Shaolin Kung-Fu History
- 2600 BCE to 2300 BCE -The Age of 5 Rulers
- 2300 BCE to 1600 BCE - Xia Dynasty
- 1600 BCE to 1066 BCE - Shang Dynasty
- 1066 BCE to 771 BCE - Chau Dynasty
- 770 BCE to 221 BCE -Warring States
- 221 BCE to 206 BCE -Qui Dynasty
- 206 BCE to 220 BCE - Han Dynasty
- 265 CE to 439 CE - Six Dynasties
- 420 CE to 581 CE -Northern & Southern
- 581 CE to 906 CE -Tang Dynasty
- 907 CE to 960 CE -Five Dynasties
- 960 CE to 1279 CE -Song Dynasty
- 1206 CE to 1333 CE -Yuan Dynasty
- 1368 CE to 1644 CE -Ming Dynasty
- 1644 CE to 1911 CE -Ching Dynasty
- 1911 CE to 1949 CE -Republican Era
- 1949 CE to ____ CE -Chinese Republic
A United China
Although China began long before the Qui Dynasty, it was emperor Chin who united many of the warring states and joined many parts of the Great Wall ( built in parts against marauding Hans and Mongolian's ) immuring up to 300,000 Chinese workers into the wall in the belief that it would be stronger against attackers imbued with the spirits of the dead. ( This is also the emperor who created the famous Terra Cotta Warriors at the expense of 700,000 workers lives ).
The Establishment of Shaolin
Towards the end of the 5th Century CE an Indian Buddhist monk by name of Batuo (Chinese Name) was traveling through China teaching Buddhism, helping and guiding those he met. His great wisdom and kindness came to the ears of the Emperor Xiaowen, who summoned Batuo to come to him. Exact details of what happened at this meeting are not entirely clear but is seems that Batuo was offered riches, a place in the palace and encouraged to continue his teachings. Batuo declined this kind offer and asked for a piece of land far away from any large human settlements. According to the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks (645 CE) by Daoxuan, the Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty offered a place in the province of Henan, in the Sacred Mountains on the side of Mount Shaoshi in an area of Young Trees (Lin). Which is how the temple was named Shao Lin or Shaolin or Sillum in Cantonese.
Yang Xuanzhi, in the Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (547 CE), and Li Xian, in the Ming Yitongzhi (1461 CE), concur with Daoxuan's location and attribution. The Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi (1843 CE) 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 497 CE.
The Center of the Middle Kingdom
With the Shaolin Monastery being one of the first Buddhist temples in China; that also had the Imperial Support and was built in the Songshan Mountains, fame was almost instant. Many people sought the knowledge and retreat of the Shaolin Monastery,
Around the time of the building of the Shaolin Monastery, the 3rd son was born to the King of the Royal family of the Bhramin caste in Kanchi, Southern India, named Sardili. He was taught by the Buddhist Master Prajnatara, the 27th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism for many years and ultimately became the 28th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism and was named Bodhidharma. Before Master Prajnatara died he tasked Bodhidharma to spread Buddhism to China.
Bodhidharma traveled east to Southern China in 526 CE by ship. He arrived in Kwangzhou (Canton) where he started spreading the word of Buddhism. He came to the attention of Emperor Wu Di of the Liang dynasty and was invited to Nanjing.
The Emperor himself a Buddhist was not prepared for the stark teaching of Bodhidharma and the visit was short. During his time at court, Bodhidharma was renamed to Batuo (as his Indian name was very difficult to pronounce by the Chinese) and he heard of the Shaolin temple.
When Batuo's arrived at Shaolin he was not readily accepted, especially where he commented on the priests weak and sickly conditions. Long periods of inactive meditations and very little physical work had made Shaolin monks unwell. Not making himself popular with his criticism, he was asked to leave. But he was determined to enter Shaolin so he looked for a place to stay.
