Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple

The Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple, is a Chan Buddhist temple at Song Shan in Henan Province of what is now the People's Republic of China. The monastery was built by the Emperor Hsiao-Wen in AD 477, and the first abbot of Shaolin was Batuo, (also, Fotuo or Bhadra (the Chinese transposition of Buddha), an Indian dhyana master who came to China in AD 464 to spread Buddhist teachings. Long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts and particularly with Shaolin Kung Fu, it is the Mahayana Buddhist monastery perhaps best known to the Western world.

What to see in Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple Permanent Residence Compound starts from the gate, having seven courtyards for worshipping Buddha, sitting in meditation, chanting scriptures, reception, collecting books and undertaking religious ceremonies as well as for residence of abbotting monks and deacons and process of routine affairs. The Permanent Residence Compound is 160 meters wide and 360 meters long, with a land area of 57,600 square meters.

Forest steles: Inside Gateway, the central passage is high but smooth. Inside the two side doors, the passage is low with a comparatively steep slop, rising from south to north. The central passage is meant for human, while the two side passages are for carts and horses and so the eastern and western passages are also called as the packway. Behind Gateway is Devajara Hall. Between Devajara Hall and Gateway, there are three flourishing ancient maidenhair trees to form a natural landscape in the Temple.

Under the ancient trees, four rows of ancient tablets are arranged from east to west, with two at the eastern and western walls and two along the central passage to form an open Forest of Steles. Before the tablets and under the trees are many moving poems left over by the ancient and modern scholars. In View on Tangwangs Announcement of Shaolin Temple, Qing Dynastys Jingri praised these tablets as: 'in Shaolin Temple, there are numerous ancient tablets being horizontally and vertically placed. Under the cedars, they show spiritual lights. Most of them were written by famous persons.' According to the Annals of Shaolin Temple (the 13th year of Qing Qianlong), Forest of Steles include some important steles carvings like Tablet for Chan Master Xi An's achievements, Chan Master Chun Zhuo's state of practicing Buddhism and the tablet for thanks-giving to previous months. The famous Hong Kong Kongfu storywriter, Mr. Jin Yong inscribed 'Shaolin Secret and Treasure of the Nation' for Shaolin Kongfu and Medical Secrets.

Thousand-Buddha hall, also called as Pilu Pavilion, Pilu Hall and Thousand-Buddha Pavilion, is located at the grand platform behind Lixue Pavilion, being the last hall in Shaolin Temple as well as the biggest hall and pavilion building in the temple. It was built in the sixteenth year of Ming Wanli (1588). The monk in charge of the project was the 26th Abbot Jingan appointed by the Emperor. It had been renovated many times in the Qing Dynasty. The special renovation was carried out in the 40th year of Qing Qianlong (1775), after which the hall had a new appearance. After the establishment of New China, maintenance has been frequently made on the hall and thus the ancient architecture has been well retained. Thousand-Buddha Hall is a single-ridge flush garble roof architecture with seven spans wide (27.09 meters), three spans deep (11.15 meters), and a height of 17.579 meters. Under the roof of the hall is the large horizontal board written with 'Western Sage'. The front open hall and secondary rooms are installed four screen doors, while the other four have screen windows. With the high roof and wide windows on the doors, light is easily caught. In front of the hall is a large stage with excellent carvings. On the top are the elegantly-carved fences. Steps are provided on the front and sides. The center of the front steps is placed with the stone carving for the imperial path (also known as path of god or 'Bi' (flight of steps) in Song Dynasty). It is carved with traditional patterns like 'two dragons playing the pearl', and 'swans standing on the lotus', and landscape. The entire stage is excellently fabricated and specified, which is the original structure of the pavilion.


The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Perhaps the best-known story of the Temple's destruction is that it was destroyed in 1644 by the Qing government for supposed anti-Qing activities (giving birth to the famous slogan "Destroy the Qing, restore the Ming!"); this destruction is also supposed to have helped spread Shaolin martial arts through China by means of the 5 fugitive monks Ng Mui, Jee Shin Shim Shee, Fung Doe Duk, Miu Hin and Bak Mei. This story commonly appears in martial arts history, fiction, and cinema.

However, accounts of the Qing Dynasty destroying the Shaolin temple may refer to a southern Shaolin temple, which Ju Ke, in the Qing bai lei chao (1917), located in Fujian Province. Additionally, some martial arts historians, such as Tang Hao and Stanley Henning, believe that the story is likely fictional, appearing only at the very end of the Qing period in novels and sensational literature.

History of Shaolin Temple

China has a long and rich history. Chinese Martial Arts has a worldwide reputation and vastness represented one of the most cherished facets of traditional Chinese culture. In China there is a folk saying that in the north Shaolin-style is respected while in the south Wudang-style is esteemed, Wudang and Shaolin are the two birthplaces of Chinese Martial Arts and both have had strict principles in succession since the ancient times. After the year 1970 Wudang and Shaolin are open to the outside world.

Early history
Shaolin Monastery was built on the north side of Shaoshi, the western peak of Mount Song, one of the Sacred Mountains of China, by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Yang Xuanzhi, in the Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (AD 547), and Li Xian, in the Ming Yitongzhi (AD 1461), concur with Daoxuan's location and attribution. The Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi (AD 1843) specifies that this monastery, located in the province of Henan, was built in the 20th year of the Taihe era of the Northern Wei Dynasty, that is, the monastery was built in AD 497.

Resent history
There is evidence of Shaolin martial arts techniques being exported to Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries. Okinawan Shrin-ry karate, for example, has a name meaning "Small [Shao]lin". Other similarities can be seen in centuries-old Chinese and Japanese martial arts manuals.

In 1928, the warlord Shi Yousan set fire to the monastery, burning it for over 40 days, destroying 90% of the buildings including many manuscripts of the temple library.

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 targeted religious orders including the Monastery. The five monks who were present at the Monastery when the Red Guard attacked were shackled and made to wear placards declaring the crimes charged against them. The monks were jailed after being flogged publicly and parading through the street as people threw rubbish at them. The government purged Buddhist materials from within the Monastery walls, leaving it barren for years.

Martial arts groups from all over the world have made donations for the upkeep of the temple and grounds, and are subsequently honored with carved stones near the entrance of the temple.

In the past, many people have tried to capitalize on the Shaolin Monastery by building their own schools on Mount Song. However, the Chinese government eventually outlawed this, and so the schools all moved to the nearby towns.

A Dharma gathering was held between August 19 and 20, 1999, in the Shaolin Monastery, Songshan, China, for Buddhist Master Shi Yong Xin to take office as abbot. He is the thirteenth successor after Buddhist abbot Xue Ting Fu Yu. In March 2006 Vladimir Putin of Russia became the first foreign leader to visit the monastery.

Two luxury bathrooms were recently added to the temple for use by monks and tourists. The new bathrooms reportedly cost three million yuan

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