The Shaolin Temple of China
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The Shaolin Temple of China

The Shaolin Temple or the Shaolin Monastery is a Chan Buddhist temple or monastery in China. This famous Buddhist temple is situated at Song Shan near Zhengzhou City Henan Province in Dengfeng, China.

The Shaolin Temple or the Shaolin Monastery is a Chan Buddhist temple or monastery in China. This famous Buddhist temple is situated at Song Shan near Zhengzhou City Henan Province in Dengfeng, China. Shaolin Temple and its tradition are carried forward under the leadership of Venerable abbot Shi Y?ngxìn and martial abbot Shi De Li.

This world renowned Shaolin monastery was founded in the 5th century. Shaolin Temple is famous all over the world from its association with Chinese martial arts. This Mahayana Buddhist monastery is known far and wide for its association with the Shaolin Kung Fu traditions. The renowned Pagoda Forest of the Shaolin Temple and the monastery are now inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Shaolin Temple was built around 497 AD. “Shaolin” means "monastery/temple in the woods of Mount Shaoshi". The first Shaolin monastery abbot was Batuo or Buddhabhadra. He was an Indian meditation master who came to China around 464 AD to propagate Buddhism. Shaolin has its Buddhist traditions originated from India.

image source          Main gate of the Shaolin Monastery


Shaolin Temple has had a checkered history. In the strides of history, Shaolin Temple has been destroyed and rebuilt many a time. Around 1641, the anti-Ming rebel Li Zicheng and his troops sacked Shaolin Temple because the monks were supporters of Ming. In the action of the troops, the fighting force of Shaolin Temple was destroyed.

However, the greatest destruction to Shaolin Temple occurred during the Qing government because Shaolin Temple and the monks were accused of anti-Qing activities. There are different versions to this destruction story and it happened during the later half of the 15th century and early half of the 16th century AD. This destruction has caused the spreading of Shaloin martial arts through the five fugitive monks Ng Mui, Jee Shin Shim Shee, Fung Doe Duk, Miu Hin and Bak Mei.

image source       The Pagoda forest (300 meters west of the Shaolin Monastery in Henan).

However, there are other versions to the destruction story about Shaolin Temple and some say that it was not Shoalin Temple, but another monastery which was destroyed. There s no documented authority for these stories and are mainly passed over through fiction, cinema and martial arts literature.

MORE RECENT ATTACKS ON SHAOLIN TEMPLEIn modern times, in 1928, the Shaolin Temple was set to fire by the warlord Shi Yousan. This caused massive destruction to the monastery. In the fire that lasted for 40 days nearly 90 per cent of Shaolin Temple was destroyed. Again, in 1966, in the Cultural Revolution which was targeted against religious orders, Shaolin Temple also was attacked. The monks were shackled, flogged, were made to wear placards declaring their crimes and were paraded through the streets while the public threw rubbish at them. Buddhist materials were removed from the monastery also.

image source       The Pagoda forest (wide view).

All over the world, martial artists whished to see the restoration of Shaolin Temple and they made donations and some renovations were done. Many people have tried to capitalize on the fame of Shaolin by building schools on Mount Song. But the Chinese government outlawed this move and all the schools had to move out.


In recent times, some changes have come over Shaolin Temple. In August 1999, it was decided at a Dharma gathering at Shaolin Temple that the Buddhist Master Shi Yongxin was to take office as abbot of the Shaolin monastery. Shi Yongxin became the 13th successor after Buddhist abbot Xue Ting Fu Yu. There had been a 300-year-old ban on the Jieba in Shaolin Temple. In 2007 the Chinese government partially lifted the ban. In Shaolin traditions, the Jieba is the holy ceremony in which nine marks are burned onto the head with sticks of incense. Now it is allowed for those who are mentally and physically prepared to participate in the ancient tradition.

image source      Walking through the alley of the monastery


It is believed that the Bodhisattva Vajrapani is the patron saint of the Shaolin Monastery. This view has been held by the Tel Aviv University professor Meir Sahar in his book ‘The Shaolin Monastery’ (2008). There is an anecdote telling how the deity had been venerated in the Monastery from the eighth century. The anecdote tells how the Shaolin monk Sengchou (480-560) gained supernatural powers. He gained superhuman strength and fighting ability by praying to Vajrapani and he was force-fed raw meat.



1. Kennedy, Brain and Elizabeth Guo, Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2005 (ISBN 1-55643-557-6), p. 70

2. Leff, Norman. Martial Arts Legends (magazine). “Atemi Waza”, CFW Enterprises, April 1999.

3. Chang Dsu Yao-Roberto Fassi; Enciclopedia del Kung-Fu Shaolin; 1993; Hardcover 128 Pages ISBN 8827200169 ISBN 9788827200162; example,

4. Shahar, Meir (December 2001). "Ming-Period Evidence of Shaolin Martial Practice". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2) 61 (2): 359–413. doi:10.2307/3558572. ISSN 0073-0548. .

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Comments (5)

China is a very interesting place. Dug this one :)

An excellent history about Shaolin Temple.


well written and illustrated. very informative.Thanks


i like it..