Just a little ways away from the Shaolin Temple, 15 to 20 minutes walk and the 20 minute climb up the mountain was a grotto and cave. It is said that he retreated to live there for 9 years.
During this time, he was visited by monks ( initially secretly as they were interested in the 'foreigner' ) and was supplied with food and water. In this way he was able to demonstrate his knowledge and skill of Buddhism to such a degree that he was finally ( after 9 years? ) admitted to the into the temple.
Upon gaining entrance to Shaolin, Damo continued to comment on the monks weakness and their inability to perform the rigorous meditations he expected that Buddhist Monks should be practicing. They often fell asleep meditating or were very able to achieving inner calm or peace that is required to reach Enlightenment.
Introduction of Physical Exercise
He spent some time in seclusion pondering the problem. Considering the time and health awareness of the period, Damo came to a staggeringly accurate conclusion, that the monks were not fit to meditate. With this in mind he started working on a solution; he created three treaties of exercises.
These in-place exercises were later transcribed by monks as;
- "The Muscle Change Classic" or "The Change of the Sinews"
- "The Marrow Washing"
- "The Eighteen Hand Movements later named The Eighteen Lohan Shou" (Lohan meaning enlightened and Shou meaning Hands/Exercises)
This marked the beginning of Shaolin Temple Kung Fu ( kung fu in Shaolin meaning hard work and perfection not martial or war art). Damo later devised some self-defence movements based on his knowledge of Indian fighting systems ( Bodhi Dharma was born an Indian Prince and was well versed in Yoga and Indian Kung Fu ).
1st Burning of Shaolin
A mere 30 years later, Shaolin was closed. The reason for this was not generally know but many speculate that the Shaolin were not able to defend themselves and were simply overrun by outlaws. Although Shaolin was not rich, it was also not poor and thus it may have become a target for the poor and lawless.
Reopening of Shaolin
Shaolin was still in the favor of the Emperor and with the help of Tang Dynasty emperor the Shaolin Temple was rebuilt and reoccupied. Shaolin were not about to make the same mistake and started to learn Kung Fu.
They started accepting retired generals to live with them. With the good relationships with the Tang emperor it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Shaolin started to change their exercises to a serve also as self defence.
72 Fists (Movements/Hands/Skills)
It was though a rich young noble and experienced martial artist who made the practice into the first Shaolin System proper. He entered the Shaolin Monastery and assumed the name of Chueh Yuan. He devoted all his studies to the further development of Shaolin Kung Fu and fitness training. Within a few years, he revised the 18 Hands of Lo Han and created what he called the 72 Styles, Movements or Fists (the Chinese Character used for this means all of these. As this was a very violent time, these 72 Fists were a very effective form of both Strategy and Combat.
His 72 Fists (methods/Skills etc) were so successful that all Shaolin monks adopted his 72 Fists very quickly. They were very effective for both internal and external fitness and incorporated strategy and thought into Shaolin Kung Fu. The 72 Fists were "very" effective; possibly to effective and not quite in line with Buddhist teachings!
Chueh Yuan had plenty of time on his hands and thus went out to teach and learn, looking for Masters of other styles to enrich his knowledge and the 72 Fist System.
This (the Journey Years) later became common practice for Shaolin. Shaolin adepts were sent out to share Buddha's teaching and help the poor ( much like the founder of Shaolin ). It was also a test, as many would be Shaolin monks were tempted by worldly pleasures and did not return. Those that did became the Priests and brought many new skills, knowledge and wisdom from their travels.
On his travels, Chueh Yuan witnessed a bandit attacking an aged person. He saw how the attacker landed an apparently very strong kick to the body of the traveler with very little or no effect. The old traveler only used two fingers against the bandit's leg sending the attacker crumbling to the ground, seemingly unconscious by the time Chueh reached them. This maneuver obviously impressed Chueh Yuan enormously and he introduced himself to the senior. Much to his surprise the old man did not know much of martial arts and what little he knew he had learned from the local master Pai Yu-feng.
