Northern Shaolin comes from the Northern part of China, right… So then, what’s with all the Cantonese terminology?
- Northern Shaolin
- Bei Shaolin
- Bei Shao Lin
- Bei Shao Lim
- Bak Siu Lam
- Bak Sil Lum
- Pek Siu Lum
- Pek Siu Lam
- Pek Sil Lum
- Bok Siu Lam
- Bok Sil Lam
- Sil Lum Bak Pai
- Bak Pai Sil Lum
- Bak Pai Sil Lum Pai
- Bak Pai Sil Lum Men Pai
- And others…
Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, like many Chinese Martial Art styles, has a history "clouded in mystery", or so we like to say. In fact, much of our history can be traced up to a certain point, and then the rest gets a little bit funky. But we’ll save that for a later date.
In order to get a handle on the name of our system, we need to first understand that we are Romanizing a non-Latin-based language, Chinese. And then to complicate matters even further, just what is Chinese? Is it Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghai-nese, Hakka, Hokkien?
To further illustrate, let’s say we want to Romanize the name of the capital of China. Is it "Northern Capital City", "北京", "Běijīng", "Peking", "Peiching", "Bak Ging", "Baat Kien", etc.?
Just as all those Beijing names are correct, as well as a great many others, so is the wide variety of descriptors for our style of Chinese martial art.
There are two main different pronunciations of Northern Shaolin, Mandarin and Cantonese, you will find it written (especially online) in many different ways. Not to mention that aside from these, there are many other names for our art. Luckily, the most common acronym, BSL, usually covers most Mandarin and Cantonese spellings.
That being said, you will still find most documentation on Northern Shaolin, romanized with a Cantonese pronunciation. Why so? The answer is simpler than you may think.
Ku Yu Chang (yes, there are a gazillion spellings of his name too) did many great things during his life, including putting our system to order & beginning the dissemination that eventually lead to the style getting to you.
Although born in Jiangsu – a fairly Northern province, Ku Yu Chang travelled southward, and took his Northern Shaolin art with him. As one of the Five Tigers of the North who went South, he and the others began to teach to the masses. As with many things Chinese, Northern Shaolin spread across the world from China via the southernmost points of Canton, Hong Kong, etc.
Most of these people in the exodus from China were southerners and spoke in a southern tongue; thus, you have a lot of southern terms for much of our system.
Unfortunately some will call it just "shaolin" or "longfist" or some other such inaccurate term, however if it’s Northern Shaolin, it’s Northern Shaolin.
What do I call it? Usually in writing, just BSL.
Any questions? 😛