Shaolin history

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Everlasting martial art, tradition of the Zen

Almost all the stories can be traced back to him, Bodhidharma, the 18th-generation heir of Mohakasyapa. It is Bodhidharma who founded the religious philosophy named the Zen. It is he who developed the world's unique Shaolin kungfu. And, most important of all, he integrated the status focused Zen with the Shaolin kungfu known for its bravery and fierce valour, thus rendering the martial art tradition of the Zen an ever lasting glory. The Zen Buddhism is as tranquil as still water, while the martial art is as fierce as fire. How could the water and fire be integrated in perfect harmony? This is an eternal riddle Bodhidharma left to us.

The Mount Song, the central one of the "five mountains" of China, is situated at the hinterland of the country. The Mount Song is divided into two mountains, i.e. the Taishi and the Shaoshi. This miraculous mount is a remarkable creation of the joint force of the mysterious natural evolution and the ancient Chinese civilization with a history of several thousand years. On the Mount Song the scenery is so charming and the cultural relics are so numerous. The Shaolin Temple is located in the embrace of the Shaoshi Mountain.

The Shaolin Temple was so named after its location in the forest (pronounced as "lin" in Chinese) of the Shaoshi Mountain. It was built in the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Xiaowen during the dynasty of North Wei (495 AD) in order to host an eminent Indian monk named Bada. The revered Bada abided by the sutra of Hinayana and not much accomplishment of his is known today. After 32 year came Bodhi-dharma. What with his intoxication at the charming and inspiring landscape or his attachment to the fertile cultural soil of the central China, Bodhi-dharma finally put a period to his roaming career. Alone, he entered the cave beneath the Wuru peak and sat before the cave-wall for nine years. When the feat of cultivation by facing the wall was completed, his image was incredibly printed into the wall, hence the famous "wall-facing rock" which we can still see today. It is hard to ascertain whether the "shadow-printed rock" is genuine or not. But one thing is sure, that is when Bodhi-dharma came out of that cave, a new Buddhist sect, the Zen, was brought forth into the world. This is a historical fact supported with records. From then on, the Shaolin Temple became a world-famous birthplace of the Zen.

Hence the renown, the No.1 famous Temple on Earth. From this land of numerous cultural relics, Bodhi-dharma imbibed in an extensive manner the quintessence of the traditional Chinese philosophies, which he integrated with the Buddhist theory of allegorical comprehension of the truth. The result is that he created the unique doctrine of the Zen of China which is based on self-cultivation by sitting in meditation and which claimed that one can become a Buddhist the moment he comprehends his Buddhist ego. The chief approaches of the Zen cultivation are "viewing the wall" and "sitting in meditation". He got rid of the scholasticism characterizing the ways of self-cultivation advocated by the traditional Buddhist sutras. His theory involved no written scripture. He advocated that one can become a Buddha by an "instant complete understanding". Thus he conducted rather radical re form on Mahayana, the "bigger vehicle". When other Buddhist sects had seen their heyday and were then declining, the Zen was then enjoying an unprecedented prosperity. By the Tang dynasty, the reverend Hui Neng, the 6th-generation chief of the Zen Buddhism, made a comprehensive summary of the theory of the Zen, which brought about additional splendour to the Zen. In China then, 70 to 80 percent of the temples belonged to the Zen sect.

The Zen was rapidly spread to other countries in the east and south of Asia, thus laying a solid foundation for its worldwide popularisation later on. Since the Zen, with silent meditation as the chief way of cultivation and Buddhist comprehension as the cardinal principle, needed to be far away from the mundane world and the Zenist cared nothing but self accomplishment, why should they practice swords and spears and fostered the Shaolin kungfu, which was no doubt a means for fighting and battling? Bodhi-dharma's statement of "no written document for the Zen Buddhism" has put the latecomers in an awkward position to guess this paradoxical phenomenon. Hence the many different theories there upon. Some understand kungfu as a way of stretching the limbs after long time of meditation while sitting silently. Some think that the monks, while living deep in the mountains, needed kungfu as a means to resist fierce animals. Others consider kungfu an approach by means of which the monks could make friends in the kungfu circle while studying the martial art. Still some others deem kungfu as something used to achieve longevity and good health. These explanations sound rather reasonable in their respective aspects, but they fail to touch upon the key point.