Pai Yu-feng was a friendly 50 year old and Chueh Yuan convinced him to accompany him back to the Shaolin temple. Over the next few years they, using the 18 Hands of Lohan, the 72 Fist Styles together with Pai Yu-feng's pressure point grappling/wrestling techniques', they redeveloped the Shaolin Kung Fu into the 170 exercises, a mixture of 72 Fists expanded with pressure point and grappling/wrestling/throwing techniques.
The Second Temple
Built around the same time as the Shaolin temple in Henan, the Fukien Temple was integrated into mainstream Shaolin around 650 CE and became the 'Second Temple" of Shaolin. It was/is a much larger temple than the one in Henan and served as the second main temple in times where Henan was destroyed or occupied by other than Buddhists and Shaolin.
Shaolin skills, fame and popularity grew with it now having many retired generals who devoted them selves to Buddhism. Both temples now also trained the 72 Fist/170 Movements combination to great success. This was not only in Kung Fu but in other aspects too.
Shaolin became a center of learning. It often invited traveling masters, healers, poets and such to enter Shaolin and stay for a while as honored guests. As Buddhists they shared their knowledge freely and also learned from the travelers. they became very apt in many aspects of learning including healing and martial arts. Friendly competitions were sponsored and Shaolin Monks learned to use their skills against real opponents (not just fellow monks).
Shaolin now were very vigorous in their training including using weapons. These weapons were not meant to be used against people but to learn how to defend against weapons. they trained many weapon styles as part of their regular fitness training.
The 13 Champions
In 698 ad, Emperor T'ai Tsung called upon the fighting monks of Shaolin to aid him in his war against General Wang-Shih-Chung. The general had gathered a large army in an attempt to oust the Emperor from the Imperial throne. Li Shimini, the Emperors son, was leading the army against Tang when Wang-Shih-Chung forces managed to capture the Emperors son and inflicted great damage to Tangs army. Tang sent a message to Shaolin, asking for help to save his son.
This was a heavy burden for Shaolin as it went against the foundation of their beliefs to cause harm to humans for any reason. yet the Emperors 'request' could not be ignored. It is recorded that 13 monks were sent to answer their emperor's plea, although in fact it may have been a much larger force (113 monks or some such). Even though the number of Shaolin monks sent was small ( the enemy's army numbered 10,000 men ). The Shaolin sent 13 Bronze Pole fighters and these entered the Army at night. In the morning they exited the camp with the Emperors son Li Shimini. The army was destroyed during the night and the General was not heard of again. After returning the Emperors son, the 13 monks were also not heard of again.
In recognition of their great action T'ai Tsung awarded the monks land, and bestowed upon the temple the title, 'Number One" temple in China.
1st Golden Era of Shaolin
Li Shimini, succeeded upon his father death. Remembering how he was saved, a very strong bond was forged between the Imperial Court and Shaolin. This lead to regular interchange and training between high ranking soldiers and graduate Shaolin Warrior Monks saw further development of Shaolin Kung Fu and the integration of the secret Imperial ( Eagle ) Kung Fu into Shaolin knowledge and skills which set the foundation to what later would become the Shaolin 5 Animal Style.
The Shaolin University
Each Shaolin Temple was like a university of Buddhism, health, the finer and martial arts. Each temple had several Shaolin Masters who were experts or specialists in a particular area of training, well-being or philosophy. Rich Chinese would send their sons ( and later even Daughters ) to Shaolin to become students ( not priests ) and learn from the best in every field. These students, once graduated would be considered very highly in their local community.
Shaolin training was now very involved and rigorous. The art of separating future Masters from adepts still was in the form of sending them out into the world of temptation for a few years (a bit like Mormons do with their teenagers). But before they would be let out as a Shaolin Monk they would also undergo a series of rigorous tests.
