World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Shaolin Monastery

Article Id: WHEBN0000029098
Reproduction Date:

Title: Shaolin Monastery  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fut Gar, Chinese martial arts, Shi Yan Ming, Xueting Fuyu, Yijin Jing
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Shaolin Monastery

Shaolin Monastery
Shaolin Monastery
Mountain name Mount Song
Address Dengfeng, Zhengzhou, Henan
Country China
Website Official site

Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple (Chinese: 少林寺; pinyin: shao lin si) is a Buddhist temple in Dengfeng county, Zhengzhou, Henan province, China. The temple is situated in the forests of Shaoshi Mountain (少室山; shao shi shan), one of the seven mountains of Song mountains (嵩山; song shan). The word lin () means "forest." Hence the temple has been named Shaolin. Shaolin is one of the four holy Buddhist temples of China. In addition to being the birthplace of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Shaolin is the first temple that institutionalized kung fu. Because of its long famous association with Shaolin Kung Fu and development of many other Chinese martial arts, it is considered the cradle of kung fu. So that the Chinese saying goes: "All martial arts under heaven arose out of Shaolin."

Shaolin Monastery and its famed Pagoda Forest were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010 as part of the "Historic Monuments of Dengfeng."[1]



The first Shaolin Monastery abbot was Batuo (also called Fotuo or Buddhabhadra) a dhyana master who came to China from India[2] in 464 AD or from Greco-Buddhist Central Asia[3] to spread Buddhist teachings.

According to the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (645 AD) by Daoxuan, Shaolin Monastery was built on the north side of Shaoshi, the central peak of Mount Song, one of the Sacred Mountains of China, by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty in 477 AD. Yang Xuanzhi, in the Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (547 AD), and Li Xian, in the Ming Yitongzhi (1461), concur with Daoxuan's location and attribution. The Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi (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 495 AD.

The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty was a supporter of Shaolin Temple, and he wrote the calligraphic inscriptions that still hang over the Heavenly King Hall and the Buddha Hall today.[4]

Destructions and Renovations

The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. During the Red Turban Rebellion in the 14th century, bandits ransacked the monastery for its real or supposed valuables, destroying much of the temple and driving the monks away. The monastery was likely abandoned from 1351 or 1356 (the most likely dates for the attack) to at least 1359, when government troops retook Henan. The events of this period would later figure heavily in 16th century legends of the temple's patron saint Vajrapani, with the story being changed to claim a victory for the monks, rather than a defeat.[5]

In 1641, rebel forces led by Li Zicheng sacked the monastery due to the monks' support of the Ming Dynasty and the possible threat they posed to the rebels. This effectively destroyed the temple's fighting force.[6] The temple fell into ruin and was home to only a few monks until the early 18th century, when the government of the Qing Dynasty patronized and restored the temple.[7]

Perhaps the best-known story of the Temple's destruction is that it was destroyed by the Qing government for supposed anti-Qing activities. Variously said to have taken place in 1647 under the Shunzhi Emperor, in 1674, 1677, or 1714 under the Kangxi Emperor, or in 1728 or 1732 under the Yongzheng Emperor, this destruction is also supposed to have helped spread Shaolin martial arts through China by means of the five fugitive monks. Some accounts claim that a supposed southern Shaolin Temple was destroyed instead of, or in addition to, the temple in Henan: Ju Ke, in the Qing bai lei chao (1917), locates this temple in Fujian province. These stories commonly appear in legendary or popular accounts of martial history, and in wuxia fiction.

While these latter accounts are common among martial artists, and often serve as origin stories for various martial arts styles, they are viewed by scholars as fictional. The accounts are known through often inconsistent 19th-century secret society histories and popular literature, and also appear to draw on both Fujianese folklore and popular narratives such as the classical novel Water Margin. Modern scholarly attention to the tales is mainly concerned with their role as folklore.[8][9][10][11]

Recent History

There is evidence of Shaolin martial arts being exported to Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries. Okinawan Shōrin-ryū karate (小林流), for example, has a name meaning "Small [Shao]lin".[12] Other similarities can be seen in centuries-old Chinese and Japanese martial arts manuals.[13]

In 1928, the warlord Shi Yousan set fire to the monastery, burning it for over 40 days, destroying a significant percent of the buildings, including many manuscripts of the temple library.[14]

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 targeted religious orders including the monastery. The five monks who were present at the monastery when the Red Guards attacked were shackled and made to wear placards declaring the crimes charged against them.[14] The monks were jailed after publicly being flogged and paraded through the street as people threw rubbish at them.[14] 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.