Historical records have verified the truth that the four red walls of the Shaolin Temple have never separated any generation of the monks from the outer world. The temple yard is, at most, a small boat drifting on the ocean of the times. The waves of social evolution has never stopped beating the sides of the boat. If the monks wanted to be able to sit silently in calm meditation so as to practice their world outlook with "tranquillity" as the cardinal principle, it was a must to have something dynamic as a supplement or support or protection. This vividly reflects the traditional Chinese philosophy that extreme tranquillity generates dynamics. In the final analysis, kungfu is a means of fight with martial art. In the social competition, if without the protection by martial art, the tranquillity of the Zen would have been impossible, let alone the later development. Regardless of the times, whether you are monks, Taoists or laymen, the most essential for human beings is survival. To have a detailed examination of each posture of the kungfu of Shaolin, every punch or kick constitutes an effort for survival and a manoeuvre in the course of competition. To protect tranquillity with the dynamic, to generate dynamic with tranquillity, to aid the dynamic with tranquillity and the other way round...all this indicates that it was the profound understanding of the true meaning of these phenomena that the reverend Bodhi-dharma resolved to walk out of his cave. As a matter of fact, before Bodhi-dharma came to China, kungfu had been highly developed already. however, the kungfu before his times arose out the necessity of war among the then social-political groups. During the time when the reverend Moha founded the Shaolin Temple, his disciples, such as

Weiguang and Weineng, were also famous monks excellent in martial arts. The point is that during their times, martial art was not yet some independent system. The legend goes that Weiguang could kick the shuttle-cock for 500 times in a stroke, and Monk Chou drove away two fighting tigers with his Buddhist staff. And the contribution devoted by Bhodi-dharma and the Zen was that the kungfu was combined with the individual personalities and got gradually methodised and systemized, which rendered it possible for the shaolin kungfu to develop and perfect itself in an eternal and stable way. It is this methodising and systemization that have brought about worldwide fame and everlasting glory. thought the kungfu of the Shaolin is not necessarily the origin of the Chinese wushu, the Shaolin temple deserves the honour of the stream-head of the world's kungfu. The age of Bodhi-dharma has long elapsed together with the legend of "a shoe going west". But the martial art tradition he founded has been carried forward by the Shaolin monks from generation to generation. The Shaolin kungfu at present day has a splendid system. It's mysterious and remarkable martial arts have won world's admiration. Shaolin has become the world's most outstanding and widespread sect in the wushu circle.

Meritorious feats by monk soldiers

In the history of the Shaolin Temple generation after generation of monk generals and soldiers have demonstrated their paramount feats of arm, and waged glorious battles for the Chinese nation and for the historic just ice. Their meritorious feats constitute a glorious page in the Chinese history. The cudgel-monks who once helped the Prince Tang, are now historical figures in a legend. And a solemn and stirring story has been passed down about, the eminent monks, Biancheng and Yuekong, who went to the frontier and fought against the Japanese pirates. It is such marvellous records that render Shaolin Temple a place summoning the admiration of the heroes all over the world. The monk soldiers were at first an armed group set up by the Shaolin Temple for protecting the temple from wars and riots of the society. By the end of the Sui Dynasty and beginning of the Tang Dynasty, Wang Shichong, a Sui general, made himself an emperor with armed forces as the foundation. He named his reign, the "Zheng". He appointed his nephew, Wang Renzhe, the senior general, who stationed massive forces and built fortresses at a place called Baigu Village with which to stand the eastward drive of Li Shinmin, the Prince of Qin.