In order to graduate from the temple, they would have to exhibit phenomenal skills and pass through 18 testing chambers in the temple ( which were possibly more symbolic in nature rather than real chambers; as no evidence was found in any of the Shaolin Temples of any such rooms ).
Although it is dramatized in movies, Shaolin would actually be brought to the brink of exhaustion through a serious of 18 tests, 6 physical, 6 mental and 6 spiritual ( thus the 18 chambers ). It is even possible that one of these physical tests, the final one, was the lifting of a hot cauldron with their bare forearms ( each temple traditionally had such a cauldron, in the middle of the temple complex and unique to each temple ). This cauldron would not have been plain and would possibly have the raised relief of symbolic animals; which would thus be burnt into the graduating monks arms ( as a reminder to them of their training, learning and final trials ). Varied accounts suggest that these cauldrons may have had the following symbols on them;
- Henan Temple - Dragon and Phoenix for universal balance/Yin Yang
- Wu Tang Temple - A Tiger and Dragon for martial art Prowess
- Kwantung Temple - integrated much later in history and there are conflicting accounts of symbolism for this temple.
- O Mai Shan Temple - Two Cranes as they were close to the Tibetan border and a healing temple
- Fukien Temple - often used as a Shaolin 'back-up', no record of specific symbolism found for this temple
Not all who entered Shaolin graduated in the full 18 chambers, many were only lay priests leaving the temple well educated but not completed.
This is also the time when the original 170 movements were redefined into the grand ultimate system of Shaolin.
Although there may have been animal styles around before, it was around the 11th century when there was an animal style explosion. Styles such as Rooster, Toad and Dog were not uncommon and some are still around. But there were also other such as 10,000 bees, Mantis, Tiger, etc. With Shaolin's system of learning from travelers, many of these styles found their way into Shaolin and diluted the 170 Moves.
A martial art expert named Zhue Yuen joined the Shaolin. Much like the young noble 500 years earlier, he took it upon himself to Systemize this mess of styles. In addition to traveling the monasteries, Zhue Yuen traveled China in search of other martial art styles and found many which he learned and evaluated. But it wasn't until he reached the town of Lan Zhau and met Li Sou that anything significant happened.
Li Sou introduced Zhue Yuen to Bai Yu Feng, who was another famous martial arts practitioner. Zhue Yuen was able to convince both to come back with him to Shaolin to develop why that new together with Shaolin styles into a new all encompassing Kung Fu. Together they redeveloped Shaolin Kung Fu into the 5 animal style ( Tiger, Snake, Dragon, Leopard/Panther and Crane ).
Although originally just physical exercise and Kung Fu, the 5 Animal style took on a life of it's own. Shaolin were able to discover and develop the 5 Animal Style system to be not just physical but also a personality style index, a metaphors for human situation handling, interaction, problem solving, planning and much more ( much of this was lost with the second burning of Shaolin and only the external Kung Fu aspect was cultivated and maintained by kung fu masters ).
The 4th temple
It is at around this time that the 4th temple was added to the order of Shaolin. The O Mai Shan ( Great White Mountain ) was a devoted library and medical temple. It was located in a very inaccessible area of Szechwan province. Very much like the other temples used to import Kung Fu masters, the O Mei Shan temple imported healers Mai Shan was in close contact with the Crane Temple in Tibet and a major medical temple with books, tombs and scrolls from east and west.
The Time of the Ming Dynasty
The time of the Ming Dynasty was another golden area in China's arts history ( so called because of all the treasures and artwork created in this time but there was also a very dark side to this era, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries ). Many works of art were created that still exist, considered now to be priceless. Philosophy and knowledge was taught to an equal degree. During this time the Shaolin Temples also grew and prospered becoming the centre for teaching, philosophy, history, Buddhism, mathematics, poetry and of course Martial Arts. Monks (from other orders, Daoists), expert warriors, teachers, healers, philosophers, elders, and traveling martial artists could/would gain entrance to Shaolin to share their knowledge in return for Shaolin teaching and shelter.
