The Shaolin Temples
History tells us that many of the monks in the Shaolin temple were retired soldiers or generals. Under the pressure of frequent attacks by bandits, the Shaolin Monks, combined Bodhidharma’s teachings with the martial arts techniques, of the Chinese Warrior’s and created a unique and highly effective method of combat; these combined techniques gave the Shaolin Warrior a far-flung reputation for deadly martial arts and fighting abilities.
The Fukien temple was known to be the second temple of Shaolin around 650 A.D.; throughout the centuries, the fortunes, of the Shaolin Monks were the results of political and dynastic changes in Chinese history. Many and other temples became part of the Shaolin system. Shaolin Monks, were alternately courted and renowned by those in power, who wished to have the monks on their side. The temples were burned and rebuilt, many times, but the knowledge of the art survived while the monks continually added to their knowledge and improved upon it.
Throughout history, the temples prospered and became widely known as centers of learning of philosophy as well as martial arts. Becoming a student of the temple was difficult; potential students were expected to wait outside the temple gates, for long periods of time, while their temperaments and attitudes were closely observed by the monks. Once admitted, students, endured years of service and countless chores before being accepted as disciples. Once accepted, students, would receive an unparalleled education in philosophy, fine arts, and the martial arts. When a student graduated from the school, they had to exhibit phenomenal skills, and pass through 18 testing chambers. The last and final chamber, was not for the faint at heart; the student, would have to grip a burning-hot iron cauldron with their bare forearms, branding them with the raised iron impression of a tiger and a dragon.
Throughout the ages, Shaolin Masters, developed new styles and forms of combat and brought them back to their temples. Many variations of Martial Arts styles, were incorporated into their teachings, that they had learned from their various travels and thus, their arts flourished in the temples, during the Ming Dynasty.
In the mid-17th century, Manchurian invaders, began to systematically and brutally take control of China. An internal rebellion, contributed significantly to the fall of the Ming Dynasty. It is said that the betrayal of an insider, was the cause of the destruction of the Honan temple in 1647 A.D. During this time, many monks fled to the Fukien Temple, where they continued to support the resistance fighters. This led to the destruction of the Fukien and other temples that practiced Shaolin Kung Fu. With the practice of Shaolin Kung Fu outlawed, the Masters continued to teach in hiding while in exile; taking many years before the temples were reopened in the early 1800’s and only being allowed for use of religious practices. The next rebellion was known as the Boxer Rebellion, of 1900, and caused another wave of escaped resistance fighters, many of whom were Shaolin Monks; they scattered to the United States, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, and other countries and the third burning of the Shaolin Temple happened in 1927. In recent years, the government of China has come to realize the importance of the cultural heritage of Shaolin, and reopened the temples.