Shaolin Temple

A Brief History of Shaolin Temple

shaolin temple

Shaolin Temple, in the region of Songshan Mountain, Dengfeng City, Henan Province, is reputed to be 'the Number One Temple under Heaven'. Shaolin Temple history can date back to Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 534), and it played an important role on the development of the Buddhism in China. Included on UNESCO's World Cultural & Natural Heritage List in 2010, it is the cradle of the Chinese Zen Buddhism and the Shaolin Martial Arts such as Shaolin Cudgel.

As the center of Chan Buddhism, the Shaolin Temple attracted many emperors’ attention in China’s history.

It is said that in the year 620, Li Yuan and Li Shimin fought against the emperor of the Sui Dynasty Wangshichong in Luoyang city. During the crucial time of the battle, TanZong led the Shaolin warrior monks to arrest Wang Shichong's nephew Renze and sent him to the Tang.. He appreciated the monks’ help after Li succeed, and Tan Zong was awarded General. It was with this battle that the Shaolin warrior monks were given the opportunity to make Shaolin kung fu a successful form of martial arts..

In the Ming Dynasty, the Shaolin were becoming more famous for their martial art capabilities. Aside from martial arts, their weapon (the Shaolin Stick) played an important role. It is written, “Stick is the ancestor of all martial arts and Shaolin is the cradle of the stick”. In the current Shaolin Temple, you can still see forty eight deep foot prints left by Shaolin monks during the hard training in Qian FO DIAN( thousands statue of the Buddha Temple). From 1912-1949, war was common and having a negative effect on the land. One notable occurrence was the fire that destroyed the Shaolin Temple. This one month event severely damaged all of the cultural representation of the monks. Everything from relics to written scrolls were destroyed or damaged. Thanks to the Chinese government and their investment into rebuilding the culture, the Shaolin Temple was rebuilt and started a brand new life. From this new beginning, a rebirth into Shaolin Kung fu was born. Our temple’s shaolin martial arts masters and warrior monks will normally undergo intense training.

Shaolin arts had no relationship or any degree of semblance to the Indian Kalaripayattu, such as Wing Chun, Changquan, Iron palm, the Mantis fist, the Drunken fist etc. The martial arts of Shaolin did not originate from within the temple, they came from the outside. The Chinese had a structured military fighting system for over a thousand years before the first Shaolin Monastery was founded by monk Batuo in 477AD, according to the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks by Daoxuan written in 645AD. Retired Chinese military men brought their combat experience to the temples when they chose to lead a reclusive life. According to Shaolin records, the first two Chinese monks, Sengchou and Huiguang, were martial arts experts before studying religion under, Batuo. Chinese martial arts existed in the temple before Bodhidharma arrived at the monastery in 5th century AD. The Chinese martial arts that predate Bodhidharma's arrival by several centuries to over thousand years include, but are not limited to, Jiao Li wrestling, Wu Yi sword arts, Shoubo military arts, Sun Bin Quan internal style, “Dao Yin” qigong, The Six Chapters of Hand Fighting, Huo Tuos Five Animal Play etc.

shaolinsiprimary concern then was to make the monks physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and the deceptively demanding training that meditation requires. It turned out that the techniques served a dual purpose as a very efficient fighting system, and eventually evolved into a martial arts style called known as Kung Fu. By practicing Kung Fu, one can cultivate the body and the mind. Since ancient times, Shaolin Martial Arts has spread beyond the boundaries of the temple, and was often involved in protecting the country and its people. Over time, Shaolin Temple became renowned at home and abroad for its unique combination of Ch’an (Zen Buddhism) and Wu (Martial arts). Ch’an is the school of Buddhism commonly practiced in China, Japan, and Korea. It is respected and accepted by people all over the world.