The Great wall, and China's army, was mostly successful in repelling invaders, but around mid 17th century, invaders from Manchuria, lead by the Ching Family, ended China's Golden area, and the Ming Dynasties reign. They slowly but surely and brutally took control of China and systematically eradicated all resistance. Many Chinese nobles, warriors and commoners were forced underground where they sought to oust the invaders and reinstate the prosperous Ming Dynasty.
There were a significant number of factions among the Chinese who aided the Manchu's against Ming loyalists, in large part because the Manchu's held to the same ideology, governmental patterns, and social organization as the Ming. By the early 1600's the Ming dynasty was significantly weakened. It was unable to cope with both its own internal tensions and the militarily strong Manchu's to the northeast.
An internal rebellion was the direct cause of the downfall of this dynasty ( Chinese rebel Li Tzu-ch'eng seized Peking in 1644 ). That the Dutchmen were able to capitalize on this by being invited to put down the rebellion by a frontier general is largely coincidental. The Great Wall was hardly so impregnable that they would not have been able to invade and conquer the area in its weakened state.
Thus the Manchu's found the entrance to China and slowly but steadily conquered China. Those that did not wish to conform had to either migrate or go underground, some also sought refuge in the Shaolin temples.
Shaolin initially only offered passive resistance against the invaders, seeking to remain above the political matters. They helped anyone who sought refuge and thus involuntarily became a safe haven for refugees and resistance fighters. Many loyal Ming soldiers and nobles sought refuge and help in Shaolin. Shaolin, although themselves passive, Thus Shaolin became a center of resistance. This was a thorn in the invaders side and needed to be dealt with, drastically.
The 2nd Burning of Shaolin
Shaolin was now very strong, their reputation great and their support from both royal common was unilateral. Yet, China was invaded by the Mongols who ousted the Ming Dynasty and established the last Chinese Dynasty, the Chins.
Shaolin offered no resistance to this but felt a strong obligation to helping people. Many Shaolin took it upon themselves to 'help' the Ming Loyal's against the Chin Invaders. This was a great thorn in the Chins side which they could not do much about until 1732 CE. Some 70 years after the successful invasion of China, through the betrayal of an Shaolin insider (possibly someone placed inside for this purpose) and large amounts of Ching loyal troops, armed with cannons, the original Shaolin temple in Henan was destroyed and burned to the Ground.
The monks who remained to defend the temple were slaughtered, many fled to the Fukien Temple and for 30 years continued their resistance and their support of resistance fighters. This in turn led to the destruction of the Fukien temple, the remaining major temples and most of the lesser temples, as well as the destruction of Shaolin texts. ( these events have inspired many 'Shaolin Temple' movies including Shaolin Mystagogue )
Shaolin Kung Fu Forbidden
From this time onwards Shaolin were outlawed and any practice of Shaolin Kung Fu punishable by death, much was lost. Most of the priceless scrolls of Shaolin Kung Fu, teachings and many treasures of knowledge and wisdom were lost. Shaolin monks and lay persons were now split into many directions, all initially operating in secret.
Some Shaolin reverted to being 'just' Buddhist priests giving up all kung fu training and teaching. Some continued their resistance and taught Kung Fu for the sole purpose of fighting and defeating the Chin's. They were the fathers of secret resistance organizations know as the 'Triads', so named after a gift of the Ming Dynasty Emperor to the Shaolin of a jade triangle. Some were so devoted to the Shaolin arts that they went into hiding for the sole purpose of keeping the knowledge. These passed down their learning from father to son. In this process, much was also lost. Yet, there were many of these and each had a small aspect of Shaolin which now became many different 'family' styles.
Flourishing of Martial Arts in other Countries
Some of these sought to teach these as 'family' styles and thus maintain the practicality and usability. They hid it in the form of slow exercises which also saw some of the detail movements changed. In this way a lay person or a Chin soldier would not recognize it as martial arts.
