The earliest known mentions of Wing Chun date to the period of Red Boat Opera.
The common legend as told by Yip Man involves the young woman Yim Wing-chun, (Wing Chun literally means ‘forever springtime’ or ‘praising spring’), during the period after the destruction by the Qing government of the Southern Shaolin and its associated temples.
Having rebuffed the local warlord’s marriage offer, Yim Wing-Chun said she’d reconsider the proposal if he could beat her in a fight. She soon crossed paths with a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui, who was one of the Shaolin Sect survivors, and asked the nun to teach her to fight. According to legend Ng Mui taught Yim Wing-Chun a new system of martial art that had been inspired by the nun’s observations of a confrontation between a Snake and a Crane. This then-still nameless style enabled Yim Wing-Chun to beat the warlord in a one-on-one fight. Yim Wing-Chun thereafter married Leung Bac-Chou and taught him the style, which was later named after her.
It is believed that because the system was developed during the Shaolin and Ming resistance to the Qing Dynasty, many legends, including the story of Yim Wing-Chun, were spread regarding the creation of Wing Chun in order to confuse enemies. This is often given as a reason to explain the difficulty in accurately determining the creator or creators of Wing Chun.