To commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and India, twelve Indian martial arts experts from the Nithya Chaithanya Kalari Indian martial arts training center visited the Shaolin Temple in South west China’s Henan province earlier this week. During the visit, monks from both nations performed amazing feats of Kung fu including stick, sword and knife fighting for each other.
The sacred shaolin temple which is revered by kung fu fighters worldwide was instituted in the 5th century (477 AD) by Buddhabhadra, Batuo to the Chinese, an Indian Warrior and Buddhist Monk who traveled from India to China to spread Buddhism. As legend has it, Batuo’s wise and kind temperament won him the fondness of the Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty, who offered him a permanent place in his kingdom. Preferring to teach Buddhism in a more serene environment, Batuo urged the emperor for an alternate location. The Emperor then offered him several hectares in the Sacred Mountains on the side of Mount Song or Shao Shi (Shi meaning mountain in Mandarin) in Henan Province. Here, Batuo chose a spot in an area of Lin (Lin meaning Young or New Trees) as the place for the Temple; and this came to be the name of the Temple Shaolin (Sillum in Cantonese).
Thirty years after Shaolin was founded, another Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma from India came to China to teach Yogic concentration, known commonly today by the Japanese term “Zen” Buddhism. He traveled throughout China and finally came to Shao Shi where he found Shaolin Temple where he asked to be admitted. While Bodhidharma was first refused entry into the sacred temple by the then abbot Fang Chang, nine years later he was permitted entry.
During his nine years away from the Shaolin temple Bodhidharma exercised to keep fit. Legend has it that when he entered the Shaolin temple he found the monks to be lazy, sickly and weak. As a true believer of Mayhayan Buddhism and master of staff and bare hand skills, he was a firm believer of the need for exercise to reach enlightenment. As a result, Bodhidharma developed a set of exercises that later became the foundation for the specialized interpretation of martial arts at Shaolin. Martial arts were already widespread in China and many of the monks were retired soldiers. Thus existing martial arts exercises were combined with Bodhidharma’s teachings to create the Shaolin version of Kung Fu we know today.
Today, the Shaolin Temple is a practicing Buddhist temple where adaptations on the original Shaolin Kung Fu are taught. According to some sources, the original Shaolin Kung Fu was too powerful so was replaced by Wu Shu, a less aggressive form of martial arts. Famed as a place of dedication and learning, hundreds of youngsters can be seen practicing on the temple grounds on a given morning.