The 36th Chamber of Shaolin ★★★★★

Still the best.

For those tracking Shaolin folklore: When San Te leaves the Temple and recruits followers, among them are Hung Hsi-kuan and Lu Ah-cai. Hung Hsi-kuan is also the hero of Lau Kar-leung's Executioners from Shaolin, where he escapes the Temple after it is destroyed by the Manchu (because they're harboring anti-Qing activists, which was of course the whole point of San Te's 36th Chamber). My Chinese names may be confused, but I believe this is also Hung Hei-gun, the founder of the Hong Gar fighting style practiced by Wong fei-hung and eventually passed down to Lau-Kar-leung. Lu Ah-cai is in some traditions Hung Hei-gun's student, and then in turn the teacher of Wong Kai-ying, Wong Fei-hung's father. But in Lau's Challenge of the Masters, it is Lu (played by Lau Kar-wing) who teaches Fei-hung, after his father refuses to teach him kung fu (in another version of the story, his father's refusal to teach him leads Wong to become the student of Beggar So, the Drunken Master). I don't know who the other disciples (identified as Tung Chien-ching and "Miller Six") are supposed to be, if anyone.

So, if you want to put this in a chronological lineage with the other Shaw Brothers Shaolin films, my guess is it goes something like this:

1. 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Lau) - the beginnings of Shaolin's involvement with Anti-Qing forces

2. Shaolin Temple (Chang) - Deepening involvement concluding with the destruction of the Temple

3. Executioners from Shaolin (Lau), 5 Shaolin Masters (Chang), Heroes Two (Chang), Shaolin Rescuers (Chang), Men from the Monastery (Chang) - Beginning with the destruction, these all follow the various refugees as they evade the Manchu. (Among these is Fong Sai Yuk, played by Alexander Fu Sheng in several films. Fong gets his own alternative version of history in two films by Corey Yuen from the early 90s, where he is played by Jet Li. Fong's story is also illustrated in a prequel, Lau's 1985 Disciples of the 36th Chamber, which chronicles his entrance into the Temple to be trained by San Te.)

4. Ten Tigers from Kwangtung (Chang), Challenge of the Masters (Lau) - Sometime later, anti-Qing forces coalesce in Canton and gather disciples and eventually the newer generation takes over, led by Wong Fei-hung. (See Yuen Wo-ping's Drunken Master and it's sequel by Lau and Jackie Chan for an alternate take on Wong Fei-hung.)

5. Martial Club (Lau), Dreadnaught (Yuen Wo-ping), The Once Upon a Time in China Series (Tsui Hark) - Wong is established as a Confucian patriarch, no longer a rebel but an upholder of Chinese values in the face of foreign occupation and rapid modernization. Included here are all those Wong fei-hung serials starring Kwan Tak-hing.

6. Magnificent Butcher (Yuen Wo-ping & Sammo Hung) - The adventures of Lam Sai-wing, disciple of Wong Fei-hung and the teacher of Lau Cham, father of Lau Kar-leung and Lau Kar-wing and adoptive father of Gordon Liu.

I'm sure I'm missing some too. There's a lot of these Shaolin movies you know.

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