Wong Kei-ying : biography
Wong Kei-ying (ca. 1815 – 1886), also known as Wong Leung-ying, was a Chinese martial artist and physician who lived during the late Qing Dynasty. He was one of the Ten Tigers of Canton. His son Wong Fei-hung inherited his martial arts and medical skills and was also commonly featured as a folk hero in Chinese popular culture.
Wong was born in the village of Xiqiao, Nanhai, Guangdong. His date of birth is not specified. His son Wong Fei-hung lived from 1847 to 1924, so it is possible that he was born in the 1810s or 1820s, but there is no documentation of his birth.
As a young man, Wong performed as a street artist, using martial arts and acrobatics. During one of these performances in Guangdong, he was noticed by Luk Ah-choi, a practitioner of Hung Ga style who is known as the first and best disciple of Jee Sin Sim See and as a classmate of Hung Hei-gun, for whom Hung Gar is named. Based on the young acrobat’s talent, Luk accepted Wong as a student.
A different story, which reflects the sense of history and lineage in Hung Ga, says that Luk Ah-choi learned Taming the Tiger Fist, a southern Shaolin form, from Abbot Chan, who was staying in the Hoi-tong Monastery in Guangdong. Luk passed it on to Wong Tai, who lived in Saichiu, who passed it on to his son Wong Kei-ying.
Wong spent ten years training and mastering all of Luk’s skills, including Single Hard Fist, Double Hard Fist, Taming the Tiger Fist, Mother and Son Butterfly Knives, Angry Tiger Fist, Fifth Brother Eight Trigram Pole, Flying Hook, and Black Tiger Fist. Once this training was complete, Wong became a martial arts instructor and member of the Black Flag Army. His wages were so low that he had to sell herbal medicine to support his family. He had a herbal medicine dispensary on Jingyan Street in Guangdong.
Wong became so famous that he was named one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, the top ten martial arts masters in Guangdong (Canton) in the late Qing Dynasty. Wong’s skills were inherited by his son Wong Fei-hung.
In the many films about Wong Fei-hung, especially the Once Upon a Time in China series, Wong Kei-ying appears as a supporting character with little screen time. However the 1993 film Iron Monkey is a fictional depiction of the relationship between Wong Kei-ying and a ten-year-old Wong Fei-hung. It hints at how the younger Wong is shaped by the example of his father.