In the 3rd year of the reign of Wude during the Tang Dynasty (620AD), Li Yuan, the emperor Gaozu, issued an order to his son, Li Shimin, That the latter was to command armed forces on a punitive expedition against Wang Shichong. At the initial battles of the campaign Li sustained some drawbacks. At that time there were 13 Shaolin armed monks stationed at Baigu Village. They were angry with Wang Shichong as the latter invaded the appointed fief of the Shaolin Temple. The armed monks led the local people in an attack on the Sui army. Their battle turned out a victory and they captured Wang Renzhi and sent the POW to Li Shimin. This was no doubt a splendid meritorious service to prince Qin's cause in unifying China. Following Li Shimin's enthronement, he granted rewards and titles extravagantly. 40 Qin (about 266 hectares), of land was given to the Shaolin Temple together with a water-driven mill. The 13 cudgel monks were unexpected granted prizes and titles. The monk Tanzong was appointed a senior general.

After that event, the Shaolin Temple has for many times gone through the baptisms of war; and the kungfu of Shaolin got gradually matured in the course. By the mid-Ming Dynasty, foreign pirates kept bringing troubles along the coastline of China. The Ming court deployed a massive force to suppress the pirates. The Shaolin armed monks were among the army and again contributed outstanding feats in the battles. During the reign of Emperor Zhengde of the Ming Dynasty, an armed monk, Blanched, from the Shaolin Temple fought against the foreign pirates in many brilliant battles. Once, in a fight against the pirates, he brandished the unique Shaolin kungfu and, in a stroke, beat down a dozen or so swords and spears of the enemy. He then displayed the "light-body" feat with which he jumped out of the surrounding circle of the enemy while at the same time succeeded in capturing two pow's. The pirates were so frightened that they began taking a defensive posture. During the reign of the Emperor Jiaojing of the Ming Dynasty, Yuekong, another armed monk from the Shaolin Temple, responding to an order issued by the local governor, led more than 30 monk soldiers to Songjiang to fight against the pirates. With their paramount martial arts, the monk soldiers led by Yuekong won victory. The pirates were panic-stricken. Later, when rescuing the local people, Yuekong and others fell into an ambush laid by the Japanese pirates. After a fierce battle, the 30-odd armed monks including Yuekong were outnumbered by the enemy and finally sacrificed their lives. It is believed that during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty the Reverend Xiaoshan led an army and for three times fought against the foreign pirates. And Sanqi and Changong, another two monks from the Shaolin, went to the borders for many times in guard against enemy.

Mimic boxing, a superb martial art

Mimic boxing in the Chinese kungfu can be dated back to very ancient times. It is no exaggeration to say that mimic boxing is the very origin of the boxing art. Tradition has it that in prehistoric times there was a game in which three men danced each with an ox tail in hand. During the Han Dynasty and the Wei Dynasty of China there was "the game of five birds". Whether the mimic boxing of the Shaolin is an inheritance from the tradition or a creation of the Zen is now a problem beyond solution. But one thing is sure, i.e. mimic boxing is the oldest variety of Shaolin kungfu and is at present still playing an important role. Mimic boxing is, to some extent, a manifestation that the Zen has imbibed the spirit of the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi which advocated that the Tao should abide by the nature. It also reflects the Buddhist view that all species share the same origin and all living creature share the same original nature. These, in turn, constitute the fundamental cause that the mimic boxing of the Shaolin Temple could reach such a miraculous acme. As indicated by the name, mimic boxing is the boxing art created by mimicking the animals or insects. From the giant lions and tigers to the tiny mole crickets and ants and mantis, all living creatures in the nature are equipped with their respective and unique abilities for survival. It is no doubt that human being is the highest and cleverest species in the world, yet the animals have their strong points which human beings are in lack of. The Mount Song provided the Zen with a unique natural environment, the inspiration of all the living creatures. Thus the advantageous skills of the birds, animals, fishes and insects were used to enrich the human abilities and to improve the man's adaptability to the natural requirement for survival. The Shaolin mimic boxing is a superb creation in this very direction.