According to legend, during the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong granted the Shaolin Temple extra land and special "imperial dispensation" to eat meat, and drink, which would make Shaolin the only temple in China that did not prohibit alcohol, although this practice has ceased today.[15] This legend is not corroborated in any period documents, such as the Shaolin Stele erected in 728. The stele does not list any such imperial dispensation as reward for the monks' assistance during the campaign against Wang Shichong, only land and a water mill are granted.[16]

In the past, many have tried to capitalise on Shaolin Monastery fame by building their own schools on Mount Song. However, the Chinese government eventually outlawed this; the schools were moved to the nearby towns. However, as of 2010, the Ta Gou kung fu school, one of the largest martial arts schools in China, owns and practises on land below Shaolin Temple.[17] Current 31st Grand Master of the fighting monks is Shi De Yang, a disciple of the late abbot Shi Suxi.

A dharma gathering was held from August 19 to August 20, 1999, in Shaolin Monastery for Shi Yongxin's assumption of office as abbot. In March 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin became the first foreign leader to visit the monastery. In 2007, the Chinese government partially lifted the 300-year ban of the Jieba. The Jieba is the ancient ceremony of the nine marks, which are burned onto the head with sticks of incense. The ban was partially lifted only for those who were mentally and physically prepared to participate in the tradition.

Two modern bathrooms were recently added to the temple for use by monks and tourists. The new bathrooms reportedly cost three million yuan.[18] Films have also been released like Shaolin Temple[19] and more recently, Shaolin starring Andy Lau.

Shaolin temple buildings

The temple's inside area is 160x300 meters, that is, 57,600 square meters. It has 7 main halls on the axis and 7 other halls around, with several yards around the halls. The temple structure includes:

A mural painting in the temple (early 19th century)
Shaolin Monastery Stele on Mount Song (皇唐嵩岳少林寺碑), erected in 728 AD
A tree within the Shaolin Monastery used by the monks to practice finger-punching

Mountain Gate (山门; shan men): (built 1735; The entrance tablet written with golden characters "Shaolin Temple" (少林寺; shao lin si) in black background by Emperor Kangxi of Qing dynasty in 1704).

Forest of Steles (碑林; bei lin)

Ciyun Hall (慈雲堂; ci yun tang): (built 1686; changed 1735; reconstructed 1984). It includes Corridor of Steles (碑廊; bei lang), which has 124 stone tablets of various dynasties since the Northern Qi dynasty (550-570).

West Arrival Hall (西来堂; xi lai tang) aka Kung fu Hall (锤谱堂; chui pu tang): (built 1984).

Heavenly Kings (Devaraja) Palace Hall (天王殿; tian wang dian): (built in Yuan dynasty; repaired in Ming,Qing dynasties).

Bell Tower (钟楼; zhong lou): (built 1345; reconstructed 1994; The bell itself was built in 1204).

Drum Tower (鼓楼; gu lou): (built 1300; reconstructed 1996).

Kimnara Palace Hall (紧那罗殿; jin na luo dian): (reconstructed 1982).

Six Patriarchs Hall (六祖堂; liu zu tang)

Mahavira Palace Hall (大雄宝殿; da xiong bao dian) aka Main Hall or Great Hall : (built maybe 1169; reconstructed 1985).

Dining Hall: (built in Tang Dynasty; reconstructed 1995).

Sutra Room

Chan Halls: (reconstructed 1981).

Guest Reception Hall

Dharma (Sermon) Hall (法堂; fa tang) aka Scripture Room (藏经阁; zang jing ge): (reconstructed 1993).

East & West Guests Rooms

Abbot's Room (方丈室; fang zhang shi): (built in early Ming dynasty).

Standing in Snow Pavilion (立雪亭; li xue ting) aka Bodhidharma Bower (达摩庭; da mo ting): (reconstructed 1983).

Manjusri Palace Hall (wen shu dian): (reconstructed 1983).

