SHAOLIN TEMPLE, Songshan, China, Brief History
The Shaolin Temple was founded in 495 AD by a Buddhist monk, Ba Tuo, with the support of the Emperor of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Situated at the Song Mountain, the Central Sacred Mountain, the temple was frequented by generals and Emperors and it is likely that martial arts were known and practised at the temple throughout its history. Bodhidharma (Da Mo), an Indian prince who became a Buddhist monk, arrived to the Shaolin Temple in 527 AD. According to the tradition he found the monks too weak to practise mediation and subsequently taught them external exercises and internal forms.
This tradition was expanded over the centuries and gave rise to the unique nature of Shaolin culture based on the combination of martial training with Chan (the Chinese equivalent of Zen) Buddhism. Slowly the art of combat integrated with the monks’ spiritual development and as the skill is refined, training becomes part of the practitioner’s progress in the Chan discipline. Violence is accepted within a moral framework and a monk cannot kill or use certain forbidden techniques.
The Shaolin Temple has suffered three major destructive persecutions and as a result most historical artifacts and documents have been destroyed. Fortunately official acceptance of the Temple came in the 1980s. The current Abbot Shi Yong Xin is working in strengthening the Shaolin reputation and bringing the various lines of traditional teaching back in the temple.
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