The Shaolin mimic boxing is distinct from other mimic boxing arts in that it has mastered the delicate mystery of the objects it mimic. It is capable of attacking as well as defending with countless varieties in manoeuvre. For example, the monkey boxing is subtle characterized by its many changes in the course and its defending as a means for attacking. The crane boxing is featured by the lithe and graceful manoeuvre; while the dragon boxing usually takes the initial by pre emptive attacks. The snake boxing attacks the opponents most vulnerable points with swift actions; the tiger boxing takes an aggressive offence; the leopard boxing is so fierce that its imposing manner can conquer the enemy's will to fight. Other mimic boxing arts include the eagle boxing, cock boxing, dog boxing, mantis boxing etc. All odd the have won universal admiration for their lifelike mimicking in both forms and spirit.

The Shaolin mimic boxing is most particular about "spiritual transcending end picturesque mimicking". By "spiritual transcending" is meant that, while sitting in the Zenist meditation, one should reach an ego less ideal state. In other words, when mimicking the dragon, you think yourself as nothing but a real dragon; and when you are practicing crane boxing you just imagine yourself as a real crane. In the course of each manoeuvre, offensive or defensive, you should gain a profound understanding of the strong desire of survival of the mimicked animals. Only in this way, you can beat the enemy in the course of attack and can stand the enemy's attack when you adopt a defensive posture. And by "picturesque mimicking" is meant a stress must be also laid on the similarity in appearance, by means of which the spiritual identity can be achieved with what you are mimicking, e.g. a snake, dog. In each move or stroke, the boxer learns the strong points of the animals so as to reinforce his own capability to get adapted to the nature. It is this special requirement of "picturesque mimicking" that has won the admiration from the wushu circle "this superb state can only be achieved by the Zen".

The eighteen Shaolin martial arts

The Shaolin kungfu is famous for its wide range and profound attainment. Take boxing alone for example, it has hundreds of varieties. When people say "the 18 Shaolin martial arts" the numeral 18 is a generalizing notion for all the Shaolin martial arts.

Of all the martial arts of the Shaolin Temple, boxing is the oldest art. Tradition has it that at the very beginning, the Shaolin boxing had only 18 actions, which were named "the 18 moves of arhat". Later, based on boxing, the martial art for using cudgel was developed. After many centuries, with the growth of the Shaolin kungfu, the boxing manoeuvres were greatly expanded. By the time of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, a senior monk of the Shaolin Temple, named Fujiu, invited the kungfu masters all over China, belonging to 18 schools, to the Shaolin Temple, where they studied martial arts for three years. The result was that the strong points of all the kungfu schools were collected, and a boxing book, Shaolin boxing, was compiled. During the Jin-Yuan dynasties, two armed monks, Bai Yufeng and Li Shou, came to the Shaolin Temple, where they studied boxing art together with the monks of the Temple. The 18 moves of arhat where then developed into 72 moves. Moreover, "Five Boxing Arts" were created based on the moves of five animals, i.e. dragon, tiger, leopard, snake and cock.

The Shaolin boxing lays emphasis on skill. Its practicing is not limited by space. The saying goes, a boxer can practice where only one ox can lie down". That is to say, a Shaolin boxer can beat his opponent with a space of several steps. Another saying "boxing goes along a line", indicates that when practising boxing including raising, falling, turning sidling, huddling and jumping, all these moves should be conducted along a straight line. As to the specific moves, they should be neither "absolutely bent nor absolutely straight". To o much bending would miss the target; while too much straightness would lack manoeuvre. When attacking with boxing, both forward and backward actions are done in a "turning manner". In other words, a rotation is necessary when attacking, and elasticity is reached. As to the eyes, they should look up when raising and further at t he sky when falling. Your eyes should gaze at the opponent's eyes so as to know what position the opponent is in. As to the body manoeuvre, the stress is laid on swiftness and an absolute mastery of the gravity centre so that a perfect and kinetic balance is kept. As to the manoeuvre of stepping, low steps are used when forging ahead and high steps used when backing. They should be light, graceful, and steady. As to the kicking manoeuvre, the requirement is that, when lifting a leg, it should be as light as a feather, and when kicking, the leg should be as heavy as the Mount Tai.

