The Lingnan region is the south eastern most area of China which covers parts of the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macau and parts of Northern Vietnam. Lingnan meaning ‘south of the ranges’ is in reference to the five mountain regions that separate the Yangzi river from the Pearl River, whilst it did cover a few different provinces, it is today mainly centered on Guangdong. The area was inhabited by ancient tribes/kingdom of the Baiyue (Nanyue).

As a natural barrier, the Nan Ling mountain range historically limited travel and communications between Guangdong and the Central Plains region. Because of the huge economic and cultural disparities between the two regions, ancient Guangdong was known as the “barbarians” region by those from the more developed plains. As a result of this relative isolation, a more indigenous culture was preserved, providing the basis for the incorporation of novel cultural elements in the future. Also being far-flung had its benefits. Lingnan offered refuge to people and played host in various diasporas in Chinese history to migrants from the north, such as the Hakka.

According to historical records, there have been three large-scale immigration flows from Northern to Southern China. The first generation of northern immigrants were thousands of soldiers of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE). They were sent to the Guangdong region by Emperor of Qin after he unified China. The second wave of immigration occurred in the Jin dynasty (265-420). Long-running wars in this era forced a large number of northern refugees to flee to Guangdong, many of whom were prestigious and sophisticated northern families. The collapse of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) led to a third wave of immigration from the north.

Lingnan martial arts first appeared as an independent martial arts genre in the historical documents of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), then were especially active during the Qing dynasty where many schools were founded and associated with rebellions (such as the Taiping rebellion) and up until the late 19th century, where China was subjected to decades of continuous warfare. With that backdrop, martial arts in Guangdong became developed among the Cantonese and the Hakka in their respective areas.

Guangdong/Lingnan is home to a large number of fighting styles in China, although many being branches or derivations boxing systems, below is a list of some of those styles:

谭家洪拳 Tan Jia Hong Quan
粤西洪拳 Yuexi Hong Quan
佛山洪拳 Foshan Hong Quan
李家拳 Xinhui Li Jia Quan
刘家拳 Liu Jia Quan
蔡家拳 Cai Jia Quan
莫家拳 Mo Jia Quan
白眉拳 Bai Mei Quan
龙形拳 Long Xing Quan
李家拳 Huizhou Li Jia Quan
林家拳 Lin Jia Quan
侠家拳 Xia Jia Quan
白鹤派 Baihe Pai
喇嘛派 Lama Pai
佛家拳 Fojia Quan
洪佛派 HongFo Pai
周家拳 Zhou Jia Quan
咏春拳 Yongchun Quan
梁家拳 Liang Jia Quan
蔡李佛 Cai Li Fo
南枝拳 Nanzhi Quan
岳家教 Yuejia Jiao
刁家教 Diaojia Jiao
李家教 Lijia Jiao
朱家教 Zhujia Jiao
钟家教 Zhongjia Jiao
周家南螳螂 Zhou Tanglang
竹林南螳螂 Zhulin Tanglang
虎狮拳 Hushi Quan
刘凤山派 Liu Fengshan Pai
儒家拳 Rujia Quan
太虚拳 Taixu Quan
柔功门 Gongli Men
罗山拳 Luoshan Quan
蔡莫拳 Caimo Quan
圆山拳 Yuanshan Quan
凤眼拳 Fengyan Quan
壮拳 Zhuang Quan
苗族拳 Miaozu Quan