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Thread: Shaolin Temple

  1. #46
    Kung Lek Guest
    Gene- maybe it was his mom? :D

    She seemed to have a lot of power and would fear an order such as Shaolin.

    I'm still reading about the reign, pretty interesting stuff. Culturally it sheds an entirely different light on the Ching dynasty after hearing the Ming perspective for so long.

    There is a terrific gallery on Buddhism at the Royal Ontario Museum right now, so much to absorb, I'm trying to get some time with the curator and will ask as much as I can about the Shaolin perspective if they have any good info.

    Just the artifacts themselves are awesome, spanning neolithic times to the last dynasty (Ching).

    ahhhh, the wheels turn and the cart moves :D

    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  2. #47
    GeneChing Guest

    shaolin scholars

    I think you'll find most scholars frown on Shaolin. So little of the martial research holds up under academic scrutiny. Even the Zen buddhists generally overlook Shaolin.

    As for Kangxi, the story is that he asked the monks to help he fight off invaders, which they did. Following the victory, he invited the monks to become his personal army, but they declined. So he killed them. This tale could easily explain the placard. But I just put out the other theory, just to stir it up a little. I do that a lot. So far, the only one that got a result was the p*nis qigong article... go figure.

    Gene Ching
    Asst. Publisher
    Kungfu Qigong Magazine &

  3. #48
    Kung Lek Guest
    yep, sex sells :D hahahahaha.

    I have had a hell of a time trying to find out anything academic that points towards the Martial monks of Shaolin.

    Seems that a lot of it is relegated to pure legend and a lot of myth with not a lot of solid verified and bonafide documentation.

    The buddhism is a lot easier to find materials on because of the Ch'an connection that is intrinsic to teh Shaolin Temple. It cannot be denied and it is really well documented.

    Th CR sure didn't help matters, who knwos whta treasures were lost during that period, undoubtedly a whole lot.

    still, I think that there is stuff in existance somewhere even if it is through 3rd and 4th party materials.


    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  4. #49
    GeneChing Guest

    The CR

    True, the CR had an effect, but it did not impact other areas of research nearly as badly as kungfu. Chan, while it certainly wasn't unscathed, still retains good documentation. Perhaps it was because martial arts organizations have always been a little secretive and sketchy.

    However, if you are really into Chan, Shaolin is not that high on the list of places to visit now. It certainly takes a backseat to temples like Guanxiaosi, Nanhuasi or Yunmensi. I think that really disturbs Shaolin, and is a lot of the impetus behind the current changes now.

    Gene Ching
    Asst. Publisher
    Kungfu Qigong Magazine &

  5. #50
    Kung Lek Guest
    Yes, I understand that the PRC is changing it's line of thinking on the study of Buddhism now. Although they still will not allow the religious practice to come to the forefront they are accepting of its study from a philosophical approach.

    This stance in itself is highly interesting. Buddhist philosophy is being taught at Shaolin now yes?

    And there is a huge Zen movement worldwide. While Ch'an, by the very nature of the practice is not about written doctrine and dogma, writings are the key to preservation of knowledge and tradition even in the case of such things as Ch'an and it's inherent practices.

    The Soto schools of Zen in Japan have spread like wildfire. One of our great poets here in Canada, Leonard Cohen practices in a temple outside of LA in the US. there are other even older temples in Hawaii and across North America.

    BUddhism as a whole has been in and out of "vogue" and still is quite "trendy" in the west :D, still, that's better than nothing.

    The closer we all come to a return of understanding the better in my not so humble opinion. Any philosophy that points so strongly to self realization can only be a good thing for all of us. Not trying to sound to hippy dippy about it. But in the words of Martha Stewart
    "Ch'an Buddhism.... It's a Good thing" hahahaha.


    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  6. #51
    Yum Cha Guest

    I'm impressed

    I'm impressed in your scholarly pursuit, and your attempts to speak from verifiable fact as opposed to conjecture, legend and testosterone.

    I read Gene's article with interest. Thanks

    It appears you both agree that the Northern Temple, the one that's getting all the publicity these days, is the oldest, being around 1500 years old.