Internally tranquil and outwardly fierce, Shaolin boxer should be "as calm as a virgin when defending" and "as fierce as a tiger when attacking". Meanwhile perfect skill should be employed to take advantage of the opponent's force and momentum. Each move, each punch and kick, embodies an organic combination of attack and defence. The attack is contained in defence. The force attack and real manoeuvre are integrated with the sole purpose of surprising the opponent. The Shaolin boxing art, as a whole, stresses the integration of the internal with the external and the figure similarity with spiritual identification. When practising, a close coordination of the eyes, hands, steps is required. The boxing formula emphasizes six coordinations, i.e. "the coordination of shoulders with loins, elbows with knees, hands with feet, mind with intention, intention with breath, and breath with force". By the Ming Dynasty, the traditional kungfu got a great lap forward. Kungfu adopted weapons. There were even books concerning the weapons. Reverend hongzhuan, a senior monk of the Shaolin Temple in the Ming Dynasty, wrote a book, "Spearmanship in Menlu Hall". During the reign of the Emperor Wanli, Cheng Zongqiu, a mundane disciple learned cudgelship for more than ten years in the Shaolin Temple. As a result he wrote the famous book, "Summary of Shaolin Cudgelship". Secondly, in the Ming Dynasty, the martial arts used in actual battles were gradually combined with the Shaolin kungfu. During the reign of the Emperor Jiajing, Yu Dayu, a famous general in resisting against the pirates, used the martial art of cudgel which he had learned in the Shaolin in actual battles. The cudgelship was thus carried forward. He later returned to the Shaolin Temple.

Wen Xianggang, another Ming personality, wrote in his "Travel in the Mount Song": In the old temple there are sixty monks who are practicing boxing, swords, iron staff, and jie". This record indicated that in the Shaolin Temple at that time were not only boxing, but also sword, iron staff, jie and other weapons. Of all the weapons of the Shaolin, sword is eulogized as "the marshal of all weapons". The saying goes, "the sword is like a fierce tiger". Most Shaolin swords are brandished closely around the user's head. When slashing with the sword, the qi is concentrated in the two arms and goes along with the sword. Among the different swords of the Shaolin, the variety of the shapes lead to the variety of characteristics. Tradition has it "manoeuvre of a single sword stresses the hands", "manoeuvre of double swords stresses the steps", and "manoeuvre of broadsword stresses the stability of hands". The spear in the Shaolin repertory is praised as the "king of weapons". It is characterized by "forging ahead like a dragon in a straight line". That is to say, the spear should be wielded up and down swiftly and with no definite patterns. And the performance of the spear should be along a straight line. The Shaolin sabre has long earned its reputation as the "monarch of the weapons". The Shaolin sabre is graceful and unconstrained in performance, Henan the saying "sabre goes like a meandering dragon". The sabre formula has the following secret teaching: "This is a blue-dragon sabre and should be performed steadily on a plane line. Your qi should go along with your sabre with both eyes gazing at its point. When wielding the sabre it should be as swift as a flying swallow. When you stop the performance, it fall as gently as the wind ebbs. When taking back the sabre it is as light as a petal. When stabbing forward, the sabre head is a steel nail". The Shaolin cudgel is the most reputed among all the weapons used in the Temple. It is also the oldest arm of the Temple. Hence the reputation of "the ancestor of all weapons". And the legend goes that the 13 Shaolin monks using cudgels once helped the Prince Tang and established their brilliant martial feats. The Shaolin cudgel is characterized by attacking a broad range with the cudgel". When performing the cudgel, all over the body is the source of momentum. The wielding of cudgel is accompanied by the whistling of the air. The rhythm should be fast and the moves should following one another closely.

