If you are extremely crazy about Chinese Kungfu, Shaolin Kungfu will be always your top selection for exercising. Shaolin temple or Shaolin Monastery is famous for its central level of Buddhism and more famous for its Kungfu and its life and natural philosophy released in daily body and mental exercise. Monks in Shaolin Temple master Kungfu for bodybuilding, temple protection and even state defensive. Now it is for self-protection, leisure and amusement, especially playing an important role in filmmaking. Currently Shaolin Kungfu is a shining star drawing many Kungfu lovers or Chinese culture enthusiast all around the world.
Shaolin Temple (Shaolin Monastery) is crowned as the center of Zen ideology of Buddhism or Taoism and the first most-famous temple on earth. During the era of Southern and Northern Dynasty (420-581), a monk from India visited China. He crazily loved Zen and was highly respected by Emperor Xiaowendi, who was one of most famous Emperors for its cultural enthusiasm of China and took a reform in many aspects to adapt to the need of agricultural civilization and cultural exchange. In 496, he ordered to build a temple for this Indian monk on Shaoshi Mountain and served him the living resources. Due to its address, so it is called Shaolin Temple later from generation to generation. It is said in Buddhism history that Bodhidharma(Damo Master)of India taught the sutra in China and later he went toward north side of Yangtze River and meditated in Shaolin Temple for 9 years, finally he passed his thought to his student Huike, since then the thought of Shaolin Temple widely spreaded in China and surrounding areas. In Sui Dynasty (581-618), thanks to the policy of supporting Buddhism, it was resumed and rewarded many farmlands, and then it became a big northern temple.
During the early period of Tang Dynasty (618-907), for eliminating separation condition and decentralization, Li Shimin, the second famous Emperor of Tang Dynasty was greatly helped by Thirteen Kungfu Monks in Wars. Since then Shaolin Temple got the nationwide fame. In Legend, Shaolin Boxing was invented by Bodhidharma(Damo Master). 13 Shaolin Temple Monks Huichang, Tanzong, and Zhijian etc helped Lishimin during the war for trouble debarment. Later Emperor Taizong Li Shimin ordered Monk Tanzong to be the general, and permit the Kungfu monk of Shaolin Temple to eat the meat, drink the wine and kill the evil.
In Ming Dynasty (1368-1544), there were eight sons of Emperors changed to be monks in Shaolin Temple. At this period, Shaolin Temple was rebuilt for many times under the thumb of government. In Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Shaolin Temple is deeply concerned by government. Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Yongzheng and Emperor Qianlong gifted Shaolin too much in policymaking and finance. By the way, the tablet of the front-door gate was written and gifted by Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty. At present, it is still the big temple with many buildings.
Nearby the temple, there was a Pagoda Forest. The pagoda forest in Shaolin Temple was a concentration of tomb pagodas for eminent monks, abbots and ranking monks at the temple. A rough count shows more than two hundred fifty tomb pagodas of various sizes, making it the biggest pagoda forest in China. The forest stands at the foot of Shaoshi Mountain about half a kilometer west of Shaolin Temple and is composed of pagodas dating from 791 to 1803. Most are stone and brick structures of one to seven storeys, under fifteen meters high--much smaller than pagodas for Buddhist relics--but they all carry the exact year of their construction and many carvings and inscriptions. They are in a variety of styles, but are mainly multi-eaved and pavilion-style. Their shapes are varied, including polygonal, cylindrical, vase, conical and monolithic, making the pagoda forest an exhibition of ancient pagodas, carvings and calligraphy of various dynasties.
Here also lie the remains and traces of the activities of some eminent foreign monks. For example, in the eastern part of the forest a tomb pagoda built in 1339 in the Yuan Dynasty bears an epitaph written by a Japanese monk at Shaolin Temple, which is of elegant language and excellent handwriting. In the western part of the forest is a tomb pagoda built in 1564 in the Ming Dynasty for an Indian monk. Besides the pagoda forest there are many invaluable tomb pagodas scattered around Shaolin Temple. They include Faro Pagoda and Tongguang Pagoda, built in 689 and 771 in the Tang Dynasty, Tongguang Pagoda, constructed in 926 in the Five Dynasties, and Yuangong Pagoda, erected in 1324 in the Yuan Dynasty, which are gems among ancient pagodas.
Shaolin Kungfu is originated from monks’ daily life. It is said that Huiguang, the student of Batuo, was able to kick shuttlecock in reverse 500 times on the edge of the well at the age of 12. It is very dangerous for commoners to kick shuttlecock, the player generally fall into the well if his Kungfu is not good. In fact many detailed performances of Kungfu are from monks’ daily work or behavior such as shouldering the buckets full of water, sweeping the ground, collecting the firewood and cooking. They were inspired by those jobs. So the most complicated Kungfu is the commonest one in life. So in many performances, Kungfu Shows and films, the characteristics of Kungfu is hardness. Exercisers are strong and powerful to turn against the invasion of the swords and knives. The performers can smash the stones and break the steel into two pieces with their fist, head and body. That is true!
The secret-book of Shaolin Temple is called vein-change sutra, or Yijingjin. It is said to be a book recorded the kungfu exercising procedure via dredging body veins and pulse for body building. Bodhidharma(Damo Master) used to exercise such a kungfu for avoiding the tiredness when he was in meditation. And it is said that after Bodhidharma(Damo Master) left Shaolin Temple. Monks found there was a iron box, which could not be opened though it was unlocked. The smart monks warmed it, and the box opened. The reason was that the box was waxed for water-proof. There were two books, one was Yijingjin, the other was Xisuijin, or Marrow-washing sutra. Both were written in ancient Indian Language. At that time, only Huike recognized such a language in Shaolin Temple. He left Yijingjin in Shaolin Temple and carried Xisuijin to visit the world. Afterwards, a monk understood Indian language superficially. He exercised the Kungfu following the book and caused many kungfu branches due to the different understandings and comprehensions. There was a monk went to Emei Mountain for help from an Indian monk. They translated the book into Chinese, and then Huike came back, they found these two book were integrative. One was for mind-building and the other for exact motion exercise. Since then, the Kungfu exercisers often exercise kungfu meanwhile sitting in meditation for mental building.
This is Shaolin temple and Shaolin Kungfu. They both make people strong and powerful in body and mentality. It is a wonder as well as mystery. The level of Kungfu is identical to the exercisers’ mental, moral and philosophical cognition.
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