The Shaolin Temple is the birthplace of the Martial Arts and Zen approach to Buddhism. The original Shaolin temple is located in Mount Song - the central mountain of the "five mountains" of China, near the city of Zhengzhou, Hunan Province. Mount Song is further divided into two mountains: the Taishi and the Shaoshi. The name "Shaolin" was inspired by the lush forest of the Shaoshi Mountain. Another story suggests that the temple was built on a piece of land that had recently been ravaged by fire, because the builders planted many new trees. The temple was thus named Shaolin ("Shao" meaning "young" or "new", and "Lin" meaning "forest"). This monastery played a prominent role in Chinese history. For many periods, it was considerd to be an imperial temple where emperors of the ruling dynasty would ascend to pray on behalf of the people. However, its fame also brought with it many hardships. During periods of unrest, the temple often become a focus for the imperial wraith and retribution. The temple had been destroyed many times only to be rebuilt one again.
Historically, Shaolin monks included some of the best generals, ministers, poets, philosophers, and various famous people. Thus, in Chinese history, the Shaolin Temple was both a focal point and an education center for some of Chinas elite. It truly represents an important Chinese cultural landmark. The history of the Shaolin temple is long and controversial, but it is most important to acknowledge its impact on the Chinese population and the Martial Arts. The main time periods in the history of Shaolin are:
Not much is recorded about martial arts during these times, but it is well known that various forms of martial arts, the precursors to the Shaolin martial arts, were utilized.
'Chou (Zhou) Dynasty, 570 AD'
'Northern Wei, 495 AD' (Northern and Southern Wei)
According to the Shaolin Historical Records, the Shaolin Temple was built in the 19th year of the reign of Emperor Xiaowen (Taihe) of Northern Wei in 495 AD for the eminent Indian monk, Bada (Batuo, Moha, Pao Jaco) and his two Chinese disciples (Weiguang, Weineng). Bada was recognized as a Buddhist scholar in the Hinayana tradition-not as a martial artist. Any reference to the martial abilities of Bada, his students or the Shaolin temple at that time is conjecture at best. The Shaolin tradition recognized their contribution - the inscription Saint from the West is written on the signboard hung above the Thousand Buddha Hall in the Shaolin Temple.
'Bodhidharma (DA MO), 527 A.D'
Bodhidharma (DA MO) is acknowledged as the First Patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism and is credited with providing the foundations for the Shaolin martial arts. Although his existence can always be questioned, the following information is generally accepted as historical fact. He was born to a Royal Family in Southern India around the year 440 CE. He studied under Prajnatara, the 27th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism. His teacher gave him the name Bodhidharma, past Mind Transmission on to him, and finally made him the 28th Patriarch. Prajnatara instructed him to transmit Dharma to China, and Bodhidharma traveled east to Guangzhou (Kwang Chou), Southern China, in 528 AD. He was initially honoured and welcomed by the Chinese government and obtained an audience with Emperor Wu Di¸