The Shaolin kungfu is a kungfu treasury of very profound and wide-rant nature. In the terms of boxing arts, there integrates power with flexibility. Included in the bold and powerful traditional boxing arts are the Shaolin arhat boxing, chain boxing, plum-blossom boxing, and warrior boxing. Belonging to the catagory of mimic boxing are monkey boxing, leopard boxing, snake boxing, etc.. And the internal-kungfu boxing arts include intention boxing, Changhu intention boxing and Seven-star boxing, etc.. As to pair-practice boxing, the number of variety is still larger, including kick-punch six-in-one boxing, ear-handle six-in-one boxing, and hand-biting six-in-one boxing.

There is a great variety in Shaolin kungfu's weaponry. Hence the saying of "eighteen weapons". In terms of classification, they can be divided into long weapons, short weapons, soft weapons, rare weapons, and hidden weapons. Long weapons include broad-sword, long spear, cudgel etc.. Short weapons cover sabre, club and dagger. Chained iron balls and 9-sect iron staff are soft weapons. Sickle, Qian-Kun ring and dharma staff are rare weapons. And flying dart and flying prick are hidden weapons. Pair-practice of weapons covers a wide range too. Such as pair-practice of spears, pair practice of a sword versus spear, cudgel versus spear, and the group practice of shepherd cudgels.

In the Shaolin kungfu, apart from boxing arts and weaponry, there are hand battle, attack-defence and capturing used in fighting; qigong, hard qigong, child-gong, yin-yang-gong, pile standing kungfu, etc. used for internal kungfu. The marvellous feats of the Shaolin kungfu can be summarized as: powerful, simple, battle-oriented, highly changeable. When lying down, the body resembles a bent bow. When sitting, the body is as firm as an brass bell. When standing, the body is as if nailed to the ground. When moving, like a dragon. The kungfu performer should be as graceful as a cat, as fierce as a tiger, as swift as a thunderbolt.

Incredible kung fu rarely known to the world

Among the Shaolin kungfu, there are many unique feats unknown to the world. And it is these unique feats that constitute the mystery of the Shaolin kungfu. If it had not been for the evidence provides by the photos, who could believe such unthinkable kungfu.

The earliest internal kungfu of the Shaolin martial arts is the sitting-meditation kungfu. It is a part of the cultivation the Shaolin monks must undergo, and it is also the foundation on which other unique and consummate feats can be cultivated. Sitting-meditation requires the practitioner to slightly close both eyes with the tongue touching the upper palate. In this way the breathing is even end the air in the body can reach the inner organs. Along with the development of the sitting-meditation kungfu, there appeared the twelve stances of "Tendon-Alternation Sutra", a kungfu integrating power with flexibility. Beginning from the Ming Dynasty, Shaolin school has put forth more and more unique feats, including internal kungfu, external kungfu, hard kungfu, light kungfu, child kungfu, plumply kungfu, arhat kungfu, acupoint kungfu, bone replacing kungfu, fire kungfu, intention-pile kungfu.

The Shaolin unique feats attach special importance to the exploration of the potential instincts of human body. With the un comparable wisdom and fortitude of the Zen Buddhists, the Shaolin monks cultivated the incredible unique skills incredible to the common people. Do not assume that you can kill him by straggling his throat. The Shaolin monk has, by practicing with a yellow Zen ribbon, gained the unique feat to escape from the otherwise certain death. Do not think that you can end his clock of life by hitting the "pendulum" between the two legs; as the Shaolin monk has, by practicing hard with a rock, acquired an invulnerable body. When a spear is directed fiercely to the throat, the monk is not at all harmed. When his finger can pierce into the trunk of a tree fro three inches, when you see a stone slab is broken when the monk's head dashes against it, when you see a cudgel snapped into two when hit on the monk's chest stomach or head, when a monk stands upside down on his two fingers and the kicks broken a stone pillar, how could you help feeling startled, and how could you help thinking, how much potential human capacity is awaiting exploration?

