Deep in north Central China, about three hours west of the major city Zengzhou by car on paved, though not terribly modern, roads, lies a small village nestled in between two large mountain ranges. Herein lies the Shaolin Temple, now surrounded by shops, martial arts schools, and the more than occasional "tourist trap". An entire economy has built itself up around the Temple, leading to the formation of the village of Shaolin. But not more than twenty years ago, none of it existed, with the exception of the Temple. To get a better understanding of the Shaolin Temple, and especially it's history, I have tried to communicate with many of the older monk masters. Through translators, I have gotten a glimpse of some of the legends, and some of the history, some of which runs contrary to what we have been led to believe in our westernized versions of their history. The following legends were told to me by a few of the monks, with various changes, but the essence remains the same. However, in order to best present them, I present an excerpt from a truly marvelous book, which I highly recommend to this web site visitor. It was recommended to me by one of the locals, who suggested that it was the clearest portrayal of the various legends and history of the Shaolin Temple. Having read it, I highly recommend it.
"Tales of the Shaolin Monastery", collected and edited by Wang Hongjun, translated by C.J.Lonsdale. Read it, it is very informative and highly entertaining. You might have some difficulty finding it, and I really can't suggest where you might find it in the United States. However, if you are in need of other martial arts books or supplies, or, more information about the Shaolin Temple, I suggest that you contact Wing Lam Enterprises. They can be reached at www.wle.com
These two legends, though passed down through the ages by the Shaolin Temple monks, and related to me through an interpreter friend, has best been put into writing by Wang Hongjun, from a story originally recorded by Liu Hengjiu in October 1958. In order to do these legends justice, I have decided not to relay my version of what I remember from the Shaolin Temple monks, but present this well written excerpt from the book. (Hopefully, this will entice the web site visitor to read more about the Shaolin Temple, in an effort to debunk many of the myths and ego driven wars that we have seen lately in the martial arts community.