to South East Asia. Many of these immigrants were highly skill pugilists from different parts of Pearl River Delta taking the Xi Jiang river out of China. Therefore, it is no surprise that the above mention type of Kung Fu sects have been spread to South East Asia since the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China period. Many Kong Chow associations in the world have martial arts activities depending on their masters and they may specialised on a certain type e.g. Wing Chun for Kuala Lumpur Kong Chow, Choy Lei Futt for San Francisco Kong Chow, etc or a mixture of several types e.g. Hung Gar, Choy Lei Futt & Chow Gar for Kong Chow Singapore .
The flourishing of Kung Fu in Gang Zhou Singapore
In the early days, Kong Chow Singapore was a communal place for the Overseas Chinese, Cantonese in particular, from the Pearl River Delta region. It was this community that attracted many pugilists whom also brought with them their culture and Martial Arts. Martial Arts training started as early as in the 1920’s where the current Kong Chow building was relocated in New Bridge Road, Chinatown. The Kong Chow type of Lion dance culture was also introduced to the community since then.
However, it was only in November 1939 that the Kong Chow Wui Koon Martial Arts and Lion Dance troupe was officially formed. There were mainly three Canton Kung Fu Sects namely Hung Gar, Choy Lei Futt, and Chow Gar, started in Kong Chow and later Pak Pai (Northern Sect) also joined in during the early day. The Martial Arts and Lion Dance activities was halted during the Japanese invasion of Singapore from 1942 to 1945. During then, Kong Chow association whose Chairman was Dr Law Cheng Tuck, transformed the association building as the world Red Cross hospital. Fortunately this transformation has saved the association and its infrastructure from being destroyed or vandalised by the Japanese army. Hence, there are still many antiques furniture, valuable displays and photographs that still remain and displayed in the association. After the war, the Martial arts and Lion dance activities resumed and more arts and culture activities were formed such as the Cantonese opera in 1947, Acrobatic cycling in 1950, Sa Dragon troupe in 1980, and Wing Chun Kung Fu in 2000.