The qigong of Shaolin is divided into internal qigong and external qigong, The internal qigong relies mainly on regulating the inhaling and exhaling, thus facilitating the blood circulation and driving away the evil elements in the body. The result is that the internal organs are healthy and the limbs become agile. Internal qigong covers such varieties as 8-secti on brocade, tendon-alternation sutra yinyang qi, and sitting-meditation. External qigong is also called hard kungfu. The qi is concentrated to a certain point of the body, a nd the said body can exert extraordinary power, or kungfu. The varieties of the Shaolin hard kungfu, iron-head kungfu, hard-stomach kungfu, fire kungfu, iron-sand palm kungfu etc.. The pile kungu of the Shaolin school is divided into two: the plum-blossom pile kungfu and intention pile kungfu. The plum blossom piles are 8 feet high on which the Shaolin monks practice fighting, capturing, etc. as if they were on the ground. This performance commands great admiration from the spectators. intention pile kungfu is the oldest Shaolin form by which to cultivate qi. This kungfu belong to the category internal kungfu. The power is exploded by integrating the inner qi with the force. After cultivation the intention pile kungfu, the performer can make a pit on the ground by simply stamping on it, and can break a stone pillar by a simple kick. The traveller can think of the power of intentional pile kungfu by looking at the 48 standing-pile pits in the Thousand Buddha Hall of the Shaolin Temple.

The Shaolin child kungfu is one of the most remarkable kungfu's. The name "child kungfu" indicates that, after cultivating this kungfu, the monk can be rejuvenated and will look as young as a child, though his hair is as white as the feathers of a crane. His body would become as soft as a brocade, as light as a swallow, or as hard as steel. Usually the monks exercise the child kungfu from their childhood. The cultivation requires special persistence. Among the feats of this kungfu, the most marvellous are: arhat sleep, two-finger Zen, upside down Zen, clinging Buddha feet, and upward kicking.

Sharpness of sword from diligence in whetting

Among the martial monks of the Shaolin Temple there is a popular saying: "Time makes kungfu". The awe inspiring Shaolin kungfu has undergone long and hard whetting which renders the kungfu a paramount art in the world.

The incredible feats of the Shaolin kungfu is the result of the incredible tempering. Just as the sharpness of a treasured sword comes from diligent whetting, the fragrance of the plum blossom is the result of undergoing the bitter winter. The kungfu monks of the Shaolin Temple are very particular about their exercise in the inclement cold of winter and the hottest day of the summer. Whatever the weather, they are seen practicing hard when the rooster crows in the morning, and they return to their bedroom when the moon is already up in the evening. They devoted all their energy to the hard training of the basic kungfu. During the snowy depth of winter, they would wear nothing on the upper part of the body while climbing the mountain. Along the 1000m long mountains path, they jump and crawl down. Under the scorching sun of mid-summer, they would be fully dressed and jump onto the pile tops, and they would lift the 50kg stone locks for countless times, until sweating all over. With a pole horizontally stretched, the monks can lie down comfortably thereon. With a log planted in the ground, the monks would dash their heads against it to train the iron-head kungfu. Even the rim of iron cauldron or bamboo crate could become the site for training their light kungfu and a small water pool or even a pot of water are where they exercise the palm kungfu. They exercise kungfu when eating, when sleeping and when walking. Even in the course of pouring water and making tea, they are training kungfu. They practise the kungfu of breaking a bowl with one finger. They use chopsticks to train the kungfu of stabbing the throat with bamboo stick. They get up at dawn and, when they are sweeping the courtyard, they waving the fans to alleviate the heat, they train their iron-fan kungfu. The cook chops the food on his own stomach. If they have some walnuts, they would crack them with their heads...... How tough and tenacious the Shaolin monks are! It is extremely auduous exercise in the most difficult environment that has rendered it possible for the monks to attain a state which the common people cannot attain.

