Martial arts films and the "Kung Fu" television series of the 1970s surely have made Shaolin the most famous Buddhist monastery in the world. Originally built by the Emperor Hsiao-Wen of northern China ca. 477 CE -- some sources say 496 CE -- the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times.
Early in the 6th century, the Indian sage Bodhidharma (ca. 470-543) arrived at Shaolin and established the Zen (Ch'an in China) school of Buddhism. The link between Zen and the martial arts was forged there as well. Here Zen practices such as wu wei and mental absorption were applied to movement.
During the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, the monastery was sacked by Red Guards and the few remaining monks were imprisoned. The monastery was an empty ruin until martial arts schools and clubs around the world donated money to refurbish it.
This photo gallery looks at Shaolin and its monks today.
- Graphic Index
- Text Index