Shaolin Temple (Chinese: 少林寺; pinyin; Shàolín sì), also known as the Shaolin Monastery, the Chan Buddhist Temple, or ‘the Number One Temple under Heaven’.

Shaolin Temple is located under the foot of Songshan Mountain (Mount Song) in Dengfeng City, Henan Province, China. Situated 95km in the west of the capital city of Henan – Zhengzhou and 110km in the east of ancient city Luoyang. It’s the cradle of Shaolin martial arts or Shaolin Kung Fu.

The History of Shaolin Temple

With a long history, Shaolin Temple was built in 495 AD by the then- Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557) for the Indian monk Batuo (Buddhabhadra). Thirty two years later, another Indian monk Bodhidharma arrived at Shaolin Temple. He is the first monk preaching Chan doctrines here, thus was honored as the first Patriarch of Chinese Chan. Thereafter, Shaolin Temple was recognized as the origin of Chan Buddhism.

Situated at the Song Mountain, the Central Sacred Mountain, the temple was frequented by generals and emperors. Until its modern renaissance, the golden age of the monastery has been said to be during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). At the beginning of the seventh century, a tiny army of 13 Shaolin monks were reputed to have saved future Tang Dynasty emperor Li Shimin. When he took power, Li showered favors, land and wealth on the temple, then it thrived as a Kung Fu center, with masters from around the country. Shaolin Temple peaked in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) , at its heyday, it housed more than 3,000 monks.

Shaolin Kung Fu

‘Shaolin Kung Ku is the best under heaven’, ‘All martial arts under heaven originated from Shaolin’, there were many old sayings in Chinese folklore related to Shaolin Kung Fu. Shaolin Kung Fu also called Shaolin Wushu, is one of the oldest, largest, and the most famous styles of Kung Fu or Wushu. It combines Chan (Zen) philosophy and martial arts and originated and was developed in the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, Henan Province, China during its 1500-year history.

The History of Shaolin Kung Fu

From 58 to 76 A.D., Indian and Chinese relations began to grow. Accordingly, the concept of Buddhism became more popular in China as monks traveled between India and China. An Indian monk by the name of Bodhidharma may have played a significant role in the development of the Chinese martial arts. It is believed that he eventually preached to the monks at the newly formed Shaolin Temple in China. While there, he may have taught the monks martial arts movements, which served as the basis of Shaolin Kung Fu.

The Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) saw 13 warrior monks help the Tang emperor rescue his son, Li Shimin, from an army of soldiers looking to overthrow the ruling party. When Li Shimin was eventually named emperor, he called Shaolin the “Supreme Temple” in China and fostered learning exchanges between the imperial court, armies, and the Shaolin monks.

Shaolin Kung Fu Characteristics

Shaolin Kung Fu, like all of the kung fu styles, is primarily a striking style of martial art that utilizes kicks, blocks, and punches to stop attackers. One thing that is pervasive in kung fu is the sheer beauty of the forms they practice, as well as the mixture of open and closed hand, strikes to defend against attackers. There is a minimal emphasis on throws and joint locks. The discipline also utilizes both hard (meeting force with force) and soft (using an aggressor’s strength against them) techniques. The Shaolin styles also tend to stress kicks and wide stances.

Shaolin Kung Fu Today

Once it caught on, the art of Shaolin Kung Fu continued to grow and imbed itself within the Chinese culture. Over the centuries, these techniques continue to expand and grow with the input and experience of other martial artists. Different martial arts practitioners in various parts of the country – or even world – practice forms of this martial art which have been passed down through the generations. Today, despite how kung fu is currently defined, the term is still widely used to describe Chinese martial arts, where both forms and style can still be tied back to the original Shaolin monks and the Shaolin Temple.

In fact, Shaolin Kung Fu have become world famous entertainers, as their art is beautiful to watch. In the past years, Shaolin kung fu performances have appeared on the stage extensively, bringing a lot of amazing performances to the global audience, such as the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the Spring Festival Gala, The World’s Best TV Show, and many other large-scale events.