In the deep forests on the Shaoshi Mountain of the Mount Song, there are some secret kungfu-training grounds equipped with kungfu piles, sand sacs and pits. If you can have the opportunity to access to these secret grounds, it would serve you as a significant eye-opener. The unique feats of each martial monk are often cultivated in these secret places. These secret kungfu grounds are located along the stream in the forest where the scenery is paramount. Maybe such locations reflect the monks' desire to imbibe in quintessence of the nature and the inspiration from the heaven.

The World-Famous Shaolin Temple

The Shaolin kungfu, following its originating in the Shaolin Temple, had been circulated for quite a long time among the monks of the Temple. It is after the event of 13 martial monks helping Prince Tang that the world began to know about the kungfu of Shaolin, and gradually a huge system of the Shaolin kungfu has taken shape in the society.

In the Tang and Song Dynasties and afterwards, a lot of non-monks entered the Shaolin Temple to learn kungfu and conduct kungfu exchange. By the mid-Ming dynasty, the Shaolin kungfu was already popular in the society. By the beginning of the Qing dynasty there were ten branch Temples of the Shaolin in China. And these branch Temples became the centers of the Shaolin kungfu. In the course of popularization the Shaolin kungfu itself has got enriched and developed. The result is that there are now many Shaolin kungfu schools, such as the Emei Shaolin, the Guandong Shaolin, the Fujian Shaolin, the Shandong Shaolin, etc.. As the spread is so fast and the scale is so large that in the present China "people cannot talk about martial arts without mentioning the Shaolin". Hence the saying: "All the kungfu in the world originate from the Shaolin Temple".

When China entered into the modern age, the recent century of wars and civil commotion has accelerated the spreading of the Shaolin kungfu. The Shaolin disciples live all over China. Since China adopted the policy of economic reform and opening up to the outside world, the central and local governments have been giving support to the Shaolin Temple kungfu, regarding it as an important aspect for prospering the national culture of China. There are now countless organizations specializing in learning and studying the Shaolin kungfu. In a sense the Shaolin kungfu has become popular wushu for the common people.

As a physical exercise for human beings, the Shaolin kungfu is also being extensively popularised in the world. Its overseas spreading can be dated back to the Yuan Dynasty. During the reign of the Emperor Taiding of the Yuan Dynasty, a Japanese monk named Dazhi came to China to study the Zen. When he returned to Japan, he was the earliest one who introduced the Shaolin kungfu in Japan. During the reign of the Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty, Chen Yuanding, a non-monk desciple in the Shaolin Temple, sailed eastward and reached Japan, where he spent many years embarking the boxing of the Shaolin Temple. In the 1930's a Japanese monk, Zong Daocheng, came to the Shaolin Temple to learn kungfu. When he returned to his motherland, he founded the world's first non-Chinese organization specializing in exercising the Shaolin Temple kungfu, "Japanese Shaolin Temple Boxing Kungfu Association", which has at present a membership of over a million. In the past years, along with the opening of China to the outside world, the Shaolin kungfu has been introduced to foreign countries at an e ven higher speed. At present special organizations for imparting the Shaolin kungfu have been set up in more than 30 countries including U.S., Holland, France, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Switzerland etc.. In the recent years people from more than 30 countries and regions have come to the Shaolin Temple to get kungfu training. The Shaolin monks delegations consisting of monks and non-monks have visited many countries. With a view to accelerating the spreading of the Shaolin kungfu schools have been set up all over the world. In 1991, in order to promote the development and interf low of the Shaolin kungfu, in Zhengzhou, capital city of Henan province, the China Zhengzhou Shaolin Wushu Festival was established and was to be observed annually. This international Shaolin kungfu festival indicates that the Shaolin kungfu of China is sure to become a precious cultural heritage of the whole mankind.