Hung Gar dates back to the Qing (Ching) Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D) when China was ruled by the Manchus. This style is known by several names such as Hung Gar, Hung Ga, and Hung Kuen. There are also many branches of Hung Gar which have a variety of names. The early history of Hung Gar was transmitted orally. Therefore, much of what is known today is hard to clarify or corroborate which likely explains why so many different versions of the early history exist.
The Southern Shaolin Temple was destroyed by the Qing army. There is much folklore as to what really happened at the temple during the attack. The famed Chan (Zen) Master Chee Sin was teaching at the temple. Some believe that Abbot Chee Sin was the only monk to escape and survive the attack. Others believe that he remained at the temple to give his students a chance to escape. It is difficult to ascertain how many survivors there were. Many believe that five of the Abbot Chee Sin 's students went on to create five southern shaolin styles. These five students were Hung Hee Gung, Choy Gau Lee, Mok Da Si, Lau Sam-Ngan and Li Yao San. Hung Gar is believed to have been named after Hung Hee Gung. However the lineage of two of the most well known martial art teachers of the style, Wong Fei Hung and his student Lam Sai Wing, claims descent to another of Abbot Chee Sin's students, Luk Ah Choy and not to Hung Hee Gung.
Abbot Chee Sin took on Hung Hee Gung as a student and taught him Tiger style because he saw Hung was strong and well suited for the style. Hung, a tea merchant by trade, quickly became famous for his fighting skills. Hung Hee Gung left his home in Fujian and traveled to Guangdong. He was also said to have been part of a resistance group using the Red boats that traveled the country. While traveling, he met a woman named Fong Wing Chun. She had created her own fighting art based on the movements of a crane. Legend tells that a crane started to eat Fong's rice as it was drying. She tried hard to strike the crane and chase it away, but it evaded her every move. She studied the movements of the crane to learn how it avoided her strikes and based her fighting method on what she had learned.
Fong's farther was killed by expert fighter before she met Hung. Believing the killer was too powerful to defeat on her own, she asked for Hung's help in avenging her father's death. He agreed and in exchange she would teach him her Crane Style. Fong thought her added techniques would aid him. Hung practiced for three years combining Fong's Crane style with his Tiger Style. He then used the blended techniques to defeat her father's killer.
There is another story that Hung Hee Gung combined his teacher's Tiger style with the Crane style he learned from his wife, Tee Eng-Choon.
A great deal of folklore has been created from the life of Hung Hee Gung and his influence in creating the Hung Gar Style. Regardless of how the style originated, Hung Gar has had a strong impact on the Martial Arts.