History of The Shaolin Temple

By the end of the 5th century, an Indian monk called Ba Tuo came to China and was highly respected by Emperor Xiao Wen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), who piously believed in Buddhism. Ba Tuo was conversant with Buddhist classics and fond of living in a peaceful and secluded place with forests around. Hence Emperor Xiao We gave an order to build the Shaolin temple for Monk Ba Tuo to disseminate Buddhism at the foot of the Shaoshi Mountain, where forests were luxuriant and the landscape was fine. From then on, many Buddhists came to the temple one after another from all over the country. Ba Tuo laid stress not only on imparting and teaching Buddhism, but also on bringing up a large number of disciples who were intelligent, capable, and good at martial arts, among them, Hui Guang and Seng Chou were his favorite, because Hui Guang could kick a shuttlecock over 500 times in a row on the rails around a water well, and Seng Chou was armed with superior Kung-fu. This obviously showed that the days of the founding of the Shaolin Temple was the beginning of monks to practice martial arts.

Later on, another Indian monk called Bodhidharma arrived at Songshan Mountain and taught the Zen at the Shaolin Temple. Facing the cliff on the peak behind the Temple, he sat in in meditation for nine years. Long time sitting in meditation caused the monks very tired, so they created a series of martial arts by themselves to simulate the circulation of blood to limber up their muscles and joints, Yijin Jing ( The Boxing of Limbering up Muscles and Joints), Arhat Boxing, Shiba Shou (18-style Hand Exercises) were probably the earliest Shaolin Kung-fu.

By the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), the Imperial Court was tottering. In order to safeguard the temple, a guard monk army was organized at the Shaolin Temple. Later on, the Shaolin guard monks headed by Zhi Cao, Hui Xi and Tan Zong rescued Li Shimin (598-649), the Qin Prince, captures Wang Renze and forced Wan Shichong to surrender. After taking the throne of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Li Shimin offered official posts upon the Shaolin monks, and issued an order that Shaolin Temple might

According to the description of Songshan Travel Notes written by Wang Shixing of the Ming Dynasty, " There are over 400 monks in the Shaolin Temple, and all of them are good at martial arts" During demonstration, " the wrestling with fist and cudgels are flying in clouds."

The rear hall of the Shaolin Temple is specially used by the monks to practice martial arts. Inside the hall, there are weapon frames on which 18 types of weapons are available for monks. On the brick floor of the hall, there are many footprints which were slapped by the monks' stamp after years of practicing.

On the north and the south walls of the White Clothes Hall there are two murals of various Shaolin Boxing postures painted in the Qing Dynasty (1644-191). The murals vividly depict not only the scenes of the Shaolin monks' practicing martial arts but also the essentials of hands, eyes, bodies, steps, and offensive -defensive of Shaolin Boxing.

The martial arts training of villagers near the Shaolin Temple became very popular then, which on the other hand, promoted the development of Shaolin Kung-fu. in the past hundreds of years, the essence of various schools of the Chinese Martial arts was integrated in the Shaolin Temple, making the temple actually a center of martial arts. The Shaolin School of martial arts came into being after a long time development. The Shaolin Temple became well known far and wide.

Besides the 172 routines of Shaolin Boxing, there are 72 techniques including 36 external and internal exercises. The original woodcut edition of Shaolin Boxing Manual was preserved at eth Shaolin Temple. But in 1928, the Shaolin Temple was destroyed by the third fire in history, and all of the ancient books and records of Shaolin Martial Arts were burned into ash. However, Shaolin Martial Arts at that time had already formed a system, so most of the skills of Shaolin Martial Arts have been inherited till the present today.

Today, Shaolin Martial Arts become popular again, attracting many overseas fans. The new generation of the Shaolin Guard monks is now excavating the last martial arts, and inheriting and developing the Shaolin Kung-fu. A large number of people with insight are collecting materials on Shaolin Martial Arts, studying it, and publishing various kinds of books on it.

For more information please visit the Official Shaolin Temple Website