Samantabhadra Palace Hall

White Robe (Avalokitesvara) Palace Hall (白衣殿; bai yi (Guan yin) dian) aka Kung fu Hall (quan pu dian): (built in Qing dynasty).

Ksitigarbha Palace Hall (地臧殿; di zang dian): (built in early Qing dynasty; reconstructed 1979).

1000 Buddha Palace Hall (千佛殿; qian fo dian) aka Pilu Pavilion (毗庐阁; pi lu ge): (built 1588; repaired 1639,1776).

Ordination Platform : (built 2006).

Monks' Rooms

Shaolin Pharmacy Bureau: (built 1217; reconstructed 2004).

Bodhidharma Pavilion (chu zu an): (built first in Song dynasty)

Bodhidharma Cave

Forest of Pagodas Yard (塔林院; ta lin yuan): (built before 791). It has 240 tomb pagodas of various sizes from the Tang, Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties (618-1911).

The Pagoda forest (wide view)
The Pagoda forest (close view), located about 300 meters west of the Shaolin Monastery in Henan

Shaolin Temple Wushu Guan

Southern and Northern Shaolin Monasteries

A number of traditions make reference to a Southern Shaolin Monastery located in Fujian province.[20] There has also been a Northern Shaolin monastery in northern China. Associated with stories of the supposed burning of Shaolin by the Qing government and with the tales of the Five Elders, this temple, sometimes known by the name Changlin, is often claimed to have been either the target of Qing forces or a place of refuge for monks displaced by attacks on the Shaolin Monastery in Henan. Besides the debate over the historicity of the Qing-era destruction, it is currently unknown whether there was a true southern temple, with several locations in Fujian given as the location for the monastery. Fujian does have a historic monastery called Changlin, and a monastery referred to as a "Shaolin cloister" has existed in Fuqing, Fujian, since the Song Dynasty, but whether these have an actual connection to the Henan monastery or a martial tradition is still unknown.[21] The Southern Temple has been a popular subject of wuxia fiction, first appearing in the 1893 novel Shengchao Ding Sheng Wannian Qing, where it is attacked by the Qianlong Emperor with the help of the White Eyebrow Taoist.[22]


  1. ^ China's Shaolin Temple, Danxia Landform Added To World Heritage Sites
  2. ^ Shahar, Meir. The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008 (ISBN 0824831101), p. 9
  3. ^ Broughton, Jeffrey L. (1999), The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-21972-4. pp. 54-55.
  4. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, p. 190
  5. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 83–85
  6. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 185–188
  7. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 182–183, 190
  8. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 183–185
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ McKeown, Trevor W., "Shaolin Temple Legends, Chinese Secret Societies, and the Chinese Martial Arts", in Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation, ed. Green and Svinth, pp, 112–113
  11. ^ Murry, Dian and Qin Baoqi, The Origins of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995, (ISBN 978-0804723244), pp. 154-156
  12. ^ Bishop, Mark (1989). Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques. A&C Black, London.  
  13. ^ Leff, Norman. Martial Arts Legends (magazine). "Atemi Waza", CFW Enterprises, April 1999.
  14. ^ a b c Gene Ching., Bak Sil Lum vs. Shaolin Temple.
  15. ^ Polly, Matthew. American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China Gotham Books, 2007, Page 37; Google Books, Accessed November 7, 2010.
  16. ^ Tonami, Mamoru. 1990. "The Shaolin Monastery Stele on Mount Song (tr. by P.A. Herbert)". Kyoto: Istituto Italiano di Cultura / Scuola di Studi sull' Asia Orientale p.17-18, 35
  17. ^ "Reflections on Return To China 2010". USA Shaolin Temple:Official Website. 29 August 2010. 
  18. ^ Jiang Yuxia., Luxurious toilets debut in Shaolin Temple. Xinhua. 8 April 2008.
  19. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, p. 46
  20. ^ 南少林之谜:两百多年前为何突然消失无影踪(4)
  21. ^ Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 184, 234–235
  22. ^ Hamm, John Christopher, Paper Swordsmen: JIn Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-8248-2895-X) pp. 34–36

External links

  • Tourism of Shaolin Temple
  • Shaolin Website-English
  • Shaolin Website-Chinese
  • Shaolin Temple in New York City, USA
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.