    My understanding is that there was a southern temple, that pre-dated the Northern one. I have no fact to verify this, only the banter of my Chinese training brothers.

    You two scholars are no doubt familiar with the legends of Pak Mei. I assume the temple that the Legends refer to is the Southern Temple, the one that has allegedly been discovered as 'ruins?'

    As these event's took place at the end of the Ming dynasty, in the mid 1700's, it appears to me not to relate to the Northern Temple in Honan, however you seem to indicate that the Northern one was burned at this time as well. :confused: One version of the story even has an English Mercenary with Cannon bombarding the temple.

    Do either of you have any particular factual information on this legend?

    Relating to Religion, I've been told that in these feudal times, religion was often secondary to sanctuary at many temples, and many monks were only as pious as required to avoid arrest. A good place to 'turn over a new leaf" so to speak. Also, the Shaolin temple was know as a revolutionary seat of anti-manchu sentiment.

    Does that sound believeable?

  7. #52
    Kung Lek Guest
    Yum Cha, I defer to Gene as he has been to the mountain :D

    I don't know anything, in fact I'm typing this all phonetically... ok, i'm kidding, but what I don't know could fill a warehouse and that's a truth.

    The Honan temple was destroyed three times for political reasons with the final destruction being in 1927-28 when it burned for the last time before being reopened about 50 years later after the making of a certain movie starring none other than Jet Li who happens to have a fairly lengthy interview in the latest issue of Kungfuqigong on the stands now.

    The southern temple legend is slightly different inasmuch as the story goes that the monks themselves destroyed it. (Also in a earlier issue of Kungfu Qigong magazine, but there are other sources that point to this)

    Look through the archives here for more articles about Shaolin, definitely some good reads. As well Gene has some articles up at about Shaolin that are also quite good (sorry Gene, but you just have to accept that you are a decent writer and perhaps a book is in order at some point?)

    As for texts and historical documentation, ahhhh, well that and those are few and far between and you will simply have to dig deep. Maybe even learn how to read some chinese.

    Good Luck on your search, it is a worthwhile one, I'm certainly enjoying mine.


    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  8. #53
    Shaolin Master Guest
    Points for you (no time to write a nice story here)

    - Songshan first.
    - Fujian (3 times in diff Locns)
    - Yes have found Fujian remains (numerous Chamb.)
    - Bak Mei Story is inplausible. The art has no relation to fujian shaolin arts via bakmei. it is more fujian shaolin via Hoi Fong, Lum Ga and Hakka arts to CLC.
    - Northern burned destroyed and rebuilt many times
    - Temples sometimes like foreign legion. You bad boy enter new name past forgotten new life with even opportunity to improve yourself as a person.


  9. #54
    GeneChing Guest

    Shaolin, shaolin...

    KL: Buddhism has support of the PRC government now and has for several years. Once the Open policy was initiated, it was supported, but as so many practicioner of Buddhism from China frequently remind me, Buddhism doesn't need much. Temples and statues are not the crux of the practice. Buddhism can be very private, so the oppressive period had little effect on the individuals, only on the institutions.
    The current fad of Buddhism is interesting to me being Buddhist myself. What strikes me the most about it is that most people are either advocating Tibetan (Dalai Lama) or Zen. These schools are as different as Catholics and Protestants, but the mass media seems to be lumping the together and throwing in Yoga and Taiji to boot. Oh well, they'll learn. I personally believe that they will continue to spread since they are intrinsically valuable and this is just another step. It's all good, as they say...

    And ah, the book. I have a publisher that has been dogging me to put together an overall martial arts reference. And we've frequently talked about publishing a collection of reprints in book form here. You know, the best stories I can't share. So maybe after I retire I'll write some thinly disguised fiction. Heh, heh...

    YC: As for the temperment of monks, you know, this has always been a funny point with me. To "leave the world" for a monastery takes a particualr mentality, something most people don't consider. All I can say is this - there are many active monasteries now (and I'm not just referring to martial arts here, nor just Buddhism)- go. It's the only way you'll ever really know. I lived at a few monasteries for short periods and treasure those experiences, but it's certainly not for everyone. Nor is it that lofty...