The profound cultural connotation expressed in Shaolin Kung Fu is fundamentally endowed by the wisdom of Chan Buddhism (Zen). Shaolin Gongfu is in the first place, the expression of a deeper spiritual goal and secondarily in the pursuit for superhuman strength. The desire for transcendental strength and wisdom are at the core of Shaolin Chan Buddhism.

shaolin kung fu

Wu is a kind of inherited technology in ancient military war. Practising Wushu can strengthen one’s health and defend against the enemy’s attack. It is the guidance and guarantee of human material civilization for martial practitioners to take “stop invasion” as the technical guidance and lead them to enter the traditional way of Enlightenment (Wuhua) to understand the objective laws of man, nature and society.

shaolin quan

Shaolin Quan is the short form for ‘Shaolin Temple Boxing Techniques’. As a means of spiritual discipline, it has been integrated into hundreds of schools, Chan Buddhist influence guiding the wisdom behind it. ‘Shaolin Boxing’ includes not only the ‘Shaolin’ boxing styles such as ‘Tiger Boxing’, ‘Controlling-evil Boxing’ and ‘Liuhe Boxing’ , etc.

shaolin kung fu training

Wu is the embodiment of wisdom, Savvy is roughly equivalent to the wisdom of Buddhism. It’s the part revealed in the wisdom of nature. It can touch by analogy, smell one and know one hundred, and quickly understand the truth of an abstract thing. Practicing martial arts also needs to be Savvy.

Shaolin Temple Destructions and renovations

The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. During the Red Turban Rebellion in the 14th century, bandits ransacked the monastery for its real or supposed valuables, destroying much of the temple and driving the monks away. The monastery was likely abandoned from 1351 or 1356 (the most likely dates for the attack) to at least 1359, when government troops retook Henan. The events of this period would later figure heavily in 16th-century legends of the temple's patron saint Vajrapani, with the story being changed to claim a victory for the monks, rather than a defeat.

In 1641, rebel forces led by Li Zicheng sacked the monastery due to the monks' support of the Ming dynasty and the possible threat they posed to the rebels. This effectively destroyed the temple's fighting force. The temple fell into ruin and was home to only a few monks until the early 18th century, when the government of the Qing dynasty patronized and restored the temple.

Perhaps the best-known story of the Temple's destruction is that it was destroyed by the Qing government for supposed anti-Qing activities.

In 1928, the warlord Shi Yousan set fire to the monastery, burning it for over 40 days, destroying a significant percent of the buildings, including many manuscripts of the temple library.

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 targeted religious orders including the monastery. The five monks who were present at the monastery when the Red Guards attacked were shackled and made to wear placards declaring the crimes charged against them. The monks were jailed after publicly being flogged and paraded through the street as people threw rubbish at them.The government purged Buddhist materials from within the monastery walls, leaving it barren for years.

A dharma gathering was held from 19 August to 20 August 1999, in Shaolin Monastery for Shi Yongxin's assumption of office as abbot. Over the next two decades the Monastery grew .

Shaolin Kung Fu is not a creation of one person, but an accumulation of works by millions of people. Shaolin Kung Fu is the pearl of Chinese wisdom, which was handed down by numerous generations of China’s top martial artists. Shaolin Kung Fu has a vast content and numerous forms.

The feature of Shaolin kungfu

Shaolin kung fu has rich history filled with vast amounts of content and a unique style. Much of it defines China Shaolin Kung fu as a form of boxing. Though short, Shaolin kung fu sets and conformation arevery strong. The up and down movements are always in a line during Shaolin kung fu exercises. Shaolin Boxing masters believe that two people in a fight are only apart for small paces. Since victory or defeat is a matter of seconds, the linear movement is the most effective way to practice and exercise Shaolin kung fu Boxing..

Shaolin kung fu skills and power can be displayed anytime and anywhere regardless of the size of the field. It is important to understand the theoretical part of the kung fu boxing if you are interested in the martial arts. The movements are rapid, forceful, and full of energy. This simply means “ To start boxing with bombards, defeat the enemy without any letup”. The rapidness is in a thousand boxing movements”.

Without a doubt, many people will greatly benefit from learning Chinese shaolin martial arts.

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