Shaolin History

History of Shaolin: Zen Buddhism and Kung Fu


Shaolin Temple was built in 495 A.D. in Wei Dynasty on Mount Songshan in Henan, a northern Chinese province.

Legend says that more than 1,500 years ago, an Indian monk named Bodhidharma (whom the Chinese call Damo) sat meditating before a wall for nine years on Mount Songshan in northern China. Bodhidharma taught the monks of Shaolin Temple that meditation lead to enlightenment that was called Zen. Zen is based on the Sanskrit Dhyana meaning meditation. However, the long periods seated meditation also atrophied the monks bodies. So Bodhidharma developed a series of calisthenics that monks were already practicing certain forms into kung fu (martial arts).

Shaolin Temple is probably the most famous temple in China, not only because of its long history and its role in Chinese Buddhism, also because of its long tradition of Chinese martial arts and Zen, as the saying goes All martial arts (kung fu) are from Shaolin. Shaolin believe meditation clears the mind, prepares for purer action. And kung fu is an expression of Zen, also helps a weak or sick body, promotes clarity of thought, builds the body, and completes meditation.