Zen / Chan Origins of Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple was established in 495 A.D. during the Northern Wei Dynasty of China. The Wei Emperor Xiaowen built the temple on Songshan Mountain of Henan Province to host the Indian high monk Batuo. In 517 A.D., South Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma landed in Shaolin Temple. He spent nine years meditating in a cave on Mount Wuru behind the temple and founded the Chan School of Buddhism. For physical fitness between his long meditation sessions, Bodhidharma created a series of exercises to stretch his limbs and strengthen his body. These exercises were taught to Shaolin monks to improve their health and thus began tradition of Shaolin Kung Fu and Shaolin Kung Fu monks. Shaolin Temple is credited and revered as the birth place of Chan Buddhism, known to the Western world as Zen (Japanese name for Chan), and the cradle of Shaolin Kung Fu.
Chan is also thought to have developed as an amalgam of various currents in Mahayana Buddhist thought and of local traditions in China. As the center of Chan Buddhism, the Shaolin Temple attracted many emperors’ attention in China’s history. The Empress Wu Zetian(武则天；625-705) paid several visits to the Shaolin Temple discussing Chan philosophy with high monk Tan Zong (昙宗和尚); the founder of Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan(忽必烈；1215-1294) ordered all Buddhist temples in China to be led by the Shaolin Temple; there were eight Princes during Ming Dynasty turned themselves into Shaolin monks.
Shaolin Kung Fu and Shaolin Kung Fu Chan
For 1,500 years, Shaolin Kung Fu was passed down from generation to generation as a unique cultural and spiritual system manifested in the form of martial arts. It embodies not only the essence of Chinese martial arts but also the wisdom of Chan Buddhism. It is a treasured child of the cultural exchange between ancient China and India — two great ancient civilizations of the world. It is a unique cultural phenomenon founded on Buddhist teachings of “no self” and “inconstancy.” The wisdom and courage inhabited in Shaolin Kung Fu is widely understood and respected by people of different cultures all over the world. Shaolin Kung Fu has become an integral part of mankind's spiritual civilization. Shaolin Temple monks emphasize that Chan and Kung Fu are the two integral aspects of their Buddhist regimen: Chan meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, while Kung Fu maintains physical health for the pursuit of Chan. They call their training “Shaolin Kung Fu Chan.”