    As for Bak Mei, we did a cover story on Bak Mei in our DEC 2000 issue:

    And thanks for the scholar comment - I think you overrate my research.

    SM: As for the southern temple - there location was under dispute for some time, but archeologists point to Putian in Fujian Province. The dig is tiny and now surrounded by modern new buildings. A new, more scenic temple has been constructed on Putian Mountain nearby. We ran an article on it in our MAR/Apr 2001 issue

    We have two researchers who will probably be traveling there soon, so we should have more info later on in the year.

    Gene Ching
    Asst. Publisher
    Kungfu Qigong Magazine &

  10. #55
    LeiWulong Guest

    I got this from []

    -Sorry no time to write so I got this from a very good website-

    The Shaolin order dates to about 540 A.D., when an Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma (Tamo in Chinese), traveled to China to see the Emperor. At that time, the Emperor had started local Buddhist monks translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. The intent was to allow the general populace the ability to practice this religion.

    This was a noble project, but when the Emperor believed this to be his path to Nirvana, Tamo disagreed. Tamo's view on Buddhism was that you could not achieve your goal just through good actions performed by others in your name. At this point the Emperor and Tamo parted ways and Tamo traveled to the nearby Buddhist temple to meet with the monks who were translating these Buddhist texts.

    The temple had been built years before in the remains of a forest that had been cleared or burned down. At the time of the building of the temple, the emperor's gardeners had also planted new trees. Thus the temple was named "young (or new) forest", (Shaolin in Mandarin, Sil Lum in Cantonese).

    When Tamo arrived at the temple, he was refused admittance, probably being thought of as an upstart or foreign meddler by the head abbot (Fang Chang). Rejected by the monks, Tamo went to a nearby cave and meditated until the monks recognized his religious prowess and admitted him. Legend has it that he bored a hole through one side of the cave with his constant gaze; in fact, the accomplishment that earned his recognition is lost to history.

    When Tamo joined the monks, he observed that they were not in good physical condition. Most of their routine paralleled that of the Irish monks of the Middle Ages, who spent hours each day hunched over tables where they transcribed handwritten texts. Consequently, the Shaolin monks lacked the physical and mental stamina needed to perform even the most basic of Buddhist meditation practices. Tamo countered this weakness by teaching them moving exercises, designed to both enhance ch'i flow and build strength. These sets, modified from Indian yogas (mainly hatha, and raja) were based on the movements of the 18 main animals in Indo-Chinese iconography (e.g., tiger, deer, leopard, cobra, snake, dragon, etc.), were the beginnings of Shaolin Kung Fu.

    It is hard to say just when the exercises became "martial arts". The Shaolin temple was in a secluded area where bandits would have traveled and wild animals were an occasional problem, so the martial side of the temple probably started out to fulfill self-defense needs. After a while, these movements were codified into a system of self-defense.

    As time went on, this Buddhist sect became more and more distinct because of the martial arts being studied. This is not to say that Tamo "invented" martial arts. Martial arts had existed in China for centuries. But within confines of the temple, it was possible to develop and codify these martial arts into the new and different styles that would become distinctly Shaolin. One of the problems faced by many western historians is the supposed contraindication of Buddhist principles of non-violence coupled with Shaolin's legendary martial skills. In fact, the Shaolin practitioner is never an attacker, nor does he or she dispatch the most devastating defenses in any situation. Rather, the study of kung fu leads to better understanding of violence, and consequently how to avoid conflict. Failing that, a Buddhist who refuses to accept an offering of violence (i.e., and attack) merely returns it to the sender. Initially, the kung fu expert may choose to parry an attack, but if an assailant is both skilled and determined to cause harm, a more definitive and concluding solution may be required, from a joint-lock hold to a knockout, to death. The more sophisticated and violent an assault, the more devastating the return of the attack to the attacker. Buddhists are not, therefore, hurting anyone; they merely refuse delivery of intended harm.