Already from the time of the invasion, many Chinese and some Shaolin migrated to other countries including the US, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc... This lead to an explosion of styles and redevelopments during the 17th and 18th centuries.
A New Enemy
By 1900 the invaders were established even though there was still some resistance against them. Yet the far bigger problem was with the anti-foreign and anti-Christian sentiment. The powerful nations of the time, the US, England, Germany and others were well entrenched in China by this time and were 'influencing' many aspects of Chinese Politics and Economy. Resistance to these 'Foreign Devils' grew and secret societies known as the "Boxers" developed.
They started attacking most thing foreign killing Chinese Christians and burning missionary facilities. They converged on Peking (now Beijing), the Capital, in June 1900. The Imperial Government ordered the foreigners out on the 18th June. The German Minister set out to meet with the Government but was murdered by his escort. There followed a 55 day siege of the foreign concessions in Peking by both Boxers & Imperial troops. This action provoked an allied relief expedition by the offended nations.
The Emperor declared war against the invaders, but the Christian Allies had Guns & Powder and crushed their Chinese opposition and occupied north China. Under the Protocol of 1901, the Chinese had to agree to the execution of ten high officials and the punishment of hundreds of others, expansion of the Legation Quarter, payment of war reparations, stationing of foreign troops in China, and razing of some Chinese fortifications.
This was the death of the Chinese resistance and lead to another exodus of Chinese from China. Some Triad members escaped to other countries, including the US, Korea, etc. Without a focus some/many triad members went into a new line of business (and their descendants still are in this line of work ). This caused another influx of Chinese martial arts into the Orient, the US and now also the new continent of Australia
The 3rd Burning of Shaolin
As with the previous times, Shaolin influence, power and Kung Fu ( although officially forbidden and punishable by death ) was still feared and forbidden even now almost 300 years after the Ching's decree. This possibly led to the 3rd Burning of Shaolin in 1927 CE during Chiang Kai Check's reign.
Chiang Kai Check himself was a great believer of Kung Fu and although he forbade all martial art practice, he surrounded himself with Kung Fu fighting masters as his body guard. When he was being threatened and ousted by the newly forming Chinese Republic, he packed up as much Chinese treasure as he could, took his wife ( who recently died in the US aged 106 ) and 100 masters and moved to Taiwan. His arrival had a key influence on that country and greatly 'enriched' the country both with Chinese Gold and Chinese fighting styles.
The Cultural Revolution was launched by Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong during his last decade in power (1966-76) to renew the spirit of the Chinese revolution. Fearing that China would develop along the lines of the Soviet model and concerned about his own place in history, Mao threw China's cities into turmoil in a monumental effort to reverse the historic processes underway. Mao thus ultimately adopted four goals for the Cultural Revolution
- to replace his designated successors with leaders more faithful to his current thinking;
- to rectify the Chinese Communist Party;
- to provide China's youths with a revolutionary experience;
- and to achieve some specific policy changes so as to make the educational, health care, and cultural systems less elitist.
He initially pursued these goals through a massive mobilization of the country's urban youths. They were organized into groups called the Red Guards, and Mao ordered the party and the army not to suppress the movement.
One of the keys to getting control and keeping everyone off guard was to put things up-side-down. Doctors became farmers, farmers were sent into the hospitals, all matters of traditional were rejected including Religion Traditional Chinese Medicine and Kung Fu! If you were seen to be preaching or teaching anything other than Mao's' words, you were immediately re-educated; or imprisoned.
This was more disastrous to Shaolin Kung Fu, Traditional Chinese Medicine and many 'traditional type disciplines; to the point of almost making them disappear from China all together. This was the final death of Shaolin Kung Fu in China; worse than all three previous burnings together and the invasion!
In the Mean Time
Somewhere along the line, in a forgotten temple somewhere in China a Buddhist took residence and quietly and secretly 'helped' people away from all the hubbub and revolution. The venerable Su Xi became the new great Teacher of the Shaolin temple.
