The Ten Great Disciples of the Shaolin Monastery
"Ten Great Disciples of Shaolin", or "Sil Lam Sap Tai Tei Tze" in Cantonese, "Shao Lin Shi Da Di Zi" in Mandrine. Different grandmasters at the Shaolin Monastery logically had different sets of ten top disciples, but the most popular in kungfu legends were the ten great disciples of the Venerable Chee Seen.
These ten great disciples of the Shaolin Monastery were not placed according to their seniority in learning from the master, but according to their performance in a grand annual free sparring competition. This tradition was practised in the southern Shaolin Monastery; I am not sure if it was also practised in the northern Shaolin Monastery.
Wu Wai Thein was not one of Chee Seen's top students. In his haste to avenge his father's death, he stole out of the monastery via a ditch before he could complete his basic training. Even so, he was a good fighter, specializing in the Flower Set.
The Ten Great Disciples of Shaolin during the time Chee Seen was the abbot were as follows.
The Venerable Harng Yien was the most senior as well the foremost of Chee Seen's disciples. Unlike the others who were frequently involved in fighting, he was also the most peace-loving. He placed spiritual cultivation far above combat efficiency. Paradoxically, or perhaps because of this spiritual focus, he was also the best fighter among the ten.
The Venerable Sam Tuck was the second best. He and Harng Yien were the only two monks among the top ten disciples; the other eight were laypersons. Later Sam Tuck became the abbot of Sai Sim (or Xi Chan) Monastery in Guangdong., where many Southern Shaolin heroes gathered.
After the burning of the Shaolin Monastery, Hoong Hei Khoon escaped to Fatt San in Guangdong where he set up his kungfu school called Siew Lam Hoong Goon, which means the Hoong School of Shaolin Kungfu. His style of kungfu is now popularly known as Hoong Ka (Hung Gar) or Hoong Family Kungfu.
Luk Ah Choy was a Manchurian, not a Han Chinese. But, of course, although the Shaolin disciples vowed to overthrow the Manchurian government, they loved Luk Ah Choy as a brother. He was instrumental in spreading Shaolin Kungfu to posterity.
Miu Choi Fa was Miu Hein's daughter. She herself and all her three sons, How Yoke, Mei Yoke and Sai Yoke learned from Chee Seen. She was expert in the Plum Flower Single Knife. Sadly, she was killed by a rain of arrows while defending the monastery from burning.
Thoong Chein Kern was another Manchurian. His surname was "Thoong", and "Chein Kern" which means "Thousand Pounds" in Cantonese, was his nickname because his arms and horse-stance were very powerful.
Lin Swee Hin was a son of Lin Karn Yew, a great general who helped the Manchurian government to subdue rebellious Tibet and Mongolia. But he was later killed by the emperor who feared his extraordinary military talents. His son, Lin Swee Hin, first learned from Fung Tou Tuck but when he found out that his teacher sided with the Qing government, he turned to Chee Seen.
Fong Sai Yoke was often known as Len Chye Yoke, or Handsome Yoke. His most celebrated occasion which also shot him to fame instantly happened when he was only about fifteen years old. A kungfu master nicknamed Tiger Lei with his insulting slogan "Hitting all Guangdong with a fist, and striking Suzhow and Hangzhow with a kick" was unbeaten for weeks, yet was defeated by Fong Sai Yoke.
Li Choi Ping and Miu Choi Fa were the only two woman disciples of Chee Seen. Li Choi Ping was very good with the Shaolin sword.
Ma Ling Yi was the last of the ten top disciples. He was an orphan picked up by Chee Seen and brought to the monastery. Yet, he betrayed the very people who had cared for and loved him.