    The Shaolin philosophy is one that started from Buddhism and later adopted many Taoist principles to become a new sect. Thus even though a temple may have been Taoist or Buddhist at first, once it became Shaolin, it was a member of a new order, an amalgamation of the prevailing Chinese philosophies of the time.

    Other temples sprung from Henan. This happened because the original temple would suffer repeated attacks and periods of inactivity as the reigning Imperial and regional leaders feared the martial powers of the not-always unaligned monks. Refugee Shaolin practitioners would leave the temple to teach privately (in Pai) or at other Buddhist or Taoist temples. In rare cases, a new Shaolin Temple would be erected (Fukien, Kwangtung) or converted from a pre-existing temple (Wu-Tang, O Mei Shan). Politically and militarily involved monks (such as the legendary White Eyebrow and Hung Tze Kwan) would be perpetual sources of trouble for the generally temporally aloof monks.

    The Boxer rebellion in 1901 was the beginning of the end of the Shaolin temples. Prior to that, China had been occupied by Western and Japanese governments and business interests. The British had turned the Imperial family into an impotent puppet regime largely through the import and sales of opium and the general drug-devastation inflicted upon the poor population. This lead to the incursion of other European powers, including Russia, France and Holland, and later the Japanese and Americans. By the late 1800s, China was effectively divided into national zones, each controlled by one of the outside powers (similar to post World War II Berlin, on a hugely larger scale). The long standing animosities between China and Japan worsened, and extended to include all other "foreign devils" as well. Coupled with the now almost universal disdain by the Chinese for their Empress, a Nationalist movement with nation-wide grass-roots support was born. Among the front line soldiers of the new "order" were the legendary and near-legendary martial artists--many Shaolin--known as Boxers (remember how Bruce Lee, in his films depicting these times, refers to himself as a Chinese boxer...). Though their initial assaults on the military powers of the occupation governments were not entirely successful (many believed in Taoist magical spells that would make them impervious to gunfire), their temporary defeat would lead to a more modern reformation that included adopting modern military weapons and tactics.

    The withdrawal of western forces was prolonged over many years, and by the end of World War I saw China in an almost feudal state of civil war. Not only were national troops fighting loyalists, but both sides had to fight the Japanese (who still held much of the northern Manchurian region of China) as well as many powerful, regional warlords. Many parts of China were virtually anarchies, but by 1931 almost all non-Asian occupants had been successfully driven out (with the interesting exception, in the late 1930s, of the volunteer American airmen known as The Flying Tigers, who helped repel Japanese forces prior to World War II), and the major combatants within China were the Nationalists and the Communists. Both sides displayed the typical jingoistic attitudes of forces in mindless warfare--if you aren't with us, you are against us. Neutrality meant nothing except the possibility of a later enemy. Consequently, Shaolin and other monks were routinely murdered by soldiers from both sides. One result of this program of murder was the exodus of many monks into the hills, or abroad, with the hope that Shaolin knowledge might survive even if the temples themselves did not.

    The temples were unfortunate victims of war in a land that had abandoned its historical practice of respecting posterity and ancestors. All were ransacked and looted by various armed groups. O Mei Shan Temple ("Great White Mountain"), in Szechuan Province, was situated on a mountain top and deemed by Chinese officers to be a fitting target for artillery practice. It was shelled in turn by Nationalist and Communist armies. In a fitting twist of fate, this one-time site of medical and natural history knowledge was rebuilt by the Communists in the mid 1970s, and now stands as the National Park and Research Headquarters for the panda preserve.

  11. #56
    Kung Lek Guest
    Lei, that story is about 3% fact and 97% total fiction.
    it is wholly unreliable and one of the reasons it is so difficult to find out the truths is because people insist on perpetuating ripping yarns such as the one you have just posted. :)

    yeesh, Fang Chang? Try Hua To. 540? thats 20 years after the latest possible date that Bodhidharma arrived, his arrival is mostly accepted as being approximately 520 ad by only one account, the latest account of three tellings.

    Also, Ta Mo was only called Ta Mo because the Chinese pronounced his name Bodidharma as Pu Ti Ta Mo. Ta Mo is a "slang name given him.