3rd Era of Shaolin
After many successful Chinese Kung Fu movies by Bruce Lee ( presenting Kung Fu to the world ) and Jacky Chan ( introducing the concept of Shaolin ) and in particular Jet Li in the movie Shaolin Temple, Officials in Beijing ( means Northern capitol originally know as Peeking ) started to realize the potential of Shaolin as marketing tool, but also as heritage! However, the fear and distrust of Shaolin, its Kung Fu and power was deep. They knew that they needed some type of 'replacement', some type of art other than Tai Chi and Chi Kung that was hard, external and athletic to fill this emptiness. This was the replacement of Kung Fu by Wu Shu, an acrobatic art using Kung Fu movements and implements.
A respected Chinese official was given the task of breathing life back into Shaolin. As with many Chinese decisions, it was both a pragmatic decision as well as financial and historical. The key was to have an art that was dynamic and in spirit of Shaolin but not Kung Fu. Wu Shu was ideal for this purpose. It embodied the spirit of Shaolin by providing all the requirements for health and wellbeing as Kung Fu but focused more on flow and athleticism rather than technique and fighting. Wu Shu has grown and developed, with the many versions and adaptations of Kung Fu - in some cases there is very little difference between the two.
There was a problem though, as Shaolin and it's idea was already 'occupied' by a whole thriving industry called Shaolin Village and many so called Shaolin temple training Schools. The re-opening of the Shaolin temple by the "Grand Abbot" Master Su Xi who's kindness and dedication seem so much similar as the original founder of Shaolin, gives hope to a new era of Shaolin teaching and Spirit. But for all his good teaching and kindness, he was also being used.
Animal Wu Shu is being practiced, but not the Shaolin 5 Animals but a new breed of modern, very athletic and well developed Animal styles including;
The current Abbot of Shaolin has been in place for 10+ years now. He or the Chinese government have just cleared all the schools and the village surrounding Shaolin allowing only one to be there, the official Chinese Government Shaolin Temple training School. All schools, some numbering up to 8000 students, have been moved to the nearby major city of Kerfeng ( possibly wrong spelling, right sound ). Shaolin and the area around it is being prepared to be possibly a tourist and martial art trap or a heritage site. Time will tell.
Introduction of Fighting to Wu Shu
The most curious thing about Wu Shu is that they actually import Muay Thai fighters to train Wu Shu fighting. In a way, it is in tradition of 'learning' from the enemy. For many centuries leading up to the 20th, Kung Fu fighters and Muay Thai fighters challenged each other to prove which style was superior. This was a regular challenge between the two traditional styles and fighters for the honor of the style and country. Death in these was not unusual.
Shaolin's 1st Golden Era started with the ascension to the throne of the Tang Dynasty son who they saved. The second Golden era of Shaolin came during the Ming Dynasty with much cooperation between the Emperors Palace and Shaolin. Now with the full force of the Chinese Government behind them, efforts to have Wu Shu in the Olympics and over 11/2 billion people training in Wu Shu, Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Chi Kung, we can consider this the third golden era not only for Kung Fu and Wu Shu but for all peaceful martial arts ( I believe that violent and aggressive MA are a recessive breed ). As a martial artist in body, heart and spirit, it is a good time to be alive!
Many martial arts acknowledge, even boast to be influenced by Shaolin. What is true and what note is irrelevant. In today's age it would be impossible to extract what influenced what, where and how. It is more important that the spirit of Shaolin is alive in many different forms. Be it in Shaolin Wu Shu, be is Shaolin derived Kung Fu/Wing Chung or even the 'Gift of China' as was Karate once known; Shaolin is in the spirit and heart not in the strength of your punch and as such should be celebrated.
Shaolin Kung Fu is a way of health, a way of life and a way of being, we just use martial arts as an exercise!