According to semi-legendary accounts, Wing Chun originated in the early 1700's at the Shaolin Temple in Honan Province. At that time in Chinese history, the Shaolin Temple with its long established tradition of martial arts training had become a sanctuary for dissidents, revolutionaries, and secret societies dedicated to the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty. The Manchu government employed professional soldiers who were highly skilled in the martial arts and well versed in the fighting tactics of the Shaolin Temple. Whenever they were sent into an area of Shaolin activity to enforce Manchu will, they quickly put a halt to the Robin Hood operations of the rebellious monks.
The monks eventually realized that they could not rapidly train a young rebel to match the fighting skills of the Manchu soldiers since full mastery of the Shaolin martial arts requires approximately eighteen years. A solution to the problem needed to be found. The elders of the temple convened a meeting and agreed to develop a new fighting art which would overcome all others, and which would take a much shorter period of time to learn.
The elders met regularly and engaged in lengthy discussions during which each elder revealed his or her most secret fighting techniques. Soon the elders became so encouraged by the progress of these discussions that they renamed the martial arts training room in which they met Wing Chun Hall, or Forever Springtime Hall. The words "Wing Chun" expressed their hopes for a renaissance in Shaolin martial arts instruction, as well as for a more effective weapon in the struggle against the Manchu.
However, before the new fighting art could be completely developed, Manchu soldiers were sent to destroy the temple. Most of the temple residents were killed in the attack, and the few that survived quickly fled to clandestine locations throughout China. For the next two hundred years, Wing Chun remained a private kung fu system, taught only to family and friends, until in 1952 in Hong Kong when grandmaster Yip Man first offered commercial instruction. Over 90 percent of Wing Chun school in the world today can be traced to the efforts of Yip Man and his students.