    Shaolin.Com has been trying to sell the idea of multiple Shaolin Temples since they opened that site, in truth the do more to obfuscate the facts than to promote Shaolin truly.

    In my opinion, and I do not even dare say that I have the absolute facts, Shaolin.Com is a terrible resource for facts about the temple.
    Perhaps they have an agenda of their own to push?


    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  12. #57
    richard sloan Guest


    ...Kung you must realize that Fang Chang is not a name: it's an unfortunate pinyinese for the word for abbot- fang zhang.

    As to the story- I've heard the story several different ways, and the one presented by is off in several regards to the one we learn.

    Something that has always struck me as strange in the whole 'developemental reasons for why monks learned martial arts' stories was the whole 'wild animal' premise. I've never seen anyone train to fight an animal, and there are no techniques that exhibit any specificity towards defending against animals. If that were one of the primary reasons you would think we would have some residuals to look at. I guess I'm saying I don't buy that as a reason. It's seems more logical to recognize the desire for unity between mind, body, and spirit, and the idea Damo had of redefining what a sutra was is really one of the defining principles upon which Ch'an is built- that also seems more in line. For instance I always see Yi Jin Jing translated as muscle/tendon changing classic. The character for Jing has the meaning of 'sutra.' That search for unity is more in line with the Ch'an philosophy of eradicating duality and understanding and expressing oneself.

    Also, that bit about not accepting, or refusing to accept harm, is bull. While it sounds like a logical premise, it is absurd in reality. Suggesting that would be the type of thing a master would crack you across the skull for.Ï

  13. #58
    r.(shaolin) Guest
    >Kung you must realize that Fang Chang is not a name: it's an unfortunate pinyinese for the
    > word for abbot- fang zhang.<

    'Fang Chang' is Wade-Giles for the shortened term for Abbot. The term 'Fang Chang' actually referes to the abbot's quarters which is also called 'Fang Chang Shih'. The full title of the abbot is 'Fang Chang Ho Shang' - Monk of the Fang Chang. The term is often shortened and referes to both the abbot as well as to his room in the monastery.

    >Something that has always struck me as str ange in the whole 'developemental reasons for why
    > monks learned martial arts' stories was the whole 'wild animal' premise. I've never seen
    > anyone train to fight an animal, and there are no techniques that exhibit any specificity
    > towards defe nding ag ainst animals.<

    This relates more to the martial arts use of the 'alarm' staves ' used by Buddhist monks.
    First of all it must be remembered that for centuries, an important aspect of Buddhist monaticism were pilgrimages. These staves (and th ere were various types) were alarmed to ward off any dangerous wild animal and were one of the 18 possessions of wandering Buddhist monks . Those of you who are familiar of wilderness hiking in bear country know well the importance of carring an alarm. Before the 1900's these staves were a common feature of medicant monks. The need for a means of self defense by itinerant monks is obvious
    and even documented as late as the 1920's. Traveling in pre 1900 China was a dangerous affair and monkhood did n ot exempt one for being accosted..

    [This message was edited by r.(shaolin) on 10-28-01 at 06:37 PM.]

  14. #59
    Kung Lek Guest
    yes i am aware of the term Fang Zhang, my inference was towards the vaguness at the site being that they do not even name the abbot but just say "abbot".

    sorry, my lack of clarity.


    Kung Lek

    Martial Arts Links

  15. #60
    Yum Cha Guest

    Fact and fantasy

    Thanks for the replys guys. U2 SM. I thought it rather odd that the trees in front of the 1500 year old temple looked about 20 years old. ;)

    Now I understand why. :D

    As for Pak Mei, if indeed there ever was one by such a name, I'm told the legend (pick one of the dozen going around) relates to the southern temple, which must be the ruins in Fujian. Sifu says they were "Revolutionaries", against the Manchu. I like the "Foreign Legion" analogy SM.

    Gene, I was already to buy a back copy, the December 2000 issue with the feature on Pak Mei. At $3.99, that was cool, but shipping of $22.50 to Australia, made it just a bit too spendy :eek:

    I'm sure it was interesting, is it available on-line anywhere?

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